(John 6:11-12) "And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost..."
Yesterday I had barely planted the last petunia in one of my flower beds, when a storm hit, with driving rain, lightning, and in some places--hailstones. I ran indoors to a darkened house, for the power had also gone off all over town.
(Job 36:27) "For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapor thereof."
Such storms are a rarity in this part of the world, ours are more in the form of winter blizzards. But to me, it was rather nice. I can remember so many from my childhood days in Texas. Everything is so refreshed, and there is a certain calmness once the storm has passed that is almost like the trees themselves are speaking praises and gratitude for the refreshing rain.
Then this morning I rose early. As I sat down to this computer, I looked outside to see the sunrise. A bit of Alaska primal forest is in my view; cottonwoods, spruce, willow, and birch trees rise above the spring wild rose bushes--such a beautiful and lovely sight! But as I sat here, I saw something that startled me. At first, it almost looked as if there was a fire and smoke; for puffs of steam were rising from the forest, almost like the plumes of active volcanoes. They rose, spiraled upward. then vanished into thin air. Hundreds of them! Then I realized what had happened. The rain had soaked everything, and as the morning sunrays appeared, they began to draw those droplets back to where they came from--heavenward.
"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14)
But as I watched this incredible sight, another thought came to me. For there had been an event the past few days which was as unexpected as that storm--my dear friend and travel partner, Sandy, had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Since 1986 I have been traveling the world part-time, doing ministry; especially into Asia. Various women have gone with me to India, Malaysia, Singapore, China, and other places. But the last two journeys I have had Sandy with me. A registered nurse and former director of our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, Sandy was also a leader of our church women's fellowship and a capable teacher of the Bible. She loved to travel! Sandy had decided on a year of study at Rhema Bible College while I stayed home to battle another round of medical problems. Actually, we were waiting for me to get stronger from several surgeries and also my fourth bout of cancer. Then she planned to return home to Alaska and her family, spend the summer and travel with me again in the fall. But now, within the space of one week--all was changed. It was Sandy that was the concern now. Would Sandy survive the surgery? Would Sandy have her memory intact? Would God heal her?
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference."
What words! Serenity--Courage--Wisdom. Jesus Himself taught us how to handle change, but for all of us, it is never an easy assignment.
So as I watched those ghostly fumaroles rising from the damp earth this morning, I could not help but see a comparison between them and us; we too are sent to this planet to bring a blessing. Some raindrops remain for a long time to soak down through the soil; to nourish and sustain the living things and to become part of the streams, lakes, and oceans. But others are with us but a brief time, like those early morning vapors that are then are drawn back heavenward, just as our spirits return to where they came.
Yet each of us have been given the privilege of prayer. Prayer is but asking God to intervene with the way things naturally occur. I do not need to explain it, for I cannot. I only know it is our only hope, and that over and over again I have seen God answer.
When I visted a trial group in Sabah, Borneo, I asked the chief what he needed most--I would pray to God for him. "Rain," he said. "We have had no rain for three months." So we prayed for God to bless his people with rain. Before we could walk less than 100 yards back to the end of the longhouse, a deluge hit! And it rain all night long! About 3 AM I got up and walked out on the balcony watching the torrent and thanking the Lord for such an instant answer to our prayers. And then, suddenly, the sky turned red. It was a frightening sight. What was it? We heard people running and shouting--the mission school across the river was on fire! Family members rushed to the longboats and rowed across, frantic for fear of their children who attended the school. In about an hour they returned. "The rain put out the fire!" they exclaimed. There was such rejoicing that night...and before we left the next morning, the entire house had received the Lord Jesus as their savior.
In Malaysia, a Buddist man decided to plant two acres of watermelons and he brought out his priest to bless the land. But when the seeds began to sprout, a heat wave hit, and the watermelons were in danger of dying. His wife was a Christian, and told him he should let her pastor come and pray for the field. Desperate, he gave permission. "I will not pray for the fields until they remove the idols, and I will only pray in the name of Jesus Christ," the pastor told the man. Finally, he relented and had the idols removed. The pastor then went to the middle of the fields, knelt down, and asked the Lord to send rain..but only on the two acres. Soon, rain began to fall...but only on the two acres. God miraculously saved the fields.
Jesus prayed over two loaves of bread and few fishes to feed 5,000 people. Impossible to happen--but after feeding all those people, he turned to His disciples and ordered them to take up all the fragments--that none be lost. There were twelve basketfuls remaining! We may think yesterday's rainstorm was an isolated and insignificant event among trillions; but what we actually witnessed was a fragment of the very first rainfall. Nothing has been lost!
"For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground, yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant." (Job 14:7-9)
When you and I see this in its proper perspective, we can accept the things we cannot change and change the things we can. Courage must come from our hearts--a willingness to defeat our fears with faith. And in this case, petitioning the One who sent both Sandy and the rain as a blessing; for one tiny raindrop to remain awhile longer, and to flow among the streams, rivers, and oceans of our planet instead of returning so quickly as vapor.
Selfishly, for ourselves? Not really, For it was the Living Water that Jesus spoke about that made Sandy live in the first place, and because she thirsted for it and drank from the well, her heart is to share the same with others, and to bring with her, wherever she goes-- a raindrop of Living Water to another dead tree.
"Fear not; believe only, and she shall be made whole." (Luke 8:50)
That, is wisdom.
MARY E. ADAMS