INTRODUCTION: Fair Warning….Storms are a part of everyone’s life!

FAIR WARNING…..STORMS ARE A PART OF EVERYONE’S LIFE! 

You don’t have to like the rain to live in the Northwest……but it sure helps!  Today has been one of those typical, wet, drizzly days that have made Oregon the bane of the “sunshine seekers” and the “blue sky addicts”.  We actually get plenty of both around these parts, but we keep it somewhat of a secret from those who think the Northwest has nothing but rain showers and gray clouds.  The less they know about our “real” weather patterns, the less likely they are to consider moving into the area.

Still, even I have to admit that it does raIn a lot in Oregon…..not as much as it does on our friends in Washington or British Columbia, but we get our fair share!  That’s what keeps everything around here so lush and green virtually year round.  The flowers blossom from March to November, the evergreens cover the hills so dense that you can’t even see the “hill”, and a cascade of color can be found in front of almost every house.  The rain makes it possible for us to live surrounded by all the incredible beauty of God’s creation 365 days a year.  It’s not a bad trade-off!!

I know some of you don’t like the rain, but ….believe it or not….I actually do!  Maybe it’s because I was born here in the Northwest.  My father used to tell me that I was born with “web feet” so I took to the rain like a duck to water.  Perhaps I like the rain simply because I enjoy the invigorating smell of the freshly washed air, or the sound of the rain drops bouncing off the roof of my car. Maybe it’s because some of the happiest moments in my life have been experienced in the rain….sinking that basket at the imaginary final buzzer of the world championship on the playground at  my elementary school;  splashing in the puddles “accidentally on purpose” to soak those dumb enough to walk nearby; screaming at the top of my lungs with 59,000 of my closest friends at a college football game in the midst of a torrential downpour; or simply sitting outside on my porch swing watching the clouds unload with all their fury. There’s just something about a rain shower that appeals to me.

Of course,  that hasn’t always been the case. The fact is, rain comes in a wide variety of forms, and some are much more enjoyable than others.  As much as I like the occasional rain shower, there have been times in my life when more water coming from the heavens was the last thing I wanted to see. I’ve lived in enough other places around the country to know that storms come in all shapes and sizes.

In Oregon we often get what I would call a “lite mist”.  In some ways it’s the most annoying rain of all.  It’s the kind of mist that makes you use your interval wipers, but rarely enough to keep them turned on, no matter how slow you set them.  It’s a mist that fogs up your glasses, frizzes your hair, and makes your clothes feel damp, even if they aren’t.  It really doesn’t stop you for doing anything, but you will find yourself wishing it would either just rain and get it over with or just stop and let you enjoy the sunshine.

Sooner or later mist usually gives way to a light shower or the  constant drip of  a slow, steady rain. At least then you know it’s really raining!  If it lasts all day, a steady rain can be pretty depressing. It just keeps coming and coming and coming, with no apparent end in sight.  It’s great for the grass, but it tends to interrupt picnics, slow down traffic,and gets on people’s nerves. I guess if there’s one type of storm I really don’t like it’s one of those 36 hour marathons of rain showers.

Every once in a while a “steady rain” will turn into a big storm with howling winds, horizontal rain showers, and, with any luck, a few bolts of lightning accompanied by the loud clap of thunder. Thunder showers are sudden, violent and usually very impressive….not to mention dangerous. It’s amazing how quickly they can form and how much water they can dump in a relatively short amount of time.

My wife and I lived in Texas for a couple of years so I became very familiar with the power packed in those afternoon thunder clouds. Those clouds made more of a fuss and let out more water in 12 minutes than 12 hours of steady rain in the Northwest.  And let’s face it, at times they were downright scary!!  Streets would flood almost immediately, trees would fall over, lightning would strike indiscriminately, the power woud go out….and 20 minutes later the streets would be dry, the skies would be blue, and there would be no evidence that it had ever rained at all. How weird is that?

Unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it!  At times old “Mother Nature” decides to really start whooping and hollering!  Whether it’s a hurricane in the Caribbean, tornadoes in the Midwest, the Santa Ana winds in Southern California, a “Nor’easter” on the Atlantic Coast, or an Alaskan cold front sweeping over the Northern tier of states, storms can turn ugly almost before you know it.

