Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Praising God in This Storm

I was awakened by my husband’s rapid exit from our bedroom at around 2:00 a.m. the morning of September 12. He had heard knocking on the doors of other trailers in our little park and he knew something was seriously wrong. Before I could ask him what was wrong out the door he went. I got up, put on my robe, and went to the living room where I noticed the red and blue flashing lights of two emergency vehicles parked outside. One was parked in front of our trailer and the other one just to the right, almost in the road. Sheriff’s deputies were knocking on people’s doors telling them to gather what they could and get out NOW! While we gathered a few belongings the Emergency Warning System sirens went off. I packed the few things I’d put together and got in the car. Robbie mounted his scooter and we headed for higher ground. I had no clue how drastically our lives were about to change.

We ended up at the Elementary School where the generous Lyons community rallied around the evacuees, bringing in blankets, clothing, pet food and kennels, snacks and toys for the little ones. It was truly amazing to witness the support given by those whose homes were not being threatened. One of the folks we saw during our evacuation was Pastor Mickey. Due to a really busy summer I hadn't been to church since our wedding in May and it was just so good to see him walking through the halls hugging and encouraging people, as he always does. It was the first "normal" thing to happen since we got there. Shortly after Pastor Mickey left to continue his mission of encouragement, a song popped into my head and it's  been there ever since. It is "Praise You in This Storm" by Casting Crowns. The first verse says:

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining.

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you".
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away.

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Life has gotten back on track, and we're developing a "new normal". We're back to work and will be moving into an apartment later this month. But it still feels like a storm is raging in my heart sometimes. Like when I make the trek to Lyons to see what we can possibly salvage from our former home or when I drive by The River Church property. I continue to sing this song in my head when I feel the flood waters of fear rising up in my soul.

I went out to help clean up at the church's property last Wednesday, and it broke my heart to see the condition of The River. The grassy yard where my grandfather walked me down the aisle at my wedding is gone. The massive wooden deck where we spoke our vows is gone. It was violently washed away, along with parts of the concrete foundation that used to be under the sanctuary. You can see the "new" river flowing by from inside the sanctuary where the floor is sagging. The mound of ruined items in front of the church continues to grow. We lost our church building and many of us, including Robbie and me, lost our homes.  Others incurred great damage and to their homes and property.

Life has been a little bit harder and scarier since that day. We all face a lot of uncertainty. But the flood also brought with it tremendous blessings. Through this disaster we've seen miracles of love and generosity that we would have missed out on had this tragic event not occurred. Personally, I've received enormous amounts of encouragement, love and assistance from co-workers, friends and family. We've had people all over the world praying for us, thanks to blogs, the news, email, Facebook and Twitter! That is truly miraculous!

The River's building was wrecked and people's houses have been lost and damaged. But the good news is that the building and the grounds are not the church and the houses are not the homes. The church, as Pastor Mickey has said so many times, is God's people and a house is only a home because of the people who make their lives there. We are all still here, daily praising the God who gives and takes away! It's kind of like Job in the Old Testament. Our God is bigger than this flood! He is our Strength and our Encourager. He is our Father who loves us and will make all things new and He will show us all how to move forward and how to grow stronger because of all that has happened.

"Every tear I've cried, He holds in His hand. He's never left my side. And though my heart is torn, I will praise Him in this storm."

Lynda Anderson-Clayton

Monday, October 7, 2013

"It is well with my soul"

The Story of Dave and Cat Wechsler
By Cat Wechsler

The morning of September 12, at 1:38 a.m., we were woken up by our phones going off with a flash flood warning. Moments later my husband’s sister called saying that people were being evacuated. We live across the street from the St. Vrain River in Lyons, Colorado, near the corner of 4th and Evans. It had been raining for four days, and the ground was saturated. I grabbed some clothes for all of us — me, my husband, and my two boys, ages 6 and 9 — and threw them in bags.  Then I started to grab some food. The air raid sirens started going off, and my husband went outside to check the river. He immediately came back inside and said that there was at least six inches of water in our front yard, and we needed to go NOW!

We woke up our friends who live in a small cabin in our yard, and I threw the bags in the car.  Then we woke up our boys and told them we needed to go to the car.  I tried to remain calm, telling them, “It’s ok, it’s ok. We just need to go now.”  We wrapped them in their blankets in only PJ’s, no shoes, and put them and our dog in my husband’s car.

It was total chaos, completely dark, rain pouring down, water where it is not supposed to be and air raid sirens blaring.

The hardest thing I have ever had to do was get in my car alone and drive without my family. I followed them through the water across the bridge and left my car at my mother-in-law’s house a block away, which was on slightly higher ground. On the way I called my mom and asked her to pray. I got in with my family and we drove through a river of water on Highway 36 to our shop where my husband has his business. My husband waded through three feet of water and miraculously got our motor home to start and drove it out of the water.  He drove it up to the top of the Stone Canyon subdivision above our shop and left us there. He then went back to try to save what he could at our shop.

