Tag Archives: Storm

Of Storms and Shelter

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The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

Psalm 29:10 (NRSVCE)

Just a few weeks ago the people of Iowa learned a new vocabulary word: derecho. The straight-line wind storm with hurricane-force winds blew through the state and caused an amazing amount of damage. We had friends who were without power for several days. I’m fortunate that our little town was on the southern tip of the storms and we were largely spared from the brunt of the damage. I did find myself running around our neighborhood chasing garbage and recycling bins that were getting blown around the street, which was fun.

There is something about the power of nature that both reminds us how powerless we are, and reminds us of Power greater than ourselves. Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Rome and said:

...from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible.

Whether it’s standing in awe of the mountains, the ocean, a beautiful sunset, or the ominous threat of a midwest thunderstorm, humanity has always made a connection between the creation we interact with around us and the Creator.

Today’s psalm is a fascinating departure from the repeated song writing pattern I mentioned yesterday. It might be argued that David is describing a derecho-like storm as it blows in over the raging seas of the Mediterranean, blows down cedar trees in the forest of Lebanon, thunders its way south as David stands on the ramparts of Jerusalem and sees the black clouds flashing with God’s pyrotechnic lightning display. The storm moves south into the wilderness and David meditates on the display of the overwhelming power of creation he has witnessed. He finishes the song in wonder of the God of Creation who is the source behind, and enthroned over, such an awesome presentation of intense force.

In the quiet this morning as I write this post, I have very specific memories of storms I’ve witnessed, storms I’ve been in, and storms I survived. I’m actually surprised at how many specific memories I can access from my brain’s hard-drive. Amazing.

It’s a good reminder that along this life journey I am bound to have storms blow through. And not just tornados. There are the storms of relational conflict, sickness, financial loss, unforeseen tragedies, pandemics…there will always be powerful forces I don’t control that will affect my life. I’m reminded that on Wednesday, David’s lyric reminded me that

…[God] will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble

Growing up in Iowa, I learned very early in life that it’s important to make sure you always have shelter from the storm.

That lesson is layered with meaning that has nothing to do with the weather.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Rooted

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

Last summer Wendy and I had five fire bushes planted at the back of our yard. As the hot, dry summer wore on the bushes struggled for life. Despite the fact that I gave them water and they had plenty of sunlight, they slowly withered and died. Fortunately, all of our other landscaping, which had been planted two years earlier, made it through the drought and is full of life this spring.

It’s been a beautifully warm, wet spring this year and I’ve been mowing my lawn twice a week. As I passed by the dead bushes at the back of our yard on Saturday, I happened to bump a couple of them with the edge of the mower. I noticed that they quite easily bent and seemed to pull up from the ground. They had no depth of root structure grounding them.

I thought of those bushes as I read this morning’s chapter. Paul instructs the spiritually immature believers in Colossae that having made a decision to follow Jesus was just the beginning of their spiritual journey. They are spiritual saplings, newly planted. Now, it’s time to put down deep spiritual roots which only happens slowly, over time. It is the continual processing of Word and Light and Spirit and relationship in spiritual photosynthesis leading to a chain reaction of praise and gratitude which perpetuates the cycle.

In the past few week’s I’ve written about an observation I’ve had over the years. The brands of Jesus’ followers with whom I’ve been associated most of my life have had a penchant for focusing on getting people “saved” like a nursery of seedlings dropped into a tiny pot of loose soil and sprinkled with water. When life begins to scorch, or the storms of circumstance blow in like a midwest thunderstorm, there are no spiritual roots. The seedlings wither.

This morning I find myself meditating on the long, slow, gradual process of growing deep spiritual roots. It’s not a quick fix. It requires time, attention, and a certain amount of discipline. It goes against the grain of a culture that worships the quick, simple, and easy. But, it’s good. The deeper my roots, the more capable I found myself to weather the unpredictable ebb and flow of both drought and storms in life.

Dig deep. Build up. Strengthen faith. Let gratitude flow.

Have a great week, my friend.

Weathering the Storm

 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.
Acts 27:22 (NIV)

Living in the midwest you soon learn that some rather nasty storms can pop up at a moment’s notice. This past summer Wendy and I were witness to a small handful of storms that did considerable damage. It’s always disconcerting to survey the aftermath and find one house almost completely obliterated while the house next door appears to have no damage at all.

