Friday, December 20, 2013

Everyday Theology

You may have seen this Thai Life Insurance commercial (you can watch it here), entitled “The Silence of Love.” It’s a powerful image of a father’s love, and the effect on his daughter as she sees what he’s done for her. I’d encourage you to watch it. We actually used this video in one of our Sunday School classes at New Hope, in which we're evaluating cultural messages (in the form of advertisements) in light of Scripture. 

In this commercial, we see a teenage daughter, angry that her father is deaf and mute—unlike everyone else’s fathers. She ultimately comes to the point of attempted suicide, and is rushed to the hospital. Her father is distraught and ends up giving his own blood for a transfusion to save her life—and at the conclusion of the video she finally recognizes and receives his love for her.

But if that’s where we stop, we miss out. Stories or images like this show something of human love, but ultimately they point beyond themselves to our God.

Think about it like this: If you enjoy watching for wildlife, when you see a shadow of a large bird skimming along the ground, your first reaction is to look up in the direction of the sun. Shadows do not exist in and of themselves; they are always cast by something solid. 

And although it may be easy to think of “theology” as abstract and less “real” than the everyday experiences in our lives, the opposite is true. This world—though twisted by the fall—is full of shadows that point us to the real source of those shadows. There are parables all around that point us to God if only we take the time to notice them. Over time, we can better learn to recognize and come to know what is actually casting those shadows.

The Thai Life Insurance commercial gives us a glimpse of the powerful and self-sacrificial love of a father for his daughter. Doesn’t this remind us of something else as well? Human love is imperfect, but it point to the reality and source of all that love: Jesus giving His blood for us—the transfusion that gives us life. Of course, God is not deaf or mute: It’s just that we’ve been covering our ears so we can’t hear His words to us. Our Father loves us so much that He gave His own life for us. But these glimpses of love around us—shadows of the source of all love—point us to the One who is casting those shadows.

Of course, this all takes a little imagination. If we assume that God is simply the exact reflection of our capacity to love, give, forgive, then we end up with petty gods like the Greek pantheon. We end up with big humans. But if we recognize that every shadow, however insubstantial it is, gives evidence to something far more solid that is actually casting that shadow, then we are on the road towards a weightier theology.

Another example. Whenever we screw up and hurt someone else, but then experience their forgiveness, we catch a glimpse of a greater forgiveness. Jesus gives us the prayer “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” In a sense, whenever we forgive—however imperfectly—we are learning and coming to know God’s forgiveness a little better. When you let go of a grudge and give it over to God, you begin to realize, “Wow…God actually forgives and releases me, and extends goodwill toward me—even me, with all that I’ve done against Him (far more than anyone else has done to me!)…”

And there are more shadows pointing to the greater reality. Each morning when you get dressed, that everyday action points you to Isaiah 61:10 (“he has clothed me with garments of salvation…”). When you take a shower—nothing special about it in itself—you see a shadow that points to the greater reality that your sins having been washed away by Christ (the same thing that baptism points to in a special way). When you sit down to your ordinary breakfast of eggs and toast, you catch a glimpse of the truly life-giving nourishment of Jesus’ body and blood, received in faith like you receive your breakfast by picking up your fork to eat it (the same thing that the Lord’s Supper points to in a special way).

Theology seems abstract until we see the shadows that God has cast in the midst of our everyday lives. Scripture attunes us to these shadows and then points us to the reality itself: God Himself. So every time we give or receive forgiveness or love, every time we get dressed, take a shower, or enjoy a meal, we’re having a theology lesson. If only we will stop and take notice of the shadow, and then look up beyond it. And then we may actually come to know the One who is casting the shadow…That’s everyday theology.

News from Bangor and New Hope

Some recent updates on life in Maine:
  • Over the winter, I’ve been able to join a men’s indoor soccer league as well as a semi-weekly tennis night. These have been great times to decompress, do something I love, and meet others in the area. I am grateful for various ways to plug in around the area—and it doesn’t hurt that those are through sports I love to play!
  • One of the things I love about living in Bangor is the small-town feel. Bangor has a population of around 40,000, so it’s not tiny (it is actually the third biggest city in Maine). Even so, I have found that I can be sitting in a coffeeshop (one of my “offices” as I prepare sermons or do other work) and often count on running into several people I know. Ever since it’s been too cold for hiking, I have tended to spend my Mondays (my day off) at a local Starbucks to relax and read—and it’s been enjoyable to see people I already know as well as to meet others in this setting. It’s been a privilege to be able to connect with others in various settings around the city.
  • As New Hope is relatively small, there aren’t enough students to sustain a traditional youth group. Because of that, we have been considering other ways to engage the younger generations, hoping to bridge the generation gap and hopefully pave the way for formal or informal mentoring relationships between members. As I grew up in my home church, I certainly enjoyed our youth group. But one of the most significant memories I have was of the older men and women in our small group who actually took the time to get to know me, shared their lives, and invested in my life. And I believe this is one of the things that the Church has in its very DNA. The Church is not a special interest group; if it were, then there would be little common ground between generations. The Church is a gathering of forgiven sinners who have been brought into a new family through Jesus Christ. It’s like a Thanksgiving dinner table with grandparents and grandchildren sitting side-by-side and splitting the last of the cranberry sauce. With this foundation—the common ground in Jesus Christ and the family ties with God as our Father—there is ample reason to build relationships between generations. Of course it will be awkward and stretching at times, but we should never underestimate the impact of those interactions. Over these next couple months, I look forward to opportunities for younger and older members to grow alongside each other—and I believe that the resulting relationships will be mutually challenging and enriching. Faith in Jesus is contagious when His followers genuinely take the time to invest in one another’s lives out of love for Him. I pray that through our youth and men’s Bible study in January (as one place I hope this can happen), we may have a setting in which those of all ages can come to know one another and grow together in the gospel.
Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Reflection: Lives Lost, Life Given

I completed my hunters’ safety course this past week (when in Maine…!). I look forward to joining another church member during deer hunting season, spending some time in the woods and perhaps getting a deer.

But I don’t know how I will feel about taking an animal’s life. I have always loved animals—dogs, rabbits, chickens, snakes, turtles, even insects, rats, and any others. I have sat and been enthralled as I watched a spider weave its web with precise dimensions and craftsmanship (did you know that the distance between their threads is so even because they use the length of their body to space the threads?). When I was younger, I remember sitting for an hour or more with bird seed around me, still enough that chickadees landed on my shoulder and chirped in my ear, or chipmunks chased each other right around me—so close I could feel them brush up against my side. Have you ever wondered how a slug decides where to go as it patiently traverses the mountains of moss and twigs on the forest floor? Have you watched house sparrows taking dust baths under the juniper? Have you seen a young fawn curled up in the ferns, waiting for its mother?

The smallest housefly is far more complex and awe-inspiring than the most advanced computer. And even when we close our eyes to go to sleep, the insect choruses outside testify that there are thousands of other creatures living their lives right beside us. God created each, delights in their life, and provides for them as they are born, live, and die. And as we come to see how God delights in even the smallest of creatures, how can we not also pause and wonder and delight when we see a swallow building its nest or a gray squirrel scolding us from above?

And yet God has given us animals for food (see Genesis 9:3). How can this be? When we shape that beef burger to go on the grill, or when we take a bite of a bagel with lox, or when the turkey comes out of the oven on Thanksgiving, we realize that a living creature, beautiful in God’s design, lost its life. It had to lose its life so we could eat and live. This was not sterile or clean or nice. That ground beef did not start in a cellophane wrap with a price tag on it.


This is not an argument for vegetarianism, and I am not arguing that it’s wrong to take an animal’s life. But we do see two things: First, each life is precious and has dignity conferred by its Creator—whether that of the deer seen through a rifle’s scope, or the Canada geese flying overhead. Taking a life is no casual matter. Second, the fact that a creature has to lose its life for us to eat is a constant reminder of the price of sin, and of the grace of God.

In Leviticus 17, God forbids His people to eat blood, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (v. 11) So Scripture connects the blood spilled (if not the meat itself) with our healing and atonement.

