Protection in the Storm

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael impacted my region approximately three short weeks after my last blog post. That experience had a lasting impact on me, and it has taken time to process how that disaster has affected so many, how I experienced it personally, and where God was through all of it. With the 2019 hurricane season now upon us, I want to share with you what God has been teaching me.

It all started with a dream…

Over the rolling hills, I flew. Swaths of evergreens intermingled with dots of yellow, brown, and red patches stretched as far as my eyes could see on that cool, Fall day. Below, thin strips of pavement snaking narrowly, disappeared and peeked through the surrounding green before weaving out of sight once again. Office buildings, universities, shopping centers, neighborhoods, and grocery stores poked through the natural colors in the patchwork beneath me.

“So beautiful,” I thought, gliding above, weightless and carefree. I squeezed my eyes tightly together, inhaling the air around me with tremendous happiness. I felt great pride knowing this beautiful area was my home. However, those feelings didn’t last long.

When I gazed upon the landscape below once more, I realized something was terribly wrong. Broken pine trees lay bent and bowed like crushed, thrown tinker toys. Buildings were collapsed. Roofs were torn, missing, and scattered across neighborhoods. I felt a lump in my throat and a heaviness in my heart. Destruction was everywhere.

As I floated above the more populated areas of my hometown, the devastation grew: twisted metal, fallen trees, bent fences, and broken lamp posts, snapped in half. Although, I couldn’t see the people below, I felt their sorrow as if it were my own. The deep sense of loss and pain, anxiety and depression, and utter hopelessness overtook me. In my soul, I knew what had happened — a powerful hurricane hit, and no one saw it coming. No one was ready for it.

Why weren’t they ready? I asked myself aloud, feeling utterly helpless. It wasn’t like we hadn’t experienced hurricanes before this one, but this one was…different.

I sped across the sky to my neighborhood, longing to know what had become of my neighbors and home. The long, winding road below, leading to the entrance of my street was covered in tree debris and limbs, rendering it impassible. Towering, ancient pines had destroyed many of the homes. Most of the houses had massive trees toppled across roofs, through living rooms, bedrooms, and garages. Cars in driveways were crushed, and their windshields smashed.

The scene was strangely still like a photograph. No one was standing in the roadways. No lights were on inside homes. No wind blew. No rain fell from the sky. It was as if the earth stood still. It all just looked so…lifeless. I choked back tears and covered my eyes.

“No more!” I whimpered as I felt a strange shifting sensation around me. The feeling was unfamiliar, and I felt uneasy. I held my hands tightly around my face, trembling until the sensation stopped; and although I didn’t want look, I opened my eyes.

I blinked several times, feeling disoriented at first, but quickly understood I was inside my home, standing in my bedroom. Before me, my husband and I lay asleep, unaware of the world around us. A sense of dread filled me, deep in my belly. I wanted to wake myself up, but I didn’t know how.

Wake up! I cried, but the sleeping bodies before me didn’t stir.

That’s when I heard it — a terrible cracking sound outside the bedroom window. Before I could react, the sound grew louder and was quickly followed with a tremendous thud and crashing noise inside the master bedroom. I turned away, cupping my ears to avoid the terrifying sounds.

Suddenly, it was silent again.

“No, no, no, no!” I yelled as I dropped to my knees, trembling. A seventy-five-foot pine tree had crashed through our master bedroom, straight through the center of our bed. The sight stole the breath from my body.

My eyes filled with tears as I cried, “No, Father. This can’t happen!”

Suddenly, the dream was over. I found myself awake, shaking, weeping, and extremely confused. I was in my master bed. My husband was sleeping soundly next to me. My home was intact. No tree had come through our roof or across our bed. We were safe.

There were three days left before Hurricane Michael could be at our doorstep, assuming it stayed along the same path it was threatening to take. I quickly thumbed through my smart phone to the weather app tracking the storm. No change. The storm was still heading North, but the forecast models appeared to be drifting slight West towards us.

Many thoughts swirled through my head. We had a friend coming from Texas to stay with us for a few days while she sold her house, and it looked like the hurricane bearing down upon us would arrive the same day she would sign her paperwork. What if she got stuck in town, unable to get back home to Texas for days or weeks? Losing power and water at our house was a certainty if the storm touched us at all. Should we stay in town? Should we evacuate? Should we go to my parents’ house? Should I convince them to leave too? What about elderly family members? It was all very overwhelming as the imagery and emotions of all I had dreamed played in my head over and over again on loop. Fear tried to take hold, and all I knew to do was pray.

“Father, turn this storm another direction. Fling it into the sea away from everyone, or drive it into open fields. Move it far from our town. Protect us. Your Word says You hear the cries of your children. Please hear me.”

In response, the Holy Spirit reminded me God is in control:

Matthew 6:25-34 TPT – “This is why I tell you to never be worried about your life, for all that you need will be provided, such as food, water, clothing—everything your body needs. Isn’t there more to your life than a meal? Isn’t your body more than clothing? Look at all the birds—do you think they worry about their existence? They don’t plant or reap or store up food, yet your heavenly Father provides them each with food. Aren’t you much more valuable to your Father than they? So, which one of you by worrying could add anything to your life? And why would you worry about your clothing? Look at all the beautiful flowers of the field. They don’t work or toil, and yet not even Solomon in all his splendor was robed in beauty more than one of these! So if God has clothed the meadow with hay, which is here for such a short time and then dried up and burned, won’t he provide for you the clothes you need—even though you live with such little faith? So then, forsake your worries! Why would you say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For that is what the unbelievers chase after. Doesn’t your heavenly Father already know the things your bodies require? So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from him. Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly. Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

As I continued to pray, a sort of righteous anger rose up within me. It seemed the nightmare might be the Enemy or my own imagination trying to scare me into cowering and giving up authority in the spiritual realm, but I know our words have power in Jesus when we directly speak to things that try to come against us. Therefore, I spoke directly to the storm in a forceful whisper (trying not to wake my husband): “Go away! Dissolve! You can’t come here! May you be pulled apart like Hurricane Irma! You aren’t welcome here in Jesus’ name!”

When my husband woke up, I told him about my dream, including the tree that came through our roof. Surely, if a pine tree that size crashed through our home and into our bed, it would kill us where we lay.

We believed and agreed the storm would not hurt us if we asked our Father to cover us. Why else would I dream such a horrible thing if not to intervene? So we prayed. We prayed over our bedroom, every doorway, every closet, our kitchen, and our living room. We prayed for the large pine trees in our backyard and commanded them to remain strong and rooted. All the while, the Weather Channel in the living room displayed warnings across our television that Hurricane Michael was suddenly projected to reach a Category 5; and we were still potentially in its path.

Over the next couple of days, I experienced a mixture of faith, hope, and fear. I believed God would protect us, but the human side was still afraid. I kept seeing the dream in my mind as if it had actually happened in real life the way I saw it. Every time I saw the images, I prayed for God to move the storm, not just for us but our whole community.

The next day, a Wednesday, the storm hit. It wobbled unpredictably slightly to the right and to the left before the eye of the storm made landfall. My family and I sat huddled around the television, watching the storm. I was thankful my friend had gone back to Texas and was out of harm’s way. We stayed with my parents in case we needed to help each other for the next few days if we lost power.

I felt an odd peace, knowing although we were totally unable to control of the storm, the One who could control it knew exactly what would happen and where it would go. It may be a scary next few hours, days, or weeks ahead; but He was with us. I knew we were going to be okay, despite the fear constantly pulling on the deep thoughts in the back of my mind.

The next few hours were dark and noisy. The wind blew erratically and harshly. The trees bent and cracked. Limbs fell to the ground, roof, on the backyard fence, and across the neighbor’s cars. We lost power. We lost cell phone service, but our safety was never an issue.

When it was finally safe to travel across town once the storm had mostly passed, we made our way back home. The neighborhood was a mess. There were trees and yard debris everywhere. It was exactly what I dreamed. I tried to be brave and held back tears as we drove towards our home. Were our neighbors okay? Would there be a tree through our bedroom?

As we pulled into the driveway, all looked amazingly well with our home and property. It was a surprise to be honest. I almost expected a tree through my bedroom, but God is better than my fears and expectations. Nothing had damaged our home, and our neighbors were okay.

