3/10/19 Kitty Taz figure-8’s around my feet as I walk through the kitchen. Barefoot, I like to pause by the register hidden under the lower cabinet midway between the sink and stove, Taz’s sleep-spot ‘til he decides to join me in repose. Warmth figure-8’s join the pawed pause of leg rubbing-patent purring-nose bumping-“come on just some head scratches” insistence for attention – which I finally provide. And then he nips my finger tips and wanders off, leaving a vacancy in the heat and my laughter. He knows what he wants – all of it, when he wants it – now, how much he wants – plenty, and that’s it, he’s gone. In the white noise of news from the living room TV comes the steady flow of bad, a building wave engulfing sunshine mirroring off the mind moment I enjoy. Partisanship, tornadoes, murders, trials, weather warnings, war, destruction – and a little heart- warming story tucked in as the broadcaster jumps from grief to grief with that lackluster, dead serious expressionless “teaser” for a breaking news story “right after these words from our sponsor.” The gnarling wake pulls away the little moment of sand castle in the warm breeze at my feet, stumbles back reality that wants its head scratched in some way I can no longer fathom.
The daily devotions pamphlet took me to a chapter of the Bible I have never touched. Just 3 chapters, “Joel” speaks to times of great despair, of locusts and invasions, famine and desolation. Of judgement. And also of our God’s great love and graciousness – “But the Lord will be a refuge for his people/a stronghold for the people of Israel”(3:16). A thought trickled across my mind as I read the accompanying meditation, a little note I have often seen in texts, on Facebook, or in posts. “Man built the Titanic. God built the ark.” I don’t think I’ve ever been more mindful of what man has built and is building compared to the wondrous works of God, His son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. In this restructuring, quickly changing world, the foundation on which we build the “castles” seems weaker and weaker. Greed supplants care and love. “My way or the highway” displaces discourse, compromise, and workable progress. Divisiveness gouges community with the roar of voice and the silence of hearing. A little more sand trickles away. People bless “thoughts and prayers” across chasms of suffering and forget or refuse necessary action for “our hands” to do “God’s work.” Shouts of what matters often override the truths of God’s word. And it blares from the screens and radios, riles from social media, and finds platform in hopelessness as the sand castles fall.
And here, our little church plugs along. The cornerstone firm. The quilts go out, made with loving hands and accepted by hands in need with love in return. Our missions of the month touch lives, a figure-8 wrapping warm relief and aide around weak legs in need of buttress. Mittens on a yule tree, care packages to kids off to college, away from nests for the first time, Bible classes, hospitality, sharing the peace, prayer chains with phoned contacts and visits to bring a living God’s message, genuinely shared grief that brings hugs of assurance and hope of a better next minute or hour or day. Not the big ever so needed miracles, but the in the moment care and Christian love that has no words, just the action that says “God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is with us all the time.”
Taz is back, wanting his spot. I move and he plops, snorts a purrreoww. I move to the keyboard. I cannot imagine my world without God in it. That defines “hell” for me – the absence of God and His assurance that, in faith, this life but brings another. Joel spoke in Old Testament “fire and brimstone”, the justice of God. And spoke to hope and assurance of a loving God as well. “A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house…”(3:18). That flow figure-8’s our lives and keeps us from placing all our hopes in the fleeting beauty of sand castles. submitted by Dave Smith