Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Morning Meds--Fire and Brimstone

“The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.” 
Psalm 29:7

On February 23, 1944, Anne Frank stared out of a window in her attic and told her diary that no better remedy for anxiety of any type could be found than nature itself.

She was falling in love. As anyone who knows the Anne Frank story remembers, Peter, a boy from another Jewish family being hidden in the secret annex, suddenly appears and sweeps her off her feet. Just being near him calms her fears. Together they look out the window at the sky, “the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew,” and birds “glinting with silver as they swooped through the air.”

She’d been at diary-keeping for eight long months of what amounted to captivity, she and her family and the rest of the Jews in the annex, hidden away to keep them from deportation, imprisoned by their Jewishness.

“The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely, or unhappy,” she says about that attic morning with Peter, “is to go outside, somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature, and God.” And there’s a reason. “For then and only then can you think that everything is that it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity."

I hope—and I truly believe—that even urban cowboys have some realization of what she means. New York would not be what it is without Central Park, after all.

But Ms. Frank’s beautifully calm, heart-warming restoration is not something one finds abundantly in Psalm 29. That kind of thing is in Psalm 23—“he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” But being made glad by nature’s sweet simplicity is not an observation of 29. Instead we’ve got quaking mountains, exploding trees, and lightning bolts smacking the landscape like shots from a heavenly six-gun.

Millions through the ages have recited Psalm 23. Far fewer know 29. We’re in two different worlds, really.

There’s an epithet for Psalm 29-hurlers, and we’ve all used it for years. Much of this song feels like “fire and brimstone" because all hell seems to break lose. But it’s not at all “all hell”; in Psalm 29 our loving God is the one tossing thunderbolts.

Some day soon, once again, I’ll go out west with my camera and look to find the beauty of the dawn. But I hope it’s not windy. I’ll probably stay home if there’s a storm.

Six months after she wrote those lines, the Nazis deported Anne Frank and her family to Auschwitz, where she died. That she was taken away, and that she was murdered, makes her diary—and what we just read—even more precious.

But it’s good to remember, even a joy, that, sixty years ago, God almighty unleashed those thunderbolts against the Nazi blitzkrieg. It’s good to know that God almighty is not just a teddy bear, because sometimes, honestly—as difficult as it is to say—we need the ground to shake beneath us. We need heavenly conflagrations. We need to dance when shooting off those thunderbolts.

Would that Adolf Hitler, sometime in the early 30s, had listened to the voice of the thunder some stormy Black Mountain afternoon. Would that he had really heard the word of the Lord in Psalm 29.

No comments: