MONSOON SEASON

MONSOON SEASON

Monsoon season is now underway in Arizona and the rest of the southwest. Arizona monsoons are typically experienced during summertime, July through September.  At this time of the year, there is a shift in wind direction bringing a different kind of weather. Temperatures rise, humidity increases and winds are high. Thunderstorms move through the region bringing dust storms, periods of heavy desert rain and flash flooding.

If I understand correctly, storms develop when warm, moisture-filled air rises.  As the air rises, it cools and the moisture condenses falling back to earth in the form of rain—hopefully lots of it—or other forms of precipitation.

Storms can come out of nowhere in a hurry.

Many years ago, on a hot summer day, I was driving from Phoenix to Las Angeles through the Mojave Desert.  The sun was shining brightly, the sky was cloudless, and the air conditioner was doing its job. The drive was a bit boring the barren landscape broken only by an occasional Joshua tree and countless wind turbines, but I was enjoying my brand new 1974 Oldsmobile sedan.

As I neared the Palm Springs area, I noticed that the sky ahead had darkened precipitously.  All of a sudden I found myself in the middle of a storm. There was no avoiding it. A rainstorm I might have handled, but this was one of those notorious desert sand storms.  Powerful winds had kicked up the desert sand forming a wall of dust, which blocked out the sun and lowered visibility almost to zero. I could barely see the road a few feet ahead.  

This storm had appeared out of nowhere in an instant of time.  What was I to do? The National Weather Service advice is to “seek shelter from dust storms indoors,” or “pull to the side of the road and turn off lights.”  In the middle of the desert, there was no shelter to be had, so I pulled to the side of the road, my only alternative, and waited out the storm, while the swirling, pounding, abrasive sandblasted all the paint off the front end of my new car. 

Dangerous storm conditions can appear suddenly and wreak havoc on everything in sight, and being observant isn’t always enough to avoid disaster.

However, I have discovered that storms do not only originate when the weather is hot when humidity is high and winds are strong.  Storms do not always have to do with the weather. Often, storms have to do with life itself.

We all suffer the storms of life.  They originate with a doctor’s devastating diagnosis, a failed marriage, a troubled child, the death of a loved one, or financial disaster.  

On a Saturday morning, I sent my healthy, laughing Cecil away to run errands, and in the emergency room, before nightfall, his impending death was pronounced—a sudden storm out of nowhere!

Darkness descended eclipsing the brightness, and the joy of our three and one-half months of marriage blasting away the beauty of years that were to follow.

Where do you go in that kind of storm?  Do you just pull over to the side of life until it passes by?  Where do you find shelter from such a disaster? How do you survive the unmitigated pain?

Unlike the Mojave Desert, where there was no shelter, I knew there was shelter in this storm.  So I called on God. My prayer was one of desperation. Howling like a banshee I prayed the only words I could find, “Lord, I need you.  Please help me, Lord, please help me.” Yet, in essence, I was praying King David’s prayer from Psalms 32:7 and 17:8. “You are my hiding place…Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings.”  God understood completely.  He wrapped me in His great arms becoming my shelter for the weeks, months and even years to come—until the boisterous wind abated.

Perhaps this is Monsoon Season in your life.  The storm was so unexpected, but now you are living in the middle of it.  What do you do? Where do you go?

Psalms 46:1 tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  

In Psalms 31:3 and 61:2-3, David cries, “For you are my rock and my fortress…Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For You have been a shelter for me…”

Face it.  You cannot weather this storm in your own strength.  Run to God! Take refuge in the rock that is higher and stronger than you, the rock that is higher and stronger than a category 5 Hurricane with winds up to 157 miles per hour, a rock that is higher and stronger than anything that will ever come against you.  Take shelter in Him. There is life after the storm!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

A DIVINE EPIPHANY

Early yesterday morning, riffling through the meager offerings of reading material at my Doctor’s office, I found an outdated “National Geographic.” Flipping through the pages in search of something to while away the time, I came across an article titled “One Strange Rock: 13 Things that make life on earth possible,” written by Manuel Canales, Matthew W. Chwastyk, and Eve Conant.

They wrote:  “Earth is well equipped as a planet and ideally placed in our solar system and galaxy to support life as we know it.  …thanks to a fortuitous set of conditions…”

In that brief moment of time, I experienced a divine epiphany—a new revelation, a new understanding, and appreciation of something I have always known and believed.

I have never questioned the Bible account of the creation of this world and everything that exists—our universe and all else that may be out there in far-flung space.  I believe what Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

However, I never considered the thoughtful, careful, and calculated way in which God did His work on that first day of creation, and the days to follow.  I never thought about that necessary “fortuitous set of conditions,” and the fact that mankind has always been in view.  I have been guilty of talking about how God “flung the worlds into space,” as though He was saying, “There you go, land where you will.”  No!  His work was much more deliberate than that.

