Sunday, September 14, 2008

Grieving . . .

This was a hard weekend for many folks . . . it was a hard weekend for me . . . although the community where I live received little damage from Ike we were expecting more . . . most of us were on edge . . . amazing the little damage we had since our streets were lined with debris . . . the street in front of my house was six feet high and three feet wide from the remnants of Gustav and the eight trees that my neighbors had count down Thursday . . . the debris was blocking the ditch . . . I feared if we got heavy rains the front yard would start flooding . . . this has never happened.

Folks up north about 7 miles from here didn’t make out as well . . . Their homes are not that well built . . . Many live in trailers . . . many of them are fishermen . . . many homes flooded again . . . two weeks ago Gustav flooded these homes . . . even taking some homes . . . 1500 without power . . . Some won’t get electricity for another week if then with new damage.

South west of us areas hit hard by Rita and Gustav were hit hard again . . . and today a colleague of mine E-mailed to say that up where he is damage was worst than Rita . . . he can’t locate some of the members of the church with which he partners . . . several have lost their homes . . . he hasn’t been able to contact some of the other pastors in the area.

And I can’t imagine what the conditions are in Houston, Galveston and other areas in TX . . . I was glued to the television for much of the weekend . . . I am not sure the obsession . . . I wonder if this is what it was like after Katrina? . . . I had no power so no television . . . I remember when I got power back and began seeing the pictures.

Again, today I hear, “we must be living right!” . . . and my response in my head is a string of questions . . . does this mean that those who suffered the ravages of Ike weren’t living right? . . . what does this say about God? . . . what does it say about what we believe about God? . . . do people really believe that God is some Cosmic Chess Master deciding the moment to moment moves in people’s lives? . . . what happens to free will, even odd as it sounds the free will of nature? I know the answers for me . . . I know that God is no Cosmic Chess Master . . . I know that God is grieving over what so many of His precious children suffered and are suffering in the face of these winds, wind-driven water, and heavy rains, tornadoes and fires . . . God is grieving for those who lost their homes . . . God is grieving for those who lost their lives and for the families who mourn their lost . . . God is grieving for those who are lost and awaiting rescue. God is grieving . . . And so are we.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many . . . If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. I Corinthians 12: 14, 26a


Friday, September 12, 2008

Here we go again . . .

I don't want to make light of what is happening right now or what is to come later to our brothers and sisters to the East of us with Ike . . . I am praying for their safety
Yesterday as I was leaving the church for a hospital visit the winds were whipping up . . . the sky was dark . . . after the visit I am barely out of the parking lot when the heavens opens and the rains come . . . they come hard. Later at Bible Study I learn that school is cancelled for Friday . . . "we're expecting flooding tomorrow" I am told . . . I get a lesson in our pumping system . . . even with heavy rains I have a pool outside my back door . . . only once has it threatened my floors . . . across the Lake I am hearing that there is 7 feet of water already in streets . . . houses there are on stilts . . . this is just the start of the rising waters that Ike is bringing to this area . . . what must it be like in TX? God have mercy.
This morning I woke to the tornado warning . . . I have been up only an hour (day off, sermon done!) and the warning has gone off twice . . . I have my chair in the hall, just in case I hear a train. During Camille (1969) my family stayed at home . . . stupid . . . at one point I asked my Daddy . . . "Daddy, why are the trains running?" . . . "Honey, those aren't trains those are tornadoes." . . . so I am listening for trains . . . FLASH: Highway 90 (26 miles) in South MS from Ocean Springs to Bay St. Louis is closed as water is rising over the highway. God have mercy.
My mother has asked me . . . ministers get these questions . . . as if we have all the answers! . . . "why is all of this happening?" . . . I interpret her question -- "why does God allow this to happen?" . . . how many folks have this question roaming in their heads and spirits? . . . I remind my Mom of what she and my Dad told me about Camille . . . God didn't cause Camille to happen . . . and I remember the conversation I had with my theology professor about this years later . . . "yes, Lydia, God didn't cause Camille but God is responsible as God made nature to work as it works." But now I wonder . . . have we don't something to interfere with God's good creation . . . air pollution, misuse/abuse of the earth, over grazing, coastal erosion, on and on and on. God have mercy.
"God created man in his image, male and female he created them. He blessed them, and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. I give you the green plants and every fruit-bearing tree for food.' God looked upon all that he had made, and he saw that it was good." Genesis 1: 27-31
Almighty God, we thank You for calling us to be stewards of the earth. You have made the earth our dwelling place for a while. You fill it with great beauty to remind us that it is Yours. It overflows with bountiful gifts to sustain us and to gladden our hearts.
Yet, we have misused this gift, treating it as if there were nothing we could do to harm it. We see that our misunderstanding of what it means to be good stewards has lead us to neglect this gift you have given us. O God, help us learn to use the earth wisely, to treat it with loving care, to be good stewards for the time we are here. Help us understand that how we treat the earth has real consequences not only for us, but for the generatioins to come. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Coincidence . . .

Monday I was sitting in my office when one of the Elders dropped by . . . "Hi, what are you doing here?"

"I'm not sure. I didn't have to work today. I was out running errands and for some reason I decided to drop by the church."

