Sunday, August 22, 2010


I found another of my favorite books the other day while unpacking more boxes. I still have many boxes that need to be unpacked scattered throughout the house...I wonder what treasures they hold?

Earthly Good: Seeing Heaven on Earth by Martha Sterne is a collection of short chapters which I guess could be called devotionals. One of my favorite chapters is Alligators. In this particular chapter, she starts out describing her parents' 50th anniversary bash.


"All of our relatives and some of their oldest friends gathered out in the country outside of Natchez, Mississippi at an old place where Mother's family has been living and re-unioning for almost two hundred years now... It's really a peaceful sort of place, a kind of dark and green paradise.

...And mostly that house party was safe harbor time. Except for one thing. This alligator showed up...

Of course, immediately, the alligator experts among us emerged."

That line about the "alligator experts" emerging makes me laugh every time I read it. (and the advice/"facts" these experts share would make Cliff from Cheers very proud ;-)

She goes onto say,


"All in all he kind of added to the party. The Game and Fish warden said he'd come out in a couple of days to trap him and take him to a new home, but then one afternoon, the alligator just disappeared-just vanished. We looked all around...He was just not anywhere to be seen. And here's something strange: if you think seeing an eight-foot-long alligator is kind of scary, try not seeing one. Terrifying.


We said he was our first alligator but he wasn't, really. I believe that most of our deepest fears are sort of alligator fears. The alligators we see--with terrifying clarity--gliding fast and hungry towards us or towards someone we love. And the alligators we don't see--the ones holding their breath, biding their time, just under the surface, waiting in the dark and the muddy places. Some of us spend our whole lives worrying about the alligators that we don't see. And then there are those of us who just jump right into alligator-infested waters, maybe because we are careless or foolish or proud or greedy or even maybe just innocent.

The alligator--the chaos, the storm, the danger, the divorce, the illness, the crisis--and the human response--what you and I do in the midst of chaos--and the presence of God in the chaos--these are profound issues of faith...God's presence even at the worst of times--that's the heart of the matter. And our trust--not in ourselves but in God--is what we work out or work to avoid working out all of our lives.


The hard news is that the Creator does not place us and our pain in the center of the universe. And we are never, ever going to control the chaos and we're never, ever going to control God, not even by doing it all right, not even by our morality, not even by our faithfulness. Job, for instance, stayed faithful through the worst that can happen...And he hurt bad and the chaos swirled anyway. And that seems like bad news to me.

But listen. Somewhere in the mystery of God--we don't know how, we don't know why--that hard word, that bad news, touches good news, touches gospel, touches grace. And the hard words of suffering and chaos and the gentle words of grace and deliverance are both true in a cross-shaped way that we cannot understand, but only experience. The mystery of God is that the Word of God speaks not only out of the storm but into the storm. The mystery of God is that the Word of God--hard and graceful--became flesh and dwelt among us, because God is Emmanuel. God is with us. And sooner or later the wind will cease. And there will be great calm."

I just love that.


  1. ...And the hard words of suffering and chaos and the gentle words of grace and deliverance are both true in a cross-shaped way that we cannot understand, but only experience.

    WOW - that's beautiful!
    Thanks for sharing. DO

  2. That was great! Thanks for sharing it!