I thought of those storm and the damage we witnessed as I read today’s chapter. Paul is in the custody of a Roman centurion making his way to Rome where he is to be tried in Caesar’s court. A terrible storm comes up threatening the lives of everyone on board the ship. Throughout the ordeal, Paul continues to assure the passengers that they will be okay. He urges them to keep up their courage and their physical health. Paul had received an angelic message assuring him that God’s purpose was that Paul stand before the Emperor, not die at sea.

I couldn’t help but contrast the experiences of Paul with another famous sea-faring voyager, Jonah. In Jonah’s case, he was on the run and trying to escape his destiny. His reactions and responses amidst the storm are a stark contrast to Paul.

This morning in the quiet I’m reminded of Jesus’ words: “[Your Heavenly Father] sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” In other words, I can’t escape the storms of life. They will crop up when I least expect them and everyone has to weather them from time to time. The difference between Paul and Jonah, was in their purposes. Paul was sailing with purpose. He was on a mission, and he was confident that the storm was not going to alter his date with destiny. Jonah, on the other hand, was running away from God’s expressed purpose for him.

I can’t stop the storms of life from raging, but the purpose with which I’m walking this Life Journey can make all the difference in how I weather them.

Managing Life’s Little Storms

All your fortresses are like fig trees 
with their first ripe fruit; 
when they are shaken, 
the figs fall into the mouth of the eater.
Nahum 3:12 (NIV)
Wendy and I got to the lake late Tuesday. A storm blew in and the worst of it came right over us. Lightning, thunder, heavy rain and straight line winds that wreaked havoc in the area. This included a blackout that had Wendy and me scrambling in the dark for candles as well as where we put the flashlights. An equally blustery storm of circumstance followed me yesterday as I attempted to fly to Texas for work and ended up stranded all day in Minneapolis. I had to scuttle my trip and pray myself on a flight back to KC so I could get back to the lake.
Life sometimes shakes us. Storms rage, whether it is of the natural or metaphorical variety. The real question is how we build our faith and lives to handle the maelstrom. In today’s chapter, the prophet Nahum describes the Assyrian’s preparedness as metaphorical fig trees. When shaken, they lose all their fruit.
Today, I am still admittedly tired from the storms of the past couple of days. I need another good night’s sleep and the travel stress has me still feeling a bit frazzled on the emotional end. But, I’m no worse for wear. Shaken, but feeling no less fruitful in the larger sense. In the grand scheme of things, these little life storms are blips on the radar that will come and go. A healthy perspective with an eye to the larger story, and a wee bit of faith are strong walls against life’s little tempests.

Calm Assurance in Stormy Seas

Rembrandt_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Lake_of_Galilee

Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.  Acts 27:33-36 (NRSV)

I grew up on the water, and as a boy I wanted nothing more than to be a sailor. There was a period of my childhood, around the age of nine, that I wore a sailor hat all of the time. My mother still jokes about finding me asleep in bed with my sailor hat on and jumping into the pool forgetting it was still on my head.

Our summer vacation every year was two weeks on Rainy Lake which lies on the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. It’s a large lake and our daily fishing excursion normally entailed a long trip in our rented john boat across a vast expanse of open water. When storms came up, the white caps could swell to decent heights. It could definitely make the trip back to camp in our small boat a rather frightening affair for a small kid.

I can remember as a young boy paying attention to my dad during those seemingly endless trips in stormy waters. If dad was calm as the boat rocked and rolled, if I looked back at dad and received a “Isn’t this fun?” smile, then I knew everything was going to be okay.

I thought about those moments this morning as I read the chapter and imagined being on board the ship with Paul and Dr. Luke as their small ship was mercilessly pounded by a raging storm for two entire weeks. The fear and mental weariness among passengers and crew had to have been immeasurable. And then Paul speaks with faith and assurance. He smiles, and encourages them. “Take some food. Be strong. Don’t be afraid. Everything is going to be okay. We’re all going to make it through this.”

This morning I’m thankful for parents who comforted me as a child in stormy times. I’m thankful for teachers, counselors, mentors and friends who walked with me through various difficult stretches of life’s journey and gave me the encouragement I needed to weather the storm. I’m praying today that I might return the favor to those in my sphere of influence who face their own frightening storm clouds and the gusty winds of life change.

Weathering the Extremities of Emotional Storms

source: 57973238@N03 via Flickr
source: 57973238@N03 via Flickr

Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath;
my eyes will never see happiness again.
Job 7:7 (NIV)

I despise my life; I would not live forever.
    Let me alone; my days have no meaning.
Job 7:16 (NIV)

I have never experienced suffering like Job, and I hope that I never do. I have not met anyone who has suffered the level of tragedy that Job suffered. I have, however, heard many people lament the suffering they are experiencing with Job-esque intensity. I have even been been to wail out the blues on occasion myself.

