Sunday, September 04, 2005


As in, "My thoughts are jumbled."

A short tour of my mental landscape...

Last Sunday

Braeden & I arrive home from camping with church folks (much fun was had). I crank up the e-mail and find a blizzard of posts on the Gulf Games list... warnings from Warren Madden (hurricane hunter w/the Weather Channel & Gulf Gamer) about the potential severity of Katrina, questions asking the whereabouts of Lenny, Henry, the Moore's, the Cortazzo's, the LaBranche, Jim & Erin and others. I'm usually pretty cool about natural disasters (positive spin: I'm objective; negative spin: I'm cold as a fish) but I break down trying to tell Shari that we're not sure everyone is accounted for.

By late evening, it appears that everyone I know in New Orleans (admittedly, a small number of folks) is safe. I'm relieved and begin to realize that the "want to watch a train wreck" part of my brain is kicking in... I'd like to see what the hurricane does. Since I'd just visited the city in late July for Gulf Games, I think I have some perspective.


We don't have cable or satellite, so I rely on the Web and network news to figure out what's going on. Evidently, California stations are more interested in how Katrina will affect our already outrageous gas prices, so I don't get much info until watching Nightline late that night. I was heartened to see a reporter standing in front of Harrah's on Canal Street (where William & I got off the trolley to find Mother's - Home of the Most Excellent Po'Boy) with only palm trees down.

There's a part of me that feels guilty about thanking God for sparing New Orleans, because Biloxi & Gulfport end up taking the bullet. Mostly I'm relieved that most of the Gulf Games family looks like they'll come through this with minor damage & some good stories to tell.


While I'm asleep, the levee breaks and water pours into New Orleans. A little voice in my head does the whole "it wouldn't have happened if you'd kept watching the news" which is stupid but a pretty normal response, I guess.

By Tuesday night, the same reporter on Nightline is standing in the same place as Monday night, only now he's standing in 3 feet of water. That means our hotel (the Park Plaza) has to have water standing in the lobby. A couple of thoughts run through my head: "Could I have ridden out the storm in the upper floors of a hotel?" "I am SO glad this didn't happen during Gulf Games."

Things are getting rough in the Superdome, which has become Grand Central Station for news media. Braeden asks me if the Rescue Heroes can help, and I tell him that there are lots of heroes helping, but it's not like his cartoons - they can't stop the storm.


I find myself having difficulty working... as the scope of the disaster becomes clearer and clearer in the light of day, I start worrying about the future for friends like Lenny & Greg. It's not even my future... but I'm feeling long-distance empathy that immobilizes me.

We give to the North American Mission Board, which makes me feel better for about a minute, until I realize again how monstrous the need is.

I write a Grapevine (church e-newsletter) article about Katrina - including the proclamation of the Day of Prayer by the governor of LA, a great story about Sarah Lohroff (a Gulf Games kid), and my own comments about judgement & the love of God. I don't put down in the article that it seems presumptous to call Katrina "God's judgement on the sinful city of New Orleans", as Bourbon Street & the Quarter (aka Land of 100 Live Sex Shows & on-the-street drinking) looks like it's only going to suffer minor damage while huge swaths of poor neighborhoods are flooded.

The video from N.O. is painful to watch... I can only imagine how much worse it is for someone who likes the city. (I feel vaguely guilty today about my attitude about New Orleans after Gulf Games... I kept mumbling about how it was a dirty, smelly city that I didn't particularly enjoy. Gulf Games was wonderful, but I couldn't care less if I got to visit again.)

Gulf Games folks have begun talking about how to help each other rebuild... if this kind of conversation is going on in a lot of other places, the situation is a bit more hopeful.


Today somebody starts trolling for political discussion (in other words, bash the President for how screwed up everything is) on one of my gaming lists. Amazingly enough, the majority of folks weigh in with a hearty "shut up", which makes me feel better.

At the same time, I find myself wondering why help hasn't arrived. I know that Southern Baptist disaster relief crews headed out almost before the storm was done... why isn't something being done, and how can any self-respecting politician let the things happen at the convention center & the dome ON TELEVISION and not throw something at the problem?

I try to explain my theory to Shari, which I'm not sure really holds water (unfortunate pun): sending a small squad of Guardsmen into a crowd of 10,000+ starving people with food & water would certainly set off a riot. The only way to stop that is to give them "shoot to kill" orders, which would be political suicide. So, you've got to wait until you can move massive assistance & food all at once, along with big numbers of troops (who really won't shoot unless they have run out of options). My explanation makes me feel better, but it doesn't explain all the problems.

