Caught by an Avalanche

French Alps Mount Maudit

Twenty-eight experienced mountaineers were climbing in the French Alps, attempting one of the most dangerous ascents in all of Europe, when they were caught off-guard by an avalanche.

They were surprised and hit by a fast-moving wall of snow that was 60-feet high and 500-feet wide, as they traversed the icy 14,649-foot ridge of Mont Maudit (meaning “cursed peak”) on their way to the summit.

Eight of the climbers were killed that day, after being buried and swept more than 600 feet by a towering wall of snow. They died on the mountain.

Nine were airlifted to a hospital with cracked ribs and broken bones. Two others were missing and presumed dead, but later hiked down the mountain and walked into town. By nightfall, local authorities had accounted for every climber.

I wonder what it’d be like to get buried by an avalanche and survive to tell your story.

Experts say an avalanche is a cascading mass of at least 100,000 tons of snow sliding down a mountain that can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. That’s a lot of fast-moving snow!

Maybe you’re feeling like an avalanche is chasing you downhill today. Perhaps you’re freaked out and frantic because of your awful predicament. Somersaulting out of control and gasping for air. Trying to hang on and ride things out.

When life shoves us to the ground and knocks the wind out of us—we often get angry, confused and disoriented. Sometimes, we get overwhelmed by anxiety, discouragement and fear. Other times, we imagine and assume the worst, and give up.

Sometimes, David reacted that way, as he struggled with challenges and circumstances. But he also confidently declared, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength” (Psalm 18:30-32).

As David wrestled with the stuff of life, he learned to trust God.

Do you trust God when life slams and surrounds you with an avalanche of lousy circumstances, topsy-turvy emotions or ornery people? If you struggle with that kind of a response, try this:

Expectantly cry out to God. Trust his unchanging Word. Anchor your hope in his grace and care. Rely on him for peace and perspective. Experience his constant presence, power and protection.

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” That’s why we can always trust God—no matter what’s happening around us. He’ll never let us down.

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What Scares and Shakes You?

earthquake

For over 30 years, I lived in Southern California—the land of “rock-n-roll”—where I experienced a number of large earthquakes (6.0 and bigger!) and their aftershocks.

I’ve felt the ground move and buckle beneath my feet. Stood in tall buildings and felt them sway. Watched wall-hangings and knick-knacks crash to the floor. Gulped as the ground cracked. Froze as big glass windows shattered and scared people scattered.

Just so you know, when an earthquake hits, you’re supposed to duck and cover or stand inside a doorjamb—away from any glass—and stay put until it stops. I’ve done the drill many times.

I’ve also watched people as panicked and bolted for the exit. Scared, they made a run for it. They freaked out in the face of fear. They got anxious and forgot what to do.

I wonder what rattles your cage and unnerves you—or ratchets your world and upsets you.

Hurtful words. An angry spouse. A defiant child. Family conflicts. Broken relationships. Fickle friends. Sudden setbacks. Sky-rocketing prices. Speaking in front of people. Taking an exam.

Different things disturb us at different times in different places. It’s part of life.

Two gnarly warriors—Joshua and David—felt the grip of fear. These tough guys lost their nerve. They trembled. They were intimidated and terrified. They felt anxious and afraid. That’s why God whispered words of hope and shouted a call for courage to them.

Joshua heard God say, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

David declared, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:3-4).

Often, Joshua and David looked beyond their circumstances and emotions to find hope and courage in God.

What will you say and do next time you’re shaken or scared? Friend, the choice is yours. You can run and hide. Flip out and collide. Or trust God and abide.

Here’s what the Scriptures recommend for tough guys and scaredy-cats:

Trust God and stand firm. Put your hope in God, not your best circumstances. Rest in his strong grip, not your puny strength. Be courageous and confident.

Remember, God is with us—no matter what happens. God is with us—no matter what we do or where we go. He’ll never abandon us. He’ll always stay with us.

That’s why we can trust God, rely on his strength and stand courageously and confidently!

 

 

 

Living Courageously

Moose Bull

For over 30 years, I lived in Southern California—the land of “rock-n-roll”—where I experienced a number of large earthquakes (6.0 and bigger!) and their aftershocks.

