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Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Power of a Snowstorm

A few days ago I was visiting with my sister and she described the huge shutdown on the coast in Washington state because of the snowstorm.  I am not always very sympathetic when the coasts complain about snowstorms.  It seems to me that when I watch the news media, there are often blizzards and deep snows throughout the plains and mountain states, but whenever it lands on the coasts, suddenly it is an emergency situation worthy of national news! 

I remember with a chuckle the time when Barack Obama was president and after arriving in D.C., they had a snow accumulation of an inch or so and shut everything down.  Then President Obama laughed and said that he was just flabbergasted that everything was shut down over such a small amount of snow, because back in Chicago it would have been considered a mere dusting and people would have been out playing in it (as close as I can recall his words).   And, as my sister pointed out, I need to remember that they have steep hills there that make a difference, and since they don’t get heavy snow very often, they don’t have the equipment to handle it.  I think the latter point is the significant one, because, last time I checked, Colorado gets lots of snow and has some pretty steep “hills,” but manages to handle snow crises in ways that help them keep going.  

Another fun example was when, a few years ago, my wife and I drove down to Dallas late one winter for a family event, and the whole city was paralyzed because they had a snow of an inch or two.  Driving into the city, as I observed people on the road, I quickly got off the four lane highway as it was obvious the people had no idea how to drive appropriately in the snow and were risking multiple accidents.  On the side streets, I ended up making much better time and avoided inexperienced drivers, even though those streets had not been cleared at all.

We are seeing snow all over the place this week.  I read an article from Flagstaff, Arizona describing their record snowfall, and have seen other reports of the snow down there, reminding me of the time we drove our exchange student to the Grand Canyon only to find that there was a record breaking snow storm then, too.  

As I write this, it is on the Sunday after our community received approximately another 8” of snow on top of the previous 5 or 6 inches still on the ground.  Crews have been out working through the night and morning.   (And, I might add, having driving into Omaha the day after the last big snowfall, these crews up here do a good job of taking these storms in stride!)  At the same time, I know some major highways nearby have had significant closures because of the storm, the drifts and accidents, so even here these things can have impact.

Today, many churches cancelled their services, yesterday when I stopped at a local bank branch they had a sign up announcing an early closure due to the blizzard conditions.  When I went dog walking this morning, I had to first shovel a path so we could get to the street since the snow everywhere else was too deep to walk in, and then off we went.
Flooding, blizzards, drought, earthquakes and other natural disasters can shut down human activity in a matter of minutes, can’t they?  

I have been in many an ice storm that left many homes without power in just a matter of minutes.  In fact, I have always been struck by the highways and roads that we put down which, despite the latest technology, often end up with potholes due to freezing and thawing, and upheaval of segments due to the same thing and heat exposure.  The best of our technology is really not as powerful as we think it is.  

These things remind me of the questions God asked of Job in Job 38-41, such as this passage from Job 38:22 (ESV)—
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
    or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,”

Those questions asked of Job were designed to remind him that God is God, and Job was not.  Neither are we.  Snowstorms such as this one can remind us of how fragile the constructions of our lives are. Despite what we like to tell ourselves, we are not as in control as we think we are, nor are we quite as powerful as we might like to think. 

I like how this same concept is pointed out in Natalie Grant’s song, “The King of the World.”  Here are a few of the lyrics from this song written by Natalie Grant, Sam Mizell, and Becca Mizell:

When did I forget that You've always been the King of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the King of the world
How could I make You so small?
When You're the one who holds it all
When did I forget that You've always been the King of the world?

Just a whisper of Your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead?

Whether it is a snow storm, a drought, a divorce, a devastating illness or whichever of life’s challenges you face that just seem too overwhelming and leave you feeling powerless, I urge you to let those circumstances remind you that God is the King of the World and we are not.  

Let those huge events remind you to not make God small in your own life, to remember who it is who can tame the seas and who it is that can simply ride on the waves in a tiny boat.  And then, let it cause you to reflect on who you really lean on to get you through those tough times, your own limited knowledge and ability, or the God who is and always has been, the King of the World.  As I pointed out to my congregation recently, that phrase, King of the World, is a phrase common in Jewish prayers.  Sometimes it is translated that way, but there is another translation that I like, which reminds me of who God really is:  Master of the Universe.  

