Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Katrina Update 13: Who was Katrina for?

Lately, I’ve had a hard time focusing as I am reading the word. I am not getting up any earlier than normal, but I have had longer days…and been living the life of a nomad for the past month, so maybe it is just that I am out of sorts and not sleeping as well as I would if I were in my own bed.

I don’t’ mean to imply that I am in an uncomfortable situation…I am not. The bed I occupy now is very nice and comfy…it’s just not mine.

I say all that not to complain but to explain my delayed reaction to what I read this morning.

Because of my lack of focus, I went back over what I’d read at 4:45 this morning and the fitted-togetherness and pertinence of it struck me and just laid out before me what I believe is revelation to me from the Lord.

It didn’t strike me this morning. In fact, nothing much struck me except that I was in the famous prophetic portion of Isaiah and hearing those familiar and nearly quotable passages was comforting to me.

What leapt out at me first as I re-read everything was actually a bit before the messianic passages, in Chapter 51.

I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD of hosts is his name. (Isaiah 51:15)

Obviously, I thought of Katrina. With that thought in my head, I read…
And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,establishing
the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.' Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem,you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath,who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering. There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne;there is none to take her by the hand among all the sons she has brought up. These two things have happened to you-- who will console you?--devastation and destruction, famine and sword; who will comfort you? (Isaiah 51:16-19)

I love that this section starts with what God has done for His people.

16And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.'"

That is the reminder. We are His people.

I find I need a lot of reminders.

The next portion of this passage talks about the people experiencing the wrath of God…the cup of staggering and pointing out that (though they have likely sought it in numerous places) there has been no comfort to be found, no guidance, no leadership.

That made me think of something I heard today. I was talking to our receptionist who is a member of a church located just across the way from our office building. The president of our company is also a member as is one of our engineers. He is the president of the congregation and heads up the various committees that seem to actually run the church. From her description of the structure, the pastor's responsibilities are preaching on Sunday, weddings, funerals and occasional counseling. As of yet, none of the congregation has been contacted, no attempt has been made to gather or have any form of service and the engineer who is president of the congregation feels it will be left to him to organize the cleaning up and rebuilding…up to him to either make it happen or make the tough choices regarding what is replaced and what is considered a loss.

I have heard several other stories quite like this, where the pastor is not being a pastor and truly seems to only be thinking of himself. Several have up and left, found jobs elsewhere and basically left their congregations to fend for themselves. Still others have made little or no attempt to reach out to their members or be a part of the rebuilding process.

I was stunned, quite frankly. And then thankful, that my church has not been left without leadership…without someone to guide us and gather us together…without a shepherd. We have been truly blessed.

Then my thoughts lingered back to the word of prophesy I heard regarding Katrina. It was given a year ago and basically said that this would be a cleansing.
Given the history and culture of New Orleans, the knee-jerk assumption is that it is to cleanse sin…the sinners. That is a possibility. I am sure that some sinful establishments were destroyed and may move on…and that other individuals may come face to face with their maker and make a decision for Christ. But, I don’t think the purpose of Katrina was to obliterate the sinful ways of a sinful region so much as it was to cleanse a sinful church…and sinful believers…in a sinful region.

I believe Katrina was to cleanse this sinner from that particular sinful region.

New Orleans (and the Gulfcoast in general) is sinful, to be sure. God judges sin, that is also certain. But, Jesus has dealt with the sin of man. He didn't do it by obliterating sin or sinful towns...He paved the only way to right standing with God, commissioned us with the preparation of the gospel of peace and has given the rocks permission to cry out in our absence. The gospel is plain and proclaimed in truth every day. What is lacking is our part…the church’s part. The daily living of a life of faith, in truth, out loud, without curtailment or excuse or contradiction. What is lacking is a church that is as passionate about the gospel as it is about its building and programs and fellowships. What is lacking is lives surrendered to one thing and one thing only…to know Christ and Him crucified.

