One of my fondest childhood memories is a trip I took to Eastern Kentucky with my mom and dad and one of my sisters to attend the funeral of one of our Kentucky relatives. You have to realize, first of all, that life in a small town of under 500 residents in the early 1960s was not very exciting when you compare it to life in Small Town, America, today. My family was a pretty good sized one with six girls and one boy, and my dad worked in a bagging factory not raking in anything that might be considered "big bucks". So when my folks allowed me to go along on this trip to the Bluegrass State with them and my sister, I knew in my small, untraveled heart that this was a special trip for me. We packed a picnic basket -- no fast food stops for us; there was no money for that, but my mom's home cooked food was always delicious, and she had packed bananas (my favorite) and sandwiches and some cookies and iced tea and inspite of the fact that we were attending a funeral, I was excited.
I was a very small girl when this happened, so I can only recite the few details above, but this trip has been imprinted on my heart and mind for the past 50 or so years. The beauty of the State of Kentucky left quite an impression on me. I can still sense my awe at the rolling hills, mountains to me, the blue sky, the dirt roads and meeting my Kentucky relatives. I can also remember holding my Daddy's hand as we walked through the cemetery; something I don't remember ever doing before or after that.
Years later, in approximately 1978 or 1979 I took another short trip to Kentucky by way of a detour when I was going to Florida with a friend and her mother-in-law. I was again stricken with the beauty of the landscape and the deep blue of the sky and the dirt roads and the friendliness and guilelessness of the people.
On March 4th of 2012 the people of Eastern Kentucky were greeted with a disaster in the form of an F3 tornado that ran through the State for approximately 100 miles. YouTube Video of Tornado Footage in West Liberty, Kentucky 3/4/12.
This past week, I had an opportunity offered by my church to go and serve the people of West Liberty, Kentucky via a mission trip. For the past four years I have allowed myself to take on a mentality of not being able to be of service to anyone because of the unreliability of my body due to parkinson's disease and the unusually erratic behavior that it brings on. Sometimes I can barely motor around my house, sometimes I go into what can only be described as a trancelike state as I stare stone-faced while my mind races incessantly around and around trying to figure out how to get back to normal.
However, during that four years, the Lord has put His Word in my hands and inscribed it on my heart. I have hidden His Word in my heart so that I might not sin against Him and so that I could learn exactly what it is I believe about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Salvation, and how to explain it to anyone who might be interested in hearing.
When word of this mission trip started circulating in our weekly church bulletin, our pastor was at the same time preaching a sermon on Luke 9:57-62 which I have now titled in my Bible, "Lose Your Excuses". I heard God calling me out; telling me I could do very little for Him sitting in my easy chair - no matter how much easier it made my physical discomforts. I knew it was time for me to leave my comfort zone and get back out into the word abd the spiritual warfare zone.
Unless you have personally visited a site that has been affected by a tornado as large as the one that struck West Liberty, you cannot be prepared for the devastation that meets your eyes. Places where homes once stood now bear only the foundations that bore them. The buildings that are standing have no windows, roofs are torn off, parts of the building are gone and are marked for demolition and/or for repair. Trees are knocked over like bowling pins in an alley. Trees that are standing have been visibly changed with splinters sticking out where leaves and branches used to be. The most notable thing, though, is the people and the haunted look in their eyes; at least the ones who have lost everything.
I found myself praying at each site that we worked. First at a graveyard, setting upright marble headstones weighing I'm sure five or six hundred dead weight pounds that had been completely knocked off their concrete foundations. It took about eight strong men and some mechanical and basic equipment, but the job was accomplished. My new girl-friend-in-the-Lord and I just wiped off the dirt that had been forcefully shoved deep into crevices in the headstones. Next at a home where a man and woman had huddled in a corner only to look up and find their whole home gone from over their heads. Their pet was missing for several days, but they were spared injury. Additionally, at a local pastor's home restoring the back section of his home which had been torn off, and a family's homesite in the country where massive damage had been done to a trailer, residence and various outbuildings. Clothing, plastic, paper and various other types of things could be seen in the highest branches of trees, electric poles and strewn across hundreds of yards of ground. Finally, just prior to leaving, as I worked in the center where all the distributions were being made, sorting and arranging, I asked the Lord to never allow me to take anything He might gift me with for granted, including life and loved ones.
The fact that in a town of 3500 where the destruction was so severe that the police had to shut it down immediately afterwards; yet no one was killed inside the town is a testimony of God's grace and mercy. I was told that six people died in the country, though. Praise God that many were spared death.
Each day, hour, and moment of life are a gift from God. The next 60 seconds could be your last ones. The Bible tells us that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ Romans 14:10 and give an account for every word spoken Matthew 12:36. Are you prepared for that? What a terrifying thing to stand before God of the Ages, Creator of All, and have to respond to His inquiry about how we responded to His gift of redemption, salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ. I can't imagine having to say, "Well, Sir, God, ummmm, I just thought you were a joke, I thought man knew what he was talking about when he said you weren't real, that a big bang brought us all into being and Jesus, well, I just thought he was a real nice man." No need to run for the hills; there is nowhere to hide from God (Psalm 139:7.
Oh, my friend, God is good. He is all merciful and ever gracious to those who ask Him for forgiveness. He does not long that any should perish but that all would have everlasting life through Jesus Christ. The best thing is that His love, mercy, grace, and forgivenss are LIFE CHANGING! You at this moment can't begin to conceive of the changes He can bring about in you. Sometimes it's all at once; other times and usually most often, it is a daily thing, small things, big things,...but if you persevere, daily bowing your knee to Him, asking His advice on how to walk through this life, He will change your life and show you a better way. It is inevitable for He is a God who keeps His promises.
Heavenly Father, I come and bow my knee before you today, acknowledging that you are my God, my King, my Savior, and my best, most-loving,loyal friend. I know that Your way in the best way even when my flesh and pride tell me differently, and Father, I am beseiged daily by spiritual wickedness and darts of the enemy. Strengthen my faith, teach me how to put on my armor correctly, help me become adept at wielding my sword of the spirit. Thank you, Father, for ALL you do for me; All you've given me, ALL you've done for me and for the great and glorious things I can't even imagine that you have in store for me in the future. And, Father, please, make your spirit move in and on each person who visits here and may they become ALL that you want them to be in you. I give YOU all praise, honor and glory for YOU alone deserve them. YOU are matchless, awesome, wonderful and worthy to be praised. May my words, thoughts and deeds glorify YOU today and every day. In Jesus' name I pray.