I haven’t seen the heavenly storehouses of snow any more than Job has, only the little bit that has happened to land near me.  Scientists today describe how these snowflakes are created, the various processes and temperatures involved.  I recently ran across of the  photographic work of Don Komarechka of Canada, which depicts the amazing construction of snowflakes…much more beautiful, delicate, intricate and varied than you might think. 
 Don Komarechka Snowflake Gallery

Just looking at the amazingly beautiful detail of this white stuff so many of us curse, and thinking of the artistry God uses to create this troublesome fluff, which only lasts but for a brief time before melting away, causes me to realize how amazingly great God is, and how much he cares about even the smallest of details of my life and yours.  

If only I can remember not to try to limit God to whatever box my little mind can concoct, when he is so much bigger, more powerful, more amazing and more caring than I can even begin to imagine.  

If there is snow outside your house right now, I encourage you to take a minute to look out at the beauty, at the artistry, at the amazing power of something as simple as frozen water, and then realize it is a demonstration of the God who can get YOU through anything life .brings, and will do so in amazing ways if you just let him be not only the king of the world, but the king of YOUR world, too!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Life After Divorce


Hello out there!  It’s been a while since I have posted a piece.  Sorry about that, I had hoped to get something out for you before Valentine’s Day, since that can be such a difficult time after a divorce. 

If you are one who really struggled this year, you have my sympathy, BUT, you also have now passed a significant milestone in forward progress.  

But I have been legitimately busy since I last posted.  Today is the one month marker from the birth of a new grandchild!  We got to see the baby shortly after her birth, and then again a few weeks later.  At the same time, we were working diligently on a number of hectic activities at our church, including a special marriage building dinner for couples in celebration of Valentine’s Day.  Out of that hectic context then, I am going to give you today’s thoughts.

I have shared in my books about the time a friend told me, as I struggled through my own divorce, that a divorcee she knew had told her that there is, “life after divorce.”  That truth was very hard to see at the time, but as we spent time with our new little granddaughter, the reality of it was right in front of my eyes. (Well, right in my arms, actually!) And then once again as we were part of our special Valentine’s ministry at church, the truth was reinforced once again.

In our case, when Nola and I got married, we each brought children from our previous marriage into the relationship.  Those of you who have had that experience know all the ups and downs, uncertainties and joys that come with such a merger. However, such a “merger” means that, for me, there are now more opportunities for grandchildren!  And that new grandbaby reminds me that, difficult though divorce is, both for the one divorcing and for the children caught up in their parents’ divorce, on the other side of divorce, life goes on. There will continue to be family gatherings.  Babies will be born.  The various ups and downs, twists and turns that life naturally brings…marriages, funerals, job changes and moves…all will continue to be part of the natural cycle of life.  Sure, a divorce leaves behind complicating factors such as working out holiday schedules in light of time children spend with your ex, or parent child relationships that can be strained due to a wide variety of factors, or even simply the impact of the financial drain that divorce brings with it.  

But life goes on…there IS indeed life after divorce. 

It can be easy for all the negative experiences and complications to drag you down, to absorb your attention and cause you to lose track of the good things that happen in life.  But then a new baby is born (or whatever your event happens to be), and you are reminded that there are good things in life as well, good things that would never have come your way had there not been a divorce.

For me, that includes the reminder of Valentine’s Day. Our little dinner church celebration also included live piano music in the background.  As our pianist cancelled at the last minute, a friend and I filled in. The music selections were the usual sappy romantic music.  As I practiced and played the songs, I found myself remembering a time when those kind of songs brought tears of sadness, because of the broken relationship of my first marriage.  But with this event, I found included were memories and tears of joy.  A song from “The Phantom” reminded me of the time my new wife (of 15 years now), procured tickets for us to go see a live performance at an unusual theater for a delightful weekend away.  Other songs reminded me that the dream of what being in love could be like is more than just a dream, it is something that can actually be experienced when you meet someone truly special who is truly committed to you.

Once again, it turns out there is, indeed, life after divorce.  A fresh start.  A new relationship can be different.  


Sure, the pain and scars of divorce carry forward and, to some degree, shape how we experience life afterwards.  But there are plenty of other pains and scars that everyone carries with them from their past into their future.  And there are things we learn, things we appreciate, that only have the impact they do because of the experiences that were so difficult at the time, such as divorce.  A life after divorce that can be filled with lots of opportunities that would not have existed otherwise.  

For me, that reminder comes in the form of a little, tiny baby girl who is one month old today.  Your reminder may come some other way, but however you get there, especially during those dark and difficult days of life, never forget that life goes on, and as it does, there will be some wonderful experiences ahead!