Posted in Life, minimalism, Travel

Forget about minimalism when a hurricane comes

I’m not the best minimalist, but I’ve adopted a few habits that have decluttered and simplified my life. After I read a book I donate it to a library. When I purchase a new item of clothing, I get rid of something older. I’ve stopped accumulating bolts and nuts and screws and nails I might (but probably won’t) need someday.

hurricane-3But when the hurricane is breathing down your neck, you urgently have to accumulate things. Gas cans (4), extension cords for the generator (2), battery-powered lanterns (2), disposable plates and utensils, candles (#?), bottled water, ice (5 bags from our own ice maker), a new cooler, a new fan (a life-saver), chains for the chain saw (2), a yard rake, a new pair of work gloves, and calming toys and bones for the dog (3).

We ended up using most of what we bought. We never lost water, so I donated it to a semi headed for south Florida. We didn’t really need the ice; our generator kept our refrigerator running.

Clutter during the storm? We didn’t mind it so much. On the plus side, we won’t have to buy those things again. But now I have to store all of that away. Somewhere. Because there will be another storm. Someday.

I wonder what people will do with all the bread and water and chips people bought before the storm. The shelves at the storm were empty, so their houses must be full of those items. Did you really eat that much bread before? Are you really going to eat that many peanut butter sandwiches now? How much food will be thrown away in the next few weeks?

If I were in a flooded area and I lost just about everything, would I try to replace everything? Or would I downsize, just getting what I need and use? I don’t know. We didn’t lose anything this time. This storm added to our possessions.


Posted in lessons, Life

A few things I learned from Hurricane Irma

Now that another hurricane has come and gone (the second in eleven months), my power and cable have been restored and life is slowly but surely returning to normal, I can ask, “What have I learned this time around?”

AU9453I learned how to use my generator. I purchased this generator after three hurricanes came close but didn’t directly affect our home in 2004. Through all that we really didn’t lose power for more than a day. My across-the-street-neighbor was going somewhere to buy a generator and asked me if I wanted him to get one for me. I said, “Sure!” and got a 5000 watt Coleman Powermate. For the next thirteen years, it sat in my garage. I never started it up. Never even put gas or oil in it. Since the day I took it out of the box, we never lost power. Even last fall during Hurricane Matthew, we were without power for less than a day. But we learned from that experience that a generator might be good to have. So this time around, I learned how to use it.I put oil in, gassed it up, tested it, and got some decent extension cords. After the rain stopped and the winds died down we were without power for five days, and ran it continually for the refrigerator, lights and fan. Worked like a charm. I learned that I could get about three hours of run time for each gallon of gas.

I learned how much better I am able to keep in touch with most of the members of the church. Even with no power and no internet, we had enough cell coverage to stay in touch with everyone, let them know when we would next meet for church, and find out if anyone needed help. Thirteen years ago there were no smart phones. Now they are the backbone of a lot of our communication, showing us the path of the storm, the progress of the power company, where to buy gas for the generator, who you can help and who can help you.

I learned how to more quickly and easily prep for the storm. Bought my cases of water a few weeks ahead of time, cut down some suspicious looking trees a few days before, filled an extra tank of propane, and bagged up extra ice ahead of time. We already had most of the food we needed, so there were no rush trips to the store and long waits in the lines.

I learned that ten days of hype exhausts you even before the storm arrives! The media-driven fear and paranoia created panic when the storm was barely off the west coast of Africa. I like the way Brandon Evans described some of the lessons he learned from the storm: “For our society, fear has become the dominant emotion.” “Our society whips people in to such panic that we create traumatic experiences for things that haven’t happened yet.”

I learned that I don’t have to live that way. I don’t have to buy into the frenzy. I can prepare, wait, experience, observe, learn, and recover without losing my mind.

Posted in productivity

How I conquered interruptions to achieve amazing productivity

3446044909_5d2aeac881_bHow many articles have you read about eliminating interruptions and distractions in order to get important work done? Here’s another, although it might not be for everyone.

First, when you find yourself in the predicted cone of an approaching hurricane, stay put. Do not evacuate. Instead stock up on supplies, make sure your generator is working, prepare your home and hunker down.

Second, when the power, internet and cell coverage goes out, you’ll be good to go. Your phone will not buzz incessantly with useless notifications, no one will call you, no one will text and no one will stop by because they will all be home weathering the storm. Without Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or network TV, you will discover hours of free time to devote to important tasks.

This strategy will buy you about three days of uninterrupted time to get work done. The absence of some creature comforts like air conditioning, light and internet connectivity will be a small price to pay for amazing productivity!

Posted in Grace, Life

Be still

img_7401.jpgWe really like it when our Lord stills the storm. When the hurricane’s over and your house is still standing and the skies clear and the sun comes out, we’re ready to go. We’re ready for the power to come back on, stores to reopen, the kids head off to school, fill the car with gas and get back to work.

It doesn’t always work out that way. A day or two later and the power’s still out, cable isn’t back on, gas stations don’t have gas, stores aren’t open, schools are closed, and suddenly, the stillness becomes a nuisance rather than a blessing.

When you have no place you need to be, there’s nowhere to go, no TV, no lights, the world can be a very still place. God says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), it’s as if he’s asking, “What’s your hurry?” Continue reading “Be still”

Posted in Life

Waiting for the storm

IMG_7388You know it’s coming.

