In the Eye of the Storm

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In the Eye of the Storm

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After strapping on my rollerblades, I headed down the sidewalk on a hot Friday morning. The fronds on the palm trees swayed gently in the wind, an occasional cloud temporarily shaded me from the burning South Florida sun, and the occasional sprinkler ticked as it sprayed water onto the green lawn.

With the humidity making the air unbearably heavy, I could not distinguish it from any other August morning in Jupiter, Florida. In the back of my mind, however, was the fear that in just a few short hours most of the trees along the sidewalk would likely lie mangled on the ground, pieces of rooftops and windowpanes would dot the streets, and floodwaters would threaten to create makeshift lakes in cul-de-sacs and parking lots.

Hurricane Frances was on her way to our town.

Despite my almost tranquil moment rollerblading in the last sunny hours before the storm, the shopping centers were madhouses with people buying every last supply on the shelves, from water and batteries to dried fruit and cereal. Home Depot had rationed plywood to a line of people who had waited up to six or seven hours the previous day.

With all the traffic from evacuees, trucks hauling gasoline could not battle their way down to our Hess, Exxon and Sunoco stations. Cars lined up as radio stations announced the last remaining gas stations that still had fuel.

Police arrested surfers who wanted just a few minutes out on the biggest waves they had seen all summer, and graffiti painted on the boarded-up shops on the coast warned potential vandals: "You loot, I shoot—not joking!" It seemed as if we lived in a war zone rather than Floridian paradise.

But what was the real fear? Unlike the war-torn citizens in Fallujah, the Ivory Coast or Sudan, we feared a natural force of wind and rain that we could not comprehend or control. It was almost like waiting for a bomb to be dropped right on our town that would spread its wrath south to Boca Raton and north to Orlando with us right in the middle—in the eye of the storm.

My friends and employers Mike and Samantha Moore, fellow Church members in the West Palm Beach area, opened their office building to those of us who either did not feel safe in our own homes or could not bring our pets to the school shelters.

Being with friends during the storm was certainly more inviting than just sitting on a gym floor playing Go Fish with strangers. All together, our group consisted of 28 adults and children, three dogs, five cats and my betta fish, Nebuchadnezzer. Together we pooled our resources to make the RCI office building a second home.

A wedding?

Coincidentally, the very weekend Frances was to grace us with her presence, Tracy Carreiro, from Port St. Lucie, Florida, and Jason Brandt, from Columbus, Ohio, were scheduled to wed in downtown West Palm Beach. Wedding guests from all over the country who had already arrived had to face the realization that they too would have to ride out the storm. Others who planned to arrive on Friday encountered cancelled flights because of the drastically increased winds.

As the Sabbath approached, we huddled by either the windows or our portable television to watch the outside world grow darker, gloomier and soon treacherous. Looking out the hurricane-proof windows of our shelter, the up-to-90-mile-an-hour wind thrashed the trees and broke them at their trunks as feeder bands passed through Jupiter. The wind was so fierce that it made the windows groan like a train was passing by, but inside the building we were safe and comforted. The frightening world outside was like the world in which we live today, which threatens our safety and grows increasingly ominous as time progresses.

The only thing we could do before the storm was to prepare ourselves with water, food and the proper shelter to weather Hurricane Frances until it passed. There are some lessons in all of this.

The same preparedness is necessary in our spiritual lives as we face the bombardment of spiritual forces and evil principalities. After all, "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities... against spiritual hosts of wickedness" (Ephesians 6:12).

Like preparing for a hurricane, we too must stock up on the right supplies of spiritual food including God's Holy Spirit and find shelter in His Church, which serves as a haven from Satan's corrupting world, so we can safely weather the storm.

Let's draw up a survival supply list that will help see us through the spiritual storm around us.

Spiritual supply #1—water

First, one must have plenty of water. After the hurricane passed, for many of us the water was unsafe to drink since septic tanks and other mass filtration systems were compromised by damaged pipes.

Some did not have safe drinking water for a couple of weeks. If they had not stocked up on pure water before the storm hit, imagine the discomfort and trial they would have had to endure after the hurricane passed through Jupiter. The same is true for us if we try to endure a trial without God's Holy Spirit working with us and helping us.