As I waited there, I asked the angels to stand shoulder to shoulder, surrounding my house and hold it up.  I remembered what a speaker had said just few days earlier at a Women of Faith Conference that my mother and I and a friend had attended.  She said, “Worship God and He will draw near to you.”  I prayed and started to worship God. As I sat there, with the rain pouring down, I praised God over and over. I sang every worship song I could think of.  As I did this, a calm and peace came over me that I have never experienced.  The boys fell asleep and we waited there through the night.

When the sun came up it was hard to see anything.  I got on Facebook to see what people were saying and asked local people if they could see my house.  Kim, our Pastor’s wife, answered that our area was flooded:(, I was happy for any information.  My boys woke up, and, to pass the time we sang, You are my Sunshine, Let the Sunshine In and The Sesame Street Theme Song (“Sunny days, taking my cares away…”) A friend that lives in Stone Canyon called to see if we were ok and brought us toys and shoes for the boys and food — what a blessing!

Later in the day, when it quit raining, we were able to drive up to the top of the mountain overlooking Lyons. All we could see was a town divided by rivers into five islands and areas under water. Another friend in Stone Canyon told us to come and plug our motor home in at her house.  What a blessing to have friends like that. There were tons of kids there and the boys made new friends and had a great time.   Every day we have had huge blessings like that from God.  Friends and family helping us, bringing us food and supplies, helping with my kids and bringing a backhoe for my husband to use almost immediately to help the community as soon as the waters receded.  

There are too many blessings to count.

As we watched from the other side of the river, our house sat in the raging water for two days.  When the waters finally receded, we were able to hike in to get a few precious things.  God gave me a song of comfort, as I went into my house for the first time, I sang (ironically) ”I am going to the River” and it helped me do what I needed to do.  When I was able to get to the front of my house, I saw the most incredible sight I have ever seen.  There, wrapping from the middle of the front of my house all the way around it to the side middle corner, was the most amazing debris wall I have ever seen!  The wall the angels built.  MY angel wall!  It kept the water from slamming the house and diverted it between the houses and down the street.  It was beautiful.  My angels are so awesome!

God gave me physical strength over the next few days to rip all the wet, mud-soaked carpet out of the house, throw out tons of flood-soaked stuff that was in our house into an enormous pile and pack everything savable into a truck. This is not something I could ever do alone. I am not that strong. Jesus was walking with me. He kept me calm through it all.  An incredible team from disaster relief came and gutted my house of drywall and floors, they were an absolute God send!

Every day I sang worship songs and praised God. It kept me calm and strong, even through countless hours of insurance adjustors, FEMA and more insurance companies.

The flood was three weeks ago. God has given me a tremendous peace about all of this. Our house and property is a mess, but I see it now as a blessing in disguise and a new beginning.  We don’t know what it will take to repair our house or when we will be back in our home, but I know that God is in control and He will provide. We are all ok and that is only stuff.  I no longer see any of the yuck around.  I see many blessings, too many to count, that have come from this, and keep coming every single day.  I see our family strengthened by this. I see so many incredible people who are willing to give of themselves, and I see my sons learning that God is good and so are people. I have told so many people what God has done for us, I only hope they will see it too.  Amazingly, this is not something that God is letting me to be sad about! Our community may be changed but it is not gone. This will only strengthen us.

Worship God and He will draw near to you.  Praise Him. This is a new beginning! It is well with my soul.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Serving Him and others in life's disasters

The hope of the River since day one was that we would be a vital part of our city. That we would be a culture within our culture that loves Jesus, believes scripture, and lives for the good of the whole city and not just our own self interests. Our heart was really to build a culture within our culture that would love our town, and seek to transform our town as they meet Jesus. And right now, in the middle of a disaster, we've been given an "opportunity" to further that vision and in a powerful way LOVE OUR CITY!

Nehemiah had a similar situation. He could have thought, "I'm glad I don't have to deal with the trouble in Jerusalem."  He was far away and could have ignored it.   He could have gotten angry at them, considering them to be lazy or stupid (you know, kind of like you feel about our "leaders" in Washington?).  But he prayed for his people, he prayed for his town with grief.  And humility!  One of the most surprising words you find in his prayer is the word, "we."  "I confess that we have sinned against You" (see Nehemiah chapter 1). Even though he was far away, serving in the luxury of the court of the king of Persia, Nehemiah knew he was part of "we."  "We" are all in this together.  He prayed about "we." He confessed about "we." He grieved for "we."  And then he asked God and the king to be allowed to go, with money and supplies to help "we."  We at the River are "we" of Lyons.  No "them and us" here; We are "we."

