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White Out

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If you’re a fan of the Little House on the Prairie books, you’ll remember the blizzard that forced Pa to tie a rope connecting the house and the barn, so that he wouldn’t get lost when he went outside to care for the livestock. White outs aren’t fictional; visibility in a snowstorm can be reduced to feet instead of miles.

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In blizzard country, it can snow and blow until you lose sight of the horizon, as it did here two weeks ago. I measured the increasing severity of the storm by objects I lost sight of–first the horizon, then the neighbors’ houses, then the road, and, last, the trees in front of our house. A white out. A foot of snow fell overnight and into the next day, and the wind whipped the tiny flakes into drifts four feet high.

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It’s easy to lose perspective when your world becomes smaller and smaller, when all you see are the storms of life roaring around you, when the barn disappears.

Maybe a loved one has died.

Maybe you face a seemingly endless task of caring for family members.

Maybe your financial situation is precarious.

Maybe the results of the latest lab test are disheartening.

Maybe family members who should have loved you, haven’t.

Maybe the doctors are mystified and can’t figure it out what “it” is.

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Sometimes I feel like Laura, peering through the frosted window, struggling to see the barn during a white out. I begin to doubt God’s love and care for me when I am in the middle of great trials. At times I empathize with Job, thinking that God

. . . would crush me with a storm
    and multiply my wounds for no reason.

Job 9:17   NIV

Eventually, storms end. Skies clear. Howling winds subside. What is left behind?

Drifts of sparkling snow,

gorgeous blue shadows,

azure skies,

bright, moonlit nights.

Beauty.

What is left when our personal trials pass? If we cooperate with God and allow him to work in us, the beauty of a changed character remains. God can take the inevitable storms and use them to transform us.

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

James speaks of a joy during trials, a joy that is hard to imagine when we are in the middle of a difficult time.  But this joy isn’t the same as gleeful happiness.  In fact, we may actually be in pain.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

I Peter 1:6   NIV

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We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Romans 5:3-5   MSG

Who wouldn’t want to be more patient, more mature? Who wouldn’t want to persevere and have a stronger faith?

Me. Sometimes. I can get so tired in the middle of the blizzard, I lose my perspective, and I don’t want to move forward. Those are the times you can pray for me, and if you get disoriented and weary during stormy trials, I’ll pray for you. And during the next white out, let’s follow that rope to the barn.

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Linking with

Laura BoggessLaura Boggess    Holley Gerth

   Jennifer Dukes Lee

 

 

 

After the Storm

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A welcome sight:  the sun after a storm.

  linking with deidrariggs.com

Storm

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The storm began as powdered-sugar frosting on the fir trees and hydrangeas

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and meringue silently topping every rooftop.

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Then the north-west wind began to howl and push the accumulating flakes into drifts like dunes of sand.

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The storm blurs the outlines of trees into ghosts wrapped by white, wraith-like fingers.

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As the wind begins to blow straight and hard, the edges of the road and the horizon disappear.

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Some of us experience blizzards, but all of us live through the kind of storms that don’t show up on the radar:

when you walk down the dark, basement stairs and find frozen, broken pipes have flooded the floor,

when you watch a parent slide down the rocky slope of Alzheimer’s,

when a forever-promised spouse seeks “greener” spaces,

when a child walks the prodigal road,

when the doctor begins a conversation with “I’m sorry.  There’s nothing else we can do.”

All is white.  All is storm.

We find ourselves in distress.

The disciples were terrified as they found themselves in distress in the middle of a storm (and some of these men fished for a living!).

Then [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”   Matthew 8:23-27   NIV

Jesus amazed them, even after all the miracles they’d recently witnessed.  After they were safe on shore, I wonder if they remembered David’s prescient Psalm.

Some went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:  23-30   NIV

When we’re in distress, the dictionary explains that we suffer “great pain, anxiety, or sorrow.”  The common Latin word, from which “distress” arrives, is districtus, which means  “divided in mind.”

Like the disciples, who watched a miracle one day and watched their courage melt away the next.

Like us.

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We are divided in our minds.  We trust Jesus’ care for us when the sun shines, but in the middle of the storm, we question God’s power and goodness.

. . . because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.   James 1:6

The good news is the Lord knows all about our storm-tossed faith.  In Psalm 107 this refrain repeats.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.

Even after God’s people rebelled and despised His plans, (Psalm 107:11) God’s love wraps around them.   This is the other phrase that repeats:

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

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The antonym for “distress” is “comfort.”

The antidote for distress (a divided mind) in the white-out, stormy times is giving thanks and wrapping yourself in the comfort of God’s warm love.

The Lord’s comfort is a quilt made with the scraps of fear and doubt, high waves and deep drifts, trust and faith, all stitched together with God’s unfailing love.


linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

Coffee for Your Heart 150

linking with Holley Gerth at holleygerth.com

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