I’ve felt the ground move and buckle beneath my feet. Stood in tall buildings and felt them sway. Watched wall-hangings and knick-knacks crash to the floor. Gulped as the ground cracked. Froze as big glass windows shattered and scared people scattered.

Just so you know, when an earthquake hits, you’re supposed to duck and cover or stand inside a doorjamb—away from any glass—and stay put until it stops. I’ve done the drill many times.

I’ve also watched people as panicked and bolted for the exit. Scared, they made a run for it. They freaked out in the face of fear. They got anxious and forgot what to do.

I wonder what rattles your cage and unnerves you—or ratchets your world and upsets you.

Hurtful words. An angry spouse. A defiant child. Family conflicts. Broken relationships. Fickle friends. Sudden setbacks. Sky-rocketing prices. Speaking in front of people. Taking an exam.

Different things disturb us at different times in different places. It’s part of life.

Two gnarly warriors—Joshua and David—felt the grip of fear. These tough guys lost their nerve. They trembled. They were intimidated and terrified. They felt anxious and afraid. That’s why God whispered words of hope and shouted a call for courage to them.

Joshua heard God say, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

David declared, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:3-4).

Often, Joshua and David looked beyond their circumstances and emotions to find hope and courage in God.

What will you say and do next time you’re shaken or scared? Friend, the choice is yours. You can run and hide. Flip out and collide. Or trust God and abide.

Here’s what the Scriptures recommend for tough guys and scaredy-cats:

Trust God and stand firm. Put your hope in God, not your best circumstances. Rest in his strong grip, not your puny strength. Be courageous and confident.

Remember, God is with us—no matter what happens. God is with us—no matter what we do or where we go. He’ll never abandon us. He’ll always stay with us.

That’s why we can trust God, rely on his strength and stand courageously and confidently!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You’re Anxious and Afraid

Tough Spot

Like skittish scaredy-cats, we struggle with anxiety and fear.

We jump when we see our own shadow.  We’re afraid of the dark and what goes bump in the night.  We’re apprehensive, hesitant and fearful of just about anything.  We fight full-blown panic attacks and paralyzing phobias.

We fear heights, germs, crowds, tight places, karaoke, spiders, snakes, death and a lot more.

Our unresolved fears can turn into anxiety disorders, often exacerbated by sheer panic and dread of an object, person or situation that we’ll go to great lengths to avoid.  They control us.

King David felt the grip of fear, the panic of anxiety and the weight of depression he couldn’t seem to shake.  In those moments, he felt more like a frightened captive than a mighty warrior.

As a young shepherd boy, David killed bears and lions to protect his father’s sheep in the hills of Judea.  He fought the giant Goliath in the valley of Elah and killed him with his slingshot and one stone.  He trusted God and charged when King Saul’s terrified soldiers refused to fight.

As a rugged warrior-king, David battled fierce enemies, local rebels and back-stabbing friends.  He defeated rogue nations, destroyed cities and plundered treasures.  He led and fought alongside his army of valiant warriors.

And yet, this tough guy couldn’t control his fear and anxiety.  That’s why he looked to God for courage and strength—and trusted God to tweak his perspective and emotions.

David declared, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust, I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4) … “The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 56:3).

That’s what David believed and did when fear and anxiety gripped his heart.

Are you overwhelmed by panic, held hostage by fear or paralyzed by anxiety?

If—and when—that’s your predicament, you can conquer your “enemies” by believing and doing what David did.  You can escape the grip of fear, panic and anxiety.  Here’s how:

  1. Face your towering giant.
  2. Refuse to run and hide.
  3. Choose to stand and fight.
  4. Ask God to strengthen you.
  5. Give your troubles to God.

No matter the height and size of the “giant” that stalks and scares you, God is bigger and more powerful.  He promises to strengthen, empower and protect you.  Will you trust him?

 

Knocked Down But Not Out

Unselfishness Helpfulness

Back in my junior college days—I got crazy in the ring, slugging it out with my buddies.

