Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lessons From Irene

It's been over a month since Hurricane Irene visited us here in upstate New York. While progress is being made, things are far from being back to normal. As time passes, I have had more opportunity to reflect on what did and what could have happened and consequently I have gained a greater appreciation of God's love. As I look around the outside of our house and see the evidences of how the water traveled I am awestruck at all the little things that worked together to keep our home not only in tact but dry. Even the insurance adjuster called it a "miracle" house. God is good.

As I reflect on things, I realize that God allowed Irene into our lives not to punish us but simply because we were where we were. Maybe you would like a better reason than this, but if you live near a creek and are just above the hundred year flood plain, you  are not going to escape a five hundred year flood should it occur. In other words, our house got flooded as did others in the area, just because it was where it was. God tells us in 1 Corinthians10:13 that believers will go through difficult times as will those who do not know God. However, the difference is that God tempers things so that we will not be overwhelmed if we trust in Him. My thought then has turned from why this happened to what can I learn from this. As I have done this several things have come to mind.

First of all, God has been showing me that He loves me and wants my love. Before Irene incidents had occurred that had me fretting and concerned. I even blogged about them calling them "little foxes". Through them all I felt God was whispering, "Do you love me enough to trust me?" I was struggling with this and in my opinion I was beginning to surrender this area of my life to God's keeping. I began to make that commitment to love and trust Him more. I thought I had made good strides. Then came Irene, and God's prompting to love Him more was renewed in earnest. Since then  my resolve has received daily testing as new problems and concerns arise. Daily, is the temptation to doubt God's love and provision. Daily, I am reminded of the miracle of our house that is standing. Daily, I am reminded of God's love. If God could preserve our house why do I doubt that He will work out the minor details in due time? I thank God for love His for me, His child, and in so doing, I ask Him to help me to love Him more each day.

Irene taught me also to not measure my days according to my losses, but instead trust God for what He gives. The night following Irene we were unable, due to flood waters, to get near enough to our house to determine its status. I spent a sleepless night wondering what we woulud fing when the waters receded. Towards morning came this thought. It was not for me to dwell on my losses rather to look to God and be thankful for what He was giving us back. Consequently, I was able to look past the torn up yard, the totaled car, the decimated garage and damaged front porch  and be thankful that the four corners of the house were square and the house was still standing on a solid foundation.  My heart lept with joy when I entered the house and saw all that was inside was safe.

Irene also reminded me of how temporary or earthly homes are. We are not called to be citizens of this world but rather to be citizens of heaven. All here below is temporary. All we have could be lost in an instant in a flood or other catastrophic event. Many in our area lost so much more than I did, but they are starting to rebuild. However, even with the rebuilding, nothing is permanent.1 Peter reminds us that this world will come to an end. My fleshly body will come to an end. But, there is more. Eternity is more. Without eternity, life would be futile--meaningless. Christ is the key to eternity. He is our only Hope.

I think the most important lesson from Irene, is that I need to keep my focus on God. Men will let me down. Promises are made then broken, but the God Who has shown Himself faithful continues to do so. Daily we are reminded of His faithfulness. There are the big things such as the miraculous preservation of our house, but there are the little things as well. God is good. God is faithful. He sent His Son to take my place at Calvary. He will care for all my needs. No hurricane can separate me from His love.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bears, Phones And Now Irene

In my last blog, I related how God was teaching me to trust Him. Minor annoyances (although they did not appear minor when they happened) were threatening to rob me of my peace and joy in Christ. As the Bible mentions the little foxes that spoil the vine, I had my issues with bears bouncing off my car causing damage, and phones not working interfering with my wife's plans to end her daily commute and instead work from home. I began to see that these are indeed minor annoyances and that God was urging me to trust Him and that not trusting was unbelief and my way of not letting God be God. As I began taking tentative steps in this direction, I thought I had learned my lesson. And then came Irene.

For those of you who don’t know, we live in the mountains of upstate New York and a week ago last Sunday received twenty inches of rain from Hurricane Irene in a span of less than eight hours. Normally mountain peaks and valleys are water collectors. They direct the rain waters into creeks which then flow into larger streams, rivers and reservoirs. When heavy rains come creeks swell but usually stay within their banks, but not so with the rains of a hurricane. The pristine creek behind our house became a raging river over a hundred feet wide and carrying a tremendous destructive force, destroying houses, vehicles and personal property—with our house in the middle.

We (my wife and I) had heard the weather report and had gone to bed Saturday night with the intent on checking the creek in the morning. Our plan was to watch during the day with the intent of going to our daughter’s house should it look like the creek was rising. We fully expected our house to remain untouched in that our house is a foot above the hundred year flood plain. We expected no more than that. However we wanted to be safe rather than sorry and so our plan to go to higher ground if the creek began to get close. From the weather reports, we figured that might be sometime around the middle of the day.  The worse we expected was power outages—just a minor inconvenience. At seven in the morning the creek had risen to the base of the maple right outside our sunroom--past the hundred year flood mark. There were still at least four hours of heavy rain to come. We decided to leave.

We were unable to get to our intended destination because the road in that direction had already washed out. We stayed instead with some friends hoping and praying their house would remain above the deluge. From the vantage point of their front porch we watched fascinated as evidence of the water’s destruction floated by. We saw parts of houses, fuel tanks, ATVs, trees, all of which I imagined slamming into our house downstream. The water rose, threatening the houses across the street. A volunteer fireman at the house had an emergency radio but even there news was spotty. Rumors abounded. I went to bed (but not to sleep) that night wondering what the next day would reveal.

The next morning I walked down the street to our house, fearing what I would find. As I drew near I could see our garage first. It was standing, but had suffered great damage. As I got close enough to see the house itself, it too had suffered damage, but the main part was sound. The water had passed through the crawl space under the house leaving the slab and the columns the house rests on intact. Inside, the house was dry. Tears of relief and joy flowed. God is good. Our home had been spared. There was and still is debris scattered all over our yard. Our garage has massive damage to its foundation. One of our cars is probably totaled. We will need excavation work as well as repairs to the house, but overall, we fared much better than many downstream from us.

I share all of this for a reason. Throughout this ordeal I have felt God continuing to urge me as He did with the bears and the phone, “Love me enough to trust me.” I have no doubt it was God’s intervention that spared our house. I can fill up pages of text with the little things that spared our house from greater damage. Yet, even though God has saved our house, I still get ‘the worries’ as new problems come up each day. There is a long way to go until things will ever resemble anything like normal. But, with each new fear, I have the assurance, God saved our house, He can solve these lesser things as well. God, help me to love You enough to trust You.