In Isaiah 52, a great call goes out…and of course that call also comes with a reminder…and a promise:
1Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion;put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city;for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. 2Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem;loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
3For thus says the LORD: "You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money." 4For thus says the Lord GOD: "My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing. 5Now therefore what have I here," declares the LORD, "seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail," declares the LORD, "and continually all the day my name is despised. 6Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I."
7How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." 8The voice of your watchmen--they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy;for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.
9Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem,for the LORD has comforted his people;

The Lord has comforted His people. Unfortunately, some of His people have not received His comfort…even turned their back to it. This is a time for us as believers to cling even more fiercely to Christ for if Katrina has showed us nothing it is that nothing else is guaranteed us. Another storm could whip up tomorrow and wipe away what Katrina left behind. Rita threatened to do just that. All that is promised is that God is…always near…never changing…loving, kind, merciful…and that no matter what befalls us (whether by the hand of the enemy or His wrath) he will comfort His people.

Isaiah 51:16 And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,establishing[c] the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.'"

You are my people.

He has called us so…let us live it out and do as Paul urges in Ephesians chapter 5:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord...Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (v. 1-10, 15-17)

This is written not to the lost but to the church. The Ephesian church needed this reminder and admonition. I believe the New Orleans church needed an epistle in the form of Katrina to remind and admonish us of what we are called to.

As the winds blew and the water flooded in, I believe the Lord was saying:
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you."

As people watched in horror as homes were swept away, entire towns covered in water, smashed beyond recognition and absolute chaos reigning among those left behind, He was saying to the church:
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you."

As we contemplate recovery and wonder about how long it will take, what it will look like, whether it is even worth it, He is saying:
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you."

And as we think on our personal and family issues and look back on what has been lost or changed, and see the sin that is exposed by the deprivation, He is saying:
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you."

We have been largely dead here as a church...as believers…in the New Orleans area. But not dead to the world. As we stand in the death and destruction Katrina has wrought, let us die our little deaths to self and the world and awake to Christ…open our eyes to His light shining on us, leading the way, illuminating those things that are pleasing to Him, that we might shine in this city that is still so dark despite the cleansing flood. Let us heed the call, submit to the correction and walk on with His words in our mouths, covered by the shadow of His hand, proclaiming that we are His people.

Monday, September 26, 2005

All I really want is a nice hot bath

I spent the day on the first floor of my office building in the Mid-City area of New Orleans.


I couldn't spell that word with the word "fun" in it...and I think that spelling gives it more emphasis!

I can't really blog about it right now because I am tired, have a throbbing headache and stink to high heaven. I haven't stopped sweating since I walked into the building at 10am! It is now nearly 5:30pm!

So, I am off to take a nice hot bath...or 5 and then relax or go to bed if relaxing seems to take too much energy.

I will post for real, with pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Katrina Update 12: Alone in the "Big House"

Last night, I was left alone for the first time in over 3 weeks. My Nanny and her husband when to their camp (the one we occupied for 2 weeks) and left me alone in the "Big House" as they call it. He manages a sugar cane plantation and one of his perks is that they get to live rent free on the premises...in the plantation home. It is huge, but not overly so. It has 8 bedrooms, 15' ceilings and most of the rooms have their own bathroom. Some of it has been modernized, and some of that is not very tastefully done, in my opinion. But nevertheless, it is the nicest home I've ever been in and for a few minutes I felt like Queen for a Day being left to "make myself at home" alone.

The Foyer

The Livingroom

My room
My new hair

I said, I felt like Queen for a Day for a few minutes. I have to confess, as I went through the house, locking the doors and turning off lights I did feel a little scared. This house is a bit isolated and it is very dark at night. Being from the city, there is always the thought that someone scary is lurking in the dark, waiting to pounce. Hearing a story about a co-worker being acosted at a hotel earlier in the day didn't help things, I'm sure.

I prayed myself to sleep, but seems to sleep less restfully. Normally, my covers are pretty neat in the morning and I just have to flip them back to make the bed. This morning, they were all crooked and twisted. Well...at least I don't feel tired.

I am hoping to head home tonight and sleep in my bed for the first time in over 3 weeks. Not sure how Rita is going to effect those plans. This morning's forcast shows a considerable curve to the north, which puts it much closer to us. The engineers at the office say that a 6" rainfall could produce similar flooding as Katrina, which wouldn't be good. But, in God's economy it would be good...it has to be good.

Sunday, my pastor said something like this "We can't hope for things to go back to the way they were. If things were good they way they were, Katrina would never have happened." I am praying that I can keep that set in my mind...change is required.

Lord make me willing and help me rejoice no matter what that looks like for me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Katrina Update 11: Foolishness

And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing;everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:8-10)

I read this passage this morning and found great comfort in it…”even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.”

