Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lovely Rita, Meter Maid

Well, not gonna be able to listen to that Beatles song again without flashing back on last weekend.

What follows is a random series of stories & impressions post-Hurricane Rita.

- I'm thankful that the storm skated east of Houston... Shari's family was holed up in Conroe (north of Houston) and fully expected to lose the barn/apartment on their new property as well as see their unsold former home flood if Rita hit them full force. As it is, they're without power and running the fridge & some fans off a borrowed generator, but there's no major damage.

- Being thankful for the hurricane not hitting my in-laws makes me feel guilty - because it isn't like the hurricane just fizzled out and did no damage. It actually came ashore in my old stomping grounds, southeast Texas. Back in 1987-88, I was the minister of youth in a little (smaller than NewLife) Baptist church in Silsbee, TX - Good Shepherd Baptist Church. I went into Beaumont every week to see a movie, pick up the new comic books, and just hang out. Seeing the pictures from Beaumont & Port Arthur are disconcerting, to say the least.

- I've been trying to get in touch with the pastor of Good Shepherd this week - but the phones are down & the power is out. I can still see the church in my mind's eye, and then I try to imagine what kind of damage they sustained. (The church sits in a bit of a hole, kind of like NewLife, and I have this sick feeling that they have a combination of wind damage & flooding.)

- My memories of Good Shepherd are really positive - it was my first full-time church position and the folks there were incredibly kind to me. I was hired as the summer youth minister after my first year at seminary... and things went so well that they invited me to continue on through the school year. They even gave me one work day a week to attend seminary (in Houston).

- I learned how to do hospital visits in Beaumont. Bro. Fred (our pastor) drug me along & had me watch him. Then, the next person we visited, he had me pray. By the end of the day, he was letting me do most of the talking. (Can't say enough good things about Fred Raney... he was a gift to me as a young minister.)

- I'm a little ticked that the news media is so focused on New Orleans & Houston. It feels like natural disasters really aren't that bad unless they happen to big cities.

All of this reflecting takes me (of course) someplace spiritual...

In the film, "Three Amigos", Steve Martin's character (Lucky Day) gives a short speech, meant to be encouraging as the little village gets ready to face down the bandit king, El Guapo:

I suppose you could say that everyone has an El Guapo. For some, shyness may be an El Guapo. For others, lack of education may be an El Guapo. But for us, El Guapo is a large ugly man who wants to kill us!

For some, your El Guapo may be a hurricane. For others, it's the storms of life. (Most of us don't have to worry about a large, ugly man wanting to kill us.)

I can't control the weather. I can't make a storm stop in it's tracks or change direction. If a hurricane is coming my way, I can either run or board up my house & ride it out.

I can't control most of the storms in my life, either. Oh, yeah... I know there's lots of storms we bring on ourselves (bad financial habits, insufficient courage to do the right thing, etc.) But many of the things that hit us are due to the mistakes & sins of others.

So the question is: how do I react to those storms? Have I properly prepared my life to deal with disaster, or am I pretending that "nothing bad will ever happen to me"? Look, if someone promised you that following Jesus would protect you from bad stuff, they obviously didn't pay attention in Sunday School. The Bible is filled with stories of bad things happening to people who love God: stonings, beatings, murder, natural disaster, shipwreck, flood, etc. Christianity is not a magic talisman to ward off difficult circumstances.

Instead, followers of Christ are spiritually prepared for the storms of life... armed with the peace of God's presence and the call to live out what they believe.

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Philippians 4:6-8 (The Message)

So, I'll ask again: are you ready for the storm? It's coming.

The waves crash in the tide rolls out
It's an angry sea but there is no doubt
That the lighthouse will keep shining out
To warn a lonely sailor
And the lightning strikes
And the wind cuts cold
Through the sailor's bones
Through the sailor's soul
'Til there's nothing left that he can hold
Except a rolling ocean

Oh I am ready for the storm
Yes sir ready
I am ready for the storm
I'm ready for the storm

Oh give me mercy for my dreams
'Cause every confrontation seems to tell me
What it really means
To be this lonely sailor
And when the sky begins to clear
The sun it melts away my fear
And I shed a silent weary tear
For those who mean to love me


The distance it is no real friend
And time will take its time
And you will find that in the end
It brings you me
This lonely sailor
And when You take me by the hand
And You love me, Lord, You love me
And I should have realized
I had no reasons to be frightened


"Ready For the Storm", written by Dougie MacLean (recorded by Rich Mullins on his Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth album)

This article originally appeared in the 9/29/05 edition of The Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.


Anonymous said...

I love that dialogue from The Three Amigos. Classic.

"Would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?"

Scott Rushing said...

"My little buttercup..."

I could quote Three Amigos for a solid hour and a half.

Oh wait, that wasn't the point of this post?

Anonymous said...

"Do you have anything beside Mexican food?"

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Much Belated Update:

Amazingly, Good Shepherd Baptist had very little damage, despite my fears. The steeple was knocked down (but evidently EVERY church steeple in East TX fell down) and a bit of water got into the education building.