This has been a very challenging week. On Tuesday I visited John and Ella Mae Lindamood at their home. She had a small stroke on Friday (the day Maggie was born) and seemed to be recovering. Ella Mae could talk and walk and even play Farkle. I showed her the pictures of the baby and thought about how nice it would be to see her holding Maggie. Then I prayed and left.
I had no idea that the very next day she would have a stroke that would lead to the end of her life. I sat in the hospital with John on Wednesday night. She died yesterday morning. They have had a 61 year marriage and have truly been each other's best friends. The sadness is just overwhelming.
Today I went to the morning session of the National Convocation which is a gathering of African American disciples of Christ from all over the country. The Bible study by Rick Lowry really touched me.
The theme for the convention is "Be Still and Know" which is a quote from psalm 46. And he started by talking about the major question of the Psalms: How can we worship our God when we are in exile? Here is the Psalm:
1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
6The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
This Psalm is one that is very familiar to me - I read it often to people in the hospital when something catastrophic has happened. And that line "Be still and know" is often a mantra for me.
This morning I learned a lot more about the Psalm
1. . God is our refuge and strength - a refuge is a place of safety.
2. "A help especially found in the midst of troubleS - in the Hebrew it is plural. The word for help is the same word used in Genesis 2:18 as God who called everything in creation GOOD or VERY GOOD said it is NOT GOOD to be alone and created a HELPER. And that helper is a "corresponding opposite", that is one who is not above you or below you, but one who is with you face to face. So that the reminder is that when we are in troubleS, God is with us.
3. Selah - No one seems to know exactly what it means - perhaps it is a musical refrain in between verses of the Psalm that is sung. Maybe it is just a PAUSE as we allow the words of the Psalmist to soak in. I like that - because I keep learning that too often I just keep moving and miss the real message. God is with us - can we pause with that?
4. The Lord of hosts is with us - that is the heavenly hosts - Yahweh is the commander in chief of the armies of heaven
5. The God of Jacob - he reminded us that Jacob goes into exile in Mesopamia and that God is especially present with Jacob in the midst of troubles.
6. he makes wars cease - STOP - using the same word as in Genesis 2: 1-4. The 7th day when God stopped work. Here he stops war!
7. Be still means - relax and don't give up because God is here.
8. Exalted - I am rising up in the world. "I am a rising tide that lifts all boats.
It reminds me of the verse that I carry with me ever since Bible school where Jesus said “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17)
There are times when I am struck by how hard life can be. It is not good to be alone and so we find - if we are lucky - a partner for our lives. And then it is so hard when they leave us to go to be with God. And then we feel like we are in exile - away from home and lost. But today as we spent time with this ancient text I remembered again that there is nowhere we go - no valleys or pits - that God is not with us.
Be still and know that I am God I am with you.