Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Storms, storms, storms and youth camp June 1, 2013

They just keep coming—storms, storms, and more storms! Another deadly outbreak of tornados, twenty-four to be exact, ripped across Oklahoma last night leaving heaps of devastation behind. Damage tolls mount. So does the death toll. Disbelief tops our list of emotions.

What do we do when storms rage? Obviously, we cannot stop Mother Nature. We cannot change what the clouds and wind and rain drop on us. Storms are storms—they do their thing—and we simply must find a way to survive them.

It is the same with the storms of life. We cannot change the fact that they come to all of us. People change, relationships change, jobs go away, economies fluctuate, and new administrations take over; thus our circumstances change. We will all eventually be affected by the death of a loved one. Our lives sway back and forth from the powerful effects of such storms.

Yesterday, I returned from a week at youth church camp. There were forty young people in our cabin coming from all backgrounds, different social classes, and various home situations; yet they all came expecting to find something—God. And they did. It was an amazing experience as we watched the Holy Spirit move in the hearts of many precious young people.

Throughout the week, we heard their stories, saw their tears, and winced at their brokenness. I fear our “modern-day-permissive-everything-goes” culture has taken its toll on the next generation. Their needs are huge. Storms have ravaged their young lives, and they struggle to contend with the damage left behind. They grapple to survive in their complex world.

As they sought for wholeness, there was one word repeated over and over from their lips—forgiveness. “I need to forgive my mom; my dad; my friends; myself; God; those who bullied me; those who hurt me; those who left me out; or those who don’t care about me.” Even if they didn’t say it, their faces and their behaviors reflect heaps of hurt and rejection.

Storms—they are a fact of life. I have them. You have them. Young people have them. If we can’t prevent them, then what must we do to survive them?

In the natural realm, we must know how to read the weather signs, listen to the trained weather professionals, heed their warnings, make sound decisions, and apply proven safety precautions. It is a known fact that lives can be spared if we do these things.

It is the same in the spiritual realm. We must know how to read the signs, listen to trained spiritual leaders, heed their warnings, make sound decisions, and apply proven spiritual precautions. Likewise, lives can be spared if we do these things.

Don’t miss the emphasized “if.” The key to survival is preparedness. If we are prepared, we will survive when we find ourselves in the path of natural tornados and in the path of destructive life activities.

What are we doing today to prepare for the storms of life that will inevitably come? Will we be prepared as the next storm gathers overhead? Once the darkness is upon us, the wind whipping about us, and rain pounding against our lives, it is too late to prepare. Preparedness is what we must do now.

Jesus, the Master of the winds and the waves, is our refuge and shelter in the storms of life (Luke 8:25). His Word can guide us to safety both in this world and the next one. He has promised that we will safely reach our eternal home, if we follow His instructions. In John 10:28, Jesus says to each of us: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

The question is: Are we listening and are we heeding the words of the Master? If we are going to survive the storms, we must. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Out of the Wreck I Rise May 25, 2013

Filed under: Encouragement — Janie Kellogg @ 11:36 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

It has been a painful week in Oklahoma—loss of life, property, and peace of mind. News reporters search for words to describe the devastation wreaked by tornados across our State. We all seek to get our hearts and minds around what it might feel like to be personally affected by such a disaster.

Clearly, it is larger than any of us can individually cope with, but not larger than what we can face together. Relief organizations, churches, sister cities, governments and individuals move in to help. As I drove through several towns in Oklahoma yesterday, I saw signs along the way “Drop off relief supplies here.” That is what neighbors do—fellow Oklahomans and fellow Americans—when tragedy strikes.

A famous quote by Robert Browning caught my attention this morning—“Out of the wreck I rise.” It is a fact that there are times when life’s circumstances feel as if a train wreck, a ship wreck, and yes, even a tornado, has just occurred smack-dab in the middle of our lives. Have you ever felt that you were at the bottom of the wreckage, trying to peek out and catch a glimpse of light? I know that I have.

What is it about out-of-control circumstances that leave us feeling wrecked? You know what I mean: It is too painful to look back; the monotonous why questions race through our minds; and those pesky “if only” thoughts taunt us as though we might have prevented the crash.

But we can’t live that way. Even if we wallow in the wreckage for weeks, months or years, our sheer endurance there won’t change anything. We can ask questions until we are blue in the face, but we probably won’t find an answer. We can “what if” for the rest our lives, but we’ll never actually know if any one of them would have yielded a different result.

So, what are we to do with our wrecks? How do we find the positive amongst the rubble, pull ourselves together, and start again? As I watched the TV coverage of the tornado damage, I prayed for those who even now must find that starting place.

Oswald Chambers made a good addition to Browning’s quote when he wrote: “Out of the wreck I rise, every time.” 1

We may not ever be able to prevent wrecks—this wreck, the next wreck, or any wreck for that matter—but as children of the Most High God, we not only can, but we must rise up out of it every time.

How? We focus on the important, not the trivial. We focus on the positive, not the negative. We focus on what we have been given, not on what has been lost. We focus on what we have, not on what we don’t have. We focus on the eternal, not the temporal.

We are intended to be overcomers—overcomers of wrecks—if you will. Life is full of wrecks, both large and small, and the world is watching to see how we face them, and how we rise up out of the ruins and recover from them.

Philippians 2:14-16 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life….” (NIV)

Instead of smothering beneath our wreckage, we must dig out from under it. If need be, we embrace the help of others, as is the case in Moore, Oklahoma. We all have our own personal wrecks to deal with. How we handle them matters. We must latch hold of a positive word of God, a promise that will help us get a firm grip, and start shining like stars. You see, the world is watching.

My prayers and thoughts to the many precious and resilient people in Oklahoma who are suffering even now ~ Janie Kellogg

1 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 19