The “Big Bang Theory,” purported to be the origin of creation, is widely discussed by both science and religion, and accepted by much of this world.  This theory says that billions of years ago all the mass and energy and space itself was packed into a microscopic cosmic “egg.” The egg exploded and over vast periods of time, that imprisoned energy cooled down and turned into all forms of matter as we know it today.  Everything in this vast universe grew out of a tiny “egg” or “hot spot” billions of times smaller than a particle of an atom.  No one knows where the “egg” came from.  It was all an accident.

According to academic definition, The Big Bang qualifies as a myth.  No one has any proof that it is true.  It is no more than a theory.

Scientists try to understand how things happen in our world, but their theories are not absolute nor are they complete, and are continually changing to explain new found facts.

Now!  What about that “fortuitous set of conditions,” which sustain life on our Planet Earth?   Think about these astonishing facts.

Unlike other planets, we are able to recycle carbon dioxide keeping Earth warm enough to support life.  We also have an ozone layer to block harmful rays.

Earth teeters as it spins around the sun, but we have a big moon that stabilizes our wobble.

Earth’s varied topography supports many life forms.  

Our magnetic field produced by Earth’s core protects us from most of our Sun’s damaging radiation, and solar flares.

We are situated safely away from the gravitational pull of the larger planets, and we are just the right distance from the Sun for water to be liquid on our surface.

There are relatively few stars near our Sun reducing risks to Earth.  Our Sun is a stable, long-lasting star, just the right size.  Larger stars don’t live long, and younger ones are unstable.

The authors say, “Luckily, Earth is an ideal place for its inhabitants to thrive.”

I say, “Luck has nothing to do with any of this.”  None of these conditions just listed are coincidental.  Tell me how an accidental explosion billions of years ago could produce our beautiful Earth and place her in such an ideal position, in contrast to the other planets.

There is a reason Genesis 1:1 says, “God created the heavens—the universe, our galaxy, the planets known and unknown, all the stars including our sun, and anything else that is roaming around out there in space—and the Earth.”  He created the heavens AND the earth.

“…and the Earth,” placing it in a perfect location gifting it with ideal life-sustaining conditions.

So what will it be, The Big Bang or our Creator God?

Someone has said, “The explanation that demands the least amount of assumptions is usually the correct one.”  To believe in creation only takes simple faith.  Seems to me that believing in God requires far less faith than it does to believe that anything as spectacular and perfect as our Solar System came about accidentally.

I will never again think about God and His creation without considering the care and detail, which He exercised when He provided this wonderful planet and the universe in which it resides.

Isaiah 40:28 says, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”

Again in Isaiah 65:18, “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create…”

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

My Dad, who was born in 1872, and died within three months of his ninetieth birthday, has been gone for fifty-seven years.  He was sixty-three years old when I was born.  

Don’t ask.  It is a long convoluted story.

Today’s culture seems to place little value on the role of fathers as evidenced everywhere from pop culture and media to government policy.  Yet my own experience and belief system tell me that fatherhood is important.

Billy Graham said, “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

It has also been said that “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad,” implying that “Father” must be more than a figurehead.  In order to live out his role effectively, there must be relationship, intimacy, and love.

The fact that my father was sixty-three when I was born in 1935, means that he was already an “old” man, which seemed to preclude the possibility that he would be the kind of father a small child needed.

It is true that My Daddy, that I can remember, did not play with me.  He did not teach me to ride a bike or push me in the swing, but he sat patiently, by the hour, while I played beautician.  He allowed me to dampen his hair and role it on tiny metal curlers that I filched from my Mom’s beauty supplies.  

I do not remember an overabundance of hugs and kisses, but I knew he loved me.

One of my most vivid memories of daddy was the day he returned from an extended trip.  I was about six years old.  Mama told me he was coming, so I was waiting.  When I saw him coming up the walk, I ran to the screen door, and there he was.

  Looking down through the screen at my little blond head, he said,

“Oh,” I needed to see you.”

I have never forgotten that moment.  “Oh, I needed to see you,” is, perhaps, the most important—the most memorable thing my daddy ever said to me.  Those six little words spoke volumes.  Daddy loved me.  He missed me.  I was important to him—and so much more. 

When I think of that moment, I still see the look in his eyes and feel the warmth of those words. 

Daddy brought me a present that day.  He brought me a little clear glass dog—not crystal—filled with tiny balls of multicolored candies.  I have cherished that little glass dog for more than seventy-seven years.  It couldn’t have cost more than fifteen cents, if that much, but it is worth a mint to me now.

There was never an abundance of money for an expensive gift, but my father gave me gifts far more precious than anything he could ever have bought.

He worked tirelessly, mostly as a day laborer on someone else’s farm. He provided a humble home, put food on the table and clothes on our backs, but he gave us so much more than those essentials.

He instilled in me a work ethic, which has served me well through the years.  He taught me to be honest and obedient.  He set a godly example for me taking me to church and teaching me to love God.  He did not leave this responsibility to someone else.

My Daddy was not young to be sure.  He grew up in an era when fathers were often severe and demanding, as was he, at times, but He was a good and faithful father.  I knew I was loved.  After fifty-seven years, I still miss him, but I have my little dog.

In Ephesians 6:4, (the Living Bible) the Apostle Paul gives this advice to fathers.  “And you father’s don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children making them angry and resentful.  Rather bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.” 

Likewise, the Apostle gives advice to the children.  Ephesians 6:1-2, “Children obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you.  Honor your father and mother…”

Honor and cherish your father!!!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUR TOMORROW!

OLD FRIENDS

Last week, while preparing dinner, I reached into the cupboard and brought out a small pink and white casserole dish.  Suddenly I thought of Cary Smith, the woman who had given it to me fifty-nine years ago.  In 1960, I had just graduated from Arizona State University and signed a contract to teach school in Anaheim, California.

Except for college, I had never lived away from home.  Now I would be living on my own for the first time.  Knowing this, the ladies in my church showered me with linens, dishes, and other kitchen essentials.  I am amazed that I am still using some of those cherished things.

None of this is earth-shaking, to be sure.  However, on the following Sunday morning, as I was leaving the sanctuary, I heard someone call out to me.  Turning I saw a familiar face from the past.

“Are you Faye Clark, this woman asked?”

“Yes, I am Faye Clark Reese, I said.

“Well, I knew it had to be you,” she replied.  “I am Betty Smith.”

Of course, she was.  The girl I had not seen, nor been in touch with, for close to thirty-five years—the girl with whom I had grown up—my casserole lady’s daughter. 

As we embraced, the years just seemed to melt away, and we were teenagers again.  What a warm and sweet encounter! 

On the way home I began to think about Old Friends, and I remembered a song Bill and Gloria Gaither used to sing.  “Old friends…what a find, what a priceless treasure…like a rare piece of gold…we are all millionaires in old friends.”

Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain.  It’s not something you learn in school, but if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t really learned much of anything.  

All those years ago, as a stranger and a new teacher in Anaheim, I was very much alone.  I hated the thought of walking into church by myself on Sunday morning, so I was late because I drug my feet.  A tall blond in the choir noticed my grand entrance.  When the choir exited the platform, she came to sit by me.  After service, her mother, the pastor’s wife, invited me home for lunch.  I was thrilled and just lonely enough to accept. 

There was an immediate connection with that family, as though we had always known each other, and Ophelia, the tall blond, and I have been friends for fifty-nine years because she took time for a “lonely gal.” We seldom see each other, but when we do, the love, the warmth, and the memories are still there as though we were never separated.  Old friends!

Winnie the Pooh said, “If ever there is a tomorrow when we are not together…there is something you must always remember…even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”  That I believe is the essence of friendship.

It takes a long time to cultivate that kind of friendship.  It takes wanting to.  It takes energy and caring about the other person.  Such a friendship requires giving not taking.  

“If you go looking for a friend,” Martin Luther King said, “You will find they are very scarce.  If you go to be a friend, you will find them everywhere.” 

To have a friend, you must first be a friend.

My best friend is my brother.  I have always loved him as one loves any family member.  I’ve admired and looked up to him, and as a child, I tried to follow him around, but that didn’t work.  He was six years older than I.  He has been my spiritual hero and example in ministry, and he is my friend.  That’s the best part.

When Paul’s wife and daughter died within a year of each other, my heart was wrung with sorrow for him.  The only thing I knew to do was just be there.  So I called frequently.  Now we talk across the miles several times a week.  We share our woes and our joys, funny stories and recipes.  I love the stories about his early years in ministry.  

The fact that he is my brother makes the friendship dearer. 

I always apologize when I call to whine about difficulties with our sister, but he says, “If you can do what you are doing, I can listen to your whining.” That’s one of the hallmarks of a true friend—someone who will listen.

Someone has said, “The best time to make friends is before you need them,” and you will make more friends by being interested in other people rather than trying to get other people interested in you.

Friends are indispensable.  We all need them, but I must remind you that as close as friends can be, there is one who has promised an even more intimate and closer relationship.

Solomon, speaking of God, in Proverbs 18:24, tells us, “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” and—

Friends sometimes fail us, but Hebrews 13:5 assures us, “…He Himself has said. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.

“…WHAT A PRICELESS TREASURE!”

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!