Beliefnet
A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

After the announcement, the first person Scotty McCreery thanked was the Lord.  McCreery is the current winner of American Idol.  During the entire Season 10, McCreery was a dynamic witness on screen and, it appears, even off screen.  We should continue to pray for McCreery that he will keep this faithful witness for the Savior.

Here is the improptu video of two of Idol‘s avid fans, Tarah and Lindsey.  Their response was the typical, low-key Idol reaction.  These fans were visiting our home when the winner was announced.

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As I watch the tornados ravish central US, I realize that in some ways those of us who live in Florida have been blessed.  When it’s not hurricane season, we are often faced with another natural disaster.  However, we are almost always given days or weeks of warning–time to prepare.

When the winter and late-spring  “wet” season turns dry, Florida becomes a tender-field primed for wild fires.  In 1998, the headlines across the nation were “Florida on Fire.”  The conditions of dry, hot weather became the perfect recipe for tragedy.  Because of great fire prevention efforts by our fire department, we have avoided a similar experience until this spring.

In 1998, I went to our Special Gathering Daytona program without any concerns about the fires that were burning in other parts of the state.  They were hundreds of miles away.  However, during the hours of our program, numerous wild fires broke out in Central Florida.  One was only a few miles from our Daytona program.  When we exited the building, it was evident that there were problems.

Over the treetops, we could see the flames lapping into the western skyline.   After insuring that everyone was home safely, I was caught in Daytona with basically no way to drive south to my home in Brevard County 100 miles away.  I went west by way of Interstate 4 into Orlando, then took Highway 50 back to the east coast.  The highways were being closed behind me as I traveled.  Tongues of fire sprang up along the roadway as I drove in the darkness.  While I normally would be home by 7pm, it was 11 before I pulled into our driveway.

In March of this year,  a similar thing happened, traveling the miles to Daytona for a Volusia board meeting, I saw the smoke from a large fire burning to the west of I-95 in the county south of Daytona; but the winds were blowing the smoke toward the west.  I could not even smell the smoke.  By the time our meeting started, however, I-95 had closed.

Our meeting ended at 5pm.  I turned on my car radio for the most current fire alerts.  I-95 and US 1 had been closed and A1A was the highway recommended if you were heading south.  Because of numerous wrecks in Orlando, it was recommended that people not detour by way of Orlando.  I began my winding way home.  At one point I was within a few feet of the raging forest.  Without incident, I reached my house only two and half hours later than originally planned.

When facing emergencies or local disasters, it is good to have a plan in place before you must confront the lions of fire, tornado, riot or tumult.  Understand, I’m not suggesting that you put your family in the middle of such danger but danger may happen suddenly and unaware.  It is godly wisdom to prepare for the eventuality of such events.  Here are 12 must-do precautions you should do before and in the middle of a disaster.

  • First, put your plans in writing so that all family members are on the same page in the event of natural or man-made disaster.
  • Second, have a meeting place other than your home where family members will come to meet each other.  This is especially true with children.  A school, church, police or fire station is a perfect place to designate.
  • Third, teach your children the route to the nearest police station.  This a safe haven where they will be protected and secure.  When things are calmer, you can pick up the children from the police station.
  • Fourth, in advance, tell your family or friends who do not live in your immediate area, your survival plans and where your children will be meeting you.  In this way, they can notify the authorities regarding where you may be located.
  • Fifth,  call those out-of-town individuals, if possible, after or during the event to let them know your exact location and if your entire family has met you.
  • Sixth, if you are using a cell phone, begin your calls as quickly as possible, before the lines become jammed with calls.  If you don’t have a cell phone, get one.  Texting will work, if the phone lines will not.  Because of downed phone lines, cell phones may be the only phones that will be working in the case of a devastating emergency.
  • Seventh, have a calling backup plan. Try to maintain the location of a land line so that you can make calls should the cell connections be interrupted.
  • Eighth, if possible, keep your family together until all of them are safe.  If you must be separated, take your children to a police station which is a secure location.
  • Ninth, if for some reason, at the time of the tragedy, you have a minor child with you who is not part of your family and they cannot return home, take them to a local police station or another to a designated secure location.  If you do not want to leave the child at the police station, give the local officials the child’s information.  Be sure to give exact information regarding your location or how you can be located.  Get and give exact names and phone numbers.
  • Tenth, if you are not able to leave the location where you are when the disaster strikes, help the people around you to remain calm and quiet.  Pray out loud often, soothe and quiet people with your calmness.  Let as many people as possible know where you are located.  Using a cell phone, call 911.  Call your family.
  • Eleventh, when you are traveling, do not ever pay with cash.  Use your credit card.  This will give local officials the ability to track your activities and your estimated location.
  • Twelfth, determine early if you want your family’s hurt and tragedy to be exposed to the press.  Determine if you will speak to the press.  Appoint one person talk to the press.  This may sound silly but it is vital in this information-age to decide in advance how much you want to expose of yourselves.

