Monday, 11 September 2017 10:53

Finding Shelter

Written by  Sam Whatley
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When a wildfire sweeps across the scrub oak, sandy land of north Florida, south Alabama, and south Georgia many small animals find a place to hide, thanks to a creature called the gopher tortoise. This tortoise, about fifteen inches long and weighing eight to fifteen pounds, loves to dig in the sand. His front feet are like shovels. His back feet are strong and sturdy. Consequently, he can create large burrows. One in north Florida left a burrow that was 26 feet deep and 65 feet long. But that project was huge.


You would think the tortoise would dig just to create a home to protect himself from predators and the cold of winter. But there is more to it than that. You see, once each tortoise has dug a tunnel to his satisfaction, he leaves it to start digging a new one. Each one leaves several burrows vacant every year. That’s when the mice, fox, raccoons, opossums, and any of 350 other species of mammals move in, along with reptiles and insects. Whether he intended to or not, he has left behind an underground village of life.


This is why the gopher tortoise is called a keystone species, defined as a species on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend. If it were removed the ecosystem would change drastically, which reminds me of what our Lord is and what He calls each of us to be.


Isaiah describes our Lord like this:  You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat (Isaiah 35:4, NIV).


Jesus speaks of this as he mourns the faithlessness of Jerusalem. He says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:32 NIV).


Isaiah describes a future time when we will share this sheltering responsibility with Christ. He writes: See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land (Isaiah 32:1-2, NIV).


But, we don’t have to wait for the Second Coming to start being a shelter to those around us. We can be with them in their trials. We can listen. We can share our blessings. We can show that we care for them. How that is lived out will be different for each of us. God has not made us all the same.


One family that I know has been willing to share their home with teen-aged boys who are no longer welcome in their own homes. This family is not officially in the foster care system, but on a temporary basis, young men sometimes stay overnight. Some have stayed much longer. But the goal is to help them get their lives together and get right with the Lord. Most of us are not called to offer that literal kind of shelter, but thank God for those who are.


You may represent a shelter you have not considered. Your church may be the spiritual shelter that someone you know really needs. Life can be harsh, confusing, and cruel. Many people don’t know which way to turn or whether anything is really true. You could be that connection between a hurting soul and the comforting presence of God.


Sometimes what people need when fire rages around them is someone like you, someone who is willing to admit they have had the same struggles, and they understand the pain. Share with them the hope you have in Christ, that things will not be this bad forever.


You may not know you are being someone’s shelter. Consider that gopher tortoise. Does he really know the impact he is having on those around him?     


The important thing is for us to continue living out the calling God has placed on our lives. When the fire of life threatens those around us, let us be their shelter.


**Sam Whatley’s latest book, Ponder Anew, is now available at the Frazer Bookstore located inside Frazer Memorial UMC.



Last modified on Monday, 11 September 2017 11:00
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