“… what are we gonna do now?”
<Some sound bytes and thoughts along the way to & thru a hurricane named Harvey.>
Until recently I didn’t think much about the name Harvey. I have no uncle Harvey, even though my drunk grandfather called our house once asking for “Harv McGee.” My dad’s name is Howard. But, I do remember Harvey the Rabbit and the actor Harvey Keitel. When I was a boy, there was baseball player named Harvey Kuenn and for the NASA folks… everyone knows about Harvey Hubbell. But, even when you google ‘famous Harveys,’ the list is not that long. This will not be the case anymore in our corner of the kingdom when someone mentions the name, Harvey. As when that happens, all of us will turn our hearts and minds to a hurricane so named that has brought more devastation to our neighborhoods than any of us can recall. And stuck somewhere in the middle of that … consider… a recent report indicates just about 1 million people have moved to the Houston metroplex since hurricane Ike hit in 2008. One million with most having no experience with what a storm like that can do.
It will be a long and arduous recovery for people like us and people that we know and the people they know. 52 inches of rain and the subsequent flooding is a hemorrhoid for each and every one of us! But, remember.. I’m a church guy. I get that life is hard. I get that God is good. Hurricanes remind us of that. And at the church I serve … we say this… at New Life people focus their lives using seven helpful verbs… Prayer and worship are two of them. This is primary behavior for those who follow Jesus. We study the Bible as the guide and norm for life. At New Life, people invite others to come along to join the journey and encourage them each day. We give of our time and money as a sign of God’s generosity and we tend to each day as we serve God by serving others. And for now, we will enter the battle of havoc and hope as this is what appears and rises when a storm like Harvey makes itself know. It is time to ENCOURAGE and SERVE. We will still tend to the seven faith behaviors of our Christian lives but for the time being we will keep this reality in front of us. Remember what Martin Luther wrote… “God doesn’t need your good works; your neighbor does.” And we know what Jesus said when answering the question… ‘who is my neighbor?’
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
When my own house took on 22″ of water in 1995, I was encouraged by the Lutheran Disaster Relief staff to go back and take a look at the Noah flood story in Genesis. When 22″ of water drop out of the sky in 24 hours, there’s no place to go and you have some extra time to read. See Genesis 6:1 – 9:28 for details. And this is what is worth noting…
As children we are taught the story of Noah and the flood. God wanted to wash aways the sins of the corrupt world and decided that one righteous man and his family would be enough to start over. The flood waters came. Noah and his family survived. And God gave us a rainbow to remind us the world would never be flooded again. That’s what children learn.
As adults, we keep reading and find out that Noah wasn’t so righteous after all. He becomes a man of the dirt, plants a vineyard, makes wine, gets drunk and naked and embarrasses his sons. So much for the one righteous man. Noah is just like the rest of us and I conclude we are all in the same boat!
But, there is another piece of that story worth noting. It’s the part at the end of chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8 where the water took 150 days to recede. Whether you believe literally in 40 days and 40 nights of rain or that it rained for a long, long time… I think paying attention to the 150 day notation is worthwhile. That’s what the LDR staff was helping us understand. The water comes and the water subsides leaving much havoc in its wake, but it is in the 150 days that hope rises up and it rises up, not alone, but in community. Remember… we’re all in the same boat together and it takes more than a weekend to recover and for many even more than 150 days.
HAVOC is 1000’s of streets in SE Texas looking like this!
The havoc from the hurricane is one thing. What comes after is another. People try to help and they try to be kind and say things like, “well, it’s just stuff.’ And then comes the reply… “yeah, but it’s MY stuff.” Point taken.
One man is displaced from his home. He goes to live with other family and finds himself on an unfamiliar sidewalk, trips and falls injuring his hip and a trip to the ER. Havoc 2.0.
Estimates are over 500,000 cars went underwater. Two of them to a daughter and a daughter-in-law. It’s just stuff. It’s just a car people say. “Yeah, but it’s MY car“! Point taken and with the average car costing $33,500 these days that equals over $16 billion dollars of replacement vehicles. Expect insurance rates to climb. All. Over. The country. Expect car dealers to smile.
One person said, “Pastor, had this happened a year and half ago, I’m not sure what would have happened to me.” That person joined this congregation at the invitation of a friend. Life was changed. Forever. Havoc is struck down by hope as others came to muck out the house and take to the streets stuff not worthy of keeping.
Another person has been heard saying over and over… “I never thought my house could take on so much water. I am so blessed to have a church that cares so much for others.” Let that sink in. For some, there was no where to turn. So, the house mucking continues. Day 150, day 149, day 148, etc. Havoc is being taken out and hope is seeping in.
“It could have been worse. I wasn’t sure if I would make it. I held on to my car for three hours as the waters rose and became swifter. Two boats came by filled with others in a fix just like me. The third boat rescued me. It happened so fast. It could have been much worse.” I have no picture of this. But, we can all picture THAT!
While Texas has been showing the rest of the world how to handle a storm like Harvey, and the TV reporters have provided some wonderful images of kindness, care with neighbor helping neighbor no matter what color or language or how much money they have in the bank, I’ve also witnessed others rummaging through bags outside the Salvation Army pilfering clothes and it’s always suspect when some folks arrive at your house in a pick-up truck or two offering to “haul off your stuff” to a house that was not damaged but with a few good pictures of piles at the street, a good insurance pay-out is nearby. So, yes… we are all in the same boat… we aren’t all as righteous as folks would like us to be.
Then there is this… the predictable response to those in the cross hairs of the storm.
- GUILT. There is a likelihood that many who experienced little to no damage will begin to feel guilty in the coming weeks as others take a much longer time to recover including those who have witnessed everything they’ve owned underwater… and…
- RESENTMENT for those who lost so much and now see their friends and family going about their merry way as if Harvey had been gulped up by the Gulf of Mexico and never even showed up.
It’s important to remember that feelings are just that… feelings… and what we do with them… how we respond and acknowledge them … makes all the difference.
A CONFESSION OF SINS
I did hear this on the TV. There were those who were stranded in their homes while the storm took its toll and there were those (like me) who were outside the storm when it hit and could not return for days by car or plane. I’ve never thought about owning a boat… ’til now. Just sayin’.
“This is going to be a long recovery for so many. We never went back to re-visit the people impacted by Hurricane Katrina 2 and 3 years later. We just went on to the next story… the next thing and didn’t show care. I hope we can do a different thing for those who are impacted now.” <network and reporter not singled out.> We’re all in the same boat.
WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO NOW?
This is the question now worth asking and so is this one…
… from where will we find our strength to rise up rebuild?
I think Psalm 22:10-11 can help…
“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”
HOPE isn’t a thing. Hope has a face. It is the face of Jesus and the face of Jesus shows up on people like this!
This is not a time to point fingers of blame. Houston had a worse flood in 1935. Hurricanes bring both havoc and hope. So, this is a time to point out the places where we lift up our neighbors. This is the time where we make piles of rubble and create a new life beyond the ruin. This is a time to be smart and trust the God who never sleeps nor slumbers… a time to trust in God’s strength and God’s peace. There’s enough hope for all of us and we do not keep it to ourselves.
And I heard them murmur… “Whatta we gonna do now?” Keep counting the days and watch havoc be overcome by hope. And if it happens again. We’ll do this again. We’re all in the same boat!
Murmuring as best I can,