An SUV is seen standing on end amongst storm damage after a tornado ripped through Tushka, Oklahoma April 15, 2011. (Johnny Thomason)
As my life disappears with each setting of the sun, I come to realize, that I really am not as in control as I think I am. This realization hit me pretty hard today as I stood in the middle of a dirt road with the cold wind tearing through my jacket as I gazed upon the eerie scene of a tornado zone. The smell of fresh “cut” pine was in the air, and as far as I could see, debris and crumbling structures encompassed my vision. I found myself sifting through rubble in a pasture thinking of the little girl that may have been missing her Ballerina Barbie that was lying at my feet. I saw pictures of strangers scattered about the tall grass, shoes, books, blankets, and pieces of intricately hand-carved wooden legs splintered and misshapen, drowning in the mud. Frightened horses were neighing and scuffing their hoofs against the floors of the trailer they were being placed into for safety. Several families were scattered about trying to dig up familiar pieces of their “homes” really not knowing where to begin. I too, did not know where to begin. I became lost in thought, trying to imagine loosing it all, and wondering where I would try to begin.
I spoke with my husband that night about how I could encourage people to rebuild their homes and lives in a Godly way. He pointed me to the book of Nehemiah, and explained to me how the people of Judah had lost everything during their time of captivity by the Babylonian empire. This empire completely wiped out the city of Jerusalem, and left nothing but rubble and ashes. The book of Nehemiah speaks of how they began to rebuild their faith, their homes, and the wall that would protect their city from another invasion. Everyone pulled together during the time of rebuilding, and everyone was dedicated to a specific task concerning the construction of the walls. But more importantly, during this process, they took time to pray to God, ask for forgiveness and guidance, reflected on who they were as a people, where they had been, and where they should be going. The chain of events that took place, made these people turn back to their Creator, and set them once again, on the right track with their worship to Him, as well as fortified the city of Jerusalem. This book shows how a people rescued each other from ruin and despair, and started a new walk with God.
Surveying the damage and mourning the loss
In Nehemiah chapter one verse three, we see men who had escaped the captivity report to Nehemiah that upon returning to Jerusalem, they found the city to be destroyed, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and the gates were destroyed with fire. The walls of Jerusalem were the people’s protection from the world surrounding them. It was their comfort, and their place of refuge. Today, this wall, so to speak, could be defined as our Christian home. We work to keep our home a refuge from the worldly things around us spiritually, and it serves as a protection from the ailments physically. We put a lot of love and care into our homes. We furnish it with mementos and keepsakes from times past, and fill it with love and laughter, opening our homes to those we love. The tornado that rumbled through Tushka, Oklahoma took many peoples homes away. With every board and every piece of furniture stripped away and destroyed, so did these peoples memories, and sense of security. For the people of Jerusalem, the walls that were destroyed left them open and vulnerable, and today, the victims of the tornado feel the same way as well.
Upon the news of the destruction, Nehemiah took the time to weep, mourn, pray, and fast for several days (Nehemiah 1:4). The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that everything has its season, and a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We are told there are going to be times to break down (vs 3), and a time to mourn (vs4). During a time of complete and total loss, we must all take the time to place ourselves in solitude, and allow ourselves to mourn over those things we have lost. When we mourn, we often find our knees on the floor, with earnest prayers for healing being sent up into the heavens. Survivors of the storm must take the time to experience this all too important time of healing, because it clears our minds, heals the hurt, and points us to what we should do next. In chapter one verses five through eleven of Nehemiah, we see the prayer of a man dedicated to pick up the pieces and implored God to put His grace into the situation, and redeem them with His great power and strong hand.
The town of Tushka, in southeast Oklahoma, was devestated by storms on April 14. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)
Nehemiah was given permission to go to Jerusalem and oversee the rebuilding of the wall. He took the time to inspect the damage that was done and in doing so, devised a plan and solicited help to get the job done. In chapter two verse eighteen, Nehemiah tells the people who had come to help that the hand of God would be with their efforts and that they, as a people should “rise up and build”. In hearing this, the people set their hands to the good work. Nehemiah was not afraid to reach out and ask others for help, there were many I am sure, ready and willing to rebuild their homes, and were just waiting for instruction as to where to get started. Nehemiah kept God in the rebuilding plan and had faith that God would see this plan through. For those of you who are rebuilding your lives, remember to ask God often to keep His hand in your work. God has stated in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold I am the Lord thy God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me?” There is nothing that can be done to any of His children that He cannot heal; all we have to do is ask for this healing. We must “rise up and build” as Nehemiah put it, beginning first with the healing of our hearts while we confess our sins, cry out our hurt, and lay our burdens down at His feet. Then, we can move on to the construction of our earthly homes with a clear head, asking God to place His peace and mercy on each task that we are able to perform.
Remember what brought you to this point
In chapter twelve of Nehemiah, we see him dedicate the walls of Jerusalem after the construction had been complete. During the time of the rebuilding, the people continued to rebuild their relationship with God, and with each other. They all worked diligently until the task had been complete, and celebrated the wall’s completeness. They sang songs of thanksgiving and held a feast and worshipped the Lord. They shared what they had with others, and reformed the stale state of worship they had been in. Chapter 13 goes on to tell of the way they reflected on what brought them to this point, and the thankfulness they had for surviving. They rededicated their lives to God and committed themselves to reach forward in their faith all the while remembering what brought them to this new awareness. For you who are picking up the pieces now, it is going to be a tough journey to wholeness. Reflect on that journey as you go through it, remember the humility you are feeling, and the hope you have for your future. Allow others to help you, pray with you, and weep with you as you re-establish your homes. When the work is done, celebrate with those whom worked alongside you and remember to give thanks to the Lord for “the Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Psalms 145:9) Reach forward in your faith and share your experience with others. Remember how you lost your earthly things, but how you gained patience, humility, friendships, stronger faith, and commitment from everyone who loves you. Hold fast the promise of eternity, and rejoice in the eternal home you will one day possess in Heaven if you are found faithful. When your home is complete, dedicate it to the Lord again, and keep His name and His word alive in it. Make it a strong fortress, impenetrable by the enemy lying in wait, just as the walls of Jerusalem were purposed to be.
April 15: Jerome Whittington attempts to salvage belongings through the window of his automobile in Tushka, Okla. Source: AP
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Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it (Proverbs 3:27).
Editor’s Note: As you likely are aware, many storm ripped apart much of the South over the last week. Tushka, OK was one of the first struck, but others also need our prayers. Please keep these in mind as well.
By Ashley Hudson
Ashley Hudson is a stay-at-home-mom with three children ages 9, 5, and 3. She and her family worship at the 7th and Beech Church of Christ in Durant, Oklahoma. Her husband, Jake, is the Campus Minister for the Student Bible Center at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Be sure to check out her blog at www.hudsonfive.wordpress.com