Jesus did not leave us unprepared to stand against the world's corrupting ways (John 14:16-18). He promised to send us a Helper or Comforter, God's Spirit, which is comparable to refreshing waters for someone who is thirsty (John 7:37-39). However, Paul also warns us in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 not to "quench the Spirit," which happens when we get so bogged down with the cares of this world that we fail to listen to God.

We all need God's Spirit to help us make right choices—especially when we go to a party with a group of friends and find some not-so-Christian activities going on. Or when we are in a class with a very crass teacher who insists that we are dead wrong in our archaic beliefs. Do we really have so much going on in our lives with school, work, clubs, sports or whatever else that fitting prayer and Bible study into our docket is impossible?

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul says that when we are tempted, God "will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." Since God will not give us a trial we cannot handle, there will always be an out from any questionable situation in which we may find ourselves. However, if we are not close to God, letting Him guide us throughout our lives—even in high school and college—it will be more difficult to turn away from the temptations that tug at us.

Even before baptism, God's Spirit works with us because our parents and ministers have taught us about God's way. Look at the end of Acts 2, past the verse we always read, "Repent, and... be baptized... and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Verse 39 says, "For the promise is to you and to your children."

When we find ourselves convicted to live God's way of life for the rest of our lives, it is up to us to answer His call. With conviction, repentance and baptism, we receive God's Spirit to help us through the trials and to develop God's character in our own minds. That prepares us mentally to weather life's storms.

Spiritual supply #2—food

To survive a storm we must also have food. One will not have a pleasant hurricane experience if all he has in his supply kit are triple-A batteries and gadgets. In addition to tools such as flashlights, batteries, radios, battery-powered televisions and, if at all possible, a generator, we need food to eat. We must pack ready-to-eat foods like peanut butter, cereal, granola bars, nuts and, of course, a cooler of ice to cool fruit, juices and other semiperishable foods.

Like physical food during a hurricane, we all need to equip ourselves with a spiritual cooler of God's truth from the very words of Jesus Christ. He tells us that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word... of God" (Matthew 4:4). As we fight spiritual battles, whether they are questions about Holy Days or confronting philosophies that contradict God's plan, we must not face them starved of God's nutritious truth. Answering questions about our faith without studying scriptures or without having a proper handle on what God says He will do when Christ returns is like attempting to survive a hurricane with only graham crackers and a penlight.

God tells us to both "test all things" and "be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:15). This includes the many aspects of God's Word, from His law and Holy Days to Christian living principles to prophecies and Church history.

Why do we have such hope for the future when all around us are thrashing winds of wars and widespread hunger, flying debris of divorce and broken homes, devastating floods of confusing philosophy? We have hope because God has revealed to us His plan for bringing many sons and daughters to righteousness to be a part of His family.

We have full access to this plan through the Bible. Think of the many subjects and stories to study as a whole grocery store stocked full of all the various spiritual foods we could ever need. We have our entire lives to become experts on the one book that holds the keys to the Kingdom of God. All we have to do is open it and study it.

Spiritual supply #3—shelter

Lastly, the stronger the shelter, the safer we are. Imagine someone standing outside against 90- to 110-mile-an-hour winds with leaves, gravel, glass and other objects flying past him or her! Without a shelter, he or she would likely be killed or severely injured. This person would suffer the full effects of the storm.

Within God's Church, we find shelter from the storms of the world as we build relationships with others who want to live God's way of life. Every Sabbath, we have a chance to share our experiences from the week with people who are striving for the same goal of God's Kingdom. They understand the struggle of living in a world so contrary to that vision.

The connections we make with one another are like the building blocks of a hurricane shelter. By talking with, encouraging and serving one another, we take part in fellowship with Jesus Christ through God's Holy Spirit. So, as the storms rage all around us, we are inside the safest place possible.

As in a family, the only way to grow closer to one another is to spend quality time together. We must also do this with our Church family. In the process we learn how to deal with and love different personality types and age groups—things that help us learn how to work together in more effectively doing God's will.

To finish our hurricane experience with an almost perfect biblical analogy, our friends Tracy and Jason Brandt got married the day after the storm passed. After enduring adversity and altered plans, the beautiful bride, dressed in her princesslike gown, walked down the aisle in the RCI office building. Those of us who had sought shelter there had tried our best to transform our makeshift haven into a beautiful wedding hall.

Tracy arrived at our shelter with a smile that made us forget that a Category 2 hurricane had even occurred. After all, she was getting married that day, and no storm was going to stop that special occasion! VT

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