Of course, animals’ lives can’t really cover over the price of our sin, or clean the “damned spot” off of our own hands. But the life of our Lord, and His blood poured out for us, can and does more than provide for our complete forgiveness and reconciliation.

And still, whenever we hunt, or eat a meal for which one of God’s creature’s died to provide, we are reminded of the price of sin and of God’s provision. The blood that was spilled should have been our blood, for we were the ones with blood on our hands. But the story didn’t end that way: The Son of God gave Himself for us. And just as taking even an animal’s life is no “neat” or insignificant matter, neither was the cross easy or cheap or sanitary —and yet in it He washed us clean. Yes, the price of sin was life for life…but for all who belong to Jesus, the life lost was not ours, by the grace of God.

November News from Maine

I have started our Ephesians sermon series, and it’s been going well. However, I think I may have been too ambitious with the size of the passages I chose…one verse of Ephesians could be a whole sermon, and some of my passages are over 15 verses. There is so much packed into Ephesians, so the sermon series may end up extending longer than originally planned.

We’ve also started our Sunday School class on “Culture and God’s Word.” Last week we discussed an Old Spice ad entitled “Believe in Yoursmelf” and discussed Scripture passages on self-reliance, confidence, and reliance on God. Tomorrow we will be watching the ad for the new “Assassin’s Creed” game (centered around casting off all authority and bowing to no one), and be discussing passages on freedom and authority. Are we ever autonomous, or as we seek autonomy from all authority, do we just end up slaves to our desires? Hopefully through these times, we can grow in discernment, and we’ve already had some good discussion as we started last week.

The soccer season is over for the fall, and wrapped up well. After a difficult loss, the team came back and won their next game, and later for the final game of the season they played the best they had all season for a well-earned tie. We had a final team dinner, and it was neat to see how the players had grown through the season (in soccer skills, but also other ways), and I enjoyed being able to connect further with the families. I am currently in the process of deciding whether I will help coach tennis at the same school in the spring, or elsewhere. It's been such a privilege to be able to coach, working with these youth and also getting to know their families and the community. 

Thank you all for your interest and your prayers! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Community: An Observation and a Question

First, community is inconvenient. Or maybe it would be more precise to say that truly loving others is inconvenient. We start out seeking to encourage Darren—checking in once in a while to see how he’s doing raising his young son all by himself. It’s initially on our own terms, and we feel good when he expresses gratitude for our concern. But there comes that point when he gives a call at 9:30pm, and we want to watch the Red Sox game instead. Helping him when it fit in our calendar was one thing; this is another. Thankfully God exposes the selfishness inherent even in our very acts of service, by allowing love to inconvenience us. Because when it’s inconvenient, there is potential for the growth of truly disinterested love. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we won’t establish healthy boundaries (lest we enable instead of truly helping others), but love is willing to experience discomfort for another’s good. As long as our acts of service are purely convenient, there seems to be limited potential for growth in love.

And a question: Do we love Jesus because He gives us community, or do we love community because we love Jesus? This question is related to the question of whether we actually love the actual community Christ has given us, or whether we love our ideal of “community”—and serve God inasmuch as His Church fits into our ideal. Real community is messy: Christians are not perfect people; we are first called to be repentant people. Yes, we are given the Holy Spirit, but sanctification is a bumpy road with lots of twists and turns. So our love for the community of the Church must be derivative of our confidence in Jesus’ love, and our love for Him. As Bonheoffer warns in Life Together, our ideals of community—if they aren’t soon shattered by the reality—can destroy the actual community around us.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October in Maine

Some news from the last few weeks at New Hope...
  • As the lead pastor at New Hope is currently on sabbatical for the next couple months, I have now stepped into a fuller role--also having been welcomed as a new member and ordained as an elder at New Hope two weeks ago. I will be preaching all except one Sunday each month, and am also working with a church member in leading a men’s Bible study through Genesis.
  • We will begin a new sermon series on Ephesians in a couple weeks, as well as a new Sunday School class on “Culture and God’s Word.” In this class, each week we will look at different advertisements or other cultural messages (such as Sprite’s slogan “Obey your thirst”), and then evaluate it against Scripture. I hope we can grow in discernment, so that instead of simply absorbing the messages of the majority culture, we can learn to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5b, NIV) Sprite’s slogan, for instance, reinforces our culture’s tacit assumption that we should first follow our own desires (“just listen to your heart”), as opposed to being ruled by God (which is actually the only way we find true freedom). 
  • As the soccer coaching season is drawing to a close soon, I am beginning to look into other options for part-time employment during the winter. I’m talking to the local tennis club, as well as looking into springtime coaching positions as well. So far, it’s been refreshing to have changes  in my focus each day—writing sermons or visiting in the morning, and then coaching in the afternoon. It’s a great mix, and opportunity to connect with others in the community!

