Friday, July 23, 2010
An old farmer placed a weather vane on the roof of his barn with the words “God is Love” painted on it.
His neighbor commented, “Doesn’t your weather vane indicate that God’s love is fickle? That it blows one way and then another?”
To this, the old farmer replied, “No, it means that ‘God is Love’ no matter which way the wind blows!”
Nahum 1:3 says “The Lord has his way in the whirlwind and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Well, we certainly had some divine foot dust last week in Hayward! We lost most of the majestic old pines in front of our church. The winds also caused some damage at my home, though it is rather insignificant, compared with what a few of our neighbors have experienced. Our hearts and prayers go out to them.
The clean-up effort is in full swing.
Last Thursday, after a long day of clearing debris, I thought, “How long will it take until we get back to normal?” Then I realized we won’t. Normal is not something you can go BACK to – you have to move forward to a new normal!
The huge pines in front of our church were approximately 100 years old. Now that they’re gone, the landscape is totally different. We’re going to have to get used to a new kind of normal. At least we have a clear view of the whole community, and nobody will be able to say they can’t find us because of the trees!
One is tempted to wonder, “Is this a punishment from God?” After almost every natural disaster, some goofball preacher gets on national television and claims that it’s some sort of divine retribution. That kind of talk isn’t helpful. I do not believe the storm last week was sent to zap the citizens of our community. It just happened.
As Jesus said, “It rains on the just and unjust alike.” We ALL experience the trials and tribulations of life – and God doesn’t play favorites or make exceptions. We all have to go through the storms together. It doesn’t do any good to try to fix blame.
Instead of considering last week’s storm a punishment, it would be better to view it as a reminder:
It reminds us of how fragile life is.
It reminds us of how important friends are.
It reminds us of how faithful God is
One reason we love old trees is because they have stood the test of time. They represent stability and security. On many occasions I have paid homage to the grand trees in front of the church. I’ve used them repeatedly as sermon illustrations about how we can stand strong in life’s trials. Now, the old trees have been taken from us, reminding us that we must gain our security and stability elsewhere. True safety comes from God alone.
I was totally overwhelmed by the support my friends gave to me during my hour of need. With thirty trees blown down in my front lawn, I didn’t know what to do. I only own two hand saws. It would take fifty years to clear away the fallen trees with that puny arsenal! But, fortunately, several friends showed up with chain saws, bob-cats, skid-loaders, dump trucks and trailers. It was absolutely amazing!
Words cannot express the gratitude I feel in my heart for all the friends and neighbors who showed up to help. I have been keenly reminded that we really do need each other. As the Scripture says, “Two are better than one, for if one falls into a pit, the other can reach down and pull him out.” I experienced this last week, as my friends helped me climb out of a deep pit!
The most important reminder is of God’s faithfulness. We should all be thankful that nobody was injured or killed in the 96 mph winds. There were several close calls, but we all came out unscathed. Sure, we have to repair, replace, and re-work a few things, but we’re alive to do it! God proves his faithfulness in life’s storms. When the winds are contrary, that’s when we need Him the most. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”
Faith is worth the risk. As Tammy Felton observed, “We cannot abandon life because of its storms. The strongest trees are not found sheltered in the safety of the forest, rather they are in the open spaces--bent and twisted by winds of all seasons. God provides deep roots when there are wide-spreading branches"
Today, a little blue spruce stands alone in the front of our church property. He was donated about ten years ago, in memory of a loved one who had passed away. Ever since, he has been the runt of the Hayward Wesleyan trees, completely dwarfed and overshadowed by the big guys. Now, however, he IS the big guy! Sometimes, patience pays big dividends.
Here's the Facebook Photo Album of the storm.