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Main Service Times: Main - 9:30 & 11:00 AM | Evening - 7:00 PM | Arabic - 1:15 PM


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After A Hurricane, Search For Flowers

Hurricane Hugo ripped through the Caribbean National Forest of Puerto Rico in September of 1989, bulldozing to smithereens most of the stunning canopy of trees and other flora and fauna. 

That spectacular woods thrived as a densely packed umbrella of beauty for hundreds of years, but fierce winds up to 212 miles per hour totally wiped out this glorious gem of creation.

Now, months later, something surprising is underway.  As sunlight has illuminated what used to be the forest floor, seeds are germinating and plants are growing that have not been seen in ages, some never before.  According to the L.A. Times, the director of the U.S. Forest Service's Institute of Tropical Forestry said, "thanks to the hurricane, we are seeing a far richer diversity of (plant) species."

This paradoxical and heartwarming story from the world of nature exactly parallels human experience.

No one would ever recommend cutting down, or burning, the valued rain forests to get the flowers Hurricane Hugo helped germinate.  Given a choice most would prefer restoring the Caribbean National Forest to its pre-hurricane beauty even if they knew it eliminated the possibility of seeing exotic fresh gifts spring up.  The trees far surpassed the flowers in the hearts of every nature lover.

Likewise with the storms that sweep into the lives of God's children.  Nobody wants them.  What they take away can never be replaced.  Keep the devastation of M.S., Leukemia, A.I.D.S., birth defects, and every other tragic intrusion!  Fight every way possible to stop divorce, bankruptcy, unemployment, and natural disasters.  That something worthwhile might germinate after any of these heartaches triggers no appetite for a taste.  Sensible people never gladly open their arms to bad times no matter what the potential fringe benefits might be.

Nevertheless in the personal experience of many, the catastrophes of life, once some time has passed, almost always have opened new vistas of growth previously unimaginable.

A few weeks ago over breakfast I met a healthy looking, vivacious middle-aged man.  His positive outlook and hopeful attitude attracted me.  As we talked he told how his highly successful life had been radically intruded on by the insidious progressive illness of Multiple Sclerosis.  But, then he quickly added his parallel to the rain forest story.  His present outlook on life, he enthused, was vastly richer, and far more deeply satisfying, than pre-M.S. 

On the one hand, he added, he would give a fortune to have his full health back.  On the other hand, the growth in his life, made possible by the devastation of all he had relied on in the past, is priceless to him.  M.S. brought wealth to his life beyond anything he ever knew before.

Eventually past treasures must fade from view allowing new visions to emerge.  Single-mindedly grieving the flattened forest simply blinds park lovers to thrilling new possibilities popping up around them.  If all they saw was fallen trees they would never rejoice and embrace the new blossoms.

Likewise with my forward looking new friend with M.S..  If his lost health was all he could see then nothing but mourning could find a place in his heart.  But by opening his mind to God speaking to him in his affliction he now celebrates all kinds of exciting seeds germinating and bearing fruit all around him.

When we look too narrowly or too long at what has been taken away we will never see the fresh challenges God expects us to seize.  When our focus sticks on the past, exciting new growth potentially enriching us, fledgling blessings hatching, will slip by unused and wasted.

Here's how some Southern folks eventually learned adversity blessed them.  In the center of the town square in Enterprise, Alabama, stands a lofty monument.  At the top rests the honored one.   An insect, the Boll Weevil.  This insidious pestilence for many years wiped out the cotton crop in the South.  Spring after Spring farmers planted their seeds with high hopes.  Again and again Boll Weevil ruined everything.

Eventually the South caved in.  They planted other crops, tried different approaches to making a living.  Gradually a much improved economy emerged with the resiliency to sustain itself even when the cotton crop, or any other single venture, did not work out.

The people of Alabama woke up one day to the realization that the Boll Weevil had rendered them a valuable favor.  The hated pest had forced them to diversify.  When they relied on cotton alone they were weak and vulnerable.  Now they looked forward, strong and ready for adversity.  And they owed it all to the dreaded Boll Weevil and a begrudging willingness to change.

Positive results do not always follow bad times.  It is not easy and automatic to find a windfall in every ill breeze that blows and especially when they thunders in as hurricanes or tornadoes.  But for those who are challenged to see it, and determined to grasp whatever they can of good, in awful circumstances, flowers will be emerging.  That is absolutely certain!

The most important insights about life trickle and leak out of suffering.  Depth of spirit and strength of character belong exclusively to the veterans of deep wounds.   Grieving people gain exposure to the life-giving sun through the agonizing loss of that which sheltered them.  These folks are privy to knowledge the safely-harbored ones cannot acquire.

Most of the suffering people of this world do little more than suffer.  Nothing beneficial or beautiful emerges from the ashes of their fire-storms.   They see nothing but clinkers and dust and a bitter taste that won't go away.  There is an enormous amount of such suffering in the world.  Most sits wasted.  Searching and scavenging, not sitting, turns losses into gains.  To uncover valuables in the rubble after the flames are extinguished and cooled calls for hard and dirty work.

Romans 5:3-4 gives us a tidy formula for our adversity recovery kit:  "we are challenged by our sufferings knowing that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope...." 

When we struggle to our feet after being bowled over we discover the possibility of starting over.  Hopeful people find the flowers, water the fresh sprouts springing up amidst the rubble, bloom again after being flattened.

Resurrections in every day life generate confidence in bigger resurrections.  Those who come back to life after seemingly mortal blows grow Resurrection in their hearts and souls.  They gain a hold on life the rest of us can't have until our hurricane hits.  They know Hope personally.

Resurrections seldom proceed quickly and easily.  Quick ones feel counterfeit and incredible.  Most of the roads to joy stretch long, difficult and slow.  And the paths always pass through the village of suffering.  Without a Cross there is no Resurrection.  But with the Lord's help, life after death is guaranteed.  In this life and the next.

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