Dependence and Prayer

When I was recently ordained as an elder at New Hope (allowing me to serve in more capacities as Intern Pastor), one of the charges given me was to “pray continually for the church.” This is a good reminder, and I’m also grateful for New Hope’s dedicated prayer team, meeting every Wednesday to intercede for the congregation and its mission.

Prayer is work—and central to all work. In the call to pray, we are reminded where the power to transform lives ultimately comes from: It’s not our words or programs or personality that ultimately grow the Church; it’s the Living God working through us—weak as we are.

And perhaps, as we begin to recognize more and more what it means to be called to serve in the Church (as any Christian is called to use their gifts), we will be driven more and more to prayer. We aren’t called just to preach a skillfully-delivered and amusing sermon, or just to sit in on a meeting and manage the church’s budget, or just to take an evening and visit someone in the hospital; in all these activities we are called to point others to the King of the Universe, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ.

This is rightly intimidating, for we cannot do this on our own ability. So when we rightly estimate the weight of our calling, we grow in seeing our dependence on God. And that sense of dependence is fertile soil for prayer. It is ultimately on God’s shoulders to bring the growth; we are called to dependent faithfulness—expressed in fervent prayer and obedience. 

"Stop." (a poem)


Why once each week
                                and rest?
After all,
Letters yet to be answered
Litter the desk in layers;
Last week’s to-dos swelling,
Burst the banks of yesterday;
Recent meetings’ action items,
Chomping at the bit;

And you would rest?
There’s work to be done!
You would cease?
Idle hands…!

Why once each week
                                and rest?

Remember the Sabbath:
                Lest you think that you’re their only answer,
                Lest you live forgetting what’s been Done,
                Lest you do, and doing, neglect to be,
                Lest you, always shaping, scorn the Potter,
                Lest you thieve the throne of God.
So much left unfinished
And yet:
“It is finished.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

News Items

A couple news updates from the past couple weeks:
  • At New Hope, we have begun Deep Roots (a Sunday School class designed for adults and youth). Currently, this consists of a guided discussion time on the sermon topic as we begin a series entitled “A Contagious Apprenticeship”. We are studying the themes of discipleship and mission in Matthew, focusing on how Jesus calls people to follow Him and then sends them out to participate in the work God is doing.  
  • I’ve continued to meet with leadership and other congregants as we are able, and it’s a privilege to get to know these members better—whether over coffee, a meal, or just at church. New Hope is very diverse in terms of the backgrounds and stories of those who are here, but has together sought to pursue the vision of being a church for the de-churched and un-churched. There are so many people in and around Bangor who need to hear the gospel, and we trust that New Hope is a place where they can truly hear and experience God’s grace.
  • I have been coaching a girls’ JV soccer team at a nearby high school for the past month now, and I love working with the players. It is a great opportunity to work with students from different backgrounds and with different abilities, and to be able to get to know them and their families--hopefully building some bridges within the community. And of course, it’s a refreshing time to get outside and enjoy one of the best sports there is!

Culture, Complexity, and Chucking Seed

In coming to Maine, I quickly realized that it has its own cultural distinctives. Since arriving, I’ve focused on listening and asking questions—trying to learn the culture in and around Bangor. What is the church scene like? What are family dynamics in the area? What drives people? How do people express a thirst for meaning and purpose in life? Do those who are not believers mostly feel burned by the Church and are now militantly atheist, or do they simply see faith as passé and irrelevant? 

