When the Winds Blow

When the Winds Blow

Over Memorial Day Weekend this year, I traveled with International Disaster Emergency Service to the panhandle of Florida to listen to people’s stories as they continue to recover from a hurricane which devastated the area last fall.  IDES was on scene shortly after the hurricane went through and has been involved in disaster relief and recovery efforts through the coordination of resources and workers.  The trip I was on had been designed specifically as follow-up to listen to stories in order to find ways to better serve the emotional and spiritual recovery as well as the physical needs.

This week, in a small way, I experienced first-hand the stories that I consistently heard from people.  Sunday evening as we sat in the house, an isolated tornado formed and passed directly over our property.  There was no warning, just a horrendous sound and sudden loss of electricity that got our attention in time to go upstairs and realize that whatever had just happened was already past.  On one side of the house, large tree branches had been ripped from trees and blown to the north.  On the other side of the house a towering pine tree had come down and fell to the south.  As we’re surveying the damage, the tornado sirens finally go off making us wonder if another one is coming — there wasn’t, but in the moment there was nothing but uncertainty.

As I surveyed the house, it appeared the only damage to it was two crank-out windows that had blown out and off their hinges.  Using my phone, I was able to access limited information and learned that a tornado did indeed go through and had destroyed a daycare building just north of us.  I also learned that power wasn’t expected to be restored until sometime the next day — which for our neighborhood meant not just no electricity, but no water as we’re all on private wells.  

Anyhow, that’s a lot of background simply to introduce a few things that I heard from people recovering from hurricane Michael that I also experienced in a much smaller context than they did.

  1. When disaster strikes, confusion will generally follow.
  2. Our immediate response is probably a combination of our temperament and adrenaline.  I quickly grabbed a chainsaw and began clearing brush from the roadway.
  3. Once the adrenaline is gone, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  After a restless Sunday night, I found myself staring at the mess on Monday morning wondering where to start.
  4. Disasters can bring out the best in people.  Once I began working on the cleanup Monday morning, it wasn’t long before the neighbors began theirs and we were soon working together throughout the day to clean up the three properties.
  5. Disasters can bring out the worst in people.  It didn’t take long on Monday morning before what I call “the vultures” started showing up — a steady stream of people with business cards and price sheets wanting to “help”.  I suspect some, and perhaps many, were legitimate businesses but not all appeared to be.  In the already present confusion of disaster, it is easy to see how many people are taken advantage of.
  6. Public servants just might be an oxymoron.  The help that one might expect to get from any level of government that those affected pay taxes to, will likely not be timely or  helpful.
  7. The “fog of disaster” can make it easy to see all the loss and difficulty while blinding a person to the good that remains.
  8. Learning to praise God before the storm makes it easier to praise Him during and after the storm.

I suppose there is more that I could add . . . and who knows, I may just come back and do so at a later time. 🙂  While going through this tornado hasn’t been pleasant, it was meaningful to me in that it confirmed so much of what I had taken away from our times of listening in Florida.  It helps me pray even more deliberately, and perhaps effectively, for those in the midst of disaster recovery.

In prayer,
Tom

Building On the PAST! (Sermon Audio)

Building On the PAST! (Sermon Audio)

 

This is the audio from the June 2, 2019 sermon, “Building On the Past!”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.

 

Text: Ephesians 2:11-22

“. . . built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”

We tend to approach the past in one of two ways. 

One, we try to ignore it and thus learn nothing from it.  In this mode, we tend to remove/replace/destroy anything that we feel doesn’t have meaning regardless of the history and/or functionality to someone else.  

Two, we worship the past and still learn nothing from it.  In this approach, our “rose-colored glasses” keeps us from seeing things as they really were.  We hang on to things that represent who we once were regardless of whether we, or anyone else, are still being served by those things.

God’s approach in scripture seems to be that we would learn from the past so that we can be built up into the body He desires.  

Here are the main points from the sermon:

As we look back, we must make plans to build on  . . .

  • Promises:
    • Building on promises requires that we are people of our word.  When we build on the promises of God, we find a foundation that will never crumble, no matter how much it is shaken, because God always keeps His promises.
  • Actions: 
    • Building on actions requires that we acknowledge work that has already been done.  We are where we are because of the work done by those who have gone before us.  As Christians, we not only build on the work of the people in our immediate history, we build our life on the work done by God since the beginning of creation.
  • Sacrifices:
    • Building on sacrifices requires that we acknowledge and honor those who have given up things of value to them so that we can be where we are today.  There is no greater sacrifice that we can build our life upon than the sacrifice of Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin.
  • Triumphs:
    • Building on triumphs may sound like the best part, yet many of us struggle to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”  When we build on the victories we have experienced, we celebrate what has been accomplished while keeping our gaze fixed ahead on what is yet to be done.  Building a life that endures will require that we build it around the triumph that Jesus claimed over death.

Building on the PAST is how we are able to celebrate the work of God without becoming complacent to the extent that we no longer expect Him to work.  God wants us to take all of the lessons He will teach and use them to help others desire, seek, and have a relationship with His Son, Jesus.

