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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

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Main | new beginnings, new grace »

through the waters

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.” 

Isaiah 43:1-2


An apt passage for this day. 

God reminds us that he is our Creator. The Hebrew word for creator is bara, and it means that He made something out of nothing. The same word is used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the Heavens.” This kind of creating cannot be done by human hands. 

Next he reminds us that he formed us. This word is yatsar and is most often used in reference to a potter. The idea is being squeezed into shape connoting a narrow place or a distressing situation. To be sure when God is forming us, it feels narrow and constricting.


As I sit here this morning, a soft rain falls on the roof outside - the remnants of Harvey. This week has been hell for many as the torrential rains of Harvey have left a path of devastation and death. The faces of those displaced and barely alive have burned into my soul. The kindness of strangers and the teamwork in rescues have brought me to tears. Prayers for these folks are on my lips all day. I am not one to step in with a Bible verse like “take 2 and call me in the morning.” When this degree of devastation occurs, we have to sit in the ashes before reaching for the cure. It feels like now we don't have the luxury of sitting. That will come later. Now is the time for us to bring diapers and clean underwear. To send money to those on the ground in Houston. To pray all day and all night. To house refugees if possible. To hold people while they cry and turn faces to God who is our Healer. 


Even now as we are about practical things, we can share our own stories of suffering. I have known periods of darkness when the hand of God seemed to be against me. My circumstances shouted that God had forsaken me. His plan seemed to be about destruction of me and my family and not for our good. My path to find the true face of God included those who shared their suffering, heartache and pain. In naming the truth about my circumstances and feelings, I found an empathetic God who did not spare His Son but gave Him freely for our healing.


Many in Nashville are all too close to the scenarios playing out on tv and social media. Our neighborhood flooded in 2010. I’ve heard from more than one friend about heart palpitations and anxiety as they ache for Houston. We in Nashville are quick to understand that the magnitude of this flood is much greater. But the comfort born from empathy is a true balm for the hurting. 


The Isaiah passage speaks of waters and rivers, fire and flames, captivity and displacement. It tells us of a God who is there in it with us. So often in suffering we feel alone. “Faith is putting ourselves quietly into God’s hands for Him to do His work.” Andrew Murray said those words some 175 years ago. 


I think it’s ok to ask “Why God?” or “Where is God?” because it reveals a searching heart. Literally in the next breath, the seeker could be confronted with the very real presence of God. Sometimes it looks like “Where is God?” and then a moment of seeing His presence in the kindness of a stranger or in a photo showing racial unity or in a sunset. 


In suffering we are reminded to live moment by moment. This moment is all we really have. We can tell the truth about where we are… searching or resting or raging. 


Andrew Murray also said, “Surrender yourself this very moment to abide wholly, only, always in Jesus. It is the work of a moment. Remember, Christ’s renewed acceptance of you is also the work of the moment. Be assured that He has you and holds you as his own, and that each new ‘Jesus, I do abide in you,’ meets with an immediate and hearty response from the Unseen One. No act of faith can be in vain. He immediately takes hold of us anew and draws us close to himself. Therefore, as often as the message comes, or the thought of it comes, Jesus says: ‘Abide in Me, do it at once.’ Each moment there is the whisper: ‘Do it now.’”


In any moment, He is ready to accept and receive and comfort. Do it now. 


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