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Life on Purpose
In these stormy times, rely on love

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I read a list of all the natural disasters and extreme weather happening around the globe and even in the U.S. right now: earthquakes, fires, hurricanes and the threat of tsunamis. And then there’s North Korea launching ballistic missiles over Japan.

The news is pretty scary these days. Sometimes it’s all too much to bear. Some people are speculating that these are signs of the end of the world.

Jesus called it “birth pains.”

“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you.
For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars but see to it that you are not alarmed.
Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
You will hear of wars and rumors of war but see to it that you are not alarmed.
Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
All these are the beginning of birth pains.
Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.’” (Matthew 24:4-13, 33)

Anyone who tries to speculate, or worse yet, bet on the end of the world as we know it, will always be proved wrong because we just never know the day or the hour. Tragically, for the people who lost their homes and their loved ones or even their own lives in the recent natural disasters, this was the end of life as they knew it. So in a very real sense — those words of Jesus are timely, every time.

“Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.”

God uses nature to speak to us and get our attention because God is our creator. In the Old Testament, God spoke to the prophet Elijah and told him:

“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper…
And a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

The presence and voice of God wasn’t in the raging storms, but rather in the gentle whisper, most likely in Elijah’s heart, for Jesus told us to “see to it that you are not alarmed.”

I’m trying not to get caught up in the frenzy and the hype of impending storms, wars and economic stability or collapse. I’m choosing not to be alarmed but rather to be prepared. I don’t find God in the frenzy and the storms. I find his presence in the whisper as I hear Him say to me, “What are you doing here?”

The chaos calls me to pause to consider my priorities, stop the storms I can control and trust God in the ones over which I have no control. I’m taking a step back to evaluate my resources and my preparedness for the future.

Thankfully, my relatives in Florida fared Irma better than was expected. But they were still left without power for days and with flooding and roofs to repair. My niece is a teacher and the elementary school she teaches at is still closed and may be for some time. Many families of these little children are living in shelters because they lost their homes.

As I read articles on preparing for the storms and then watched videos of rescues forming ordinary people into heroes as they sought to help their neighbors in need, I looked around my own home. I thought about how I would prepare and what could we really take with us but my daughter, my dogs and our cat. It’s a sobering thought to leave all the rest behind.

Signs that the end may be near are all around us every day. Our bodies give us signals — anxiety, pain and rapid weight gain or loss — are all signs that we need to pay more attention to our health.

In the face of raging storms in nature and those in our own lives, it’s important for us to pay attention and remember that in any moment, life as we know it could come to an end.

I’ve lost too many loved ones in the last few years. Some of them were ready spiritually, emotionally and financially. Some were not. Some knew the end was near. Some were taken in the middle of an ordinary night. Some were children and adults in the prime of their lives. Some lived to a ripe old age.

But they had one thing in common — all of them died and none of them took their possessions with them.

My faith tells me, and my own human and spiritual experience confirms for me, all they took with them is love. Love of God, love of family and love of neighbor. With love, we sent them forth, and love is also the one thing they left behind for the rest of us. We take that love with us for the rest of our lives and into eternity.

So, if I had to pack and prepare to leave it all behind — what’s the one thing I’d take with me for sure?

Love.

It’s small enough to fit into a pocket.

It’s large enough to span the generations.

It’s light enough to cause laughter and deep enough to penetrate the hardest of hearts.

When the next storm hits, fill up the tubs with water, stock up on the non-perishable foods and say “I’m sorry. I forgive you and I love you” to the people around you who need it the most.

For, in the end, love remains.

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Eileen Benthal
Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen