I’ll never forget it. Being a pastor in New York City on September 11, 2001 is seared in my mind. When the planes hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center, chaos reigned in New York. Our church staff tried desperately to reach our members who worked in those towers. Our Director of Facilities came into our staff meeting at noon and told us that there were 100 people sitting in our sanctuary. “What are they doing down there?” I asked. “They’re just sitting there, they are numb.” Our staff, had been thinking about a 7:00 p.m. prayer service that night, but we realized that we couldn’t wait until seven o’clock. We grabbed our robes and Bibles, and headed for our sanctuary. We opened the doors onto Fifth Avenue and put up a sign that said: “Prayer Service one o’clock.” I’ll never forget walking out onto Fifth Avenue. People I didn’t know came up to me, because I was wearing a robe. Some were covered with soot and ash. They hugged me, sobbed, and told me their story.
One man approached me, whose white shirt was covered with blood. I said, “Sir, have you been cut?” He said, “No,” choking back the tears. He was late for work and as he paid the cab driver, he saw the tower in which he worked, covered with flames. An inferno. He instinctively ran toward people jumping out of windows…“I guess this is their blood,” he said. I said, “Sir, would you like to come inside? We’re going to have a prayer service. He leaned on me; I can still feel the heaviness of his weight as we walked up the steps.
As we started the service, I opened the Bible to Psalm 46 and read: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” We sang the hymn: Our God Our Help In Ages Past, Our Hope For Years to Come, Our Shelter From the Stormy Blast, and Our Eternal Home. After the service the man with the blood on his shirt, came up to me almost breathless. He said, “I wrote down those words you said: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. That is good stuff. Where did you get that? Is that Tennyson? Keats? Shelley?” I said, “Sir, it’s Psalm 46, it’s in the Bible.” He said, “I never read the Bible. I don’t even have a Bible.” I handed him one of our pew Bibles. He said, “What should I be reading?”
I must tell you that September 9, 2001 was our Homecoming Sunday at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian. We gave away Bible bookmarks that Sunday that listed 50 passages that I thought every Christian needed to know. We had 2,500 people in church that day, but I still wondered why our Communications Director ordered 5,000 bookmarks! We had almost 2,500 bookmarks left over! I asked him on September 9, 2001, “Bob, why did you order so many bookmarks?” He said, “I think we’re going to need them. People will want to send them to their grandmother or their kids in college.” Little did he know his words would be prophetic. So when the man asked, “What should I be reading in the Bible?” I said, “Sir, would you like one of our Bible bookmarks?” We gave away the rest of the 5,000 by the next Sunday. We ordered 5,000 more and 5,000 more, and we gave away over 15,000 bookmarks in the next few weeks! (I wish I would have sold them for $29.95 each! I could have paid our son’s way through Law School!)
The reason these bookmarks were so desirable is that the people of New York needed an anchor for the soul to provide stability in those tumultuous times. Fifteen years after 9/11, we still need an anchor for the soul to sustain us in our tumultuous times.
With shootings, terror attacks, and crises of all kinds that occur regularly, we need an anchor for our soul, too. That is why I have written this devotional guide. I took most of the passages on that original Bible bookmark and added several to give us one passage for every week of the year. My suggestion is that you would focus on one Bible passage for an entire week and read it over every day. Or, if it is longer, you might read a few verses each day. I urge you to savor each passage. Marinate in it. Focus on a different word or phrase in the passage each day.
I have written a few paragraphs, a few reflection questions, a challenge, a “word to the wise” or a “going deeper” section to accompany each passage.
If you want to get the most of out of this experience, I strongly urge you to keep a devotional journal to record your personal response to the questions and the passages. Do this in whatever form works best for you. Buy a notebook and write in your journal or type into a document and store it on your computer. My goal is that if we set aside 15 minutes to go deeper with God, we will find ourselves taking the next step on our journey of faith. And, if you think of a family member or a friend who might enjoy these weekly devotionals, feel free to email them on. The first devotional will be emailed to you next Sunday, September 11 and you will receive one each Sunday for one year.
My prayer is that this devotional guide will be an anchor for your soul.
Sign Up for An Anchor For The Soul
If you are interested in receiving these weekly devotionals, please register to receive them. On the sign up form, select An Anchor For The Soul – Devotional Guide 52 Weekly Devotionals to your email preferences.