By Chanda Temple
For the last few years, I’ve treated my birthday like any other day.
No fanfare. No cake. No song and dance.
While friends offered to take me out, I dismissed the invites, saying, “Thank you. You are so sweet, but I’m working on my birthday.” It wasn’t that I dreaded getting older, it was just that I looked at my birthday as another day. No biggie.
This year, I took a different approach. I saw my birthday as the big deal it was. I welcomed it with open arms. That move has been the best decision I’ve made so far in 2017.
A good friend asked me where I wanted to go eat to celebrate this month. I told her I had been craving a cheeseburger and fries from Mugshots Grill and Bar. She said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Girl, yes! I love their burgers! I don’t need anything big.” (Plus, after two weeks of working out and no carbs, I was ready for a “cheat” day.)
I worked on my birthday, but when it was time to get off that day, I walked out the door. I didn’t stay behind to write an extra email, make another call or write another story. I was gone.
I arrived on time at Mugshots, happy that I had turned off the “work me” for the “chill me.” My friend walked in, we grabbed a table and ordered. In between bites of burgers slathered in special sauces and topped with melted cheese, we talked and laughed. It’s what we do best. She gave me a gift and birthday cards. She also gave me a red velvet bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes, a new cake spot at the Summit in Birmingham, Ala. As we looked at the time, it was still very early. She then said, “Do you want to go to church? We are having communion tonight.”
Without hesitation, I said, ‘Sure.”
I’ve never celebrated my birthday on a weeknight with communion. But this year, I did. It was nice.
What put the bow on my birthday was the guest minister’s message about surviving life’s storms. Herbert Cooper of the People’s Church in Oklahoma City said that a storm can break up things in your life and leave you with broken pieces. But if you have faith, you can grab onto one of those pieces and ride out the storm. (Go here to see the whole message.)
Just like that burger filled my belly, his words filled my soul that night. I hope they do the same for you. Here are Cooper’s four strategies for surviving a storm:
Stay on the ship (Acts 27:29-31)
In Acts 27:29-31, soldiers on a ship were caught in a storm. Fearing the vessel would be crashed against the rocks, the men wanted to board a lifeboat and abandon ship. However, Paul told them that they would survive the storm if they stayed with the ship. The men listened and rode out the storm until the ship ran ashore. All were safe. To relate this to what you may be experiencing today, think of it this way: Things may seem hard now, but stay on the ship. If you are in the midst of a storm, don’t pretend things are going to be OK. Keep praying. Stay faithful to God. Stay in church. Sometimes, it takes more faith to stay than to leave. Remember this the next time you are faced with a difficult decision.
Be still and chill (Acts 27:33-34)
While on the ship, the soldiers had not eaten. Finally, Paul told them to eat.
We all need breaks in life. Go get food when you need it. Take a vacation when you need it. Enjoy a staycation. Whatever it is you need to “get away,” do it. You need this to break away from what’s going on in your life. You also need to remember not to worry about what life throws your way. Worry and panic don’t solve things. They only make things worse. Your worry and stress in the midst of a storm will accomplish nothing. So, it’s best to chill and trust God. God will bring encouragement to your heart, Cooper said.
Praise God in the storm (Acts 27:35)
It’s easy to thank God when things are going well. But the challenge is to thank God when things aren’t going well. When you are in the midst of a storm, you have to say, “Thank you, Jesus.” Do this, no matter how bad something is with a relationship, your health, your job, etc. Why? Sometimes you’ve gotta “praise through” until you get a “break through.”
“Don’t let a storm silence your praise,” Cooper said.
God can take you to your destination on broken pieces (Acts 27:41)
Have you ever been in a storm and felt like your finances, health, marriage, family, job, etc. were breaking apart? And once the storm ended, all you were left with were broken pieces. Don’t worry. You can still make it on those broken pieces.
How? When a storm breaks up your ship and leaves you with broken pieces, take hold of those pieces. God will use those broken pieces to take you to your destination. But sometimes, we think that’s not enough. We get so focused on what we’ve lost, that we lose sight of what we have left. We want to abandon ship and go back to what to the way things were. But know that if God wanted your “what was” to remain, He would have left it that way.
So even if all you have is a piece of hope, joy, faith or just two nickels after the storm, grab onto that. God will guide you to where you need to be.