Many of my friends and all of my family know that my dad and I have a newer camper that we store near the ocean in the panhandle area of Florida. It makes it much easier to just hop in the truck and go for a few days that way instead of twice the time to haul it back and forth to Tennessee.
Well, that proved a little challenging this week. As you probably already know there is a hurricane heading toward Florida. A big hurricane. A very powerful hurricane. Hurricane Irma has already caused billions of dollars in damages, lives lost, and areas that were once prime "paradise" spots to be totally demolished and she is pressing hard toward the land in which I live and love - the United States. More specifically, the Southeastern United States. Even more geographically specific - multiple paths could include nearly the ENTIRE state of Florida!
Of course, not to discount the effects of Hurricane Harvey from just days gone by, the southeastern United States is hunkering down, evacuating, making all kinds of preparation to either brace themselves, seek shelter, relocate - temporarily or permanently, and just basically survive this Category 5 storm which looks to have imminent landfall in just a matter of days and hours from the writing of this blog.
I live in Tennessee. My wife and I own a residential building lot in the panhandle, but we do not have any property there that is destructible outside of the improvements of the subdivision that we pay annual fees for that our lot is part of. But, let's move back to the original paragraph here. My dad and I do co-own a camper. And it is normally located in Florida and is currently uninsured because of policies of our insurance companies not allowing for out of state storage. This equated to worry on our part, which in turn led to a 17 hour, 1100+ mile trip over a 27 hour period of time in the middle of an already busy week for me to move the camper to higher ground in Alabama.
From the looks of the projected paths, we probably would have been okay with just leaving the camper in its storage area, but with that area only being between 7 and 10 feet above sea level....well, the camper needed some preventative maintenance anyway...so dad and I made a trip to the camper, arrived in the Forgotten Coast area at midnight, hooked up, drove about 25 miles, camped in a church yard that allowed us to use their hook ups (which we still had no electricity, but that's another story) and then another 100+ miles this morning to Alabama to the RV dealer. All good. Safe and sound, and we are back home - tired, but safe and in our own beds tonight.
Enough about my story - here is the reason for the blog....
We were ultimately concerned about getting back to Tennessee in a timely manner when we decided when to leave. Otherwise, we may have decided to not even go based on later forecasts; however, it seemed best to leave on Wednesday midday to not be in evacuee traffic on Friday. That proved to be true...for the most part.
This afternoon (Thursday), we crossed Alabama, into Georgia, and then into Tennessee at the Interstate 59 and Interstate 24 junction. Along the way, we passed several cars that looked as if they may be heading to higher ground, but nothing really major, or not much traffic out of the ordinary on this route, until we made that last junction at 24.
If you look at a map, you may see that 24 is a leg off of Interstate 75. And, of course, 75 comes directly out of Atlanta from the "gut" of Florida - all the way to the tip of the state. I paused at a stop to pull up the picture in this post on my traffic map on my phone to see how traffic was flowing. Wow! Just take a look at it. Well, once we got on 24, we had about 70 miles until our exit. Between the time we got on 24 to the time we exited the interstate, I probably could have numbered the civilian automobiles with a 3 or 4 out of 5 with Florida license plates. The remaining were mostly bordering states such as the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama. Very few cars were actually from Tennessee.
As we traveled, I would pass car after car after car after car. The majority of these cars were going well under the posted speed limit - which I found quite odd...until I noticed something. Nearly every car had at least one person in the passenger or rear seat that was looking at either a phone, a tablet, or an actual map. One poor guy had a map spread across his lap while he was holding the steering wheel with one hand and the map against the window with his elbow to keep it folded out (not very safe!). It dawned on me at this point that most of these people seemed to just be driving. They either didn't have a location in mind to which they were going...or they just had no idea where to go.
My prayers are with these people. I have a lot of friends in the state of Florida, and their safety is on my mind right now...night and day.
I want us to take a couple of minutes now, though, and look at a biblical perspective and application of this scenario.
How many times in life do we find ourselves in the "eye" of a storm - not necessarily a hurricane, or tornado, or major storm, but a spiritual storm...the kind that doesn't seem to be going away! Maybe it is that nagging addiction such as pornography, or maybe deceitfully using someone, or alcoholism, or any number of other vices that satan uses to tempt and destroy our souls with. How many times can you find yourself running from the storm...looking for shelter...looking for a safe refuge, but really don't know where to find it?
Even for the long-time Christian, this can be quite a challenge. I want to share some verses with you that can help us all to remember where our refuge, our strength, our soul's every help can be found in hopes that it may help you or I or others that may be facing their own storms - whether physical...or spiritual.
1. God IS our strength - Psalm 46:1
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
2. God IS our help - Psalm 34:17
"When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles."
3. God IS our shelter - Isaiah 25:4-5
"For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down."
4. God IS our deliverer - 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."
5. God IS our peace - Psalm 46:10
"Be still and know that I am God..."
To those who are trying to escape the hurricane that is on its way, words cannot help much outside of what God promises. However, the words of God can strengthen, encourage, and give peace. To those who are trying to escape spiritual storms, these words, and the rest of the Bible can help us to know how we can escape and find refuge.
My prayer is that if you are in harms way - physically or spiritually, that you will seek God and let Him help you!
May God bless you.