August 24, 2006

Clouds of Apocalypse

I wrote this narrative more a decade ago. It is taken directly from a real dream (an oxymoron?) my brother (and best friend) had. The dream profoundly changed him and called into question the state of his soul. The story is meant to go from reality into the dream and back to reality.

The rain. It began its slow cleansing march up the dusty valley somewhere west of the Middle Child's house. An incredible solid wall of water from earth to sky. The boy stood alone on the porch of the soiled white house that squatted beside the road, watching the whirling wind twist the leaves to pale undergreen and the water advance down the hill changing dry gray pavement to a shiny black streak streaked with rivulets of new mud. The division between the gray and the black is a straight edge of glistening cleansing water. Where the storm has passed the world is vibrant and alive, breathing anew, glad to be free rid of the ubiquitous dust.

The rain smell. That smell of newly turned earth saturated the air flooding the child with ancient memories of other storms that always smelled the same. Not the smell of burying earth. The earth smell of plowing, sowing, pushing the seed deep. The charged air is the calm turmoil that the boy always imagined it would be like in the eye of a hurricane. This is not a storm of malevolence but of replenishing. The Middle Child thought of mighty Mjolnir ringing the heavens with the hammering thunder, sparking the lightning as Thor forged his fury. The clouds are sooted cotton filling the horizon. The turbulent grace of a summer storm has the boy more alive than he has ever felt. The storm essence rushes into every pore, every sense, flooding his being as nature can do to those young enough to know the sublime. The raw grandeur charms him, holds him enthralled, standing alone on the porch.

The rain dream. The clouds. The memory, once triggered, took the boy back. To the brink. Of many things. Three nights earlier he dreamt dreams of desolation. It came upon him. He fully understood the grave reality of his experience. This dream was not. It was more, it was is the searing manifestation of the inescapable reality of mortality. Through a paned window, a portal, the wall between two worlds crumbling. Fierce clouds. Black beyond black. Writhing, coiling, twisting in a fury spawned in the death throes of creation. More than clouds. Snaking clouds of blinding wrath and immobilizing fear hailing the advent of the blade blindly slashing into the Middle Child's dream reality. The full force bore down, filling his senses, his soul. Every fear, every hidden hope flooded with the awesome, all impinging dread. Forgive me.

He stood his ground till it melted away pouring over the edge of the abyss his feet stuck as his legs changed to earth. Unable to turn away knowing he would possess the knowledge of the storm. The blackness enveloped him like a dark suffocating blanket then he saw his being drawn away up through a long long dark tunnel tube, twirling swirling faster and faster with traces of faces and demons that looked familiar. Then the plunge into the thick tangible well of black fear, quickly reaching terminal velocity, sensing the hard bottom rushing up to meet him then suddenly dropping free of the black clouds only to see the earth, terra cognita, Dies Irae, so close the worms were crawling. This time he did not awaken.

Beside him his future niece slowly coiled into a fetal ball in the center of a patchwork quilt. Unable to grasp, to contain, the approaching apocalypse. The Middle Child caught, in his eye, to the right, as he stooped to touch the girl, brightness bright. From the depths of a well wrought chest escaped a light that the storm would never darken. Hope. A panoramic rectangular three dimensional canvas in motion, painted by the vision. Mottled doves, in full flight, pause before his face then disappear in a cacophony of motion. He turns to fully face the light. Sky blue and clear. Ground green and firm. He knew. He could keep his back to the storm. Become light. It nurtured his hidden hopes and shadowed those fears best left unexposed. He awoke in tears and in laughter, on the threshold of a scream. Remember the epiphany. The mask of God peeled away. A soul touching, no a soul wrenching intimacy that few survive, the final personal knowledge of certain death and possible redemption.

The Middle Child stands on the porch, in both worlds, the natural one purified by the rain and the unnatural one forever tainted by the emotional filth and physical squalor inside the house, thrust to the brink of manhood, his mind slowly releasing the dream vision for the reality, trembling as the memory pauses, watching the water further erode scars in the yard and the sky dusk not from the storm but from the waning purple and gold sun as it finishes its zenith, scarring up the sky, sliding down to the horizon on this the day of the summer solstice.

The mother, brought from her stupor by water in the windows, appeared in the doorway black in silhouette, a solid caricature with hair flattened and disarranged by sleep, haloed in clouds of spent smoke.