This week, I’ve been feeling some of the effects of being out of fellowship. Since my church is still underwater and its membership is scattered to the four winds, I am missing out on the accountability that was such a huge part of my daily life. Also, because of the craziness of life these days, my time with the Lord is not what it was prior to Katrina…and I am feeling that too. As a result, I have made some foolish choices and my weakness has been exploited. At first, I ate “off plan” out of necessity. But then, I took a bite or two of things I haven’t even looked at in a year just because they were there. Still, I didn’t have more than a bite or two and I didn’t feel conviction as I wasn’t being a glutton. But a door had been opened and then the temptation came…and then I did eat a bit more than I needed to…and once or twice my reason for eating something I shouldn’t have was “not relying on Atkins to do this for me.” It was a desperate justification.

I have not eaten like I used to eat…but I have not made wise choices either. I know my “freedom” made way for temptation. I was reminded of something I blogged about a couple of months ago.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:3-4)

Then I went home and opened my bible and read the “fool” verse and then my “theme verse” for this site…”for freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).
After that, I marveled at just how faithful God is.

I haven’t lost much to Katrina. My apartment is fine. My car is fine. I have a job and my family is safe. My parents, however, have to gut their house and start all over. In the end, they are going to wind up with something much better than they had before. That is my hope too. Though so far I haven’t lost anything to this storm, the Lord is using it to show me more of what needs to be washed away. In the end, I am hoping that I can say I lost much by way of this storm and came out better than I was before…for His glory!

And I have a promise from the Lord that no matter how foolish I am, I will not go astray. That is just amazing to me. That means that God’s sovereignty accounts and plans for my foolishness and each incident is not a backtrack but a stepping stone to more humility, more death to self, and greater holiness. Though I am not reveling in my foolishness…I am so thankful that in God’s economy it is purposeful!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Katrina Update 10: Vacation's Over

This was the view I had to look forward to every morning...

I also got to see these adorable faces all day...

Now, I drive an hour or so in the dark and stare at this all day...

This and the faces of many tired, displaced and disgruntled souls. A little while ago, I went to the ladies room and saw my second tear-stained face of the day. Nerves are raw and tempers have flared...it has made some of those who escaped Katrina with homes and jobs wishing they hadn't been so fortunate. I am thankful that I am not one of those. I know it is only by God's grace. I too feel I have lost something in this deal. The gratitude for having a place to go back to and a job to report to each day is dimmed by what I had to walk away from. For the 2 plus weeks since we left home, I have been getting a taste of the life I want...and liking it. I spent the entire time caring for my family and doing very little thinking about myself. It was very nice.

Most mornings I woke to the smiling or sleeping faces of my niece's. I got to fix breakfast for the family and prepare snacks and activities for the kids. I also washed copious amounts of clothes, cleaned the constantly used kitchen and got very little sleep on account of my youngest niece who loses her pacifier about a dozen times a night and needs me to find it for her. But I don't remember being tired or irritated. In fact, yesterday morning as I left and kissed my niece's heads, I cried...I also cried on the way to the office, thinking about them waking up and having breakfast without me...I cried at my desk wondering what the kiddos were doing at 2:34pm...and I cried when my oldest niece said "Ti Ti!!!" as I walked in the door last night.
But they were good tears, I think. I think my niece's should touch my heart...and my heart should yearn for the gifts the Lord has given and those things He calls good. It should not lament the loss...but I do think I should feel it. If I don't feel the loss of something that was and is good...then what does that say about what God has given? The same thing applies to those suffering loss as a result of Katrina (even if it is just the loss of being able to sleep in one's own bed for a time). If there were no response, no emotion there would be something really wrong. We are made to love and feel intense gladness...we are also made to feel the opposite emotions. The sticking point is when pride enters in and tells us we have been deprived of something...that we deserve better than we have...that something has been stolen that is rightfully ours.
That is a lie...it is always a lie.
The bible says that every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord. The logical conclusion, then, is that the loss of good and perfect gifts is also His doing. The bible also says that God is faithful and just and works all things for our good. A thief doesn't rob for the good of the person he is robbing. God is no thief. He does not steal. He can't steal what belongs to Him. That is a point I trip up on a lot. I hold things too tightly and claim ownership when I have no right to. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." That includes my home, my job, my bed, my preferences, my church and my family.
Each of these, and so many more, have been touched, rearranged, threatened in some way, or take away somehow. There have been moments of emotion, moments when I am tempted to think too much about what has been lost, the Lord has been very faithful to remind me that one can not lose what one does not possess. The borrower can not consider loss what he returns to the lender.