As I read through Job’s diatribe this morning I noticed a common thread that I often discover in my own wailing and in the wailing of others: extremes. Intense emotions tend to produce extreme thinking. Job proclaims that his eyes will never see happiness again. His days have no meaning whatsoever. I empathize with Job’s plight, and I fully understand the extremity of emotions he’s experiencing and expressing. Nevertheless, neither statement is true.

Job does not, at this point, know the end of his story. He does not see the days that lie ahead for him, and he has no crystal ball do divine whether he will ever be happy or not. Not only does Job’s days and suffering have meaning, they will become the source of meaning, understanding, and inspiration for billions of people across the breadth of time.

“Never.”
“Always.”
“Forever.”
“Constantly.”
“Continually.”
“At all.”
“Not once.”

These are words and phrases that I hear in conversation which set off my “extremity” alarm. When the alarm goes off it tells me that whoever is saying it (and, it might very well be me) may be feeling an intensity of emotion that is leading to the experiencing of irrational thought. It’s not necessarily wrong, bad, or sinful. It may very well be part of a healthy progression and expression of feelings that will lead to good things and a healthier place. The pinnacle of the emotional storm might be a very good time to try and empathize with that person, but it may not be the best moment to try and reason with him or her.

Today, I’m thinking about my own penchant for thinking in extremes, and thinking about some extreme proclamations I’ve heard out of people’s mouths in recent days. As I learn to discern these intense conversations in the moment I am able to respond to the extremity alarm with grace, patience, kindness, and empathy rather than anger, frustration, or vengeance. Wisdom is found in knowing when to speak and when to be silent. I’m finding that present, loving silence is often the best response to storms of extreme emotion, and rational words are better left for the calm that eventually comes after the storm.

 

Ever Present; Totally Forgotten

The Great Wave off Kanagawa
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sea storms are up, God,
Sea storms wild and roaring,
Sea storms with thunderous breakers.
Stronger than wild sea storms,
Mightier than sea-storm breakers,
Mighty God rules from High Heaven.
Psalm 93:3-4 (MSG)

Of the 17, 260 days I’ve woken up on this earth the vast majority of them have been in Iowa. Iowa is a beautiful land. I love living here. We have rolling waves of grain (mostly corn), but there is a serious lack of ocean waves. I can speak of wild thunderstorms and tornadoes, but raging sea storms are scarce in a landlocked state without a sea.

When I married Wendy, I quickly discovered that she sleeps with a sound machine. In particular, she sleeps to the sound of ocean waves. And, now, so do I. In fact, I’ve gotten so used to the sound of giants waves breaking onto the shore at night that I have audio tracks of ocean waves on my cell phone, iPad and computer so that when I’m on the road I can sleep to the sound of ocean waves and try to pretend that I’m home.

As I read the lyric of today’s psalm I came across these verses linking the ocean breakers to mighty God, I was instantly reminded of the ocean waves that lull me to sleep each night. What I have appreciated from our sound machine and from my too few experiences at the ocean is the constancy of the ocean waves. So constant, in fact, that you begin to forget that they are there. They become white noise in the background of our minds. Ever present and totally forgotten.

God is like that in my life far too often. Almighty, powerful, and majestic, yet the constancy of His presence becomes white noise which recedes into my subconscious and I fail to recognize and appreciate it.

Snowstorm Caps a Busy Birthday Week

Earlier this week I shared about the birthday celebrations which began a week ago today with an overnight trip to Des Moines. I felt really celebrated this year. I took Tuesday, my birthday, off of work. And, what a day to take off. It was gorgeous, sunny and warm. When I came downstairs from writing my morning blog post I found my stack of birthday gifts sitting on the table with breakfast. Wendy and I enjoyed a quiet breakfast reading the paper and I got to open my gifts. Bob Leonard came by and interviewed Wendy and me about our roles in the Tulip Time production of The Dominie’s Wife for KNIA/KRLS radio.

2013 04 30 Birthday at the ICubs

We then headed to Des Moines for a noon Iowa Cubs game. We sat in the sun, ate hot dogs, drank beer, and watched the hometown boys celebrate my birthday with a 7-2 win over the Round Rock Express. We got fried to a crisp in the hot sun, but after a cool, wet spring that seemed like a worthwhile luxury.

We got back to Pella in time to get our stuff gathered and up to the Pella Opera House for  our final dress rehearsal. The Tulip Queen and her court came to see the show, which was nice. After the show, our friends in the cast, crew (Moriarity’s, Van Zante’s, Ann W., Lisa W. along with Kevin M.) went out to Kaldera for food and drinks. We enjoyed a marvelous evening together. It was the perfect way to end my birthday.