One of my earliest memories is living through the Columbus Day Storm in Oregon in 1962 – a Pacific storm that would rival the best typhoon in Japan. Houses were blown off their foundations, huge evergreens were uprooted like they were toothpicks, and windows were just targets for flying debris. The fury of the storm made a lasting impression on this 7 year old boy! That’s one time when I really didn’t like the rain!

When I first thought of writing this blog (and perhaps later a book)  a few years ago I was following a series of hurricanes striking the Gulf Coast.  Three full scale hurricanes in 5 weeks caused billions of dollars in damage that year.  During such events I’m always drawn to CNN or the Weather Channel like a deer in the headlights as I watch those silly reporters stand out in the midst of the torrential rain trying to describe the nightmare around them.  If there was ever any doubt about God’s power, one look into the eye of hurricane ought to convince anyone.

Storms….they come, the go!  What’s wet today will be dry tomorrow. Any damage done to property or structure will be repaired or replaced. Things will get back to “normal”….whatever that is….sooner than anyone expects and the storm will become nothing more than a memory….except for those whose lives have been personally touched by the power of the storm.  For many of them, getting past the story will take much more time, and much more effort.  Some days don’t get brighter just because the sun comes up.

When you think about it, life is kind of like that!  Just about the time you think that you’ve got things under control, another storm comes into your life. Sometimes it’s just a little “mist”….a minor annoyance, a short detour, an extra expense, a strained relationship, or a difficult decision. It’s not like your world is falling apart….it just another of life’s little unpleasant surprises.  It’s at times like that when you begin to wonder what Jesus meant when He said, “I have come to give you LIFE, and that more ABUNDANTLY”. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I’ve had just about all the “life” I can handle. Somehow you find a way to deal with the contrary person, pay the unexpected bill, control the anger built up inside of you, and move on through the “mist” to the next problem.

At other times life becomes much more like that “steady rain” that can depress even the most optimistic person.  One problem after another begins to pile up to the point where you can’t see the sunshine through all the clouds. Answers are sparse, resources are limited, and your patience runs thin. What you’d like to do is just throw your hands up into the air and say “I Quit”, but you know you can’t. Just about the time you’ve solved one problem, another arises, almost in a endless cycle of bad news, personal pressure, and open conflict. It seems like a little black cloud is hovering over your head just like “Pigpen” in the Peanuts cartoons.

Unfortunately, it can get worse…..much worse!  The thunderstorms of life are those sudden, unexpected, tragic moments when your whole world is turned upside down. It’s not like your were out there looking for it….it just found you!  What once made so much sense is now totally in upheaval. Frightening things are happening all around you, and the situation is changing faster than you can keep up with it. You rush for cover, but it does little good because the storm is so invasive, so noisy, so prevalent all around you. All you can do is to hang on and hope for it to pass so you can pick up the pieces of your life and move on.

That is, unless you were hit by a “hurricane”….in which case nothing will ever be the same….at least not for you! When life unleashes its’ worst on you, about all you can do is try to survive. Somehow, some way, you have to find the strength to dig through the rubble left behind when the roof came crashing in on your existence and find a way to move on. Some folks never do!  Life, as they knew it, was virtually wiped out by the horrendous realities of their experience; nothing is left but bits and pieces of who they used to be and what they used to know. They haven’t just been through a storm….they were wiped out by the storm.  They don’t know how they are going to go on….but somehow they must. They just may not want to!

“Storms” come into all of our lives. Whether you are living through an “annoying mist” or a “heart pounding hurricane”, the things you are experiencing are not unique…others have gone through them or are going through them right now. That may not be comforting, but it’s REAL!  If you’re not going through a storm right now,  hang one because one is coming!  And if you find yourself in the midst of another of life’s tempests, I’m praying that the words I write will help guide you safely through the wind and the rain.

Despite all that goes wrong in life, I firmly believe that God does love us and He does have a wonderful plan for our lives. He hasn’t promised to remove us from the storms of life, but He has promised to stay there with us as we face the chaos of our circumstances.  If you can believe that, then read on….God just may have something to say to you about the turmoil caused by your own “HEARTSTORM”.