I'm writing this article as summer comes to a close. It has been a hot season in Texas. It has been so hot that the dogs are chasing the cats, but they are both walking. We are now in the middle of hurricane season. I have had a lot of experience with hurricanes — in fact, I lost a condo to a hurricane. Actually, it was twenty other owners and me. It was a nightmare to rebuild. It was like a Baptist committee of twenty trying to build a building — except the financial part was easy. We were underinsured so the deficit was just divided by the number of owners in the condo association. Why don't you try that at your church? Just tell the members that you are going to divide the building program amount by the number of members. That will be what they owe. Try that and I will recommend you to my Pastor Protection Program.
Not only have I lost a condo to a hurricane, I have hunkered down and stayed in that condo through a hurricane. That was the year before the hurricane that destroyed the complex. Evidently, at the time, I was thinking of making a Forrest Gump movie sequel entitled Stupid Is As Stupid Does. By the way, when the weatherman says it is going to be in the upper 90's and he is talking wind velocity, it's time to leave. What I remember vividly is the constant wind and a strange tearing and whistling noise coming from the roof. Later, I discovered that this was the sound of the shingles leaving my roof and landing on my car — the only car in the parking lot, because everyone else knew to get out. Did you know that shingles spin very fast during a hurricane? My car looked like it had been in a demolition derby and lost.
I was in Mississippi for Katrina. Actually, I was there to speak and Katrina cancelled me. I was stuck in a bed and breakfast and I was the only one there. I called my wife on my cell phone and was whining about my predicament. She told me that all of the people along the coast had lost their homes. I discovered that hurricanes put things like creature comforts in perspective. I have also discovered that it is hard to predict hurricanes. I was speaking in Florida when all of the residents left one city to go to another one to escape an approaching hurricane. The hurricane then turned and hit the city where everyone evacuated. It's like when you leave one church to get away from an ornery deacon only to discover he is at the new church, of course using a different name.
I have also discovered that you need different exit strategies for hurricanes (it is a lot like church work). I was leaving FBC Bradenton trying to get to the Tampa airport before a hurricane hit. I thought the evacuation traffic would be horrible. It was a piece of cake. It was like I was the only one on the Interstate. It was great — the wind was blowing in my direction. I was going 75 mph in neutral. Sometimes the light at the end of a tunnel is an oncoming train. Sometimes it is the policeman telling you are an idiot. He explained to me that the road had been closed because it leads directly to the sky bridge which tends to shake (a lot) with 80 mph winds.
My latest hurricane evacuation was a few weeks ago. I was trying to get to FBC Ft. Lauderdale about the same time as Sister Fay. The pilot thought about landing and then changed his mind. He circled, waiting for the winds to die down until we ran out of fuel. Then we skipped over to Ft. Myers to refuel but not to get off the plane. So I was in an airplane seat for seven hours. After about six hours I started to hallucinate. I thought maybe I should pastor a church again so I don't have to travel. Finally, the takeoff and landing came out evenly. I really did preach well, too! It's probably because I ended up confessing sins I had only thought about doing. As a matter of fact, I thought about some of you and confessed your sins. You will be better preachers this Sunday, too.
What can we learn from this bit of hurricane history? The main thing we can learn is that there is always going to be a season of bad events. The Bible is very honest. It says that it doesn't matter if your house is built on the rock or the sand, the same storms are going to come. If you read about it, it sounds like a hurricane. The rains fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against the house. There will be a season of storms that will beat against your house or your church. When do you prepare for a hurricane? You prepare before it arrives. I couldn't move my car when shingles were blowing at 80 mph. You can't nail a shutter down when the wind is blowing so hard you can't stand on a ladder or even control the hammer. You can't get off the road when you have passed the last exit.
There is a benefit to hurricanes. After one comes through your life, it's simple to determine what was built on solid rock and what was build on sinking sand. It makes preparing for the next one a whole lot easier.
Charles Lowery is a member of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, Louisiana, founder and president of LIFE, Inc., and is in a fulltime speaking ministry. You may contact LIFE, Inc. at 903-881-9422 or www.charleslowery.com.