Wow!  We just had a real arctic blast.  Of course its Winter, and we expect some cold weather, but down in the “teens” for several days just about cripples us here in Texas.  We just aren’t built for that kind of weather.  Hopefully all of you stayed warm and safe.

While I was home on Monday, hunkered down under one of my mama’s quilts, with a warm cup of hot chocolate, I had some time to truly detach from everything.  My condo looks out on a busy road, so I get to glimpse the traffic at different times during the day.  Its mostly fairly busy, people bustling to and from wherever their destinations are.  With the light dusting of snow, overcast sky, and the sub freezing temperatures, as I watched out my window, the traffic was extremely light, almost non-existent many times throughout the day.  The weather had brought everything to a standstill.

Psalm 46 came to mind.  You’ll remember that psalm as it has a very familiar line in it, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  How appropriate that it should come to mind.  As I turned in my Bible to the psalm, I was struck much more deeply than I thought I would be.  We do a disservice to scripture when we pluck and choose verses to fit our circumstances.  I almost missed a real blessing by just focusing in on verse 10.

Let’s look at the whole of Psalm 46…

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

There’s a lot more here to contemplate than a Winter pause in all the frenzy.  First things first, let’s take notice of the term ‘Selah” that puncuates the psalm at various points.  It does indeed indicate a pause in the text, giving the reader an instruction to not hurry through its reading.  But its more than that, its a synonym of Hebrew words that mean “forever.”  Another meaning for this word is an instruction to the musicians, remember the psalms were worship songs of the Hebrew people.  So every time we see the word “Selah,” think of a crescendo, or the instruments swelling in sound.  A real moment where we are called  to take notice, meditate and pause.

The way the psalmist begins has my attention right off, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Did the psalmist nail it, or what?  That’s exactly what I needed to hear at that time.  The world just seems to be coming apart at the seams.  The Houthis are targeting ships with their missiles, we are striking back at them, going back and forth with such horrendous weapons of war. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict continues, with more and more wounded and killed.  The war in the Ukraine continues unabated.  There are immigrants being used as pawns along borders across the globe.  People seeking relief from the situation where they come from, only to find unfriendly persons along their journey.  There is political drama, not only here, but in many nations.  With the chilling weather, we there is even more possibility for harm and death to the most vulnerable on our streets.  Its more than I can begin to contemplate.  And then the psalmists says, “God is our refuge.”  I was hooked.  God is the one I can go to when I can’t bear any more awful news.  No matter what’s happening we don’t have to fear, we can find our safety, our refuge as the psalmist puts it, in our God.  And then the psalmist instructs for the music to swell.  I can feel my anxiety lessen almost immediately.

The next stanza of the psalm is equally comforting.  We are told in the city of God, there is joy, and in that place neither God or oy will be moved in the slightest.  Even though there is turmoil across this world, God will not abandon us or forsake us.  God is ever present, and truly is our fortification!  Again, the music comes up to emphasize this moment as one where we can rejoice.

Finally in our last stanza, the psalmist informs us, no matter what is going on, no matter who seems to have the upper hand, no matter how bad and terrible the situation seems to get, God is in charge.  God will shut down the wars, God will bring an end to hostilities and to the evil violence we’ve had to witness.  Its then the psalmist tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  It is a command, but its more than that to me, it is a comforting wise parent telling a child, ‘there is nothing to fear, I am here. Don’t be frightened, don’t be anxious, dry your tears, I am right here with you.  Just stop.  Stop all of what’s raging inside of you, and rest here in my arms.  I’ve got you, I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not going to let anything harm or have you.”  Cue the real crescendo of instruments.

Friends, I’m glad for days like we’ve just come through.  It really is a time to pull away, a time quiet dow, a time to just be still.  And in that stillness, we find God right beside us.

I hope you continue to stay warm and safe.  I hope you find time to just stop, to be still and to feel God’s arms wrap around you as God whispers in your ear, “I’ll never let you go, I’m right here.”

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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