It is our prayer that we never have to face down calamity; but there is a good possibility that it will happen.  While Florida was fighting wild fires, a fast-moving blizzard was moving through the northwest part of our nation.  Now, floods and tornados are leveling entire towns.  Each part of the world has a unique natural disaster visage.  Preparation is wisdom; and wisdom is a virtue that God commends and blesses.

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After the devastation in Joplin,  Missouri, another tornado has ripped through Oklahoma. Still another tornado hit Massachusetts.  It is important that we remember the victims of these horrific storms.  Here is a suggested prayer taken from various verses in Romans 12.

Lord, we bless those who are hurting and wounded from the storms in their lives.  I ask that you will bring the best out of all the people who have been adversely affected by this terrible event.  We place before You as an offering the men, women and children who are in pain and despair.

Lord, bring from this tragedy Your peace that is not effected by circumstances, Your stamina that does not burn out, Your compassion that does not overlook even the smallest details.

Help each one to discover beauty in everyone they meet,  to find release in  laughter when the stress and hard work is more than they can bare.  Give them friends who will share tears with them when they’re down.

Most of all, I pray, that each person will find the joy of a true friendship with You, and give themselves to You as an offering.  Lord, let it be that in the middle of their heartache, each person will be able to fix their attention on You and Your great love.  In Jesus name, we pray.  Amen.

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As I waved good-bye the last group of visitors, new folks were arriving on Friday.  Yesterday, the senior pastor of a large church spoke to a staff gathering about the importance of being willing to have our homes open for visitors. In our society, as Christians,  there are a vast variety of things attached to our “job description.”  With the pressures of everyday life, almost out of necessity, the scriptural mandate to be “given to hospitality” becomes “other duties as assigned.”

Over the years, hospitality has been one of the delightful aspects of  ministry for my husband and me.  We enjoy sharing our home with others; and we are deliberate to open it to others.  Sure, there are hazards.  Things do go missing.  My husband received many relics from outer space because of his employment with NASA.  These  ranged from slivers of rocks from the moon to pieces of the rope that tethered the astronaut who ventured from the vehicle on the first space walk.  These were history-making events and keepsakes.  We treasured them and proudly displayed them on our shelves in the living room.

One day we woke up to realize that almost all of these items had disappeared from our home along with a few other valuable pieces.  The realization came soon after we discovered a teenager who was a chronic liar slipping one of keepsakes into his pocket.  He, of course, put it back and he never returned to our home.

We learned to take appropriate precautions; but we also understand the logical risks involved in having many people coming into our home.  Then as the years have passed, at-home hospitality evolved into a pleasant memory of the past for this and other households.  Perhaps it is because more and more women have entered the marketplace for paying jobs.  A quiet dinner with a couple of friends gathered around our dining room table isn’t as convenient as meeting a few folks at a local restaurant.

However, a few years ago, Special Gathering founder and executive director, Richard Stimson decided to revive the age-old tradition for his programs and suggested that we do the same.  Special Gathering is a ministry within the special needs community.  We minister to people who are intellectually disabled.  Stimson’s plan was to invite two families into our home for dinner each week until all the families we serve had been asked to share a meal with us.  He suggested a simple menu that would not hurt our budgets.  I believe this venture may have been one of the most beneficial things we have ever done to garner favor and familiarity with our members and their families.  Even though it’s been years since that initial time, our members still say to me, “Remember when we came to your house for dinner with my mom and dad.”

The scriptures are clear about the importance of the meal and the bonding that happens during the “breaking of bread.”  It is no coincidence that one of the few ordinances that Christ left for us took place during a meal.  More orthodox denominations call it “communion” or by the Greek term, Eucharist (which means “give thanks”).  I was raised in the Christian tradition that called this meal, “The Lord’s Supper.”  I love all these terms because each one speaks of the bonding that takes place over a meal in our homes.

With the demands of my husband’s care over the past two years, my life became more closed into my house.  However, I’m looking forward to having more people to our home.  It’s true that my schedule is not ordinary, and I’m sure each of you would say the same.  Time is such a pressing and demanding commodity in almost all of our lives that it seems almost draconian to say that homes should be opened to other Christians or our neighbors.  However, the scriptures haven’t changed.  We may need to pray about how we can better implement this important Biblical guide into our lives.

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