We pulled off our t-shirts, put on boxing gloves and pummeled each other.  For three minutes, two guys would box—and the rowdy crowd that circled us would decide who won the match.  Then, the winning fighter would box again and again—until he was exhausted or defeated.

Have you been kicked around and knocked down by the stuff of life?

Sometimes, we get beat up by people or circumstances—and feel like we can’t get back up.

That’s why I like the lyrics of “Get Back Up,” a contemporary Christian song sung by Toby Mac, as it offers us hope:  “You may be knocked down, but not out forever … we get back up again.”

That’s hope-filled encouragement for everyone who knows and trusts our Savior!

Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ was nailed to a rough wooden cross by tough Roman soldiers.  He hung there for three hours—and then died for our sins.  He was buried in an empty rock tomb—and then three days later, he got back up.  He came back to life.

That’s how our amazing and living Savior defeated sin, death and the enemy—with one punch!

Hebrews 12:2-3 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus … who endured the cross, scorning the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”

Our Savior was dropped to the mat and knocked down for the sins of the world—and then he got back up and grabbed life again, as the reigning Champion of heaven and earth!

That same Savior stands at your side—when life comes at you with a wild upper cut, bloodies your nose and drops you to the mat.  He may not stop the fight, but he’ll strengthen you.

The warrior-king David trusted his mighty God when he was harassed and attacked.  He wrote, “It is God who arms me with strength … he trains my hands for battle” (Psalm 18:32, 34).

That’s how we know David relied on God’s strength, as he faced and fought his enemies.

The bold apostle Paul thought like a fighter who refuses to quit, even when he’s getting beat up.  He wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

That’s how we know Paul didn’t give up and walk away when he got beat up.

So—next time the stuff of life pummels and knocks us down, let’s do what David and Paul did.  Let’s choose to get back up and refuse to give up—and look to our Savior for strength and hope!

 

 

God Is Always Approachable

Dog German shepherd

As I pedaled up the hill and got ready to toss another newspaper, I was caught off guard by a big German shepherd that I knew.  Instead of wagging his tail—like he usually did when I neared his yard—he barred his teeth and growled.  Then, he charged me.

I thought to myself, “Well, I can square off with this ornery dog, speed away on my bike, or …”  Rather foolishly, I went for the third option.  I rode straight at the dog.

Grabbing a rolled newspaper from my bag, I got ready to swing it like a club—but never got the chance.  The shepherd sank his teeth into my thigh, and I yelled, “That dumb dog bit me!”  Then suddenly, he turned tail and ran home.

Feeling a stab of pain in my leg, I braked and jumped off my bike—and dropped my Levis to investigate the wound.  I saw four deep puncture marks.

But ignoring the pain, I angrily mounted my stingray bike, finished my route and headed home.  First thing, I showed my early morning “battle scar” to Dad who—to my chagrin—said I needed to get some shots to in case I got rabies.  Those long needled shots hurt more than the dog bite!

That morning, Dad and I knocked on the door of the house where the dog lived—and learned he’d been cruelly beaten by some neighborhood boys riding bicycles, just days before he charged and bit me.

Later on, the doctor called to tell us that the dog didn’t have rabies.  I thought, “Oh man, I got poked repeatedly with a long needle—for nothing!”

For days, I steered clear of that big shepherd, and carried a spray bottle of vinegar so I could nail him if he charged me again.  I avoided him because I was afraid—and hesitant to approach him.

The Bible says God is our heavenly Father.  He’s always approachable and trustworthy.  He’s ready for us to run to him, just like small children who never hesitate to run to their strong Dad.

But rather foolishly, we sometimes try to steer clear of God.  We may see him as a distant father or a big bully.  We may mistrust or fear him.  We may harbor distorted thoughts about him.

Long ago, the confident apostle Paul encouraged his timid friend Timothy.  He wrote, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5), and “through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12).

Friend—because we have such open access to our heavenly Father, we can run to him—boldly and confidently.  He’s always approachable and receptive.  He’s gracious and reliable.  He nods and motions, inviting us to his side—and he hugs us.

So then, “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-15).

