Saturday, August 27, 2011

Are You Ready?

It’s just after 2:00 PM as I type this up. I’m sitting in my kitchen, sipping coffee after going for an invigorating walk with my dog. The rest of my family is in the living room, watching TV. Seems like a typical day in the life (well, typical for us anyway). Yet there’s an odd expectancy in the air, inside and out of the house, and it’s hard to believe that in just a few short hours, Hurricane Irene will be arriving in our area as a very unwelcome guest.

It’s also hard to believe that earlier this week, our area experienced an earthquake. I’ve lived here in NJ my entire life (54 years) and I’ve never known our area to have an earthquake. Now granted, compared to other quakes around the world, this one was small potatoes, coming in at a mere 5.9. But the epicenter was in Virginia and the tremors were felt as far away as Canada.  I certainly felt it here. I was sitting on my bed when it began to shake; then the large mirror over our dresser and the pictures on the bedroom wall began to dance back and forth; finally I watched in amazement as our rather heavy armoire started to sway. I’ll admit -- I was scared and I panicked. My fearless, fifteen year old daughter, whose favorite school subject is science, deemed the whole experience as ‘so cool’ and found it hilarious that I came barreling down our steps, shouting, “It’s an earthquake!!” I was totally unprepared for something like that.

Thankfully, though, we are prepared for Hurricane Irene’s arrival today, or as prepared as we can be. We’ve more than enough food in the house. For cooking and drinking purposes, I purchased enough bottled water to fill an in-ground community sized pool.  We own a variety of flashlights (thankfully, all with batteries, because I understand there isn’t a C or D cell battery to be had in this area) and I also bought several large bags of ice to put in one of our four coolers, to keep food/drinks cold, in the event we lose power. We’ve also got an array of candles sitting on our kitchen table -- so many that I daresay I could hold a Novena service at our home one day a week for a year or more.  Should ATM’s be inaccessible for the next few days, my husband took out money to get us through.  Today’s headline in one of our local papers reads: ‘Ready?’ And hopefully, we are.

Yet as we prepared yesterday and today, it got me thinking back to a conversation I had this week with a total stranger as we sat in a waiting room, an hour or so after the earthquake. He was saying that unlike hurricanes, there's really no safe place to be, other than in the air, when an earthquake hits. You can never tell when something like this is going to happen, he went on to say, so that’s why you need to be all prayed up.  Now, I’ve never been sure what ‘all prayed up’ actually means, though I’ve heard the phrase used often. Is it like depositing prayers to God in some sacred account, hoarding them away until an emergency or crisis appears, then withdrawing them to use like a protective shield or cloak of invisibility against enemy attack? I’m no genius, but I don’t think it works that way with God. The reality is we live in a fallen world and unfortunately, terrible things can and do happen to godly people as often as they occur to the ungodly (the Sept. 11 tragedy is a prime example of this).

So the question rolling around in my head becomes, had the earthquake been one of massive proportions and if Hurricane Irene hits us harder than predicted, am I ready for the possibility of death and meeting my Jesus face-to-face? Believe me, folks....I’m not bringing this up to be morose and to sound like some town crier of doom and gloom.  Really I’m not. But it’s something I began to seriously consider. I had to ask myself: do I make sure to take a daily, heart-searching inventory of myself, keeping short accounts with the Lord God? Do I seek forgiveness and mercy from Him when I mess up, and do I offer that same forgiveness and mercy to others when they’ve hurt or offended me? Or do I harbor unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness towards them in my heart? Have I taken time daily to commune with my family and tell then how much I love them (even when sometimes I don’t feel like I LIKE them or that they like me)? Did I follow through obediently on a commitment to something or someone that the Lord placed on my heart? Did I make time to sit at Jesus’ feet today? If today were to be my last day on earth….would I be ready? I must say, these questions are neither easy nor comfortable for me to answer.

In Matthew 25 of the Bible, Jesus tells a parable in which He compares the coming of the kingdom of Heaven to ten virgins who set off in search of the bridegroom, taking their oil lamps with them. Five of them brought along extra oil; five of them did not. While they were waiting, they fell asleep and the bridegroom appeared unexpectedly at a late hour of the night. The five wise virgins who packed the extra oil had enough to keep their lamps burning as they ran out to greet the bridegroom, while the five foolish ones had to run down to the local, all night Jerusalem lamp shop to buy more oil. They wound up missing the bridegroom and his invitation to the wedding feast, showing up much too late because they hadn’t been ready. Jesus warned His disciples to remain alert and to be prepared, because the day and hour of the Lord’s return for His people is known only by the Father.

This past week’s quake and today’s impending storm both serve as some powerful reminders to me to keep short accounts with the Lord God EVERY day, to stay alert and prepared, because ‘the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him (Matthew 24:44). Some years ago, my dear, sweet friend and sister, the late Dee Hunt, jokingly, yet firmly warned me, ‘Pammy, you don’t want to be half asleep with your hair still in curlers when Jesus comes.’ Indeed I do not.

Are you ready?

For my friends you see
There will be a day when we'll be counted
So know Him well, know Him well!

People get ready Jesus is comin'
Soon we'll be going home;
People get ready Jesus is comin'
To take from the world His own ~ People Get Ready, by Crystal Lewis

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