Where was God?


Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean-even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! (Psalm 139:7-10, Common English Bible).

We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts – A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.

It was not one of my favorite movies. It was what one friend of mine called “a date movie.” I will accept that description. It was a date movie masquerading as a war movie. I am speaking of the 2001 film, Pearl Harbor. Personally I am a much bigger fan of the 1965 John Wayne film, In Harm’s Way. I think that movie is one of the greatest films of all time, but I digress.

While overall I was not a fan of Pearl Harbor, there was one scene in the movie I really did enjoy. Well enjoy probably isn’t the right word for it and it really wasn’t so much of a scene. I found great meaning in a part of the movie where film clips (most were not original footage) flashed on the screen. Music played as much of the background. These clips showed the carnage left in the wake of the Japanese attack. There were bodies mangled and in places we wouldn’t expect to see them. There was blood. There was property damage and so much more. It was grizzly, but that is not why this part of the movie meant so much to me.

One of those clips was of a priest wearing robe, stole and chasuble. He was standing in waist-deep water with bodies floating around him. Again, it was a pretty grizzly scene. It appeared the priest was saying last rites over the dead. After a few more clips (I think it would have been better and had more impact had it been said during the priest clip), a voice from off stage said, “Where was God?”

In times like Pearl Harbor, in times like 9/11, in times like the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole it becomes so easy for us to ask this basic and yet difficult question. When things seem to fall apart around us, it becomes really easy for us to ask, “Where is God?”

In those situations, it is really pretty easy to say, and even to understand, God didn’t do those things. God gives all of us free will and in each case and so many more like them, people, creations of God, used that free will to bring death and harm on other creations of God.

Considerably harder to understand is when natural disaster strikes. Where was God when Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti last week. Where was God when a tornado wiped out a church on Easter Sunday several years ago. It even opens the doors for some poor theology that said after Hurricane Katrina, “The hurricane was God’s vengeance on New Orleans.”

I can’t explain it all away. What I do know is, none of it is God and God grieves with us when such things happen. I also know that when God created the world certain natural laws were put in place. Some of that is how storms work. When the ocean gets too hot nature has a very effective way of cooling it down, a hurricane. Could it be that the rise might be on us because of what we have done the the environment? Could it be that Haiti suffered so last week because we who know about good building practices in hurricane-prone regions have failed to take the time to teach the Haitians about such things and with stronger buildings more lives might have been saved?

When I was in seminary we would sometimes look at case studies. In the discussion the question would inevitably come, “Where do you see God in all this?”

The psalmist reminds us in today’s lesson that there is no place where we can go and escape the presence of God. The theological term is “omnipresent.” God is omnipresent.  God is here with us, God is all around us. When tragedy happens, be it man-made tragedy or natural disaster, God is present with us.

Further, the question we were often asked in seminary I think, in light of the A.W. Tozer quote above, falls short. God is even closer than we think. God is closer than our soul and nearer than our thoughts.

Friends, that means, right now, wherever you are, whatever you may be doing, God is with you and God is closer than you think.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved


Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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