Will you run into our Father’s open arms, enjoy his strong embrace and rely on his grace?

 

 

Confident and Courageous

Marisol Valles Police Chief

Marisol Valles was courageous—or crazy. In 2010, the 20-year-old mother signed on as the new police chief of Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero, one of Mexico’s most dangerous border towns. Despite the fact that her predecessors were brutally killed, she boldly stepped forward.

She volunteered to lead 13 officers with one patrol car, three automatic rifles and a pistol. She boldly stood against the drug cartels who had murdered a mayor, his son, and numerous citizens of Mexico and the United States. Valles knew they’d probably kill her.

Chief Valles was a very courageous woman—just like the bold women whose stories are told in the Scriptures.

Deborah led the warriors of Israel—and together, they fought valiantly against fierce enemies. Esther approached the king unannounced, risking her own life to rescue her Jewish people.

Hannah prayed for a son. Two years after Samuel was born, she kept her promise and took him to the temple, where he learned to serve God. Mary endured ridicule and rejection from family and neighbors, as a young virgin in whom the Holy Spirit had miraculously conceived Jesus.

All of these women lived confidently and courageously in a world of cowards and compromisers.

Are you bold and courageous—or timid and fearful? Are you more like a lion or a mouse? Proverbs 28:1 says, “The righteous are as bold as a lion.”

God empowers us to live boldly. No matter how fast our heart is pounding. No matter how great the odds. No matter how bleak the circumstances.

Courage is stepping through fear, whether it’s caused by a perceived threat or real danger.

It’s standing and staying strong when we’d rather run and hide. It’s being bold and brave when we’d rather give up and get out. It’s blowing the bugle and charging the hill when we’d rather sound retreat.

We can’t manufacture confidence or muster courage on our own. That’s why we must rely on Almighty God to empower us to be confident and courageous.

God is the one who fuels our courage—as we trust and obey the Scriptures. He says, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7-8).

God is the one who fortifies our confidence—as we recognize and rely on his presence. He says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

That’s why and how we can live confidently and courageously—as righteous men and women who obey the Scriptures, enjoy God’s presence and rely on his power!

 

 

Hold the Line

Fumble

“Stay strong. Hold the line. Stay in the fight. Make your stand. Stay in the game. Don’t quit. Don’t back down. Don’t give an inch. Don’t let anybody get by you.”

Strong leaders bark these gutsy commands—and courageous men and women answer the call. They step up, run forward and tackle the challenge. They’re a breed set apart.

They’re military commanders. Battalion chiefs. Firefighters. Quarterbacks. Defensive linemen. Navy SEALS. Police officers. Fighter pilots. Parents. Surgeons. Pastors. Teachers. Coaches. And the list goes on.

They stand up—and refuse to back down. They do whatever it takes to hold the line—regardless of the cost.

Did you know God expects you to suit up and hold the line?

Ephesians 6:13-14 says, “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

God commands us to wear his protective armor so we can stand firm and stay strong.

We don’t hose hot fires or target enemy soldiers. We don’t round up bad guys or tackle running backs. Our fight is very different and more dangerous because it’s spiritually camouflaged.

We’re opposing the enemy of our souls—our adversary, the devil. We’re waging war against his evil forces. We’re exposing deception and opposing darkness.

Are we strong enough to hold the line against our enemy? Not if we try to fight in our own strength. Do we have an effective battle plan? Not if we haven’t read the New Testament.

As believers in Christ, we can resist and defeat the enemy only if we follow his winning strategy.

We must trust our great God who is all-knowing and all-powerful. Wear the impenetrable armor of God. Walk in the light. Know and declare the truth. Recognize our identity in Christ.

Ephesians 6:10 says, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power …” God is the source of our strength. We’re puny and powerless without him.

1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” God equips and empowers us to stand firm in our Lord Jesus Christ.

As spiritually strong warriors, we can resist and defeat the enemy only by wearing the armor of God, knowing our identity in Christ and wielding the Word of God. That is God’s unbeatable strategy for us. Remember, we engage in spiritual combat with the enemy—all day long.