If this experience has taught me anything it is that nothing is certain, nothing is constant, nothing is guaranteed...nothing, that is, except God. He is, was, always will be. He is faithful and unchanging...always good, always kind, always interceeding for us, always working everything to our good. What His word says about Him was true when it was written, before it was written, and regardless of current events. Because of this, He is all there is to rely on, look to, cherish and cling to.
Lord, help me to keep this in the forefront of my mind...to meditate on this and seek to emulate it always in my thoughts, emotions and response. Help me to say with the psalmist "O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love. (Psalm 59:17)"

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Katrina Update 10: "They flew."

In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Hovering around him were mighty seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew. In a great chorus they sang, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory!" The glorious singing shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke.(Isaiah 6: 1-4)

2Hovering around him were mighty seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew.

This passage really struck me. Their eyes were covered. They couldn’t see where they were going. Their feet were covered. They couldn’t walk on their own. And yet they flew. What that says to me is that they were guided by nothing but the spirit of God. This passage says “in a great chorus they sang, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty!’” Where? How did they not run into things? Their focus was only on the Lord. I don’t get any indication that this was strange or frightening for them…it just says “they flew”.

I feel very much like I have my eyes covered and my feet covered…like I can’t see where I am going or even attempt to go my own way. But I don’t necessarily feel like I am flying carefree thinking only of the glory of the Lord. I want to…but I am certain that I am not always.

Lord, help me to just fly and trust you with everything. Help me to not have to see to not have to go my own way. Help me to sing because I know you know where I am going and that I will get there safely.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Katrina Update 9 - What is Precious

When we evacuated for Hurricane Katrina we didn't have much time to prepare. Normally, we know about a week in advance that a storm is coming in our general direction. We generally know about 3 days in advance that it is going to hit near enough to effect us. This gives people time to do all the necessary things...go to the grocery, clear the yard of possible debris, find a place to stay and pack up the essentials and the precious.

Every time we have had to either prepare to ride out a storm or leave, my mom has brought along the same things: food, clothing, insurance papers, photo albums and her porcelain dolls. She has a large collection of them, mostly made by my grandmother. That was a hobby of hers and she made some beautiful dolls for us and for herself. When Ma Ma passed away, my mom inherited the dolls and the beautiful curio cabinet she kept them in. Mom has since inherited the dolls Ma Ma made for me as I have no place to display them...and she just likes the dolls so much more than I do.

This time, we couldn't take the dolls. There wasn't time and we needed the space for all the people we were taking with us. We each grabbed 3 days worth of clothes and hit the road...we planned to buy food and such later. Mom REALLY didn't want to leave her dolls. That was the only thing she was truly worried about because they are irreplaceable and so precious to her.

I used to have a lot of precious things: my bell collection, my Barbie collection, notes and letters from Junior High and High School, my bedding (I've always been big on bedding), my videos, cds and dvds...all of my stuff really was precious to me. Now, what is precious is different.

A few Friday's before the storm, I spent a few hours talking to a friend of mine. In that conversation, what is precious to me now was confronted and challenged. Not that they are bad things, I was just confronted with how precious they were and how resistant I was to God messing around with them.

It all started innocently enough with my friend suggesting I get a roomate. I couldn't consider it, I told her, because that would mean I couldn't have my nieces all the time. My reaction to that led into discussion about my preferences regarding my routines, how my life looks and what is in it and how upsetting the idea of changing any of it was to me. I was in tears, my chest was tight and I was getting a headache from trying to wrap my mind around the possibility. Truth be told, I didn't want to give anything up...not time with my nieces, not the routine of my life (work, church, family, alone time), my church life and all that was in it (worship team, bible study, fellowship)...things were good as they were and I wanted them to stay that way. More to the point, I didn't want the Lord messing with them. Of course, I came up with spiritual reasons for things to remain as they were...but really I was just desperate to hold on to what I considered good...what I regarded as precious.

What I was saying, though, was that they were more precious to me than God.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit.