And we are asking God (and God's people) for the resources and strength to rebuild not just our church, but our town. If you have been effected by the flood and need help, please go to our website and click on the "Get Help" button. If you would like to help please go to our website and click on the "GIVE" button. Again, 100% of the donations that we receive will go to the disaster relief effort. www.therivercolorado.org

Serving Him and our town,
Pastor Mickey

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Update, October 3, 2013

There is a certain amount of adrenalin that carries you through in times of evacuations in the middle of the night, even a certain amount of a spirit of adventure that, at first, allows us to be brave and optimistic.  But now people are returning to Lyons – not to live, not yet – but to shovel the muck, search for precious things, and to deal, face to face for the first time, with the enormity of what has just happened.  It is overwhelming.  The expressions you see around town look stricken, stunned and hopeless.  Some have simply moved away; it's just too much.

But God has chosen to put us, The River, right here in our little town.  By His sovereignty, He has allowed us to suffer the same kind of devastating set-backs as have our neighbors.  Now, as people are returning, we will be His hands and feet, His servants and witnesses.  But how?  How can a tiny congregation do much of anything in the midst of such confusion and loss? Nehemiah has some great insight on how to answer those questions.

They said to me, "Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire. When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven." Nehemiah 1:3-4 (NLT)

When Nehemiah was faced with overwhelming circumstances, the first thing he did was to avoid the great temptation to look away.  Instead he opened his eyes and his heart, indentifying with his neighbors in their time of loss.  And he wept for them – no, that's not right; he wept with them.  And then he called Somebody he knew.  He fasted and prayed.  How will a tiny congregation that God planted in Lyons respond to such destruction and despair?  Let's start with heartfelt compassion – sharing the grief of those who have lost so much.  And then let's pray – fast and pray as God leads you.  As God leads us. And then lets watch and listen as God leads us to be His hands and feet to our community.  The adrenalin, and adventure will fade, but God will never leave us or abandon us!

Serving Him with you,

Pastor Mickey

If you need help or you would like to help, please visit our website at http://www.therivercolorado.org

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Church Update

Last Thursday, a church in Aurora, Colorado, called down to a church disaster ministry in Louisiana, asking if they could send help to Colorado.  How does that work?  Jesus did it.  He arranged for the disaster ministry, called ReachGlobal, to personally contact several churches in the flood zone - including us at the River - to see what help they could offer.  For five years, the church in Aurora had been sending work teams down to help after Katrina, working with ReachGlobal, because they had been sent there by Jesus.  The next time they called, Jesus said, "Send them to Colorado."  ReachGlobal called The River.  The only way for us to receive a work team last weekend was to work with LifeBridge church.  Why?  Jesus had told them to devote the energies of His large church there to organizing relief work.  They had gotten so well organized that they were able to convince the City of Lyons it would be safe to send work teams.  (Once you see the condition that Lyons is in, you will understand why the City leaders are being so cautious...)   How did LifeBridge get so well organized?  They were trained by a team of experts from back east, a group that does this kind of training after disasters all over the country.  Why?  Let's see if you can guess.  Their name is "Operation Blessing."  Guess Who they take their marching orders from?  So a team from Aurora, got sent from Louisiana, to organize at LifeBridge, who were trained by Operation Blessing, to go with a representative from The River, to serve with compassion in Lyons - all because the Church has One Head.  His Name is Jesus!

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:4 - 4:6 NKJV)

As you listen to Jesus, here's what you can do.  Do you know someone (including yourself!) who really needs help?  Go to this link:  www.therivercolorado.org   and click on the Get Help button.  You will find a place to register their information.  Jesus will send help.  Are you willing to be sent?  Not everyone is able to shovel muck.  Some can make sandwiches.  Some can sit and listen in a compassionate way.  If you are willing to help, go to that same website and click on the volunteer button.  You will be called to serve when Jesus needs your gifts and abilities.

Serving Him with you,
Pastor Mickey

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


God continues to bless The River, as we seek to extend His blessing to the community of Lyons.  There is an IMPORTANT NEW DEVELOPMENT:  Our website is now setup for Paypal donations to our flood relief fund.  Would you please begin to forward this information to everyone you know – your friend list, email list, relatives, classmates, co-workers, hunting buddies, workout acquaintances!  Please do this today, if you can, because people ordinarily concentrate their decisions about how to help at the very beginning of a disaster.  We trust God's timing and know He has plans to provide, but we also must be faithful to act quickly.  Ephesians 5:16-17 says:

"Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do."

As you invite people to give, please emphasize that every dollar of this fund will be spent for disaster relief for Lyons.  Many other funds have heavy administrative costs.  This is an opportunity for people to know exactly where their money will be spent. Here's the link: http://www.therivercolorado.org/give.html