by Jason Mabe
April 27, 2011, is a day that will forever live in infamy for millions of people across the Central, Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic portions of the United States. For on this day, many of us found out what it truly means to be blessed. For those who may not remember, it was a day where 216 tornadoes (360 over a 48 hour period) tore their way through many areas leaving a path of death and destruction in their wake. The numbers were staggering: 21 states had tornadoes, four of them were the highest EF-5 rating, over 12 billion dollars in damage, 324 deaths and over 3,100 injuries. Virginia even had 19 tornadoes during this window. The reason this day stands out for me is that I lived in Alabama during that time, where there were 238 deaths, 58 Tornadoes, including two that came within a mile of my house during the morning and evening outbreaks.
Our power went out that Wednesday afternoon and came back on four or five days later (we were some of the lucky ones). During this time, we learned what a true blessing electricity was, as well as ice, non-perishable food, not having to wait 45 minutes for gas and being able to surf the internet or watch TV. But, we also learned what a blessing people are to lend a helping hand, how much fun you can have as a family in candlelight and that pork-n-beans out of a can may not be as bad as it sounds!
If you have been around New Life the past few weeks, I certainly hope you have heard us talking about The Blessed Life Experience. And, I hope you have had the chance to hear it on Sunday mornings or during one of the class times on Sundays or Thursdays. You may be wondering why there would be so much focus put on this one thing, but I want to share a story with you, if you will give me the time and read.
The Blessed Life book and sermon series will turn 20 years old in a few years and originates from Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Texas. Around 2007 or 2008, I had the opportunity to attend a class that was being offered in our local Methodist church, and it has forever changed my life. I don’t know how to tell you this, so I will say it … I could be a rather rotten person (still can be, but a lot less now) and was not sure I was “All-In” on this whole church thing as my wife was. Sure, I went, I sat through a Sunday service almost every week and even did a couple of things outside of that time frame, but I was usually not very happy about it, I mean not happy at all! I even gave and I believe it was 10% of our income, but I didn't do it joyfully and questioned why it even mattered. To be honest, I was in a place that many of you are today, whether you see it or not. I was a consumer, wanting to be served, to be fed, and trying to find out what I could get out of church, rather than what can I offer the church.
The Blessed Life forever changed my outlook on that, even if I have to be reminded from time to time! The Blessed Life book and messages let me know the reason why it is important to give (time, money, resources), how better it is to give than receive, why giving your first and best matters to God, how to be a better husband to Bec and father to Jailyn. Now, instead of HAVING to tithe, I GET to tithe and see my dollars used to do ministry. Instead of serving at events, VBS, during service or more, I GET the opportunity to give back to others how God has given back to me. I serve with a smile, hopeful that someone will see the light of JESUS in me and ask me about it!
I finally learned that all I have is not mine, but it is God’s, and He is letting me use it. But, He wants me to use it for His Glory. That holds true for the time in the day, the money in the bank account, the truck in the driveway and the soft pillow I lay my head down on every night. God has been so good to me, and He has been good to you as well! Even through the valleys, He is there for us and we must trust Him. I pray that you know that you are special to Him, that He sees you, that He hears you and that He loves you.
April 27, 2011, is a day that I think of a lot. The eight year anniversary has just passed, and I think of those lives lost and wonder how their loved ones are coping. I think about the survivors and the ones that lived to tell how close they may have come to death’s door, but it was not their time. I am thankful that although I have a story to tell from that day, it is more of a story of a few inconveniences to the blessings we have.
About a month later, I was flying into Birmingham from a business trip and on the approach, I remember looking down and seeing the path left behind from that monster tornado, the leveled portion of Tuscaloosa, and just how everything looked on the ground below and the stories that came from that and still do. Things in this world may come and go, but I try to live every day from a perspective of thinking about my problems, thinking about my blessings and remembering how good I have it. I look forward to hearing your blessings!