"Bo?" It is the mother's name for him. The boy hates it.

The second son did not respond. With his mind still full of visions of desperation, no longer able to face the hopeless despair, he turned to face the spent fury of the storm and the solidity and hope of the road.

August 23, 2006

Far On A Dark Wind

Oedipus: God. God.
Is there a sorrow greater?
Where shall I find harbor in this world?
My voice is hurled far on a dark wind.
What has God done to me?

Choragos: Too terrible to think of, or to see.

The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil
of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the
boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone
with competence and courage the danger fades.
Joseph Campbell

I am a chronic late bloomer and did not go to college until I was 27. At that time in my life I was deeply entrenched in the Southern Baptist experience. Early on in college I read The Epic of Gilgamesh, and to borrow a cliché, nothing was ever the same again. It was a huge epiphany, or maybe a reverse epiphany, as it pushed me away from The Truth. I began to see the forest, or more correctly I began to realize that there was a forest and not just my little sacred grove. When I realized that the Noah flood story, as well as many others, was common across many cultures my already tenuous acceptance of the Baptist indoctrination stretched beyond the breaking point. Like so many before me I thought I had found the answer and felt content in my newly minted agnosticism.

Then I happened upon The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (and to a much lesser degree Frazer’s, The Golden Bough). This was truly a watershed moment and pushed me further away from Christianity. It was exhilarating and liberating. When I understood that everyone must go though the metaphorical cave, with or without a guardian, face their own fears and emerge bearing the torch to guide the next generation, I felt I had found an explanation for many things that I had long questioned. I also found a way to understand my own life and caught the first glimpses of what I needed to do to be an adequate man, husband and father. The key to my making sense of it all and defining myself was this understanding of myths in culture. They called to me across the limitations of time.

Part of my problem was that I was raised without any father figure to speak of. I did not have the rituals in my life that most young men experience on their way to manhood and I was thrust into it unprepared. In the first years of my adult life I was truly blown far on a dark wind and succumbed to many temptations. Thus, the late blooming.

But this was really a re-awakening. I remembered the old, staid Mythology by Edith Hamilton from seventh grade. Rereading them with an adult mind, especially the Greek and Norse myths was like opening the door to the underworld. I became, fascinated by this deep cauldron of art, psychology and religion.

I realized that, paradoxically, myths seem to be able to express the inexpressible. They are the lens through which our ancestors saw the world when they looked for deeper meaning, for glimpses of the truth hiding in the unfriendly bushes of reality. They came up with fantastic tales that are really signposts on the path of understanding their relationship with all the myriad forces, some beneficial or neutral or arbitrary and capricious, that molded their lives. Over every time and in every place when Man was cognizant, self-aware, and was able to ask from where, and how, and most importantly why, myths provided the answers.

Greek myths have such a strong appeal for me because they explore, perhaps better than any other tales, our emotional underworld. They are simple expressions of an infinitely complex issue. They show that we are messy, complicated beings. Even a cursory appraisal reveals that the stories associated with these names are part of the fabric of our culture and have long endured because they are paths to truths. Consider some of the names: Sisyphus, Oedipus, Tantalus, Daedalus, Icarus, Midas, Pandora, Narcissus, Jason, Medea, Prometheus (who stole fire from the gods) and of course Odysseus. There really is nothing new under the sun.

Norse mythology appeals to me because it is directly a part of my cultural heritage and because I love the narrative and the names. Consider: Yggdrasil (the World Tree), Ragnarök (the end of days), Bifrost (the bridge leading from the realm of mortals, Midgard to the realm of the gods, Asgard), Valkerie, Fenrir , Thor, Loki and Odin with his two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory).

But I digress. Understanding Christianity in a mythological context enhanced my faith, providing me with an infinitely deeper comprehension. We have been given the complete Truth for which these myths were aiming. We can see them for what they are, attempts to see the face of God, to know His mind, to find solace in a cold world.

Our faith, like the myths to our ancestors, gives us tools to live, providing an ethical framework, a justification for seeking that which is good and spurning that which is evil. Myths were a way of expressing the inexpressible to people in their own cultural time and place. Faith does the same for us. All are manifestations of the story of our journey to Him and the perils along the way.