Greg is beginning to wonder if his business (insurance) will survive - while he moved to TN, all of his client's are in New Orleans, and it's beyond my abilities to wrap my head around what he's going to go through over the next few months. It'd be easier if he was a son of a you-know-what, but Greg's an honorable man who's deeply in love with Jesus, not to mention he's a man who feels deeply for people & esp. friends. I remind myself to pray for him & Gail & Lindsey.

Lenny, typing away from a hotel room in Sulphur, TX, is the voice of reason & information for us all. My mind wanders to Lenny's job change in the last few months... and whether or not the coin business will be survivable. His generosity to me has been so huge...

This is also the day I begin to wonder about places I've been before... how is New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary? (I was there back in 1997 for a mini-conference of GenX church planters.) What about Gulfshore Baptist Assembly, a retreat center just outside of Gulfport? (I took kids there for summer camp back in '89.)


I'm numb. Too many pictures of disaster. Too many times reading the lead story on Yahoo News only to find that all they've done is simply add a few more horrific details about conditions at the convention center.

I find myself more & more irritated by the finger-pointing... and yet, at the same time, amazed & hopeful by the way churches, esp. in TX, are stepping up to the plate and caring for people. I'm blown away that people are acknowledging that they'll need to think about "the long haul" in how to help these folks, not just feed 'em for a week and send 'em on their merry way.

New Orleans Baptist Seminary is under water... well, not completely, but enough so I'd guess fall classes are cancelled. I wonder what my nieces & nephew (William) are thinking - they stayed there last summer & did missions work in the community around the seminary... which is all underwater, too.

There's no word about Gulfshore Assembly online... the only scrap of info I find simply says that no one can get there because the roads are blocked. (When I was there in '89, we rode out a small storm one afternoon, and that was scary enough. Something like Katrina could wipe the place off the map.)


I wake up & once again check online for information. Kayne West needs to sit down & be quiet... for the difficulties of the disaster response to be a plot against African-Americans would require a plot of X-Files-ish proportions. I'm the first to acknowledge that it's awful and a tragedy and that the lag time in responding seems nuts, but it's not some kind of vast right-wing conspiracy.

The Purpose-Driven churches are already trying to figure out how to help churches in the affected areas rebuild... which is cool. I start praying about how we can do that here at NewLife... is this our next mission trip? I dunno... I ponder how much of my response is God's "still small voice", how much is "hey, kids, let's put on a show", and how much is guilt and/or "all the other cool churches are doing it"? Definitely need to keep praying about this.

The seminary is figuring out ways to do classes even with the seminary underwater... how cool is that?

OTOH, Gulfshore Baptist Assembly is almost certainly gone (due to the storm surge) and the 3 workers who stayed behind to ride out the storm are missing.

I'm beginning to wonder why New Orleans gets all the footage? Is it easier to take pictures of a mob of refugees and inflate the situation than it is to focus on the less-popular states of MS and AL?

Today (Sunday)

Braeden & I talk before I leave for church - last night, he went to Toys'R'Us with allowance money he'd saved and bought a Micro Rescue Heroes playset. This morning, he watched the videos that came with it and told me that one of them had a storm "like New Orleans." Then he asked me, "Dad, what's New Orleans like?" I tried to explain that much of the city was flooded and everyone had to leave their homes. He then wondered if scuba divers could rescue people who were trapped. I proceeded to tell him about the helicopter rescues that I'd seen on TV (we've kept the boys from watching most of the footage). Then we decided we needing to keep praying for people.

This morning in the shower I had a sick thought - I blew off a chance to go to the D-Day Museum back in July because I was sure I'd get to N.O. again... so, no D-Day Museum for me? I feel like a total heel for this running through my head.

This morning I've been working on my sermon... the primary focus was to be a "preview" for our capital campaign (which starts in mid-October), but that seems wack in light of what's going on in the South. The theme (Get in the Game) fits, but the application is a little weird. Looks like this morning will be one of those "fly by the seat of my pants and keep throwing up prayers" kind of messages.

Like I said earlier, my thoughts are jumbled. God, use this jumble to your glory.


Anonymous said...

I thought you might be interested in this essay that Ben Stein recently wrote. It's a good counter to those that seek to blame Bush for Katrina:

Get Off His Back
By Ben Stein

Anonymous said...

I don't think your thoughts about all this are any more or less jumbled than the next person. It's kind of like the daze we were all in after 9/11. Dude, you're normal, just wittier and a better writer than most of us. :-)