The next morning, my husband and I visited our house again and stood at the back door, watching the final lingering hurricane winds gust through the trees, when we noticed something we hadn’t seen before — a seventy-five-foot pine tree at the back of our yard, the very one that fell in my dream, had pulled

up at its root system and was leaning. It had fallen uphill (our bedroom was directly downhill), away from our house. Somehow (only God), the tree was securely nestled into the branches of a neighboring tree, keeping it from hitting the ground. The only threat posed now was damage to our fence and our neighbor’s fence. I was blown away. It was a true confirmation that God was working on our behalf to protect us. It would have surely crushed our bedroom, straight through our bed. I was in shock.

The next days were hot and tiring without air conditioning, but I was thankful. We were protected through it all, and we knew it. We learned as we

gained connection back to the rest of the world that we had missed a direct hit by the terrible center of Hurricane Michael by only a few miles. The areas that were directly hit were coastal towns. Many people had lost everything they had in the storm. My heart broke for them. It was difficult to see the images of devastation without wondering why they weren’t spared, and we were. But I know God’s heart weeps with us when we hurt and cry. A tragedy to us is also one to Him.

As I reflect on Hurricane Michael, I mostly remember God’s goodness, the kindness of neighbors, and the heroism of the first responders and linemen during and after the storm. I am still processing the grief and the chaos and especially my dream, but it was a clear reminder of the One who is always in control even when things look most uncertain. I don’t have to be afraid because He is with me.

If you’re facing a life-altering event or wondering if God sees you in the middle of a storm of life, I hope this post will encourage you. He hears the cries of His children; and no matter the outcome of whatever you’re going through, you can rest assured that He has you securely held in the gentle grip of His hand.


Let Love Roar

Love Beyond Understanding

This blog post was written by my better half.  May it bless you and remind you of God’s promises, love and mercy. – The In-Place Missionary

One thing I will never understand is how much God loves us. I cannot begin to comprehend the depths of His love displayed by sending His son, Jesus, to earth to die for us. He is God. He didn’t have to do that. We definitely didn’t do anything to deserve that love, grace, and mercy.loch_oich_rainbow

I have been reading through the Bible starting from the beginning, Genesis, on forward. As I have made my way through the Old Testament, I am struck by God’s love and mercy. He could have given up on man after Adam and Eve sinned. He could have destroyed mankind with the great flood, but he chose to spare us through Noah and his family.

He made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, but they constantly rebelled against Him. They constantly whined while traveling from Egypt, where God rescued them from slavery. When Moses went up the mountain to get God’s commandments, the people made an idol. When they got to the promised land and settled, they constantly worshipped other gods and idols. God always brought them back to Himself.

This brings us back to the cross. The place where God made a way for all who would believe in Him to have a relationship with the creator of the universe. After we make that decision to repent and give our lives to Jesus, we still sin. We still turn from God. But just like in the Old Testament, God is faithful. He still loves us and wants a relationship with us. It is a beautiful thing, this relationship. I cannot begin to describe it. I just hope you believe and experience it for yourself. Then you will know true love, joy, and freedom.


Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings Series Part 2 – Noah’s Ark

Old Testament stories like Noah’s Ark ( Genesis 6:5-9:17) sometimes conjure thoughts of an angry God fatally sweeping away humanity and life in a torrent of water. Sound familiar? Although the logistics of the story of Noah’s Ark are hard to imagine, it seems the impossible task of gathering pairs of animals and rainbowcramming them into a large boat is not the number one issue that bothers people. Instead, the most difficult piece of the story seems to be the not-so-obvious answers to perplexing questions about our Divine Creator: “Why does God seem to oscillate between two extremes — the angry, jealous God of judgment of the Old Testament and the loving, merciful Father of the New Testament?”, “Did God change His mind about humanity and decide we weren’t worth the grief we caused Him?”, “Does God hate humanity?”, and “What signs and symbols of mercy, if any, exist in stories like the one about Noah?”

God’s Character

Hollywood movies and the mainstream media sometimes typecast God inaccurately as a tyrannical master who can’t wait for humanity to slip up so He can wipe them off the face of the earth; but I encourage you to consider how Old Testament stories like Noah’s Ark reveal God’s grace and mercy and can be paralleled with Christ’s death and resurrection (like many other Old Testament stories believe it or not!).

