I had been trying to process the news about Nepal.
Nearly 5,000 dead.
Then there was the avalanche on Mt. Everest caused by the earthquake.
More rapid death.
And last night, in the middle of another downpour of badly needed rain, I was watching Baltimore burn.
Hatred, violence, looting, destruction. That’s all I saw.
We’d be more encouraged if we never watched the news perhaps. Yet I can’t help it. I’ve been a news hound since the age of twelve. And so I watch and read. I learn of natural catastrophes around the world, 7.8 earthquakes, mounting death tolls, and massive avalanches.
And social and cultural seismic shifts just as great.
I stare at the banner headlines:
Race to stop ISIL in USA
“Destroyed by thugs”
Hope crumbling in quake’s aftermath
High court split on gay marriage
Are these current events or is this divine judgment?
“The earth is violently broken, The earth is split open, The earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard,And shall totter like a hut;Its transgression shall be heavy upon it,And it will fall, and not rise again” (Isaiah 24:19-20, NKJV).
It’s a somber indictment from an ancient prophet.
As I sat there I also thought about the past three months of my own life.
Walking pneumonia led to severe coughing which led to a broken vertebra which led to too much pain medicine which led to a perforated ulcer, emergency surgery and a week in the hospital far from home.
The day after I arrived back in Dallas, my younger brother told me he’d been diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer. It had spreads to his liver. Beth and I went to Ohio to visit Allen and Marianne.
Allen and I went fishing like we had as kids – out in a boat, just the two of us. Remembering, laughing, and mimicking those stalwarts from our youth who are now long gone. We relished the time. I yearned for it to stand still.
We caught two bass and threw them back.
In his aging blue Ford pickup I saw an old campaign button pinned to the visor. I Back Jack. Sibling loyalty.
It was a good and necessary visit. I wanted to be with him before he started chemo. He would soon have to surrender to a miserable poison injected to save his life.
I had told Allen when he first called I’d gladly trade places with him if I could. I had prayed with him on the phone. I didn’t make it to the amen. Allen’s a believer. He’s trusting God.
So for me it hasn’t been the easiest time, or the best of days.
The earth was reeling. Sometimes so was I.
Just as I was watching a senior citizen center burning to the ground in Baltimore, I got a text from Rob Veal. Rob is the associate pastor of our church. He’s a neighbor of ours, a great guy and a great worship leader.
“Jack”, he wrote, “step outside your door and look up to the east … one day he will come from there … think about it!”
As I got up from the couch I noticed it had stopped raining. Rays of sunlight sliced through retreating clouds. I walked out my door and to the end of my sidewalk and looked up.
A beautiful rainbow graced the eastern sky.
I stared at it and felt an unexpected tear. I swallowed.
It was such a sudden and clarifying juxtaposition – the angry turmoil on television and the silent beauty in the sky.
As I stood gazing, I thought of God and his covenant. He had observed the world he had made and “the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.” (Genesis 6:5, NLT).
Then it says in verse seven that “the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart” (NLT).
He had pronounced everything “very good” five chapters earlier upon the completion of his creation. Now “it grieved him at his heart” (KJV).
But after he destroyed the human race and spared Noah, God placed a sign of his love in the sky. It was “the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations” (Genesis 9:12, KJV).
God called it “my bow in the cloud” (verse 13, KJV). “I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant…” (verse 16, KJV).
We remember too when we look at the rainbow.
God still reigns in the midst of man’s rebellion. He loves us and we are in his hands. So are our loved ones. He can destroy, yes. But he can heal too. And he does. He is the God of might and miracles; of grace and mercy and comfort.
Someday his Son will split the eastern sky in triumphant return.
This is still his world. You and I are still his children.
Don’t ever forget that. No matter what happens to you or the ones you care about.
I remembered – when God knocked on my door.
May God bless you and your family.