Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Storms of Life

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
~ Psalm 46:1-3

Last Wednesday, Keen and I both woke up around 4:15 a.m. and decided to go on our “long walk” which is about 3 miles down our country road. There had been storms in the area off and on all week, but that morning it wasn't raining – there was just some lightning off in the distance. When we were about ¼ mile from our house, it started pouring down rain and we were immediately soaked to the skin. The lightning was flashing and the thunder was booming all around us.

“The voice of thy thunder [was] in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world….” ~ Psalm 77:18

As we picked up our pace and started jogging toward home, we were both startled by a LOUD clap of thunder right above our heads. It was such a helpless feeling and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it because no one was around to give us a ride. I just felt so vulnerable walking down the middle of the road in the midst of a raging storm, so I started saying that Bible verse: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."

We had no choice except to hang on and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I told Keen that it was a picture of our life ~ going through the storms of life, hand in hand together, one step at a time.

“You called in trouble and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder.” ~ Psalm 81:7 (NKJV)

I try to draw lessons from every day experiences, so this past week I’ve just been thinking about the storms of life each of us has to face. As I look around, I see that we all go through storms; some are small and some are large.

In Vicky Jones’ column, “View from the Backseat” which appeared in last week’s edition of The Prairie Post, she wrote about the wild goose chase she went on trying to find the magic key that unlocked the lug nuts on her “limo”. In a strange way, I think it helps when we hear that other people go through the same hassles and frustrations as the rest of us. (Yes, even Baptist ministers’ wives have bad days!)

With that in mind, I thought I’d make you all feel better by sharing a few of my own recent aggravations.

About a month ago, I bought a new computer that was supposed to make my life easier, but instead it’s had me pulling my hair out and questioning my sanity. I didn’t realize that when I “upgraded” to the new Windows XP operating system, several of my old programs would no longer function properly. One of those programs was my anti-virus software, which of course is imperative if you don’t want some computer hacker to steal your private information or send you a virus that wipes out your entire system. So I spent hours on the computer trying to resolve my problem by typing back and forth with a “live technician.” I did everything they suggested, but to no avail, so I decided to break down and pay $39.00 to talk on the phone to a real person. After going round and round, they concluded that I needed to delete all the files from my old program because they were interfering with the new version of their product. This involved a tedious and lengthy process of going into the registry of my computer and manually deleting every file one by one. It seemed like there were hundreds of them. But at that point I was willing to do anything to get out of the maze I found myself in.

After the new virus protection software was finally installed and operating like it was supposed to, I discovered that the firewall feature was not only keeping the hackers and other bad guys out, it was preventing me from doing things I wanted to do – like update my Windows XP. Needless to say, I was frustrated beyond belief by the time it was all over.

Then last week we decided to bite the bullet and sign up for DSL (high speed internet). I spent several hours on the phone finding out what it would cost and getting everything set up so I would be able to network with Keen and Kirk’s computers. We talked about modems, USB adapters and routers – each one coming with a separate price tag. My head was spinning by the time I got off the phone, but the representative assured me that it was very simple to install. In fact, he went so far as to say that his four-year-old daughter could hook it up. Well…. he lied. But God smiled on us when Kirk’s friend and his father offered to help us with the installation. If it weren’t for them, there was no way we could have figured it out by ourselves – even with the simple, step-by-step instructions!

Once the DSL was up and running (it’s wonderful, by the way), I was anxious to call my telephone company to cancel our second phone line since we wouldn’t need it anymore to dial-up to the internet. It sounds like a simple request, but apparently it’s quite complicated because I was transferred or asked to call back four separate times! I spent over an hour on the phone just trying to get them to disconnect our second line. The first person said his computer wasn’t functioning properly and asked me if I would “be so kind” as to call back. Of course, that meant I had to start all over and wait on hold for another operator. When the next representative answered the phone, I barely had a chance to utter the word “disconnect” before she abruptly replied, “I’ll transfer you.”

Transfer me? I had pressed the right prompt – the one that said, “If you’d like to make changes to your services/cancel features or services,” so why was I being transferred? Next, I listened to elevator music for 10-15 minutes along with periodic messages professing their “responsiveness and dedication” to their customers while at the same time apologizing for the wait and informing me that their representatives are still busy with other customers.

At long last, a gentleman answered the phone and asked for my name and number. However, my heart sank when he instantly sounded puzzled by my simple cancellation request. “Did someone transfer you to me?” he asked. “Yeeeees,” I replied through clenched teeth. He courteously explained that he was the DSL representative and didn’t have the authority or capability to process my order. He then informed me that I would need to call the main number back since cancellation requests were handled by the sales department. So it was back to square one for me. Unfortunately, when I followed his instructions and called the main number, I found out that the sales department was not one of the options offered on the telephone prompt. Talk about getting the run around!

At this point, Keen came up with the idea that that I might get better service if I called back and hit the prompt for new orders. It sounded like a good suggestion at first, but then I realized that I would wait on hold again only to be told that I had contacted the wrong department.

The fourth and final operator was a kindly woman from the Las Vegas office who seemed genuinely apologetic for the difficulty and inconvenience I had encountered. I was skeptical, but optimistic. Then I heard those dreaded words, “Hmmm…there seems to be a problem. I don’t understand. My computer isn’t pulling up your account.” I cringed. “Are you sure we are your telephone provider?” she politely asked. I explained that we had been customers for over 25 years and I was pretty sure I knew the name of our telephone company. Then I continued to hold as she tried unsuccessfully to pull up our account. She even tried our main telephone number and couldn’t pull that one up, either. By this time I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone!

After about ten minutes of this, she informed me that her computer had just “frozen up” and she was going to place me on hold while she called her supervisor to find out how to handle the situation. Swell. After another lengthy delay, she came back on the line and said that her immediate supervisor wasn’t able to pull up our account, either. (There was some good news, however. She just saved some money on her insurance with Geiko.) She said her supervisor’s supervisor had taken down my information and would try to process the order by the following Monday (this was Friday), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

But all of this is so minor compared to the larger storms of life others face every day. Like the literal storms that devastated Florida when the hurricane blew through and all those people lost their homes. Or the woman who lost her son in a tragic accident and said, “I wasn’t done being his mother.” Or Robert Rogers who lost his wife, Melissa and their four young children in the floods that swept through our area a year ago. “Anyone who goes through trial and suffering grieves,” he said. “I still cry all the time.” Or the family of Ericka Agee, the sixteen year old girl who was killed in a car accident last weekend while attempting to make a left turn onto Hwy. 4. Or the countless other unspeakable tragedies that occur everyday

We’ve all heard the phrase: “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” I’d like to share a poem with a similar theme that I wrote about ten years ago.

By Eileen Umbehr

I complained the music was too loud
Until I met someone who could not hear

I complained the lights were too bright
Until I met someone who could not see

I complained the price was too high
Until I met someone who could not pay

I complained the work was too hard
Until I met someone who could not move

I complained I was so tired
Until I met someone who could not awake

I’d like to close with this poem my daughter-in-law, Lisa shared with me from the Sunday bulletin at her church.

Your Cross

Whatever your cross, whatever your pain
There will always be sunshine after the rain
Perhaps you may stumble, perhaps even fall.
But God is always ready to answer your call.
He knows every heartache, sees every tear,
A word from His lips can calm every fear.
Your sorrows may linger throughout the night.
But suddenly vanish at dawn's early light.
The Savior is waiting somewhere up above.
To give you His grace and send you His love.
Whatever your cross, whatever your pain.
God always sends rainbows after the rain.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer,
I have overcome the world."
~ John 16:33

Blessings ~ Eileen