Monday, April 18, 2011

Felling Trees

April showers bring May flowers. Surely the person who first gave wind to those words lived here in the mountains of Georgia because April seems always to be the month of deluge before May inevitably pins sun's yellow yolk to velvet blue skies. This year the rains have been accompanied by tornado warnings, crazy buckets of hail, darkened skies electrocuted by lightning and convulsive thunder. It's been years since I've seen a spring with this many storms in short succession. At the entrance to our subdivision, my neighbors' house sits beneath towering poplars and oak trees. I called to check in on them after we'd passed yet another spring storm, when they told me they were going to have some trees cut down. Explaining that during the previous nights' winds they watched those trees sway perilously close to their home, they were confident that left to another nasty storm, those trees could do significant damage to their life's investment. I understood. Easily twice the height of their three story home, I couldn't help but consider those trees as I drove by their house later that week. No matter the soundness of their home, it remained no match for the havoc those poplars could wreak. They would have to be felled. Psalm 29:9 says, "The Lord's shout bends the large trees and strips the leaves from the forests. Everyone in his temple says, "Majestic!"" In our lives, have we not known some great and insurmountable tree that towers dangerously close to the people and things we hold dear? I've watched drug and alcohol addiction sway over the heart and mind of someone I desperately love. I've seen foreclosure notices cloud the skies and crowd the lives of dear friends, and I've known pain and hurt left to grow into giants that threatened once happy marriages. Yes, I've known trees that needed a good felling. And our God is able to do that with one shout. One single shout from our Creator bends the very things that threaten to overtake our lives. Just as the storm the other night sucked the dogwood blossoms from the arms of their trees, one shout from our God strips circumstances of the power they appear to have in our lives. Psalm 29 goes on to say, "The Lord sits enthroned over the engulfing waters, the Lord sits enthroned as the eternal king." There's a dam not far from our home that serves to regulate the amount of water held in our lake and used for power production. Only a few times in my life have I known that dam to be filled to capacity and the waters to pour over like the falls of Niagara. It is in that state now--a surging army of frothy water perpetually cascades over the dam. Armed with cameras, people are driving out there just to see the sight. Flooded lives though are not so breathtaking, are they? Interestingly that is the word David uses here to describe the water. Flood. It's the same word used in Genesis to describe the great flood of mankind. This is the only other place in the Old Testament where that same word is used. Imagine a situation so great in David's life that the only thing he could liken it to was the very flood that swallowed humanity, plants, animals and life in one gulp! What I love about that passage is not the description of the circumstances but the picture David painted of God. God is sitting enthroned over the engulfing waters. Reminiscent of Jesus' own slumbering amidst New Testament storms on the Galilean Sea, our Father remains so in control that he has not even had to get up off his throne to handle the situations in our lives. He is still on the throne of all creation, still seated as sovereign King. This is our God. So able, that though the contents of our lives may appear to be overflowing and our own ability to hold them together may be entirely maxed out, He remains unfazed and utterly able. The last verse of that chapter says, "The Lord gives his people strength; the Lord grants his people security." I love grants because they are free. God requires nothing in the granting of strength to his people. The Hebrew phrasing here implies a military type of strength. The idea that when things seem beyond our ability to handle, God will bring in reinforcements is so reassuring. The reality of our lives is that He never leaves us to face giants alone. He never turns His back when the waters spill over our worlds. Instead, He freely gives His people the security of knowing that He remains enthroned. Remains able. Remains in control. Our God remains. So my neighbors will have a tree guy come do his thing. He's an expert in the taking down of trees whose limbs threaten the stability of a home. But what about you and I? Where will we turn for the felling of situations and circumstances in our own worlds? It is so tempting to take matters into our hands, to exhaust every avenue possible to find resolution. Yet there are times when the truth is we need to simply, "Be still and know that He is God." (Psalm 46:10) A picture comes to mind of little me planted like a spider inside some small lifeboat at the edge of the dam attempting to prevent myself from being carried over the edge by the rushing water. Furiously rowing, I am fighting a battle never meant to be won by my feeble arms. There are times in our lives, when we have to surrender to the flood and the trees and the storms. There are times when we need to ask God to help us see the spiritual world around us instead of the physical. What if in that same picture I could see God--the greater, invisible hand that cradles my little boat. "Faith," my friends is the very "substance of things hoped for, the evidence not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) We may not be able to see the hands of our Father at work, but we can stand in the security that He is working. May we hear the shouts of our Father. May we sense His presence. May we live amidst the storms in the greater reality that our God remains on the throne, unfazed. "And if our God is for us, than who can stand against?" (Romans 8:31)