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TeensDividends of Peace
By Janet Eckles

"Good morning everyone," began the TV announcer. "Let me correct that, there is nothing "good" about this morning."

He was right. We had encountered, once again, an unwelcome visit from another member of the destructive and malicious gang: Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Each member had engaged in a vicious game of out-doing the others in merciless destruction.

At first, the action outside was not much different than the usual storms in Florida. But we knew that this was no ordinary storm. It was the preamble of a destructive and dangerous hurricane named Charley.

"Letís go in the laundry room," suggested my husband, with apparent composure. "Itís the safest place in the house," he explained. My parents, my son, his girlfriend and I headed in that direction.

"Everyone grab a pillow and a blanket," I said, while making a mental note of the supplies we would need: a flashlight, water and our cell phones. I grabbed the small transistor radio with fresh batteries. It gave me a little reassurance knowing we had those essentials in our confined shelter.

As expected, the lights went out and the TV was silenced. In the dark, the rage of the hurricane became more audible. As the wind howled and whistled, as if to announce, "Iíve arrived," its ominous nature intensified our vulnerability.

Charley had a vicious and unique personality. It was capricious. First, giving the impression it was headed in one direction and then, at the last minute, turning another way. It had its own raging madness as it ripped through neighborhoods mercilessly.

"ShhÖ!" I ordered, while turning up the volume of the transistor radio I held on my lap. "Listen!" I added with urgency.

Our family huddled, attempting to tune out the loud roaring outside. We hung on each word coming from the only device connecting us to the outside world.

"Itís headed for Orlando, the winds here are unbelievable. With the last moments of daylight, we could see the roaring winds snapping trees in half like pretzel sticks. In other areas, the trees were yanked with force, their roots entangled in blocks of cement, tossed aside like toys."

Some static interrupted his description. Then he continued, trying to catch his breath, "The huge glass windows of buildings nearby moved in and out in a swaying motion attempting to resist the fierce wind with no success."

More reports followed: "Now the road is in total darkness. Traffic lights are gone, those remaining are not working," announced another brave reporter standing outside to give us the detailed recount of Charley's fury.

Without air-conditioning, our cozy area began to turn into a small oven, but being safe superseded our desire for comfort. Charleyís rage was getting closer. The strong winds caused sporadic bangs that rattled our garage door. The hurling of debris against our front and back doors, as well as those slamming against the large windows, gave the same sensation of the ticÖticÖtic of a bomb. We knew it would strike, but didnít know exactly when, nor did we know which window would burst or what part of the roof it would yank away first.

"What is that scraping?" I asked with curiosity.

"Itís my yogurt cup," answered my mom with strange calmness. Then, with a matter-of-fact tone, she added, "Itís my bedtime snack."

"How can she eat at a time like this?" I thought. But then I remembered what she had said earlier: "My hope is in the Lord. He will protect us. Do you think this hurricane is catching Him by surprise? He is always faithful."

"Oh no! ReallyÖoh my gosh!" commented my sonís girlfriend. She had answered her cell phone and was receiving the details of the damage caused to her friendís house located just minutes away from us. Trees, fences, car ports all ripped and tossed everywhere. Windows burst, glass everywhere and roofs lifted up like box tops and swung aimlessly like Frisbees.

We waited, listened and made trivial comments to one another. The phone rang once again and my husband answered.

"Who was that?" I asked quickly.

"Itís Jason," he replied. "They are all okay."

I was relieved with this update, since our oldest son and his wife were dangerously located in the path of the storm.

We waited and listened some more. Charleyís furious winds struck with more intensity in some areas than in others. Some fatalities were reported.

"The tracking shows Charley is now in Orlandoís downtown area," the radio reporter announced. We all went silent to make sure we had heard correctly, then it was confirmed, Charley had moved north; it was finally past us. Although fatigued with anxiety, we breathed a sigh of relief.

"Let me check outside for a moment," my husband announced as he exited the laundry room area. He opened our large glass patio door and we followed him, stepping outside to assess the damage. Like a mischievous child who creates a senseless disarray of things and then leaves to go home, Charley had also created its own massive havoc with our prized surroundings before continuing hurriedly in search of further territory to destroy.

Each member of the family gasped nervously as they glanced at the destruction barely visible through the shadows of the night. But in contrast, a deep yawn slipped from my momís lips, and she tossed her empty yogurt cup in the wastebasket, "There was no need to worry then; no need to worry now. God is in control. Good night everyone," she announced with tenderness in her voice.

Her profound trust and hope impacted my heart and stirred a personal hurricane of awareness within me. Iíd heard these words countless times, but perhaps never before understood their significance: "We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name." (Psalm 33:20-21 NIV)

My momís hope and trust in the Lord was contagious. I embraced it and it became the generator providing the energy needed to keep going forward. Since it was plugged to a limitless source, it never ran out. Hope became the power-saw, which cut the trunks of self-pity, discouragement, stress and anxiety. Hope removed the plywood of gloom and sadness. It allowed the sunshine to come in once again. It uncovered the radiance of Godís promises bringing to light the rainbow of His everlasting love.

And when the swirl of my emotions attempt to drown the reassuring whisper of Godís Word, hope in Him becomes the anchor prompting my heart to be still.

The hurricane might have taken valuables from our world, but it left deposits of renewed hope, paying dividends of peace and tranquility to withstand every wind of adversity.
Janet Eckles is an inspirational speaker, writer and author of Trials of Today, Treasures for Tomorrow: Overcoming Adversities in Life (Xulon Press 2004). You can visit Jan at http://www.janeckles.com
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