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Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Why the tornado?

posted by Ruth Graham

The scenes from Oklahoma are beyond imagination. It is hard to take it all in. The massive storm, the fear of those fleeing its path, the destruction left behind, the loss of life, the heartache. How does one even begin? I would imagine you’d just want to sit down and quit. Give up. But from what I have seen and heard on the television the folks affected are not quitters…they are looking out for each other and pitching in to do whatever they can to take care of the wounded, comfort the grieving, clean up the debris and begin to rebuild.

Fortunately God gives the grace of shock. Being in shock grants a numbness which allows time so we can slowly absorb what has taken place. It is a mercy. If we had to absorb it all suddenly, it would be much too overwhelming. So God in His mercy gives us “shock absorbers”. Like the dawn that arrives slowly so that we can adjust to the brightness of the sun, we are given time to adjust to what has happened.

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I think at a time like this we always ask , “Why?” I know I do.  For me there is always in the back of my mind that God is withdrawing His Spirit from our land because of our godless ways. (No, God is not specifically targeting Oklahoma or the people there but it is part of living in a fallen world that is rejecting God and He is slowly withdrawing.)

But we do live in a fallen world – terrible things happen everyday. But the terrible news brings us to more questions. Couldn’t God have prevented this? Couldn’t He have intervened? Couldn’t He have protected those children? All those questions can be answered with a “Yes.”  He could have prevented it. He could have intervened. And He could have protected the children. To live fully is to live in double reality – to know our pain and loss but also to know His love. Where was He during the storm? Where He always is – right in the midst of the destruction and pain, comforting, grieving with us, strengthening us.

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It is difficult. We cannot understand. And sometimes there are no answers. We just have to live with unanswered questions. That’s where faith comes in. Faith is not easy. It is courageous. It looks at the hard stuff and stands up to say, “I will believe.”

As we see all that has changed, all the destruction…that’s when we can look to the unchanging character of God. He is almighty, bigger than the storm, compassionate, deliverer, enough, faithful, gracious, our hope and help…He does not change. We can rest in His eternal character.

As Job did. Job must have experienced a tornado-like event. “A great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died.” He lost all his children and his livelihood in one day. He struggled to understand why but he stood firm in knowing God was sovereign and could be trusted even though Job did not understand.

We too, are given an opportunity to trust God. Let’s not waste the opportunity.

 

 

 

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Absolutely. What would you die for?

posted by Ruth Graham

Recently I heard a politician tell his audience that he would make sure a certain bill was put forward because of the emotional wear and tear on victims of violence. He got applause. I thought about what he had said. Is that how laws are made…because events stir up emotions so we grab something that will soothe us at the moment? We’ll put a patch on it and hope it holds for a while. I thought about this politicians’s statement – was his action rooted in emotion?  Is that how Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Nathan Hale, George Washington and other of our Founding Fathers did it? Was it emotion that guided Robert E. Lee as he stood for State’s rights? Was it emotion that ruled Martin Luther King as he battled segregation? And how about the Abraham as he left Ur? Or Moses? Or John the Baptist?  They put their lives on the line. I doubt they would do that for a mere emotion. Their commitment must have been rooted in something far grander. It was bigger than they were.

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I wonder if emotion as a guide is new to our time. Those that I mentioned above weren’t guided by emotion. Passion, yes, but not emotion. There is a difference. Passion is rooted in something deeper, more meaningful. Yes, passion can be misguided by emotion but passion has substance. Emotions are transient…they go in and out of style. What I am emotional about today I may not be tomorrow. Emotions will influence my passion and can direct my actions, unwise as they be. It would be foolish to let my emotions rule me. (I have done it and know how destructive it can be.)

My emotions and passions can be shallow and fickle. I remember being in love with my first car…a silver Pontiac with red carpet! I was passionate about taking good care of it. I was dedicated…then it went out of style, it got banged up, it lost its glossy finish… my love faded as did my passion. Then I spotted a newer one…and my emotional focus moved on. So fickle…that may be a silly illustration but you get the point. I do not believe our Founding Fathers, Robert E. Lee or Martin Luther King, Abraham, Moses (and many others) made decisions that way. I would suggest that we dare not let our emotions dictate our policy. Emotion may be the origination of our motivation to change things but it will not have staying power. Think about all those broken New Year’s resolutions…the divorce rates.

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As a nation we have a Constitution. When that document was written the writers were originally motivated by emotion but through the emotion and passion they began to see truth emerge as if from a fog. That which they set down has stood the test of time. It was based on the the absolute truth that we are endowed by our Creator with certain rights. Those rights have been defended by blood through the years.  Our Founders took it for granted that we have a Creator – there is someone in charge. And while politicians like to think they are – they are not. Politicians seem to act and make laws today because it feels like the right thing to do. What may they feel like tomorrow? Next week? Next year?

We have said “there are no absolutes”. If there are no absolutes then where do we go when faced with a major decision? If there is no standard how do we guide ourselves as individuals, communities, churches…as a nation.

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There are absolutes! Absolutes that are not based on emotion or passion. That do not change according to which way the political wind blows. We can depend on them as we rule our own lives, communities, churches, nation. We dare not tamper with them. They are worth dying for. What, whom do you fear? For what would you die?

We are made in the image of  God. He is our Creator and He has the authority over all. He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. It is written, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

 

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Violence!

posted by Ruth Graham

The news is full of reports of violence. Homemade bombs explode killing and wounding. We are outraged and angry. Sad and bewildered. Understandably. We are so blessed to live in a country where these things are the exception rather than the rule. There are places where this is almost a daily occurrence – like Israel. Do we give it much thought as we watch the news each day and hear of a bomb going off in some other land? I don’t think so. Our concern lasts only as long as it remains in the news. When it moves off the page we do too.

There is a huge debate about gun control and background checks. The Senate defeated the bill requiring more extensive background checks for those purchasing firearms at a  gun show. It would not have made a significant difference and seemed to be more about political posturing than anything substantial. Guns are not the problem. What about knives, bombs? They kill and maim too.

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They still are not discussing the larger issue: our violence, sex saturated society. Why is no one talking about movie contents and television shows as well as lyrics of music? These have an enormous influence on our young people. They spew out violence and casual sex making it seem innocuous, palatable, acceptable. It’s not. It is hideous. It scars not only those involved but our whole society. And the scars are there for life. Why is no one talking about it?

Because no one wants to do the hard work. No one wants to take a stand.I am sad to say I think our leaders are pathetic. Full of rhetoric…still there are no answers on Benghazi. Our former Secretary of State said, “At this point what difference does it make?” Excuse me Madame Secretary, it makes a big difference. Our current Secretary of State said we had more important things to get to. Really Mr. Secretary! Do you want to tell that to the families of those dead? What kind of leadership is that?

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I know North Korea is rattling its sabers, threatening the civilized world. Why? Because no one has stood eyeball to eyeball and told them, “No”. They  have been allowed to continue and they know they can get away with it. What we say is just words. It’s like a spoiled child that needs to know “no” means “no”. The same goes for Syria, and the Sudan and too many other places. Our leaders do not seem to have the moral fiber to stand for what is right but instead, slide toward what seems expedient.

I am afraid we are all guilty. We want what is easy. We don’t like sticking our necks out for fear our heads will come off. John the Baptist found out what the truth cost. He never compromised. He wasn’t concerned with political correctness. Nor was the propet Elijah. He didn’t care about “inclusiveness” and “tolerance”. Jesus was The Truth – and He was crucified. But we are still talking about them and what they stood for. We admire them. Martin Luther King took a stand for truth. Rosa Parks, too.

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For evil to win means good people did nothing or were too late. It may be too late now. Good is called bad and bad is called good. It is all upside down. The inmates are running the asylum. Do we want to live like this? Our children and grandchildren? I don’t think so. Take a stand!

I, for one, am very grateful for someone like Dr. Ben Carson. There is a man who stands for reason, truth! A man of conviction and integrity. There is a least one. Lets listen to him not to politicians who speak out of both sides of their mouths…and create policies in self-interest.

Back to violence…let us not support those things that create a violent society riddled with bombs, knives, guns…while we may not be the one with our leg blown off or family member dead…but a little bit of what we love dies every time.

 

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Suicide

posted by Ruth Graham

I didn’t wake up today thinking my life would change. But it has.

Suicide. The word is so cold and ugly. It is so stark and final. And yet it leaves so much behind. Unanswered questions. Unfinished business. Unspeakable grief.

The word means “the intentional taking of one’s own life”. Intentional destruction. I hate it.

Today a dear friend of mine died at his own hand. I am heart broken for his dear wife and family, our community.

Why? Why? Why?

There are no words…and even if there were, can the broken hear them? They are numb. They are in shock – thankfully.

It is easy to fall into platitudes…it makes us feel better. But words cannot begin to touch or heal the wound that has been inflicted upon his family, friends and community.

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In reality the only voice that will make any difference is the soft gentle whisper of God Himself. And we want to reject Him. Rage at Him with our questions. Our anger has to go somewhere…why not at God who could have prevented it. He could have intervened. But He didn’t. Why?

In the turmoil, utter grief, we do turn to God, if only in rage. He can handle it. He isn’t threatened by it. Perhaps He welcomes it as He knows we need to express our emotions and get them out – He is safe. He is bigger than our anger, doubts, questions. He’s heard it all before. He knows and understands how we feel. In total despair, one of the twelve disciples committed suicide.

To live fully is to live in double reality: to know our pain and loss and to know His love. When a tsunami has hits and everything is upside down, nothing is secure, we can run to the Strong Tower, our Refuge. Our Shield and Defender. Our Shepherd. Our Rock. Our Help, Sustainer. He is our hope.

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We do not grieve as those who have no hope. We do have hope. We just celebrated Easter. We have hope.  “Hope” is not like you are waiting on someone hoping they show up. Hope is clinging. Like a vine wraps around a tree.  When nothing makes sense we can wrap ourselves in the unchanging character of God.

My mother used to say of suicide, “God may not have called them home, but He welcomed them.” He keeps His covenant and His promises. In the midst of the storm, He gives peace – His peace. He is our peace.

 

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