As we are chitchatting the doorbell rings . . . when I am there by myself I keep the door locked . . . we move to the door . . . "Are we having Bible study this morning?" . . . "No, I am sorry nobody called you." (We let a local woman hold her Bible study at our church on Monday mornings . . . in fact, we have about 20 community groups that use our facilities for their meetings) . . . "Girl, where have you been?" . . . this woman had been Elder's daughter first babysitter over two decades ago . . . and then it began to flow . . . this woman was a mess . . . she was still dealing with the murder three years ago (shortly after Katrina) of her son by the police in the town over . . . she feels as if it was never adequately investigated and that she and her family got no justice . . . her husband retired four years ago, a few weeks later he was dxed with leukemia, and a month later they found out that his life insurance company never received the papers they needs and his policy was cancelled . . . her other son had major damage after Katrina . . . he received substantial damage from Gustav . . . she and her husband received damage from Gustav to their fence . . . neither of them are able to work on the fence . . . every agency she has turned to for help has turned her down . . . she has had numerous surgeries in the last three years . . . she was a mess . . . Elder and I held her and prayed . . . Elder took her name and number so our mission team could help repair her fence.

As Elder was leaving . . . "I suppose you are going to tell me there are no coincidences?"



Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Revealing tears . . .

Sunday was an emotional day for the congregation I partner with . . . through the coaching in our intentional transformational process I am being challenged to step out of my comfort zone as a preacher . . . it is funny, I had no problem with doing this weekly in the contemporary Worship at the last church I partnered with, but here I have not been comfortable stepping out of that zone . . . yet, when I do the congregation, as a whole, responses well . . . this is an issue I will need to work on.

But yesterday I did step out of that zone . . . the service was built around Psalm 46 . . . the sermon was interactive . . . giving the congregation (almost the normal number of Worshippers) opportunities to ask some probing questions about their recent experiences . . . I was fearful that they wouldn't respond, but they did . . . emotionally . . . powerfully . . . it began slowly . . . people were hesitant . . . the words came . . . the emotions opened . . . first, a few dabbing eyes . . . then tears flowing . . . even one man breaking down . . . the most unlikely man.

As I have thought about the experience I realize that the words and the tears were revealing . . . what they revealed to me . . . we are just beginning to deal with the emotional and spiritual scars of Katrina . . . I thought we had, we haven't . . . my guess is that many people haven't . . . perhaps Gustav opened us to beginning to deal with those scars.

And those scars are tied to the process of transformational ministry . . . this will never be the congregation it was before Katrina . . . I had only been here for about 6 weeks before Katrina . . . since Katrina this smaller membership church has lost close to 20% of our membership . . . most of them were the "workers" . . . several of them were the spiritual giants of the church . . . but more than losing those I look in our community and see the brokenness . . . a yearning for wholeness and healing . . . a yearning for Jesus . . . it provides us an opportunity to live the Great Commission . . . will we be able to use our own brokenness to reach out to others . . . will we use the safety and comfort we find in community to offer the same to those who are facing the storms of life . . . there are so many out there.

I am preaching today at a governing body meeting . . . the sermon title "Living the Great Commission" . . . we look at our denomination and mourn our losses . . . perhaps we need to look at the world and mourn those who don't know Jesus . . . we look at our denomination and wonder what we can do . . . perhaps we need to look at the world and wonder where is God calling us to be the Church.

Tears reveal a lot about us . . ."Jesus wept." John 11:35


Saturday, September 6, 2008

After Gustav . . .

I am sitting in the church office finishing up a bulletin for tomorrow . . . I will spend the night in my office as I have no electricity at home . . . the church does . . . over half of this community has no power . . . people are angry . . . I am OK as I have a place to go -- not the greatest, but it is cool . . . members of the church and others have offered a room, but I crave solitude after close quarters for a week during the evacuation . . . although I was with family, it took its tole on my introvert nature.

Arrived back today . . . traffic was terrible . . . things are a mess . . . funny how some things are open and next door stores are closed . . . national guard at all intersections . . . trees down everywhere . . . some areas aren't expected to get electricity until the 15th . . . my next door neighbors had a tree limb fall . . . a BIG one . . . it did some minor damage to their roof . . . it hit mine also, but did no damage . . . neighbors had cleaned my front yard, but the back yard is still a mess.

My heart is sad for the people who were damaged by the winds and rains of Gustav, especially one family I have heard about whose house was damaged with Katrina and lost in Rita. Gustav took the trailer the family was living in and everything they owned. If you are like me you wonder "why?" Perhaps, there is no answer . . . the answer lies in how we respond . . . will we succumb to desolation or will we rise up in faith?

God bless,


Ike is churning out there . . . we're in the cone again . . . officials worry that another evacuation won't go as easily as this one did . . . there is the fear that some will choose not to leave . . . this is a legitimate fear. Our family left for Betsy . . . we received no damage . . . where we evacuated received a lot of damage . . . the next time the BIG ONE came (Camille) we stayed. It was terrible. Alot of people question "why" those of us who live in this area stay . . . every area seems to have their dangers . . . as people say it is home. I have lived other places . . . they weren't home.