THE storm that was raging outside was not the kind that left the option to crawl under the covers and wait it out. Between the loud claps of thunder that punctuated the lightning and wind, my thoughts went to the story of Elijah in the Bible and to the passage in First Kings that says, ''A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice'' (19:11, 12).
I realized that the amount of rain coming down would surely be affecting the creek running beside the complex where we live, yet I felt totally calm. Why? Because I knew that while God was not in the storm, He most certainly is always present. And He does not inflict inharmony of any sort upon His creation. There was nothing to fear.
These ideas comforted me, but instead of snuggling back into bed, I was impelled to get up, get dressed, and go to my desk to pray and study the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by the Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy. No matter what difficulty I'm facing, these two books never fail to show me the spiritual facts that deal directly with whatever needs correcting. I particularly remember one verse from Psalms that pointed me in the right direction this time: ''I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved'' (16:8). Whatever I needed to do in the day ahead, nothing could keep me from seeing God's power and presence, and nothing could keep me from obeying His direction.
As soon as it became light enough to look down the alley, I could see that the flood plain below us was now covered by a raging torrent of rapidly rising water. I asked God, ''Father, what do You want me to do?'' The answer was simple and direct: ''Go down into the trenches!'' Of course. I couldn't be of much help to anyone if I wasn't where help was needed. And though our particular apartment unit was above the immediate crisis area, there were neighbors closer to the creek who needed help. It was time to act on my prayer!
When I got to where efforts were being made to control the flooding, I heard the report that we were already cut off from the two fire stations giving out sandbags. I thought of Mrs. Eddy's comforting assurance in Science and Health: ''Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need'' (p. 494). It seemed as though our need at that moment was for sandbags, but what we really needed was the spiritual qualities--the wisdom, intelligence, resourcefulness--that God, divine Love, is already giving us every moment. Before long we were improvising sandbags from plastic garbage sacks, using sand from a nearby sand and gravel place.
My own need for strength to lift the bags came not from relying on material muscles but rather from recognizing the strength that infinite Spirit gives us. This same certainty that God was impelling my desire to help removed any hesitancy to ford the swiftly moving water between me and the places needing sandbags.
As more and more people joined in to help, I was no longer needed in the bagging area. Once again I turned to God for direction. I helped one family move their belongings to the second floor. The man anxiously told me he had canceled his flood insurance the month before. I found myself saying, ''Well, right now you don't need it, do you? Let's take this one moment at a time.'' He smiled and replied more hopefully, ''That works for me!'' Nowhere in the apartment complex did I sense panic or hysteria. We were loving each other, and in the presence of love, fear cannot get a footing.
Before the end of the day the storm ceased. The water went down as rapidly as it had risen, and there was a spectacular rainbow. It had never gotten any higher than the garages of those creekside units. The news media reported story after story of this same love between neighbors that we had experienced.
Each of us has a niche to fill, something special to give. And when we act on our prayer for God's direction, we're always doing the right thing.