Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Lifeline

Hurricane Harvey offered the city of Houston and surrounding areas an opportunity to experience the gifts of help, unity, and concentrating on a common cause.  One of the touching stories that continues to resurface is the video of the elderly man caught in the flood waters in his SUV.  People that witnessed the situation immediately began to form a human chain.  At that point in time, it didn’t matter their ethnicity, political preference, religion, or job status.  Regardless of commonality or cross differences, they all worked together.  If at any time the chain had broken, it would have been almost impossible to rescue the man safely.   Steve Hartman of NBC News, New York reported, “In this case, the chain happens.  When Mother Nature’s at its worst human nature is at its best.  The challenge will be as the flood waters recede, will we still be able to love at these same record levels."
What a great reminder of the gift of eternal life that we are offered through Jesus.  When we were at our worst, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so that we could be rescued and offered a lifeline to God. 
This past Sunday, we celebrated the decision our grandson made to ask Jesus to be his Lord and Savior.  Acts 2:21 states “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-10 promises that “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”  As a statement of his decision, David was baptized this past Sunday morning.

As we remember God’s love, presence, and provision during these days, may we reflect His light and lead others to Him so they too may be rescued and saved.  May He help us wash away all that divides, pollutes, and makes us less than our best.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:36-40

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Blessings

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.” – C.S. Lewis

Elex Michaelson, a Los Angeles reporter for KTRK, was sent to Houston to help cover Hurricane Harvey.  Not knowing how he would be received, he was somewhat apprehensive about coming.  Once on the ground, Michaelson was greatly appreciated for his willingness to help cover stories.  On his way back to California, he penned some thoughts about what he saw in the Houston area.  “When we all focus on helping…not hurting each other…the human race is capable of incredible things.  We got to see what that looks like this week.  You taught us all around the country about selflessness, kindness, fight, grit, compassion, and unity of purpose.”  Adversity has a way of making one better or bitter.  May the ways we continue to choose to help our friends and neighbors bring out the best in all of us.

Just a few of the Hurricane Harvey Blessings I have observed or read about this week:
* Being blessed with an extra day of helping out with the Labor Day holiday where many chose to labor rather than rest.
* Churches all over the city setting up ways to help and minister to the people whose homes were/are flooded
* People taking vacation days in order to help
* Plethora of ways people are expressing love, care, and appreciation to loved ones, friends, and people that are now new friends
* New parents were able to find a safe route to make it to the hospital in time for their daughter to be born
* One of our Bible Study leaders taking water and Gatorade to the DPS officers, from San Antonio and San Marcos, who were patrolling and directing traffic on the corner of their street.  Tim also offered the use of their restrooms when needed. 
* A couple hosting a pot luck dinner for their neighbors, as a way to meet each other, be a team, and share their Hurricane Harvey stories. 
* A teacher, her three kids, and friends making signs and setting up a table in the neighborhood to collect backpacks, lunch kits, and school supplies for kids whose home flooded.   Some gave money so they shopped for the additional supplies that would be needed.  The items will be distributed at the Katy schools so they can give those to their students.  I love how Sara models compassion and thoughtfulness to her kids and gives them a chance to participate in the process.
* People adopting a classroom in order to help teachers replace supplies they lost in the schools that flooded
* A garage door specialist driving around town and repairing broken doors without charging a fee
* TIRR Memorial Hermann and the Cajun Navy teaming together to fly a much needed medication to a family by lowering it from a rope from a helicopter
* Service above self – Jim McInvale
* Since school has been out for two weeks, high school and junior high students have helped serve in shelters and been mentored and given the opportunity to help with the clean up process.  They are participating in things they do on mission trips right here in their home city and neighborhood.
* People serving for days on end to help rip up carpets, knock out sheetrock and insulation, cleaning items and packing them for storage, and removing furniture that was ruined for friends and for people they have just met, just because there is a need.
* Cooler temperatures to refresh the body and help lower the humidity
* Free childcare at church so adults could work in their home or help others where needed
* Workday for the children at church so they can be part of the response team by writing notes, drawing pictures, and making snack bags for the people who are helping
* People being the hands and feet of Jesus
* Children playing “Rescue” in the park so they can help people
* People washing clothes, cleaning and packing up items, taking meals, setting up water stands, gathering items for temporary homes, providing supplies…
* People from other cities and states sending teams to help in the relief effort both now and scheduled dates in the future
* Places for people to relocate becoming available because a friend knows a friend
* Athletes from opposing teams helping deliver supplies
* “Finding that there is more love in Houston than water!”
* Business leaders giving their employees days off to help be part of the cleanup and challenging other business owners to do the same
* Mattress Mack opening his furniture stores as shelters
* HEB ordering what they knew people wanted and needed, leaving other things until later, so they had room for extra essentials on their trucks
* J. J. Watt’s desire to help Houston and other cities recover from Hurricane Harvey in order to help with immediate and future recovery needs - because of J. J.’s reputation, integrity, work ethic, and trustworthiness, the goal of $200,000 is now exceeding $29,000,000!
* Worshiping with our church family Sunday morning where God spoke through the words of every song, prayer, scripture, and message – it was such a God honoring service, with receptive hearts…the way we need to prepare and come every week

During these days, may we clearly hear God’s voice as he shouts how much He loves, cares, and provides for us.  And as we listen, hear, and take to heart what He says, may He use us to be the helping hands that bring about healing, restoration, hope, and peace for the people in our city, state, and world in the days and years to come.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
     he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
     out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
     and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
     a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
     and put their trust in him.
Psalm 40:1-3

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love.
I Corinthians 16:13-14

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hurricane Harvey 2017

What a difference a week makes.  A week ago Monday we were marveling as the moon eclipsed the sun and its light dimmed.  This week we longed for the sun to shine and offer a glimmer of hope that the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey will someday be over and rebuilding and restoration can take place.  Even though it may take years to be able to process all that occurred these past few days, I have been reminded in so many ways of God’s presence, love, care, and provision during these days.