Before dismissing my perhaps misguided ruminations consider this core tenet of Christian belief: By drinking His blood and eating His flesh, by ingesting God we save ourselves, we secure our safe passage through the underworld to the shining city beyond. Taken literally this is a stunning statement. As a pastor friend of mine remarked last week in his sermon, some said this is a hard truth and many turned away.
Let me be clear. I am not saying that Christ is a myth. I am not saying that Christianity is disguised mythology. I believe that He is the Way, the truth and the Light. Coming to a deeper understanding or the role of myth across time led ME back to the true faith.

This I believe: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He arose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Amen. But to close our minds to these stories and dismiss them as just heathen tales is to do ourselves a tremendous disservice. There are too may similarities across too many cultures to ignore the significance. Without questioning our beliefs, how can we accept them?

August 18, 2006

Death And The Deepest Darkness

This morning I received a very disconcerting telephone call from M, an old family friend. M told me that her former daughter-in-law, the mother of her granddaughter, had died. The woman who died was in her twenties and left behind a seven year old daughter who is one of my daughter’s best friends. Not to get too Dickensian, but it is for them truly the best and worst of times.

The granddaughter is now motherless, but she will now be moving back to Georgia to live with her father and grandparents in a more stable environment. During the course of the conversation M told me told me that her own mother had died when she was just seven years old. The call took me back to a cold November morning almost 35 years ago when my own father died. I was eleven and it was the defining moment of my life.

One of the ways that I have tried to grieve through the loss is writing about it. Below, and I won’t do this very often on this blog, is one of the things I have written. The facts and the sequences of events are all accurate. It will be fairly obvious where I have tried to universalize and depersonalize the story. Note: I am a middle child, the third of five.

I wrote the narrative more than fifteen years ago. It is part of a series of other eight stories that were designed to fit on a single sheet of standard 8 x 11 paper as part of an attempt to meld the writing art and the visual arts. The stories are placed on a large black canvas and are meant to look (more or less) like window panes. I have long been interested in form and function, that the art do or be what it says. Each story is a different window and provides a different perspective of the big picture/view. Reading the sequence of stories from different starting points, or even in reverse order, produces different tales. Each sheet/pane is modified to look like what the narrative on that particular sheet/pane addresses. For instance, one of the stories implies that the protagonist jumps from a window to his doom. I took the sheet of paper, wrapped it around a rock and threw it out a window. It is torn and mutilated and has grass stains. I smoothed the paper back out and affixed it to the canvas. Form and function. I even came up with a hokey name for the finished work: Window Pain.

The Deepest Darkness

The rosy fingertips of dawn, morning eternal, the time of waning light and strengthening morning, a limbo, a brief eternity between Luna and Sol, a pause in the endless rhythm of the heavens. The ebb and flow of day and night hold for a time and the essence of both is present in a state of calm flux. It is at this time, on this day, that the scythe cuts its inevitable, inescapable arc.

The father's lungs heave in a near pneumonia panic. Plunged into pain, a fury of coughing, he rises from the shroud of blankets out of the darkness, through the cloth door and into the warmth. The woman waits as her husband emerges from the tomb cold room. The father gropes through the room fighting for balance, and passes through to the kitchen and uses the pot kept there when winter brought its bitter bite. She halts, hesitant, frightened as her husband slumps and nearly falls to the floor. In a motion of pure instinct, with his heart and brain longing for air, he lunges upward, back into the living and dying room. Oh my God.

The mother's scream, the essence of her pain, pulled the Middle Child from the panacea of sleep. At the open bedroom door they all witnessed the sight that haunted and scarred, the sight and the moment that defined their existence. Their father's long, heavy body had fallen unto the mother and pinned her to the couch like a perverse Pietà. His handsome face was horrible and red. A dirty ghostly white battered shell, his body emaciated and gaunt outlined through the blood, phlegm, urine, sweat, and nicotine stained pajamas. The eyes and mouth were open, frozen in the last moment of ultimate reality, horrified by the abyss. Scarlet saliva escaped out of the corner of his mouth and left a dark spreading stain upon her bosom. The oldest brother ran to the nearest sociable neighbor to phone for the rescue squad. They could only state the obvious and carry the once father away.