These are important questions. I was hoping to learn the culture, so that I would best know how to communicate the gospel in relevant terms. And I have learned…Many people are relatively independent, private, and self-sufficient. Building relational trust takes time. There are very few evangelical Christians in Maine (for one article on religious affiliation in Maine, look here), and many nominal Catholics and others who seem to have had negative experiences in churches. 

Recognizing the cultural patterns and values is helpful. For instance, even something as simple as greeting a stranger on the street (which in many places would be considered friendly) here may be considered a breach of privacy. It is important to not assume that others have the same values as I do, lest I bulldoze those differences acting only within my sense of propriety. 

But at the same time as I begin to learn the culture in Maine, I am finding it harder to refer to “people in Maine”. This is far too simplistic. I’ve met people who fit characteristics mentioned above, but I’ve also met people who are very different. And every single person is more than a simple set of characteristics. Not everyone holds their cards close to their chest: over the past couple weeks, I’ve met several strangers in my “regular” coffeeshop, and ended up having significant conversations about faith, family, and background. A man at an estate sale last weekend shared the struggle he and his wife were having after his father-in-law’s death. Parents of players on my soccer team begin to talk about about their own values and backgrounds. 

So although there is certainly truth to the general cultural characteristics, there are always exceptions—and every individual is more than any one set of characteristics. I ought never assume that all “Mainers” will be the same. 

If I simply assume that someone will be stand-offish, I may never initiate a conversation or give them the time of day. And similarly, here in Maine—a place often resistant to the gospel—I must remember that not everyone who appears resistant to God is a lost cause. We are called to share the good news about Jesus with everyone. 

One of my friends mentioned how, in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, the farmer throws the seed everywhere. He doesn’t only seed the good soil; he just “keeps chucking seed”. And although we should seek to discern God’s leading, maybe we also need to just “keep chucking seed” without too quickly assuming about those around us and pre-judging the soils.

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


In the month before moving to Maine, I was considering what to focus on during my time in New York, between moving back from Michigan and heading up north. Since this was a time of preparation for serving this congregation, I began to imagine an intense schedule of study and preparation, so that I would be ready when I arrived at New Hope. At one point when I was talking with a friend, I mentioned this idea of intense study and preparation. In response, He wisely observed that, if I were to jump straight into this intense schedule, I might find that I hadn’t actually been studying the things God actually wanted me to. Instead of running ahead with my ambitious schedule of preparation on my agenda, I needed to slow down and create space and time to listen to God in this in-between month. I could have taken off running with a plan of preparation, but might find too late that my running had taken me in a very different direction than God was leading. Instead of jumping straight into a schedule of frenetic activity, I needed to slow down to the point where God could actually point me in a new direction.

The command to listen to (and obey) God is woven through Scripture. And as we listen and obey, I believe we begin to be able to hear God’s voice more clearly. There are times of apparent silence when it seems God isn’t speaking at all—but if we listen to and obey what God clearly commands, then our ears become more and more tuned to hearing His will. Activity itself is not always the answer; our activity should be in service of and response to God’s Word and will. 

And as a final note, listening is a way of caring for others as well. Truly hearing what someone is saying, actually giving them the time of day. This quote captures something of how easy it is not to listen:

“People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another's conversations constantly. It's like being a passenger in your car who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns you down a side street. For instance, if we met at a party and I wanted to tell you a story about the time I needed to get a soccer ball in my neighbor's yard but his dog chased me and I had to jump into a swimming pool to escape, and I began telling the story, you, hearing the words "soccer" and "neighbor" in the same sentence, might interrupt and mention that your childhood neighbor was Pele, the famous soccer player, and I might be courteous and say, Didn't he play for the Cosmos of New York? Did you grow up in New York? And you might reply that, no, you grew up in Brazil on the streets of Tres Coracoes with Pele, and I might say, I thought you were from Tennessee, and you might say not originally, and then go on to outline your genealogy at length. So my initial conversational gambit - that I had a funny story about being chased by my neighbor's dog - would be totally lost, and only because you had to tell me all about Pele. Learn to listen! I beg of you.” (Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain)

Instead of waiting just long enough to find a segue into something we want to say, truly hear what another is saying—especially when they are trusting enough to share something significant. But even what appears as small-talk may be significant; we learn a lot about each other in everyday, “insignificant” conversations—and these are times when trust is built little by little.