Alone, we’re no match—but in Christ, we can suit up, stand firm and win the victory!

 

Frazzled But Not Forsaken

Good Samaritans

I’ve struggled with fatigue, failure, and frustration that left me feeling weary and teary. Frankly, that can pull you down, and take you out—if you let it.

Twice, I’ve been so exhausted, burnt out and overwhelmed by stress and “stuff” that I’ve collapsed and hit the wall—and had no choice but to rest and sleep for days.

Both times, I foolishly ignored the warning signs, disregarded my apparent vulnerability, and refused to get professional help. I jeopardized the well-being of my family and job—and allowed the tyranny of the urgent to sap my energy and scuttle my strength.

Frazzled and overwhelmed, I finally just wore out. I had nothing left to give.

But fortunately—along the way, I’ve learned to adjust my pace so I can finish strong in my race. I’ve discovered how to slow down, rest up, and look around. I’ve shuffled things to recharge my batteries, renew my mind, and rebalance my emotions.

I still struggle. It’s part of life—and why I ask God to rejuvenate and strengthen me.

The tough warrior-king David struggled, too. He wrote, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow …” (Psalm 6:6-7). He fought exhaustion, sadness and stress.

David had fierce enemies who wanted to kill him. Trusted advisors who tried to betray him. Close friends who plotted to ruin him. One son who conspired to dethrone him.

I’m sure David was flat-out tired of struggling and fighting. He wanted to give up and go away, but he didn’t. Instead, he kept asking God to strengthen and rescue him.

David prayed, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help.” (Psalm 69:1-3). He cried out to God for help.

David also declared, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters … he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:16-19). He acknowledged and felt God’s strong hand and sustaining help.

Know this, my friend—no matter what’s threatening to slam you down and take you out, it’s no match for our mighty God who strengthens and saves.

God sees and hears you—and he’s more than able to rescue you. Just cry out to him!

Trusting God’s Harness

Oxen yoke

At Hume Lake Christian Camp—I wore a safety climbing harness when I climbed their famous Pamper Poles about 20 years ago.

Got any idea why they’re nicknamed Pamper Poles? I’ll leave that to your imagination.

These tall poles are part of Hume’s challenging outdoor survival course. They’re old telephone poles, anchored in the ground—with climbing holds securely fastened into the wood, all the way to the top. Both poles are intimidating—and especially so, just before you start climbing.

But hundreds of campers climb these poles every summer. Some climbers are confident. Others are fearful. Many attempt the climb but don’t make it. Still others refuse to even try.

If you’re gutsy enough, you strap on a safety climbing harness with the help of a mountaineering expert. Then, you start climbing your first pole.

If you’re able to step up and stand on top of the first Pamper Pole, you’re supposed to get your balance—as the 40-foot pole sways—and then jump out and grab hold of a trapeze bar—before you’re safely belayed to the ground.

The second pole is a lot more challenging—partly because it stands and sways about 15 feet higher than the first.

I climbed and stood on top of both poles—and grabbed and held onto both trapeze bars. The secret is to stay focused, climb confidently and step up quickly. Then—get your balance, jump as far you can and trust your safety harness!

Our great Savior provides an amazing harness for us to wear. It’s called a yoke.

Before the tractor was invented, farmers used a wooden yoke with leather straps to join two animals (usually oxen or horses) so they could work side by side—and pull a plough through the farmer’s field. Today, many farmers around the world still plough with yoked animals.

Farmers usually yoke an older ox with a younger ox. Do you know why? The more experienced ox knows what to do and pulls most of the plough’s weight. That allows the younger ox to learn while pulling less weight. In a way, he’s also able to rest because he’s pulling a lighter load.

Long ago, Jesus promised, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Like the younger animal, we’re yoked to our strong Savior. We’re walking through life with him.

He shoulders and pulls our heavy burdens and overwhelming loads—but only if we stay at his side. He teaches us—but only if we listen. He gives us rest—but only if we walk with him.

Are you exhausted, fearful or anxious? Remember, Jesus walks with you. Will you trust him, wear his harness and stay by his side? That’s the only way you’ll enjoy the rest he promises!