We have been hearing a lot about Hurricane Matthew for the past couple of days as it bears down on the Florida coast. It is clearly a very dangerous storm, prompting mass evacuations from low-lying areas along hundreds of miles of the Atlantic Coast. It has reminded me of the highly unusual West Coast hurricane that I experienced as a boy in Portland, Oregon in 1962. The Columbus Day Storm recorded winds of up to 200 mph on the coast and up to 125 mph in Portland, 75 miles inland, over a mountain range! It would have been a Category 5 storm if they had been using that rating system more than 50 years ago.

My family took shelter in the basement of our stone and wood frame house for that very long and frightening night, with howling wind and torrents of rain. One of our neighbors across the road happened to look out from their home at one point and saw the 75 foot tall, 4 foot in diameter pine tree that stood 5 feet from the east side of our house snap off 25 feet above the ground and begin to fall onto our roof, only to see a gust of wind pick it up and toss it aside like a matchstick, missing our home by 15 feet.

The storms we face in nature are often dangerous and frightening, but sometimes are no more frightening than the emotional, financial or interpersonal storms that occasionally engulf us. Life throws some serious stuff at us from time to time: the breakdown of close relationships in our family or circle of friends, the loss of a job, or an uncertain or terrifying diagnosis. And sometimes they seem to come together in a perfect storm which only magnifies the intensity of each challenge. When that happens, I want to find safety in my basement or anywhere I can find shelter from the dangers.

I regularly need to be reminded of the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 46:1-3,7 –

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

A more contemporary expression of this reminder comes to us in a song by Matt Redman that we sing together regularly in worship – “You Never Let Go”.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, your perfect love is casting out fear.

And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life, I won’t turn back, I know you are near.

And I will fear no evil

For my God is with me

And if my God is with me,

Whom then shall I fear?

Whom then shall I fear?”

Oh no, You never let go, through the calm and through the storm,

Oh no, You never let go, in every high and every low,

Oh no, You never let go, Lord, you never let go of me!”

Thank you Lord for being our refuge and strength in times of trouble, and for holding on to us in the storms that we experience in life. Help us to not be afraid, but to trust in your faithfulness and care, and that you will see us safely through to where we see the light that follows the storm. Amen

Dave Erickson-Pearson

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