God does not enjoy the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). As the ultimate loving Father, He always provides hope and a way out of judgment. If you read closely enough, you will realize the Biblical account of Noah is a wonderful story filled with signs and symbols of a gracious and merciful God. As the Divine Creator, God could have chosen to wipe mankind from the earth, especially since the Bible says our wickedness was so great it caused an outcry from the heavens. The Scriptures say it deeply grieved God that His creation had become so morally bankrupt that no one except Noah was found to be righteous. How great is our God that He allowed man’s legacy to continue through Noah’s family line (Genesis 6:5-8)? Why would He do this? Although man’s wickedness grieved God, He loves us and promised to repair our broken relationship with Him (Isaiah 53:5-12).

Symbols of Grace – The Ark

floodAlthough God promised the flood would come, He also promised Noah a way to escape destruction onboard the Ark. The Ark provided complete protection from the flood in the same way the blood of Jesus covers us and provides grace over judgment. God invited Noah and His family into the Ark and sealed them inside to secure their protection (Genesis 6:9-7:24).

Symbols of Grace – The Raven

After several days of floating around on the flood waters, Noah released a raven. The Bible says the raven flew back and forth in the sky continuously until the Ark found its resting place in the mountains of Ararat. When I first read this statement, I was somewhat perplexed. In modern times, the raven is often used to symbolize death. I suppose it could be said the raven could not perch on anything because the earth was covered in water which symbolized death while the waters existed. Also, ravens were considered to be unclean birds because they feed on the dead (“Genesis 8 – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible”, Bible Gateway).

Is it also possible there is a dual meaning to why the raven was sent out? In my research about Noah’s raven, I found several websites that indicated the bird is often used as a symbol of provision (see “1 Kings 17 – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible”, Bible Gateway, “Vincent of Saragossa”, Wikipedia, and Luke 12:24). I have to wonder if the raven is meant to symbolize God’s provision for Noah, his family, and all the living creatures on the Ark while there was only death everywhere else upon the earth.

Symbols of Grace – The Dove and the Olive Branch

The dove shows up in many different passages of the Bible to symbolize the Holy Spirit, purity, peace, and new life. In the story of Noah’s Ark, the dove was sent out three separate times to find dry land. The first time the dove and olive branchdove was sent out, it flew back to Noah because there was nowhere to land (death upon the land). The second time the Noah released the dove, it returned with an olive branch, symbolizing peace. When the dove was released a third time, it did not return, symbolizing freedom and deliverance after the world’s submersion). Just as Noah’s Ark is often compared to the finished work of Christ, the dove can be compared to a believer’s baptism after salvation, signifying the Holy Spirit being with a follower of Jesus (“Why is the dove often used as a Symbol for the Holy Spirit?”, Got Questions.Org).

I love this interpretation from the Biblical Research Institute:

One could also argue that the dove is, in this particular case, a symbol of deliverance. The dove as a symbol of the love of God appeared, telling us that, as with the Flood, the storm of sin is not powerful enough to keep us permanently separated from the Father. Our planet is now connected with heaven through Christ. In accepting His Son, God signifies to us that we are also accepted in the Beloved through faith in the provision He made on our behalf.

Symbols of Grace – The Rainbow

The rainbow is a symbol of God’s covenant with Noah that He will never destroy the earth again by flood. The rainbow is a sign to God’s people of His enduring faithfulness (“Christian Rainbow: Christian Symbols Illustrated Glossary” by Mary Fairchild, Christianity.About.Com).

If you are interested in the meanings and symbolism of the colors of the rainbow, I would highly recommend the article found on Bible Study.Org titled “What does a rainbow mean in the Bible?”. There are multiple layers of meanings and so many interesting things to study on this topic that it would be easy to make a whole other blog post about it (and I just might!).

Parallels to Christ’s Work on the Cross

The parallels to Christ’s work are incredibly rich and detailed, and I would encourage you to explore the web and study it on your own. You won’t be disappointed. Here are a couple of interesting sites I found while I was doing some research:

“Noah’s Ark: Bible Story, Lessons, and Questions” by Jack Wellman, Christian Crier

“Seeing Jesus in Noah’s Ark” by David Armstrong, Looking into God’s Word