The celebrations weren’t over, however. There was no rehearsal on Wednesday. My friend Matthew took me to Des Moines for a burger and a pint at Rock Bottom before seeing the movie Oblivion at Jordan Creek. It was great to spend time with a friend. Wendy and I enjoyed the evening on the couch watching Scott Feldman pitch a complete game in a Cubs’ victory of San Diego.

Pella Tulip Time arrived yesterday along with a rare, late winter storm. It was cold, windy and wet all morning. Then the snow started flying. The parades were cancelled. After trying to open for a few hours, all the food stands shut down. Wendy and I bundled up in our scarves, winter coats and gloves to walk through the blizzard like conditions to the Pella Opera House. Since it was one of the few things people could do indoors, we had a good crowd for our opening performance of The Dominie’s Wife. After the show we braved the elements to walk home and holed up to have dinner and call it an early evening.

How our backyard looks on a previous May day.
How our backyard looks on a previous May day.

How our backyard looked this morning.
How our backyard looked this morning.

This morning I could hardly believe my eyes when I looked out the window at the blanket of newly fallen snow. Our show will still go on this afternoon. Tomorrow the high is predicted at 58 with light rain, so there may yet be hope for at least one soggy parade or two. What an awful disappointment for the community. No one we’ve spoken with can remember a Tulip Time this miserable! 😦

We have performances of The Dominie’s Wife this afternoon at 4:30 and again tomorrow at 12:30.

The Calm Before the Storm

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Wendy and I spent a working vacation at the lake this past week. Our friends the VLs had been there for a family weekend when we arrived on Sunday and we got to spend an evening together before they headed home. I call it a working vacation because we both had work to do which was accomplished remotely on our laptops. It was also a working vacation because, while we enjoyed the quiet of the lake for a few days, there was a lot to do around the Playhouse. I power washed the deck and sealed it – a task I’d been putting off for two years. There was also a long list of little “honey dos” that we worked on throughout the week.

On Thursday Wendy and I took a personal respite, got out on the water, and enjoyed a meal at one of our favorite haunts. By Friday morning it was clear that I didn’t do a good job of putting sunscreen on. Yikes! My chest and belly were splotchy patches of alternating beet red burn and pasty white.

On Friday, our friend Cyndi arrived with Megan and Ben and we got to play for a few days. We enjoyed time on the water. I got to teach Megan how to drive the Waverunner. We watched movies and enjoyed an afternoon and evening meal at Bear Bottom Resort, one of our favorites.

Our friends left late on Sunday morning and Wendy and I had a couple of hours to get things cleaned up for our next round of guests. Newlyweds Michelle and Austin arrived to spend their honeymoon week at the Playhouse. I was also pleased to get Father’s Day phone calls from Madison in Colorado and from Taylor and Clayton in Uganda and enjoyed catching up with them.

So, the (semi-)calm week is over as I stare down a stormy couple of weeks with multiple business trips around the country along with some impending big deliveries for work.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 27

from nikonmania via Flickr

But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. Acts 27:22 (NLT)

When I was growing up, my family and I vacationed each year on Rainy Lake. The large lake is a boundary water between Minnesota and Canada. Some years the entire camp of families would head out in a long flotilla, taking a day trip across the massive water to fish and enjoy one another’s company. The weather in that area of the country can be both beautiful and treacherous. I have vivid memories of being a child in one of the larger craft as our long line of boats hurriedly made our way back to camp amidst the rise of an unexpected gale. I can remember waves crashing over the bow of the boat and fearfully watching my dad, alone in his little john boat behind us, as it got battered by the rising waves.

While the storms I experienced in northern Minnesota are nothing to be compared with the life-threatening situations you’ll find on the open ocean, it nonetheless gives me an appreciation for the experiences related in today’s chapter. There is nothing quite like the  realization of being in a small craft on a large body of water in the midst of nature’s fury. It is an unbelievably helpless feeling.

How encouraging must it have been for the passengers and sailors to hear Paul’s assurances as the storm raged uncontrollably into its second week. It reminded me this morning of the assurances God’s Message provides to me, and to all who place their faith in Jesus:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 (NIV)

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. I Peter 1:6-7 (NIV)

Today I’m reminded that life is filled with unexpected storms of many kinds. I can’t control the weather, nor can I control life circumstances that swirl around me. I can, however, be assured that God will faithfully see me through the storm if I will faithfully seek after Him.