Some quotes that surfaced this week:
“God’s peace is not the calm after the storm.  It’s the steadfastness during it.”
Christian rock lyrics

“It’s not about how we start, but how we end.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’  To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are many caring people in this world.”
Mr. Fred Rogers

Things I want to remember and ponder:
* Time to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice
* People are always more important than things 
* Gratitude for son, Brad, who studied and learned well and could decipher the information and give peace and comfort that our home would be OK
* First responders giving their time for days on end while their families miss having them home
* Policemen, firemen, and other first responders who came from other cities and states to give our people help and time to rest
* Kathryn Mills, a second grade teacher in Katy, creating the Hurricane Harvey Book Club on Facebook, where children and adults video and post the reading of books, in order to help children deal with the hurricane and encourage reading
* Longest lines were not for food, water, or supplies, but to volunteer
* Four men from church who used a boat they use for recreation/sport as transportation to rescue people in need
* People who used their boat to rescue a family from church and then returned to rescue other families as well
* Rescuers forming a human chain across a road to rescue an elderly man trapped in his car
* Retired Baptist Men coming to cleanup, serve food, and minister through manual labor
* Two young moms dressing up as Ana and Elsa and visiting shelters
* People whose homes had flooded out rescuing other families
* Churches reaching out to their members and community
* Encouraging messages from pastors and God’s Word
* People taking vacation days and coming from cities across Texas and other states to help
* Neighbors and strangers becoming friends and family
* It’s better to have too much of needed supplies and not need them than to not have enough and need them
* Even though the initial hit has passed, this is now a marathon and not a sprint
* It’s worth heeding the constant tornado warnings to take cover, just in case
* Grateful for technology, phone calls, and personal encounters to check on people
* It’s important to keep things in perspective
* The willingness of people to help others whether they knew them previously or not
* Even the ordinary becomes extraordinary when the schedule is interrupted
* Making sure the decisions you make do not put other people at risk
* A little girl in our neighborhood who made, iced, decorated, and gave cupcakes to the workers
* We do better when we work as a team rather than competition
* We now have the opportunity to help rebuild, restore, and be even better than before

Songs have also been a source of hope, reassurance and peace this week.

“The Eye of the Storm”
Ryan Stevenson

I can feel the rain reminding me
In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm

“I Will Make All Things New”
Words and Music by Mary McDonald
Based on Isaiah 43:1-19

When you pass through the waters, I am with you.
When you go through the sea, I am there.
When you go through the fire, the flames will not harm you.
I am God, I am Lord, I am there!

I will make all things new;
I will watch over you.
I will renew, I will restore, I am God!
I will make all things new;
I paid a price for you.
I am the Lord. I am your God, you are mine.

In your trial or your sorrow,
I am with you.
When hope fades for tomorrow, I am there.
In your trouble or pain, call my name;
I’ll be with you.
I am God, I am Lord, I am there!

I created the heavens;
I created the earth.
I created my people.
Rejoice!  I am God!

I will make all things new;
I will watch over you.
I will renew, I will restore, I am God!
I will make all things new;
I paid a price for you.
I am the Lord. I am your God, you are mine.
You are Mine!

More than anything, God’s Word has brought peace, hope, and comfort during these days.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:13

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

God is our refuge and strength,
     an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
     and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
     and the mountains quake with their surging.
Psalm 46:1-3

He will cover you with his feathers,
     and under his wings you will find refuge;
     his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:4

So do not fear, for I am with you;
     Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
     I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
     I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
     I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
     they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
     you will not be burned;
     the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
     the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
Isaiah 43: 1b-3a

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
     for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
     Great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

Let us not become weary is doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
I Peter 4:8-10

We have a starting date for Hurricane Harvey but the ending date will not be final until the last repair has been made.  As homes are made new, may we also be willing to be made new as we pray, listen, give, and serve. Then we will be the helpers people need and are looking for.  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Totally Eclipsed by the Son

What an amazing experience to view part of God’s power and creation on Monday.  Several people met in the church parking lot to view the solar eclipse.  There was much awe and excitement as the eclipse went through its stages.  We were able to view the wonder through special safety glasses, cereal box viewers, a pinpoint in a white piece of paper projecting onto another piece of paper, shadows on the sidewalk, along with pictures people were taking on their phones.  The excitement was contagious.  We were able to witness the partial eclipse, see a few stars, a planet, and the sky somewhat darkening.  As exciting as it was to see 67% of the eclipse, it must have been incredible to experience the total solar eclipse.  The reports and pictures of the people in Oregon, Wyoming, across Tennessee and South Carolina that saw the total eclipse were remarkable. 

April 8, 2024, there will be another total solar eclipse that will pass through several cities in Texas.  After viewing a partial, I’m more than excited about the possibility of experiencing a total eclipse in person.  I wonder if they are already taking reservations.

This week I’ve also pondered what it would be like to be totally eclipsed by the Son where when people looked at me they instead saw Jesus.   He has already covered all my sins.  Each day I am eclipsed by my faith, trust, obedience, words, actions, and deeds.  I don’t want to settle for 67% coverage.  Oh to be able to live a life that is totally eclipsed by the Son.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
     the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:1

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Psalm 32:1 (and Romans 4:7)

You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins.
Psalm 85:2

Praise him, sun and moon;
     praise him, all you shining stars.
Psalm 148:3

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
     Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
     and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
     Not one of them is missing.
Isaiah 40:26