The new day rose and merged with the old horror and grief of desolation and isolation. The noble, limping old gentleman, the ambassador of good will, brought a banquet of fresh food from the Salvation Army. He gave thanks, broke bread and brought hope. The night settled, quick and true, and was long in lifting its cold hand from the hearts and lives of those who live at the end of the road.

As the night lay down in the deepest darkness, the snow turned into rain.

August 16, 2006

Gluttons For Our Doom

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And now someone's on the telephone, desperate in his pain
Someone's on the bathroom floor doing her cocaine
Someone's got his finger on the button in some room
No one can convince me we aren't gluttons for our doom

Indigo Girls
“Prince of Darkness”

"Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.” (If you want peace, prepare for war.)

Epitoma Rei Militaris

Are we like the hapless Argonauts lured by the Sirens’ sweet song to batter our ship of safety on the rocks of ruin? Is war Man’s natural state? Are we doomed to self destruction? War has been the subject of innumerable philosophical, anthropological and ethical discussions and there are as many motives for war as there are types. It is one of the human activities common across all cultures.

Most things in our culture, from politics and philosophy through architecture and medicine are flavored by our Greek heritage. In a very palpable sense we are all Greek. One feature of this heritage is what Victor Davis Hansen calls, “The Western Way of War.” Hansen argues that the Greeks of the fifth century B.C. developed phalanx warfare, where men fought face to face on even terrain on a chosen day, as a way to keep the necessity for war in check. This short and brutal, but effective head-on clash between armed men of all ages was dedicated to the same end result as democratic government--an unequivocal, instant resolution to dispute. War was seen as a necessary evil. In the West we have now moved from the Greek phalanx, through Clausewitz’s total war to mutually assured destruction. Sadly, we now have the capability to truly end all wars.

Here in America, a country blessed above all others, we built and maintained our world power status as much by force of arms as by our commitment to our Republic. Our might made right. Recently, and I think wrongly, we have changed from a nation largely forced into war to a nation seeking war. The argument is that we are preserving, or more recently, perpetuating our way of life. Because we were raised here we understand and enjoy the benefits of democracy. In many parts of the world, by trying to convince others we are right, we become branded as immoral imperialists. Our foes interpret our wanting to spread democracy as a thinly veiled lust for power and influence. We have made as many enemies as friends.

Even internally many of us struggle with the urge to self destruct. I have experienced it in my own life, the inability to stop my own headlong rush to ruin. After having burned myself many times I learned to fear the flame. Finally, I discovered how to put this restless, potentially destructive energy to good use.

Why such an overpowering, ongoing need to destroy ourselves and each other? The current cease fire between the Israelis and Hezbollah is just that, a temporary cessation of hostilities. The core differences have not been resolved, only exacerbated by a month of open warfare. The animosity, the grudges and the memories remain. War will return.

Is there a real alternative to this madness? John Hagee, who calls himself a man of God, is earnestly looking for the apocalypse, convinced he has read and discerned the mind of God. Hagee believes that recent events in the Middle East are necessary precursors to the apocalypse. Instead of working for peace he is fanning the flame to a conflagration.

We must resist this temptation to believe we have all the answers and to withdraw within our faith communities to let the world pass by, believing we cannot make a difference. We must continue to speak up for those without a voice. When faced with a world at war we must respond with the call for peace. When threatened with a weapon, we must offer an open hand. When hated, we must love. We must put aside our base desires for revenge, for balancing the scale with an eye for an eye.
As a friend who is an Episcopal priest said in a recent sermon,

“The deeper reality is that no matter how out of control life may seem to get, it is never beyond the power of God. Anything that happens in our lives, in our world, is not beyond the power of God’s love as revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ.”

Love conquers all because it will not stay down.