You’ve been sitting in front of the TV for hours, watching the nonstop storm coverage on every local TV channel. You know every local news and weather personality. By first name. You’ve checked the weather radar on you phone…again. The storm is hundreds of miles away. You’ve done everything you can possibly do to get ready. The sky is clear, the winds are calm, the beer is cold, the gas cans are full, there’s no more room in your home for bottled water, and you are hunkered down.

Now what? Now what do you do?

You step outside. No rain. No wind. No storm.

You check your phone. No messages. No email.

You check the fridge. You’re not hungry, but that looks good. No one counts the calories of hurricane food. And a hurricane is coming. Why not?

The phone buzzes. A text! A hurricane warning. I know. I’m waiting. And waiting.

Waiting for a storm is hard. Maybe the hardest part. And everyone reminds you a storm is coming. Weather. Adolescence. Armageddon. Zombies. Whatever. We are always on the brink of apocalypse. But then the rain stops. The sun comes out. Peace is negotiated. The undead never arrive.

Must we constantly live on eve of destruction? Or can we simply enjoy a few moments of boring, unspectacular, predictable routine?

Only one way to end this post. Click here.


Posted in church, Grace, Ministry

All the signs are there

58054dca7ec3a.imageNo church today. Waiting for Hurricane Irma to traverse the Florida peninsula. Plenty of time to think and pray…

Of course you’re going to hear about it. You’ve thought about it, too. How could you not? All the pieces are there: a total eclipse, back-to-back hurricanes hitting the United States, a devastating earthquake in Mexico City, scorching wildfires in the west after record high temperatures and years of drought, hatred and violence in places like Charlottesville, VA and nuclear war just over the horizon. Science fiction writer John Scalzi tweeted, “These aren’t the End Times, but it sure as hell feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsals right about now” (1:20 pm Sept 8. 2017)

[Jesus said,] “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).

Just make sure you keep reading. “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). The coming of our Lord is good news for God’s people. We’ve been waiting for him, right? Continue reading “All the signs are there”

Posted in Grace, Life

God’s whirlwind answer to Job’s profound questions

hurricane-irma-satellite-noaa-ht-jc-170905_12x5_992Sitting here, waiting for Hurricane Irma to traverse the length of Florida, I couldn’t help (because I’m a pastor) think of Job’s encounter with God in a whirlwind in the bible (Job 38:1).

Job had three really good questions for God while he was suffering from the loss of his family and health. His so-called friends tried to help him figure things out, but they weren’t much help.

Job asked, “Why was I even born? If I have to suffer this much, why didn’t I just die at birth?” (Job 3:11) Great question. If life includes suffering – and it usually does – then why even bother? I know from my own turning forty experience that if you hurt bad enough, you just want it to be over.

Second question: “How can you be in the right before God?” (Job 9:32) Job’s well-meaning friends offered him their best advice: “You must have really screwed up. Just turn back to God and get past this.” Job knew he hadn’t done anything to deserve what he had to go through. And how are you going to get in good standing with God anyway? He does what he wants. What chance do you even have to argue your case with God?

“If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14) Good question. If life is hard and too quickly comes to an end, what’s the use? Cut down a tree and it grow back. Terminate a life, and that’s it. Game over. No second chance. No redo.

God answers God from a whirlwind. (Was it a ¬†hurricane? Or a tornado?) And he simply asks a series of questions. “Do you know how this world works, Job? Were you there at creation, at its inception? Do you even have a clue?”

So when the whirlwind comes, we remember that He is God and we are not. We can’t do much to control the weather. All we can do is flee or hide. Our vote doesn’t count. We just ride it out the best we can.

But we know why we were born. We were created for good works (Eph. 2:10). We’ll have plenty of chance to do that on Tuesday, when recovery begins and we can be there for our neighbors.

We can be right before God, but only by faith. “We maintain that a person is justified by faith” (Romans 3:28).

And, there is life beyond the grave. The Lord will come, the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

So let the hurricane remind you of our Lord’s power, grace and return. It’s one of the best object lessons ever!

Posted in Ministry

Top ministry moments — #5: When no one came to church

IrAINn September 2004, we had two Sundays when no one came to church! On September 5 and 26 in 2004, hurricanes passed close enough by that everyone had either hunkered down or left town.

I remember September 5 the best. Our new sanctuary was under construction. The steel was up but the steel roof wasn’t yet in place. We were running three Sunday worship services at the time because of our limited space: a traditional, a contemporary and a traditional. Though only a dozen years ago, smart phones didn’t exist, cell phones were kind of new on the scene, so it was hard to contact a whole congregation. So I went to church that morning just in case anyone came.

At 8:15, it wasn’t raining yet and one family showed up. At 9:30, sheets of rain pummled the building and winds ripped some of the tar paper off the new building and no one showed up. I didn’t stay to see if anyone was coming at 10:45. I went home to hunker down with my own family.

On September 26, hurricanes passing through our section of Florida from the Gulf of Mexico one again came close enough that worship just didn’t happen. I can’t even remember if I went to church that day. By God’s grace, the greatest inconvenience was no power for a few hours. After that, everything was back to normal.

Those were the memorable Sundays when no on showed up for church!