Lord God, mercy is in your hands, pour me a
little. ~Mary Oliver
The weather was hot and dry, the way a summer day in
August should feel. To beat the heat a young family
decided to spend one of the final days of summer at
the local swimming hole. The popular pool was
crowded with sunbathers, swimmers, and picnickers.
Within minutes, as mom and dad found the perfect
spot to set up, the kids were running and splashing
in the refreshing water.
Laughter mixed with the sound of splashing was
peaceful until suddenly there was a cry—a voice from
somewhere among the crowded swimmers creaming,
“Help! Please Help! Help!” The voice was urgent,
terrified, and piercing.
Quickly the father stood up and began scanning the
water until he located the boy’s distressed face,
tilted upward, barely above the waterline, fearfully
screaming. As he looked on with panic, he noticed
other parents and teenagers stood a few feet away,
watching in shock, watching in uncertainty,
watching…and yet doing nothing to help the screaming
Why wasn’t anyone helping this kid?!
Quickly a big burly man, with white water exploding
from his knees and his own child tucked under his
arm, crashed and splashed his way through the water
towards the little boy. As parents pulled their kids
back out of his way he shouted “Somebody help that
kid! Somebody grab him!”
But for some reason…no one was wiling to act.
As they stared the courageous bystander, now waist
deep, bent forward straining against the thick
water, stretched out his one free arm, yanked the
boy out of the water, and brought him tight against
his chest. The boy, desperately relieved, wrapped
both arms and legs around him and clung tight. Then
slowly, gently they made their way to the beach and
the man sat the boy in the sand. He knelt down and
comforted the young lad until his parents arrived.
Life is scary. We humans are small, fragile, and
limited. Like the boy in the lake, many of our
prayers often begin in fear or confusion—many of
them are some version of “Help me!” or “Have mercy
on me!” Sometimes our prayers are so filled with our
own worry and anxiety that we forget to stop talking
and just listen to what God is doing. But when we do
stop and listen, even though our prayers are filled
with cravings and needs and sufferings and
loneliness, we notice that God responds to us with
rest and peace and love and comfort.
It is as if we can feel God wading through the
waters, stretching out an arm and calling to us,
“Hang on! I’m on the way!”
There are many scary situations occurring throughout
the world right now. Perhaps you are asking, “What
can I do, in small-town U.S.A., about these much
larger issues?” Or maybe you do your best not to
turn on the nightly news because the scenes of
violence are too much. Both responses are
reasonable, since we often react with a “fight or
So what are we to do?
As Christine Sine, contemplative Christian and
gardener has said recently, “Listening and giving
full attention to those who have been victims or
perpetrators of violence means that we do not run
from it. We do not pretend that violence is not
happening and we do not pretend that it does not
involve us. We recognize its horror and we gird up
or spirits to take a stand.”
We need to listen to the pain and the grief that
creates violence, listen to the stories that tell of the results of
violence and listen to the stories of how God’s reconciling love can
and has been shown in the midst of that. We also need to listen to
the hopes and dreams of the victims of violence. So often these
reflect the cry for a more just and equitable society in which
peace, equality and justice is shown to all.
By responding out of love not hate or indifference
to, we welcome a stranger who is often very
difficult for us to embrace. And in so doing we can
often find that we are embracing and welcoming
Christ into our midst.
Have you ever seen a small child cry when they are
scared? Have you noticed that when their parents
come and hold them, they cry harder at first,
releasing all the hurt and fear? Eventually the
cries slow down and get quieter and then at the end,
just before the crying stops, the children take a
deep breath and let out a long sigh, a release of
all the tension and fear.
This is what it means to pray—we cry out [with fear
or joy], we wait for the One who loves us, we allow
ourselves to be held, we empty out our real fears
and need [or our real joy and gratitude], and then
we rest, knowing our lives are held in the hands of
I invite you to take a few minutes in silence to
contemplate the following prayer from
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God!
Friends, may we continue to pray for people in
Ferguson, Iraq, Gaza, Syria, Afghanistan,
Ukraine--and for those suffering in the house next
[Pastor Adam Quine of First Presbyterian Church