Learning To SEEK God! (Sermon Audio)

Learning To SEEK God! (Sermon Audio)

 

This is the audio from the May 5, 2019 sermon, “Learning To SEEK God!”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.

Text: Isaiah 55:6

“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.”

Here are the main points from the sermon:

We SEEK God when we learn to  . . .

  • Serve God:
    • Joshua 24:14 — In a world filled with many voices claiming to be truth, we must choose to serve God in order to seek Him with a whole heart.
  • Expect God: 
    • Psalm 5:3 — Seeking God wholeheartedly requires that we learn to wait in expectation, trusting God to work in the time that is just right.
  • Engage God:
    • Deuteronomy 30:14 — As we grow in our desire and practice of seeking God, we must learn to engage every part of our being with Him.
  • Know God:
    • Psalm 46:10 — Perhaps the most difficult part of seeking God is the simplest part to say . . . be still and know.

Seeking God is not a “once and done” activity but rather a lifetime of learning.  When scripture teaches that we should “seek the Lord while He may be found”, it suggests that there could be a time when He can’t be found.  Our walk on this earth is the time given to us to seek God.  Once we are gone from the earth, whether through death or the Lord’s return, the time of seeking and finding will be over.

Seeking God: How Are You Seeking? (Session Three)

Seeking God: How Are You Seeking? (Session Three)

 

This is the audio of session three from the May 4, 2019 Seeking God Prayer Event held at Michiana Christian Camp.

This third session focused on the how of seeking God with an emphasis on the whole-hearted pursuit that God desires from us.   When you seek God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you can be assured that you will find Him.  If you don’t really care if God is with you, you will likely not be aware of His presence.

Seeking God: Where Are You Seeking? (Session Two)

Seeking God: Where Are You Seeking? (Session Two)

 

This is the audio of session two from the May 4, 2019 Seeking God Prayer Event held at Michiana Christian Camp.

This second session focused on the where of seeking God . . . both where we seek from and where we seek at.  When you realize there is nowhere that you can hide from God, the possibilities of where to seek Him begin to expand exponentially.  If you’re not looking for God to be present where you are, you will likely not notice He is there.

Rise Above

Rise Above

Sometimes I sit and start to think
the hardest part of life.
Is finding ways each lonesome day
to live above the strife.
Troubles come and troubles go
but do they disappear?
It seems that when I turn around
I always find them near.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised
for Jesus said it’s true.
That in this present world and age
trouble will be with you.

But even in the darkest hours
Jesus left us with some news.
Just how we face the troubles
is up to us to choose.
To follow in their winding path
into the darkest night.
Or turn and find a lasting peace
from One who is the Light.
In clinging tight to Jesus
He lifts us above the fray.
And helps us see more clearly
as we follow in His way.

And if it sounds too easy
I surely must confess.
It requires more of God
as I become much less.
My thoughts, and plans, and dreams, and such
I carry to His feet.
And give them all to Him each day
as He makes me complete.
So on I go through good and bad
with eyes fixed far above.
And rise above the noise and strife
as I’m wrapped up in God’s love.

© 2019 by Tom Lemler

One of the great things about the gift of writing that God has given me is that it helps me to see patterns in my life.  While it reveals some patterns of discouragement in the midst of turmoil I can’t control, it also serves as a reminder of how God has carried me in the midst of those times and continually sets my feet on solid ground as I rest in His presence.  Today is one of those days when the mind is swirling and as I went about my morning work this poem showed up to remind me that God doesn’t necessarily remove the storm, but He will always be present with me as we go through it together.  I pray that you are encouraged to find peace in God’s presence even in the midst of the world’s trouble.

In prayer,
Tom

Raindrops

Out of the darkness
the cold raindrops fall.
They seem to be driven
by some unknown call.
They land on my head
and they stream down my face.
As I try to get out
of this cold, sullen place.

I hurry inside
to a comfortable place.
And realize these “raindrops”
still stream down my face.
Yet there is no comfort,
just a sense of great loss.
As sit down in front of
a lone, empty cross.

I ought to be cleaning,
but can’t seem to move.
As I think of the love
the cross surely did prove.
For people unworthy
and sinful as I.
The God of creation
hung there to die.

And while I considered
this terrible cost.
I knew that without it
I still would be lost.
For that cross is quite empty,
and so is the grave.
The One who has risen
has the power to save!

So, on this dark morning
with much on my mind.
I sit with my Savior
where peace I do find.
Though the storms of this life
still hammer my abode.
I have Someone much stronger
to carry the load!

© 2019 by Tom Lemler

I was awakened in the middle of the night by the familiar sounds of my daughter in a seizure.  After sitting with her and providing some element of comfort through that, I couldn’t sleep and she wanted my place in bed so I headed to work quite early to get started on the cleaning for the weekend.  As I walked through the cold rain to my truck and then from my truck to the church building, I knew I was carrying with me a great deal of hurt, pain, and confusion.  I soon found myself just sitting in the darkness with God and found this poem residing in my mind.  I’ll eventually get to the cleaning, but will do so knowing that the weight of my burdens is being handled by Someone much more capable than I.

In prayer,
Tom