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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Get to the shelter!

I am pleading with the Eternal for this one thing, my soul’s desire:  To live with Him all of my days—in the shadow of His temple, to behold His beauty and ponder His ways in the company of His people.  His house is my shelter and secret retreat.  It is there I find peace in the midst of storm and turmoil.  Safety sits with me in the hiding place of God.  He will set me on a rock, high above the fray.  (Psalm 27:4-5 VOICE)

"Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books - especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day." (John Wooden)  Mr. Wooden was a college basketball coach, spending most of his career at the UCLA campus coaching the team into national play-offs and huge wins.  His "drive" was a bit more "internal" than it was "external" though - for his drive came from the relationship he had with his Savior.  As he led the team into award-winning status, his main goal was to impart the pleasure he had in his relationship with Jesus - often commenting to his players that basketball was important, but nothing was more important than a relationship with Jesus.  I think he managed to echo the words David penned about living with God all the days of his life and finding both a shelter and a retreat in the presence of the Almighty.

Every moment of each and every day, there is a place of shelter and retreat for those who have entered into relationship with Jesus.  In examining the meaning of the word "shelter", I found the following:  "Something beneath, behind, or within a person which protects from storms, threats, adverse conditions - a refuge."  Living in Arizona, we don't have storm shelters, although wind speeds can be significant during our monsoon season of late summer.  Those who live in tornado zones create these shelters not far from their homes. They become a place of refuge and shelter during the raging storms all around them. They often emerge from the safety of the sometimes small, but well-built space to find all which they had once counted on or known to be no longer there.  In the storm, they were "kept" in the recesses of the safe place.  After the storm passed, they emerged to most often begin the task of rebuilding.

In God's sheltering arms, the task of protection is up to him.  He is like those secure walls of the storm shelter, but he is also the one who does the work of rebuilding what must be there in our lives.  Sometimes the storms of life seemingly "sweep away" those things which have become the things we counted on the most to give us a sense of safety and security.  In the midst of the storm, we come to recognize the only true safe "place" is under the wings of the Almighty!  His protection knows no end.  His reach cannot be extended too far.  His presence forms walls of protection around, even when the storms rage and howling winds roar.

A shelter is of no value if it is just built.  It would be like having one in my yard, but never having the need or inclination to use it.  Sometimes we might do well to find shelter even when the storms aren't raging!  In Arizona, shelter comes in the form of a covered patio, a large shade tree, and a supply of water.  The storms we face here are different than those of the Midwest, but are devastating when one has not "sheltered" or found "refuge" during the most difficult and testing of extreme conditions which tax our bodies, minds, and spirits. The storm we face here may not come with the raging winds and roaring commotion, but the building heat and unrelenting long days can take a toll for those who have not learned to find refuge from it.

In life, we can take refuge in a great many things, but none quite shelters in the same way as the presence of God.  We cannot hope to "ride out the storm" without the safety of his refuge. When all is in constant turmoil around you, and even when the threat is not fully recognized, the place of profound protection and provision is under the shadow of his wing. As Mr. Wooden said so well, you build a shelter in the relationship you have with Jesus and then you store up for the times of storm - through times in prayer, study of the Word of God, and just "hanging out" with Jesus.  Just sayin!