It has recently become a staple for the Winkle dynamic duo, our Wednesday morning zoo walk sponsored by our health insurance plan. I suppose the purpose of this free admission event is to keep us old folks in shape, since strolling our local zoo encompasses a 3 mile walk, uphill, both ways (at least it feels that way). But regardless of the strenuous hike, the walk quickly became the highlight of our week. But one thing has been bothering me during these early morning strolls, how do those stunning plants that line our path survive our harsh northeast winters? The tropical area of our zoo is dotted with ferns, palms, bamboo plants, and exotic flowers, all gorgeous, but not nearly hardy enough to survive a good ole Pennsylvania nor’easter? No way! My curiosity could no longer be contained, so when my path crossed that of a zoo attendant on a summer morning jog, I couldn’t resist. What do you do with these plants in the winter? The answer took me a bit by surprise. Well, Ma’am, they are all carefully dug up and transported to a greenhouse, where they are safely sheltered until they are able to withstand the weather again. We are talking A LOT of plants; that has to be a tedious job as they labor to ensure the survival of all that exotic beauty!
When I placed my trust in my Father many years ago, one of my favorite hymns would soon became A Shelter in the Time of Storm. Those lyrics are so true in my heart: The raging storms may round us beat, we’ll never leave our safe retreat. The prophet Elijah had experienced first-hand a fiery display of God’s power and majesty on Mount Carmel. God would consume the offering of Elijah’s sacrifice and destroy the prophets of Baal in a stunning victory over those wicked idol worshipers. But soon after that awesome display, with Queen Jezebel hot on his heels and seeking revenge, Elijah finds himself exhausted, frightened, feeling alone, mired in despair and discouragement. The ferocious winds of winter had arrived in his life.
A gracious, merciful God ministered to his servant, strengthening him physically by feeding him by the hand of “the angel of the LORD,” but Elijah runs “thither unto a cave,” seeking escape and protection in this time of his personal storm. God, in His goodness and patience, provided his weary child shelter in that cave, speaking to His exhausted prophet in a “still small voice,” reminding him that he was not alone, for God had “seven thousand in Israel” who are partners with Elijah in serving the true God. Refreshed and reinvigorated, Elijah leaves his cave of depression and despair, ready to get back to the task, to return to the battle.
There are times in my life that my Father and I have to go to the greenhouse for a while, for the storms are too tough for me, the winds are too overwhelming, the weather too harsh. He is always there to shelter me, to encourage me, and to strengthen me for this challenging Christian walk. He is my “refuge and strength,” the solace in my storm, my shelter. We can confidently rely on the promise that “the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
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