Because of work, I am going to be living an hour away from my family and will likely only see them on weekends.

My church is under water and we will be very blessed if we can find a meeting place, possibly on some other day of the week. I will likely not be involved in the thngs I was involved in...or at least not to the same extent.

My friends are scattered abroad.

My sister-in-law is considering a move to Dallas to be near her family...the sister-in-law who is mother of my precious nieces and nephew.

This truly is touching all that is precious to me. Unlike my mom, I didn't have to leave them behind...they came along with me and I've been wrestling with them this whole time.

God isn't removing anything, as far as I can tell, He is merely rearranging them and my flesh has not always been willing to surrender to His ways. But I want to be. I need to be. I have no choice but to be willing because it's all happening, all being rearranged and that is just the way it is.

I know it will be for my good and His glory and I know that this wrestling is part of the plan, too. The choice I have to make is to honor Him regardless of what this storm touches and how it looks afterwards. I know the end result will be beautiful and I will be changed. I just pray that I don't dishonor Him as I fight to loosen my grip on what is precious to me and surrender to His working.

Monday, September 5, 2005

Katrina Update 8 - Church

What does your church look like? Is it a small, traditional wooden or brick building with a steeple...a large stadium looking mega church...a more modern and minimalistic facility that resembles a warehouse or industrial building...or a chapel with rafters and buttresses and arches...or is it something else like a meeting room in a hotel or even someone's home?

Right now, my church looks like this...

because our church building is currently under a few feet of water and our membership is spread across the southern states.

I got to visit with a few members of my church family yesterday at a hotel a few miles away. It was my first face-to-face contact with anyone from my church since we evacuated for the storm. It was so nice to see everyone and get hugs and hear testimonies of God's faithfulness. I spent quite a bit of time talking with our Senior Pastor's wife. Several families from our church are staying at the same place...many families with young children. She told me that the mom's have worked it out so that each of them has an hour to spend with the Lord each morning...more time than most get at home. She said it's been wonderful and most of them return teary-eyed, having spent most of the time repenting. I was so blessed to hear that. They aren't just using that time to try to get the Lord to fix things or make them more to their liking...they are humbling themselves and repenting, probably mostly for the daily stuff that most of us aren't even phased by most of the time. Being in the environment they are in, surrounded by people every day that they might normally see once or twice a week, they see sin more easily and are also being provided the opportunity to deal with it daily. It got me thinking about the church...about community...about how nice it would be to have that.

A few months ago, I was talking to a friend of mine and she said she thought the idea of living together in groups was a good thing. Her thought was that we would experience much the same thing as the ladies at the hotel have...increased awareness of sin...deeper sensitivity to it...and we could also help each other in blocking off time to spend with the Lord and holding each other accountable, as well.

Of course, in the post-Manson/Jones/Koresh world the idea of living on some sort of commune sounds pretty crazy and downright scary. But I think living in suburbs and in a time of urban sprawl, even in churches we have lost some or all of the sense and reality of community.

I know living the way I have for the past week or so has had a profound effect on me. I am way more aware of my sin...and for some reason that I can only attribute to God, I am finding myself contributing and serving and sharing in ways I haven't before. One of my favorite things has been getting up early with my niece, feeding her and then having my time with the Lord. After that I fix breakfast for the family and clean the kitchen. It just dawned on me today that it hasn't even been a thought...and that I've actually enjoyed it. I wish I could also say that I haven't noticed that others haven't helped as much or as joyfully...but I can't. Yet, praise the Lord, that hasn't hindered me at all.

All of that, and I haven't been "cooped up" with the church. None of the family members I am staying with are believers. I can only image how much more sensitive and aware and contrite I would be in that circumstance. I truly covet what those ladies have had...yet I am grateful for how near the Lord has been to me and what He has made me aware of and protected me from while I have been without my church family to sharpen me and hold me accountable. He really is all we need...the rest is just blessings beside...or as we say in New Orleans "lagniappe (lan-yap)."

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Katrina Update 7 - All Things New

Last night I volunteered to take my 7-month old niece for the night. The baby had been sleeping in my sister-in-law's bed and consequently she hasn't had a good night's sleep since we evacuated. I am so glad I made the offer because had I not, I would have missed the sunrise over Lake Verret.

