~~In Oklahoma, few things are more certain than the uncertainty of the weather.
Thunderstorms are simply a way of life for us. Many of us love the sound of the thunder and the flash of lightning. There’s no better sleeping weather than right in the heart of storm season.
We are even growing accustomed to earthquakes. Did you know that Oklahoma now ranks as the number one state for frequency of earthquakes? A few weeks ago, we had a 4.8 magnitude quake that scared the living daylights out of me! I really thought we were having a sudden and quite unexpected thunderstorm that was bringing my entire house down! Our kitchen light swayed for over 15 minutes.
But we are best known for our tornadoes. I shudder to think how many people have lost everything. I live just southwest of Oklahoma City, and frequently we are the starting point for the monsters that track across our state.
Right now, it’s October. I guess you can consider October our “second” storm season, and tonight is no exception. I literally just came home from work to find the storm chasers parked along the highway next to our house. I turned on the television—quite unaware of what is building. To the north is a large storm with a tornado sweeping across the state. To our southwest is another storm system, building, growing, rotating…and headed my direction.
I just issued the directive to my kids to prepare for the safe room, the steel and concrete reinforced corner of my closet designed to withstand even the strongest EF-5 tornado. It’s our safe place.
This year, storm preparation has been different, however.
Back in May when we were preparing for a tornado, I gave my normal instructions to gather up the important stuff. We usually take the things that can’t be replaced: important papers, sentimental jewelry, computer, irreplaceable pictures. And, of course our pets. Most everything else can be replaced. It’s just stuff.
But when I gave the command this year, Cole and Cassie began to haul load after load of things into the safe room—a space that only comfortably fits about four people. There’s not room for tubs of pictures and big items. And my kids know that.
I watched, wondering what they were thinking, wondering where they thought we would fit, how we would get the dogs in there with us.
And then my daughter came around the corner with a stuffed bear in her arms. The bear is as big as she is! You could see the concern on her face.
“Mom,” she began, “I know it’s big, but I’ll hold it in my lap. I promise.”
My heart melted as I saw the tears welling up in her eyes, as she clutched the bear to her body. You see, the bear was the last Valentine’s Day gift her dad ever gave her, the last gift before he passed away unexpectedly in April.
Everything they carried to the safe room was something that reminded them of their dad, something they will never be able to replace. Pictures. Gifts. Reminders of the short years they had with him.
Items they want to guard at all costs.
As I watched my kids begin to gather up their important items once again and begin moving everything to the safe room for a rough evening of weather, I began to wonder what things I need to guard at all costs.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Guard your mind. Battles are won and lost in the mind. What do you think David said as he approached Goliath with nothing but a sling and a few smooth stones? Was he telling himself how big and strong Goliath was, how scared he was? No! He was telling himself how big his God is! And that’s exactly what he told Goliath!
Scripture is full of exhortations to think on things that are lovely and noble and true and right (Philippians 4:8). It tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
And how do we guard our minds? By flooding them with the Word of God. Consume a steady diet of scripture. Take negative thoughts captive and replace them with words of hope from the Bible. Change the way you think to change your life.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23
Guard your heart. Our hearts are the center of our lives, of our emotions. According to Joseph Stowell in his book Fan the Flame, the heart is the authentic person, the part where we desire, deliberate, decide. It is, as scripture says, the deciding factor for the course of our lives.
Guarding our hearts involves living authentic lives of honesty and integrity. It means we choose to act in accordance with God’s word, even when no one is watching. It’s about following your thoughts (which you are guarding) with actions that also match the commands God has given us.
How do you want your life to turn out? Do you want to enjoy God’s best? Guard your heart. Live your life in such a way that one day you will hear your Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Well done.”
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words. Proverbs 15:28
Guard your tongue. How many times have you opened your mouth without thinking? How many times have you wished you could take back the words you just spoke? How many times have you spoken words, only to rehash those words repeatedly, regretting every syllable?
We must guard our tongues. We must think carefully, weighing the words and their effects long before they leave our mouths. Our words must be words of grace and truth, words that build others up. Our words must be words of kindness and love, words of honesty and integrity. Our words must be words that point the world back to our Savior.
And the good news is that if you are guarding your mind and your heart, scripture tells us our words will be the proper words. “What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45).
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27
Guard your religion. Religion has become a dirty word in our culture. But what does scripture say about religion? True religion? It’s caring for the needs of those who are most needy, those who are the downcast of society. It’s about keeping ourselves pure, holy, before God. It’s about doing the right things.
We must learn to guard our religion. How often do we pass by the down and out, despising them, wondering why they can’t get it together? How often do we choose to judge the single mama because of her divorce or her child born out of wedlock? How often do we ignore the needs of those all around us?
It’s not enough to guard our tongues. Scripture teaches us that we must do more than just offer words of encouragement. “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:15-16).
Tonight, the storms passed us by. We had a short scare as the tornado siren sounded, but we escaped unharmed. Even if the storm had hit our home, we were safe in our safe room…along with everything important to us. We took the steps to guard those irreplaceable treasures.
I hope you are taking those same steps to guard your lives, to place your life in the safety of the Father.
Lord Jesus, I pray you would help us as we seek to guard our minds, our hearts, our tongues, our religion. I pray we would keep your word at the center of our lives so it can penetrate our hearts, our minds, and help us walk in step with you. I pray we would recognize the importance of protecting those things you hold most dear, those things that determine the course of our lives. Be our shield, our strength, our protector as we run to you, our safe place.