“God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of struggle. Therefore we will not fear, for though the mountains may quake, if they are even tossed into the seas, though the waters of those seas are in turmoil and tempest… For there is a river that brings joy into the realms of God…” – Psalm 46:1-4
As I write these words, my black-feathered friend, my monastic muse, Barnabas the raven, is finding shelter beneath the eaves of my hermitage for the rains are pouring down in torrents. The lightning and thunder have already passed by, but now the waters have come upon us. Off the edges of our metal roof, the rain has turned itself into a waterfall, the rain barrel is full to overflowing. And yet through it all, Barnabas has remained remarkably calm. I sense this is so because he has learned the ways of rainstorms and how wise ravens can endure them all.
Storms come; lightning flashes; thunder rolls; rains fall. It is all a part of Creation, a Creation declared good by the Lord. Yet, storms and human souls have always had a somewhat nervous relationship … at least, on our side of that relationship. Storms can be scary. And though storms must inevitably be, they still can be dangerous encounters and we are often so vulnerable in their midst. For reasons known only to God, we human creatures need shelter to survive the storms. We can’t control the storms, the lightning bolts and the thundering threats they bring, we only endure them.
The Psalmist so often sings of the sheltering ministry of God with verses such as, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in stormy times, in times of struggle.” The Psalmist and many other voices in Scripture keep reminding us that there is something about the Divine Nature that provides our humanity with shelter from the storms. These voices remind us that the human spirit somehow finds strength within the shelter of God.
Today, Barnabas, being a wise fellow, has found shelter in the eaves of my cabin. I sense, that in his way, Barnabas is thankful for the shelter that Greyfriars’ Abbey has provided him. And my guess … is that when storms come to this small patch of the universe, Barnabas keeps coming here for shelter.
How does God go about providing folks like you and me refuge and shelter? As for myself, in those stormy times, I come running home to the warming place within the Presence of God. In my thoughts, I come running home to that place in which there is a warming fire, a loving place by a mystical hearth of Radiant Love. By this time in my life, I can make my way back there in the journey of but a moment or two … I can quickly find that steady and stable place within my soul, that reassuring and comforting place built by God, that place where somehow my courage is rekindled and God’s peace is restored. In the midst of the crisis, in that moment when I fear I am alone in the storm, I now go at once to that Home Place where I find once more that hearth in my heart where glows the love of God. And there I find courage, I find peace, I find strength to face the storm and endure it.
Life, let’s face it, has its scary storms, those places where our vulnerability seems far too exposed. Crises, conflicts, setbacks, confrontations, places in time where the storms outside us stir up the fears within us. There is usually no place to run to, no place to hide … but, at least, in our inner souls, there at the Center, we can always find that inward sheltering place where the Realm of God is well known.
And as Christians in this often stormy world … we are to become ourselves as hearths of Christian love, warming fires and cups of hot chocolate for souls struggling in a sometimes cold and threatening world. We become shelters for rain-soaked souls needing some refuge from another passing storm. We become, in our living as Christ, shelters of understanding warmth and reassuring courage.
Well, the rains are beginning to subside and Barnabas is beginning to stretch his wings. And we are thankful … for we have survived yet one more storm.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— Visit my poetry site, Willow Words, by clicking www.willowwordspoetry.wordpress.com .
Also visit my new Psalter site for a reading of the Psalms www.thepsalmsbybrotheranthony.wordpress.com