Listening is central to leadership, and really to our lives in general. We must first of all be followers and listeners—first of God, and then of others—before we can lead. Otherwise we might just find too late that we’ve been leading people in the wrong direction. After five weeks at New Hope, I must not forget this. Even as we plan fall programs and the next sermons series, I cannot stop listening to God or to members of this congregation. If activity and programs are to be in service of God and for the benefit of His people, I must come to know the voice of both.  

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Moving to Maine & A Weight Off Our Shoulders

After having moved to Maine three weeks ago now (for a one-year Intern Pastorate at New Hope Church, an eight-year-old congregation in Bangor), life has begun to settle into more of a routine. I’ll start with a few quick updates, and then a brief reflection. (Normally I'll write about once every other week.)

The initial move went well, and during the first week I was able to focus on getting settled in. Over the past weeks I have also attended various ministries connected to New Hope Church: Monday’s Celebrate Recovery (a biblically-based recovery program), Wednesday prayer meeting, Saturday praise team rehearsal and dinner, a Thursday pastors’ breakfast, the monthly church leadership meeting, a beautiful island mountain hike for church members and others, and a Sunday welcome picnic at a local park. I have enjoyed opportunities to begin getting to know church members better through these activities as well as more one-on-one get-togethers. 

I preached for the first time on the 18th (following my commissioning service on the 11th), and will be preaching every other week for the next month. Beginning in October, I will preach most Sundays, and will also soon start team teaching Sunday school--which will consist of guided discussion of our upcoming sermon series on discipleship/apprenticeship in Matthew.

In addition, in answer to prayers for additional employment (as the bi-vocational aspect of my position), I was offered (and accepted) the position of Girls’ JV Soccer Coach at John Bapst High School, a private school just a mile from my apartment. The season has already been underway for the past week and a half, and it is wonderful to be able to work with the team. I hope that this position will open up opportunities to build bridges between these families and New Hope, as opportunities allow and they raise questions. It is such a privilege to be able to work in the community in this way in addition to being at New Hope.

As I’ve been oriented to the church and church members’ lives these past three weeks, I have had to keep remembering that the weight of the church does not ultimately rest on my shoulders—or any of our shoulders. Peoples' struggles, the direction of the Church, and the growth of the Church do not ultimately depend on us. God gives each believer gifts and the calling to serve within the Church, and that is truly a responsibility that must not be taken lightly. Our actions do have eternal consequences. At the same time, we must never usurp Jesus' role as the head of the Church. I once heard of a nightly prayer by a previous pope: “God, I’ve done everything I can for Your church today. But it’s Your church, and I’m going to bed.” If being a Christian is all about our work and about trying to transform the lives of others by our own power, then we could never truly rest. But that’s not what it’s about. Being a Christian means living as an adopted child of the living God, who is alive and at work long before we arrived on the scene. We then have the calling to join Him in the work He has done, is doing, and will do in our world. And that means we can go to sleep at night, and the world will keep on turning.   

Thank you for reading,

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Two Poems

Written this past February...

Fix Your Gaze

Fix your gaze:
                Fractured and short-sighted,
                Sees only a bum on the street,
                A fault in a friend,
                A self-governed life,
                A splintery chunk of wood.
Fix your gaze:
                It’s broken, after all.
Fix your gaze:
Now see the Author
                Of the God-imaged man by the road,
                Of the fellow sinner clinging to a savior,
                Of the gifted life that must be gifted back,
                Of the cross on Calvary 
Where cataracts are replaced by eagle’s eyes—
Fix your eyes on Him.

I Prayed the Other Day

I prayed the other day:
My words tumbled over under piled high to heaven
Like hiker’s cairn with added cares one atop another
And when I couldn’t lift one more
There I stood with helpless gaze,
At the mountain I’d created.
And in the silence still
I stood,
In sweat and grime and dirt and dust.
And waited: But only saw
Slate sky above
boiling with roiling rage
Ready to consume me...

And then I felt a gentle shower—
                Cleansing dew like nectar:
     heaven’s answer