CHRISTINA AND ME AND IRENE!

10 09 2011

Where were you when Irene came a calling?  I know that it will be a night that as long as I live, I will soon not forget.  As I shared with you already, for some strange reason that I still cannot clearly articulate, I remained glued to Cape May County when the mass exodus was on.  I could not leave behind the home and the church and the community that I love so much.  Even my dear wife Terri was openly miffed at me and not pleased with my decision to remain behind.  I didn’t mean to hurt her.  A huge part of me thought that the wise and right thing to do was to join her and my family in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  But when the hurricane approached at our doorstep- and as the last window of opportunity to escape came and closed- I hunkered down at The Lighthouse Church with no idea what was really spread out before me.  I waited and trusted that God would take care of me even when I was not able to look out for myself.

“When I can’t see You, I know You’re there… When I can’t feel You, I will not fear… I will trust in You and I will not be afraid.  When the battle is close at hand… Though You’re with me and help me stand…  I will trust in You and I will not be afraid.”  Those are the lyrics from a praise song by Jeremy Camp.  That song was blasting on the stereo in the Youth Room at the church where I was camped out through the wee small hours of the eventide.  Its words were my comfort and compass that kept me looking up- not for impending devastation but for an impeding divine preservation.  I didn’t feel in my gut that God had kept me behind to harm me- but to teach me that His presence was more dependable than any meteorologist’s forecast. No matter how dark the prognostication might have been for the night, God brought the light and peace in the morning and I for one was honored when I was able to greet Sunday’s dawn in one piece!

As Saturday night’s adventure began, I went into our Sanctuary and gave a piano concert which featured me singing at the top of my lungs.  Since only Jesus showed up to hear me, I had no reason to hold back in the passion department.  In many ways, it was kind of fun to have the church all to myself.  But let me make it very clear, I was afraid.  It is easy today to smile broadly, now that I know how positive it had all turned out- but at the time I prayed quite humbly and boldly, “Dear Lord, will you please just shout out ‘Goodnight Irene???”  I was waiting for the winds to kick in to overdrive and the roof to blow off at any moment.  I was prepared for the worst and begging heaven for the best! 

It was right about then that messages starting coming in on my phone from Texas.  Mostly at first, they were just Bible verses in text such as, “You will keep him in perfect peace, he whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3).  “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

The scriptural hotline was coming from Christina. She was a young lady who had been in my Youth Group back in the 1980’s when I lived and was a Pastor in Dayton, Ohio.   Now after all these years, God was using her powerfully in my life again as she graciously decided to keep me company through the night as I was going though this storm alone. Christina set up a command center from her house, miles and miles away from Irene and sent me regular updates on the weather along with the Word of God to New Jersey!  Back when she was in my Youth Group, we used to sing a song that went something like this, “Friends are friends forever- if the Lord’s the Lord of them, and a friend will not say never, because the welcome will not end,” and just like all those years before, God was knitting our souls together in ways like nothing else could.  God called Christina to be my special angel sent from up above to walk alongside of me.  Words will never properly express how blessed I feel because of what she did for me.  She would tell me later how angry she was with me at first that I did not heed her warning to obey the law and evacuate.  But when push came to shove she offered compassion and mercy rather than a cold shoulder and I for one received with open arms her hug rather than her frustrated with me slug!

On Saturday at 11:31 pm, Christina wrote me, “I am heartbroken to hear that you are still there Rudy! I will be praying for you all night!! I have been there and done that and promise you that you won’t believe all of the experiences that are ahead of you. Be sure you have a flashlight and radio close by, shoes on and able to get to high ground quickly. Praying that the God of all comfort, will shelter you in the shadow of His mighty wings as this storm passes over!! You are loved!”  Right before midnight, she shared, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save; He will rejoice over You with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17) HUGS!!!  At 4:30 in the morning, you could imagine my surprise as I realized that the power was still on at the church and unless I was dreaming- I was still here- alive and well and safe and dry. I cried out an unashamed, “Thank You Lord!”

At 7:10 am, Christina wrote, “Now I know what I was seeing when I saw that strange break in the weather all around you.  It wasn’t strange at all; it was the Hand of the Almighty pushing the storm away from you!!!  I replied right away by telling her, “Christina you will never fully know how much God used you in my life last night. You were my angel sent straight from Him and even though you were not physically here, thank you for going through this journey with me. I love you!”  Christina answered with an “Awww, shucks!!!  Thanks Rudy!  I know it didn’t make any difference to the weather. I just wanted to keep encouraging you through whatever you had to go through and keep your eyes focused on the only One who could protect and preserve you!!”  I can tell you all that she fulfilled her purpose well!  She lived up to her name and was Christ in skin to me when I needed to know that no matter what- everything was still going to be alright!

So, “Selah and know God is God and I am not!”   And I can without hesitation share with you all that I will not be applying for the job any time soon. I do know anew that LIFE really is a gift and it is quite the remarkable experience when you know that you are loved and when you share that love with whoever God puts in your path!  Irene wasn’t so bad because Christina showed up equipped with love and once again, love conquered all.  It always does and it always will! 

 

 

 


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