August 14, 2006

Miles and Milestones

I was de-cluttering my garage this weekend and discovered some old letters and photographs from Chris Ehlers, a friend I last worked with in 1997. We both hacked out a living at the local newspaper before he came to his senses and fled to Sun Valley, Idaho.
Chris bought himself what he called a Brady Bunch station wagon and left Georgia for Idaho with everything he owned by an irregular route that took him through New England and Canada. And though pretty much a beach bum he took readily to the high mountains, deep valleys and dark winters. He resumed his journalism career working for a weekly newspaper in Sun Valley. We both quit writing as friends will do when separated by so many miles and so many milestones.
I looked forward to surprising him with the proverbial call out of the blue, but when I tried to locate him I learned that he died in an automobile accident on March 9, 2003 in Idaho. The truck he was in hit a patch of ice. The truck rolled, he was ejected. It was a violent end to a gentle life.
I remember many things about Chris. He was born on my wife’s birthday in the year I was born. He was tall and thin, with a quick grin and an easy manner. He was a wanderer. Not lost, just enjoying the journey. On his trip West he took his time, willing to trust his own wits and the kindness of strangers. He always counted on the basic goodness of people. Not naiveté, just not ready to prejudge anyone. You had to prove to Chris you were a cad.
Chris was always amiable, even warm, but somehow distant, almost aloof. He was always friendly, but like many of us he kept the pain, the fears, doubts and dreams private, not wanting to be truly known. Chris did not easily share of himself.
How is it that I am so affected by the death of man I haven’t seen in nearly ten years and worked with for less than a year? I grieve for the promise unfulfilled, the life brought to an abrupt end. I grieve for his mother and father, for the girlfriend who was with him in the accident but emerged physically unscathed.
More than 1,000 people attended his memorial service. The friends, co-workers, and even the local politicians all agreed he was a kind man and a fair man. That’s a nice legacy.
Farewell old friend.

August 2, 2006

The Woods are Lovely, Dark And Deep

Where does our preference/desire leave off and God’s immutable truth take over? As an example, whether or not to ordain gay bishops in the Anglican Communion?
Ordaining women or gays is not even a question in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Of course they won’t. Their 2,000 years of tradition and church teaching rule out either option. Makes it easier in some way, more objective, easier to rationalize. Provides a sense of security. Alleviates the doubts.
In fact, I find it very comforting to be able to say here is the collective wisdom of the church fathers (but isn’t that patently patriarchal?) and I can rely on them without question. They almost certainly know better than I do. I should trust in the their wisdom, their being guided by the Holy Spirit and not rely on my own understanding. Almost like the old bumper sticker “God said it, I (or we) believe it, that settles it.”
Except that excluding half the population because they are the wrong gender and even more because of their sexual preference seems offensive. What about the example of Mary Magdalene? She was good enough to minister to Jesus. Was the fact that all the recorded early church leaders were men simply a product of the time, place and culture? To have twelve women in charge would have been absolutely unimaginable in first century Palestine.
Or is my wanting to accept women as equals in ministry a product of my time place and culture? I am a child of the Feminist Revolution. Is my not wanting to exclude gays a result of my falling for gay propaganda? I have a gay sister. My views about homosexuality, positive and negative, color where I come down on the issue.
The Anglican’s debate over ordaining women 30 years ago was as rancorous as the current debate about gays. Have female priests helped bring the love of God to a lost world? Without question. Did ordaining a gay bishop divide the Anglican Communion? Without question.
Are we not all created in his image? What does God say? He says judge not. But He also says we are to be the salt and the light. There has to be a limit or the concepts of sin and obedience lose all meaning.Where is the point where I know that yes is yes and no is no? Maybe I am asking too much, looking for objective truth in a subjective world.

August 1, 2006

Come, Behold

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats
“The Second Coming”

The horrific events unfolding in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Africa and in too many places around the globe bring to my mind Psalm 46. The psalmist reminds us that when war and hellfire and chaos are raining down that we are in safe hands. That when God’s will manifests itself in terrible scenes of death and destruction I (and we) are still safe in Him.
It is a Psalm that puts these tragedies in proper perspective by reminding us who is really in charge. It’s not the terrorists, it is not the Israeli’s and it is not the force of nature. Consider the text:
1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Everything changes. Maybe for better or maybe for worse, but things change. Change is inevitable. It is by design. The maker who cannot change created a universe that can doing nothing else. We can cause ourselves a tremendous amount of undue stress by wishing things would just stay the same. Wishing that children could keep their innocence and not have to grow up in such a complex, uncaring world. Wishing the mild days of spring did not have to change to the unbearable heat of high summer. Wishing the wrinkles and the aches and pains that come with the unstoppable march of age would not plague us. Wishing that loved ones would not die. If only things did not have to change. If only they could stay the same.
But they wont. They can’t. From every cell in our bodies to every star in the heavens, nothing ever remains fixed, even from moment to moment. It is one of the great pillars of truth that the sooner we accept the inevitability of change, the less we will suffer. Sometimes the change is for the better. Sometimes the change is horrific.
I vividly remember the morning of Sept 11, 2001. At work we were in the process of wrapping up a two-year project. Then I saw the footage of the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Doubt. Fear. Disbelief. Just a tragic accident?
Then the second tower was hit and our world changed forever. Gone was our sense of invincibility. Gone was our naïve innocence. Gone were nearly 3,000 innocent lives. Anger replaced fear. Resolve replaced doubt. War seemed inevitable. I thought about revenge. And I doubted. The world seems to wicked, too out of control for there to be a God.
Where was He in the midst of this unthinkable nightmare unfolding right before our eyes? Where is God in the middle of the storm? How can he allow so much suffering of the innocents?
Was does the text say?