My niece woke up for a bottle at 5:30am and by the time she was fed, changed and sleeping again, the sun had begun to come up and it was beautiful. The picture to the left is not the actual view, but pretty close. Just picture a few camp homes on pilings in front and a little more pink in the sky and you'll have what I saw this morning. Again, it was beautiful.

Watching the sun come up made me think of two passages of scripture...

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him. (Lamentations 3:22-24)


All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say,
"Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time. (Ecclesiastes 1:8-10)

I thought about that question...is there anything new under the sun? I asked that question last night as I watched reports of the atrocities that are said to have happened in the Superdome. "Certainly other cities have faced what we are facing and have been put in this same position...yet I dont recall hearing of rapes and murders and people being dumped on the side of the road with no food or water in sight." "There is nothing new under the sun." was what I heard in response.

The point of the Ecclesiastes passage is to say that there is nothing new, nothing that can override or negate or fall outside of the jurisdiction of the word of God. And this is true...but there are "new" things (which in theory are not so much new as in unique or of first-occurance but renewed...always renewing or occuring...never ceasing to return) such as the mercy of God which is new every morning and the new creation that I am in Christ. There are also new things in the form of a renewed mind, a changed heart, a different perspective on circumstances, new levels of sanctification and holiness, etc.

Indeed, the Lord makes all things new...but often that newness comes at a price: death. Whether it be actual physical death, death to self, death to sin, the death of a circumstance, relationship, season of life...death or some form of loss usually comes before newness.

Our pastor did a series which touched on this idea of having to die to live, to grow, to become something better. He used the example of a seed. When you put a seed in the ground it dies. It stops being a seed but becomes a plant or tree and bears fruit. It can't do that as a seed - it has to die first. We are called to do the same thing. We must die, as Paul says, daily to become what it is God intends for us to be. I had to die to gluttony to gain freedom. I had to die to my idea of church life to get where I am in my walk. I am still being called to die to my preferences and hurts and past experiences to walk in a manner worthy and grow in grace. Had I not died to any of those things, i'd still be where I was: a seed on concrete wanting to be a tree, but unwilling to die to make it so.

But God...But God saw me and nudged me into the soil and I began to die...and at the same time become something new.

Right now a lot of people in my "neck of the woods" are facing new things and being called to die to what was before and embrace this new thing...new way of life...and in many cases, new places to live. I have to confess that the prospect of months of this life isn't exciting to me. What is even less exciting is the prospect of permanent change. There is a possibility that my family may relocate. My parents are discussing it and (worse) my brother and sister-in-law are discussing it. If that happens I will have to make a choice about where I want to live. Do I want to stay here with the church I love and the job I know is secure, or venture elsewhere to be close to my family.

The only reason I am not fretting over this is because I know, ultimately, the decision is not mine to make. The Lord will make His way plain. He has been very effective in preparing me for and leading me into each new thing...and I have no doubt that He will continue to be equally effective in this. I also know that, though each new thing has been hard (death is never fun) they have all turned out for the good...and in most cases for the wonderful. The Lord is so kind.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Katrina Update 6 - My Daddy

My Daddy made it here to Pierre Part at about 2am. He didn't get to sleep long though, as my niece, Kira insisted on going to tell him "Good Morning" at about 8am. He didn't mind though. I was able to fix my dad breakfast and keep his coffee mug full...something that might not bring me as much joy ordinarily as it did this morning. Which is kind of sad.

After breakfast was done and the kids went outside and my nanny was occupied helping my mom unpack and wash clothes and such, I was able to have about 30 minutes alone with my Dad to talk about his experience.

Before I go into some of that, I have to just say that I love how emotional and sentimental my Dad has become in his "old age" (he's only 55).

The emotion and sentimentality didn't just start with this ordeal or come once he finally had time to think about what he'd been through...it started with the birth of his first granddaughter. His care and concern for us in this situation was evident as we were discussing evacutation plans. I was fine until I saw the fear in his eyes Sunday morning. If Daddy was scared, I knew this was serious and any composure I had was gone. Saying goodbye was doubly difficult knowing that he had to stay here and wait for the monster that was Hurricane Katrina to make landfall. I knew if my dad had to make a decision to keep the residents of the nursing home he works for safe, he would do it, even if it meant risking his own safety. I also knew that he was in danger even without heroics. Structural damage, debris, floodwaters, downed power lines...any number of things could cause serious injury or death. I also knew that God was in control and whatever happened would be in accordance with His will and for our good. So I prayed that Daddy's safety was the will of God...that He would also be our protector and provider...and that He would have mercy on our city yet again.

He answered each of those prayers in spades!

Daddy said that it was rough riding out the storm, but the building they were in suffered very little damage. The biggest challenges were the number of people that needed care, the limited staff and the lack of electricity. Because of the latter, patients were suffering the effects of heat and many began to deteriorate...which prompted the decision to evacuate. In the end, they lost 2 of their critical patients and a few others had to be rushed to hospitals en route to their evacuation facility in Houston.

The rest of the evacuess (my dad, the staff and their families, and even a few community members that volunteered to help with the residents in exchange for a ride out of town) were first brought to another nursing home filled with demential patients. Dad said the conditions were deplorable and he wouldn't let a dog stay the night there. They got on the phone and found a nearby church willing to host them.

Here is where he got the most choked up. What he described was the body of Christ being the body of Christ...not just giving a cup of water and a piece of bread and a place to lay one's head, but actually caring for the refugees personnally. Dad said the people running the shelter didn't seem to sleep and were constantly going around making sure everyone was comfortable and had what they needed. He was very touched and said he had a difficult time saying goodbye to the people that were so kind to him and the other evacuees.

As I am typing this, my brother Brad is whistling "Jesus Loves Me." My niece and I sing it and I guess it is rubbing off or sticking in his head or something. Whatever the case, it is truly amazing to see the Love of God touching their lives and to be here to witness and identify it. It is also good to be able to give it while the rest of my family is stressing and breaking down and arguing. The arguing has been at a minimum...for that I am thankful, too.

Mom and the girls and I are about to head out to the store to get a few more "necessities"...and I fully acknowledge that right now, our necessities would be luxuries to many.

God is so kind!

Friday, September 2, 2005

Katrina Update 5 - Can't Stop Praising

So...yesterday was eventful. It started with my family doing its best Jerry Springer Show impression. I got to be the big, bald guy in the black shirt standing between the two screaming guests.

It doesn't look fun on TV...it is much less fun in real life.

As we were driving out of town Sunday morning, I knew whatever the outcome, I would be with my family for an extended and uninterrupted period of time. I also knew I might be called to play Jerry's bouncer...among other things.

After the drama died down, we got some good news. My
parent's home only got 1 foot of water...so my mom's beloved porcelain doll collection was safe. My grandparent's home didn't have any water at all. Neither did my apartment AND my cockatiel was alive. My youngest brother was somehow able to get into the city and check all of this out for us, and rescue my bird. The only thing I don't know about is my car. I parked it in a parking garage at a shopping mall. It should have been safe from water and wind, but possibly not from desperate people.

I've been thinking a lot about the desperation of the people
stranded in the city...and the fear it is causing those who are anxious to get back and assess the damage and save what they can. We have plans to go back and my uncle is insisting on bringing his gun. That prospect doesn't sit well with me, but I don't think I will be able to talk them out of it...and part of me doesn't want to.

However, ever faithful, God has reminded me that He is my protection.

Last night, my niece wanted to read a story from the
Children's Bible I have for her. So I opened it and found myself in Daniel. The plots, the schemes, the success of the schemers and Daniel dropped in a den of "lean lions" licking their chops. And, yet, Daniel was safe! It doesn't make sense, except to say "but God!"

Truly, no weapon shall prosper against us if God says it won't. And if it does, then it was His plan and for His glory. I only hope that I can honor Him regardless and not be afraid.

He has been better to me and mine than we deserve. Truly, where we have been staying is nicer than where we left and our friends and family have been more than generous to us. Even with the drama yesterday, I can say "it's all good" every bit of it! And he has been so near and faithful and kind. I literally have yet to run out of things to praise Him for...and the list keeps growing!

Right now, I am sitting at my Nanny's camp on Lake Verret in Pierre Part, LA on a laptop computer with a wireless connection and will have a nice little patio to read my bible and drink my coffee in the morning. It could only be better if I could go to church and worship with my church family on Sunday...but, hey, I'm not complaining!

Oh...and my Daddy is on his way from Houston. He should get here sometime tonight. We haven't seen him since 6am Sunday morning...so I am very excited to have him back, even if it isn't back "home".