Monday, May 7, 2007

Monday Moment: The Middle of the Movie

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad
the city of God... God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
-Psalm 46:1-5

Not even a year ago, I lived and worked one county over from Greensburg, Kansas. I was there on business - for nine months - and loved it. The whole area reminded me of Mayberry - so quiet, clean, and mannerly. The people didn't have much, but they were industrious, hard-working, friendly people who kept their neighbors close and their families closer.

I was shocked yesterday to see more aerial news coverage of the devastation of Friday's tornado. The town looks like a city dump. Nine people are dead. Hundreds are huddled in Red Cross shelters. Everyone is shocked. Stunned. Bewildered. A few hours ago, police arrested soldiers... four Fort Riley soldiers... for looting. The town is leveled and the very ones there to protect it are looting it for cigarettes and beer.

Ten years ago, I went to college with a guy named Eric. He was a troublemaker at our Baptist college - showing up for chapel services drunk and taunting guest lecturers and Bible professors. He had nothing in common with me or my roommate, but came over often for dinner. My old roommate and I are both Christians. "Why? Why do you believe that crap?" Eric would ask. And we'd tell him. And he'd scoff. Stupid, naive girls, his glances would say, what a waste.

When he would leave, we would pray for Eric. We'd ask God to become real in Eric's life... to show him that there is a God and He wanted to be Eric's God, too.

Late one night, Eric pounded on our door. "Just tell me this," he slurred. "If God's so great and so good, why doesn't He do something about all the hurting in the world? Why did he let my family fall apart?" I could hear anger... and hurt... in his voice. "Figure that one out, and maybe you'll have something."

I've been emailing one of you amazingly talented fellow bloggers this week. We've talked about God... about who He is... about faith and what we believe. And as I sat down to type, I made her this disclaimer: I have no theology degrees. I never went to seminary. In fact, I have a law degree. I like questions. I like answers. I like debate. I like facts and evidence. In reality, I'm just a girl ... a girl with a Bible and a little faith who's pushed God and questioned God and doubted God but ultimately taken God at His word.

And speaking of His Word, I love that passage in Psalm 46. God is our refuge and strength, it says, before going on to describe landslides and earthquakes and floods. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God... okay, that's nice, too. Except Jerusalem is the "city of God", and last time we all checked, there's no river there. The first time I read that, I got confused. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God... yep, that's what it says. And Jerusalem has no river. Suddenly I was back in college, with Eric reading over my shoulder. "And this is the Bible you take so literally," he'd say. "It's so off. It can't even keep its rivers straight."

And just like in college, I was on the case. I researched. I hunted for evidence. Why does this lovely passage put a river where there isn't one? Then I found it. The explanation. "Jerusalem has no river, unlike Thebes," says an NIV concordance. "Yet she had a 'river'. Here the 'river' serves as a metaphor for the continual outpouring of the sustaining and refreshing blessings of God."

Suddenly it all lined up. Here's the Bible... talking about devastation. Desperation. Terrible times. A time like we live in. And here's a place with no river. The city of God. Why did God put His city in a wasteland? Why didn't He establish it near water? Surely a sparkling river would have benefited His people just as answers - hard and fast answers - would benefit us. Gosh, a city with no river. A time with few answers....

...Or, is it?

Jerusalem has no literal river. Yet, she has a God who's willing and able to be her river... her life-sustaining, blessing-bringing channel. And we... we have disasters. Man made ones. Natural ones. We have no control over them and we have no answers to justify them. Yet we have an ever-present help, a God who is "within" and among us, who will help at break of day.

I'll put it this way: God's ways... they're so much higher than ours. And His plans... they've been established since before time. For us to question God's plans or timing or reasoning is an exercise in futility. We - you and I - are witnessing such a brief snapshot of God's overall plan. We're walking into the movie halfway through, then leaving after a few seconds. Of course it doesn't make sense. Of course everything in front of us - the disasters, the chaos, the trouble - looks as if it will end badly. The middle of movies often do, and we've been born into a show that's been playing out for some time.

Those verses in Psalms... it starts by saying God is here. Ever-present. Then it describes the trouble we'll see... the lack of a physical river we'll have. Then it reminds us that God is "within us" and "will help at break of day". God's there, there will be trouble, and God will step in. After the night... after a time of darkness... He will help. If that isn't an elementary outline of God's great plan, I don't know what is.

So no matter what we see on TV this week, remember: God's a refuge and strength. No matter what's happening in your life, remember: there is a river... even when you don't see one. There is a blessing-bringing, life sustaining source that's yours for the taking - even in the barren wasteland of a current situation. And no matter what the rest of this movie holds - no matter who attacks or what falls from the sky or who shoots whom, hang on and don't forget. Don't forget: God will help at break of day.

Gosh, that was a difficult devotion to write. But I like the hard ones. I like talking about what we see, and where God is when it's all going down. But really, maybe I should have asked for help explaining all this. Maybe I should have called Eric...

... after all, that drunk, angry, sneering college kid... well, he ended up believing in God. He realized that despite the trouble in his life, God was there, ready to be his help, and had a plan for him. In fact, someone told me Eric's thinking about taking a group up to Kansas this week to help out.

Eric's a preacher now. And boy, ten years ago - in the middle of that movie - I never would have guessed it would end like this.

Monday Moment is just a little devotional to help kick start your week. See you again next Monday!


Unknown said...

Wow, that was a powerful one today, and so glad to hear that Eric found his way! My prayers go out to Greenburg, just can't imagine what they are going through and how easy it could of been any of us! Blessings Brin!!

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Brin, as usual, your Monday devotional is right one. What a great ending to Eric's story, thanks so much for sharing all that you are learning from God. Life is so hard, but we must remember who is in charge at all times.

I also didn't know you had a law degree (so you don't practice?). My niece that I told you about is graduating this month from law school. We are very proud of her!

A. RHoda

Anonymous said...

i love the movie analogy. i've never heard this one and i love it. thanks so much. very encouraging. Auntie M

Suzanne said...

Thanks Brin for the reminder that God's plan is so much broader than we can see, and questioning "why" things happen or God's plans is futile....just trust and obey.

Remember I posted that I graduated from ETBU? And my parents still live in the area?

You mentioned you have a law Dad just retired from his law practice in Rusk, and as a retirement gift, the attorneys and judges gave him a Bible as a gift.

Blessings on your week,


Anonymous said...

Just what I needed, thanks for the reminder! Love ya girl!

Betty said...

Brin, your posts are always uplifting and inspiring. I'm so grateful that our almighty God is so patient and loving.....

He had never let me down but I can't say the same for myself but thankfully He is merciful and forgiving........

~~Mikki Jo said...

Wow! Thanks for such a thought provoking devotional. It spoke volumes to my heart and my head. Thanks so much Brin.

Lana Manis said...

Wow, thought provoking and moving. I totally agree with you. God's ways are so much higher than our ways. Thank you.