Verse 6: The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
Verses 8 and 9: Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.

Is He on the border of Lebanon? Did He allow the events of 9/11 and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina? If we believe that He is omnipotent and omniscient, then the answer must be yes.
But how could God allow such slaughter? I don’t know, but I wish I did.
How could God allow terrorists to strike such a blow against the strongest nation on the planet? Again I don’t know.
Again, the text.

Be still and know that I Am God.

God is not asking. He is telling us to BE STILL. First we must be still because in the stillness he brings comfort and strength. In that stillness there is power beyond any wrought by the hand of man or the force of nature. That is the great mystery. This being who created the cosmos has plans we cannot know. The Bible says the wisdom of God is foolishness to men. What we can know and what we can rely on is that everything is according to His purpose.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

When the earth melts and the chariots are burning in the fire, He is the eye of the storm. The center does hold. He is our refuge. The psalm encourages us to hope and trust in God; in his power and providence, and his gracious presence in the worst of times. No matter how big the disaster, God is bigger. No matter how small and private the personal despair, there is room for God. Faith is Him brings sanity to an insane world. Faith in Him lets us stand firm when the world is falling down around us. In the words of Martin Luther, a mighty fortress is our God.
Remember that when the weight of the world is just too much, He is with us. He will not forsake us. He has sent his spirit to dwell among us and He is with us even to the end of the age. He is your refuge. His grace is sufficient.
Psalm 46 offers a change in perspective. It offers the perspective of eternity. When we are trapped in our everydayness it reminds us that we are safe and that we are loved. It reminds us that the being who spoke the very universe into existence is our refuge and our stronghold. He is our rest.

In The Everydayness

God does not live in the church sanctuary. He is in the everydayness of our lives if we but open our eyes to the vision and our ears to the song. We must be attuned to Him and be willing to respond.
As I write this it is 4:30 a.m. and I am at my kitchen table. Beside me our greyhound sleeps quietly. God is here. I feel his presence. He wanted me to get up, to take time to be with Him. Quiet time, not filled with the background noise of my too busy life. Many times, maybe on purpose, we squeeze just enough in to squeeze God out. Like automatons we go busily about our business. Then we wonder why we never feel God’s presence or guidance.
In Walker Percy’s novel, The Moviegoer, the protagonist feels trapped in a hopeless, godless modern existence he calls the “everydayness.” He fills his days in New Orleans with a seemingly endless parade of new secretaries and going to the movies where he loses himself in the “reality” of the film. His life has no meaning or purpose so he has to manufacture one. The story is an apt analogy of so many of us. We are so enthralled by the endless everydayness that we fail to find Him. By changing our focus we can see that the everydayness, while overwhelming, is also where we find Him, and He finds us.
In my daughter’s freckles, in her laughter, in her health and healthy appetite I see God’s provision and blessing. In the slow unstoppable decay of an aged grandfather I see His design that each of us is given a finite number of days. We will mourn his passing but celebrate his 90 years. The three slowly drooping yellow roses in a vase here on the table caught the attention of my 4-year-old niece. She pointed out that the flowers are dying. We told her everything and everyone dies, that’s how God made the world. In the face of a friend and fellow traveler I see the longing to know. Despite following very separate paths in life we met and found common ground, common interests. We share a willingness to ask the hard questions. In the love of my wife, the closest I will see to God’s love in this lifetime. She, like He, knows all my faults and still accepts and loves me. We find God and our happiness together in, of all places, the everydayness.