The storm of our life

So many thanks to each of You who has thought to check in on us here in Nashville after the tremendous tornado that blew through our lives early Tuesday morning — super Tuesday 2020 will forever have a different meaning for us.

We’re safe…now. But there are so many others — people who live just blocks from us here in East Nashville, people who live just across the Cumberland river to the west of us in Germantown and Buena Vista, people just across the river to the east of us in Donelson and Hermitage and Mt. Juliet, and still further east on the Cumberland Plateau in Cookeville — people we see at the gym and in the grocery store, along Shelby running trail, the coffee shop down the street — not just the few whose names we know or to whom we’ve spoken at some point, whose dog we may have petted along the way, but thousands of people — we’re all neighbors now. We all shared in the fury of the storm. We’ll all share — in ways I don’t think I can even imagine in just this minute – we’ll all share in the recovery.

Before dawn on this super-Tuesday — a redefined and repurposed super-Tuesday — people were posting on social media, ‘My truck and my chainsaw are both fully gassed. My hands are ready to help whoever needs them.’ And the immediate responses came, ‘I’m with you. I’ll be over at … I’ll meet you at…’ Or another questioned, ‘How can I help? I have extra room for you to stay, a shower, towels, clothes..PM me.’

So many people affected directly, personally — those who died or lost a loved one, those missing, and their grieving families, surely. Those, too — newly homeless, wandering the streets in the dark in their pajamas and house slippers, many carrying a pet, a few belongings, maybe, that they were able to salvage before being evacuated from their homes, before broken glass and boards with upturned nails and gas leaks further wounded their lives, before the nearby Farmers’ Market opened to offer them shelter.

And those too, also newly homeless, sitting dazed in their front yard as the sun dawned to reveal the leavings of the storm’s fury — roofs stripped from their houses, homes lifted from their foundations and planted yards away, brick siding hanging, threatening, and the trees, all the trees, across roads, atop houses, through windows; cars upturned, crumbled, one lifted and shot through the third story of a building; broken glass, nails, slivered wood and debris scattered and everywhere downed electric lines and poles and water from broken water mains and the smell of gas from broken gas lines and the flashing red and blue lights of police and fire and medical responders.

And the reporter, trying to capture it all for the world to see, standing in front of a local mural, mysteriously preserved from the devastation all around — a favorite, on a different day just 12 hours ago, for tourists taking memory photos — saying, “We Believe In Nashville.”

Already music concerts — fundraisers to help pay for the clean up and rebuilding — are happening, More are being planned in nearby living rooms and studios and by musicians throughout the region. Hope. Prayer in action everywhere around us.

Personally, it’s only in the storm’s aftermath that we realize the bliss of ignorance. As we were awakened to the roar of what we would only later learn were 165 mph winds circling continuous blasts of lightning with their immediate claps of thunder, just over our house, we wondered what was happening. After a few moments we heard what must have been delinquent sirens wailing in the distance, barely audible through the raging roar of the wind. And we wondered, amazed by the force of the storm’s fierceness, what was happening.

What is happening? What now? Who to help? How to help? How to give thanks that we were, in our bliss, passed over by a furious and awesome force? How to pray? For whom to pray?

We’re okay. Praise God, we’re all okay. Those of us who were passed over are each finding our way to be a prayer in action. Fears of the coronavirus seem a distant memory, a silly, self-indulgence. The other super-Tuesday, a nearly irrelevant after-thought.

We’re all neighbors now, all members of one body, all needed and all pleasing in His sight. He was very close last night and very Superior. He’s walking among us today on this Holy ground, working through us, as we begin the labor and love of restoration and repair.

Thanksgiving trepidation

Thank You, Father, for being here with me this beautiful day. I want never to take You for granted, Lord, for all the beautiful days that You provide me, in Your mercy, especially this time of the year. And yet, I invariably do.

Give me, I pray, holy Lord, a spirit of perpetual thanks and gratitude for all Your tender mercies.

We are now well into the season of Thanksgiving — always one of my favorites — for the food and festivities and family, certainly, but in more recent years I feel increasing gratitude for the relative simplicity of the holiday. It’s one of spirit-filled gift-giving — gifts of gratitude for the simpler, more basic blessings of our lives and our liberty and our love for You above all and in all things.

We have been invited to share this year’s feast with our neighbors, writ broadly. Our hosts have included the woman who sold us her house several years ago. Knowing that she apologized to everyone in the neighborhood for selling her house to us, due to her perception of our political beliefs, (which she perceived to diverge from hers and supposedly theirs), I am feeling some trepidation about the whole affair, Father.

At the same time I am most of the way through a book about St Monica. She lived her life in humble service to You, Father, among people who were openly hostile to her and her beliefs. Throughout, she maintained a sweet, caring attitude of service, praying continually for each of them.

Juxaposed, these two — Thanksgiving feasts with people of largely alien beliefs, some of whom would speak harshly, judgmentally of us, and St. Monica’s life example — I am humbled by the challenge You’ve placed before me. To my likely discredit I am heartily tempted to ‘call in sick’ and avoid the whole affair.

But I also “know” that You are guiding me into this situation if I choose to follow; to help me learn how to BE: to be the person You created me to be; to be humble and kind and prayerful and loving; to be open to Your grace and to all those Christ-like qualities that are good and true…qualities that I most often forget within minutes of turning away from this writing/meditation place with You, much less by the time I’ve walked out the door and into the world.

My divinity in You, Holy Lord, is fragile. As I try to speak, my words sometimes just spew out without conforming to Your grace — a sort of ‘oral incontinence.’ Please help me, I pray, Holy Lord, to contain my words until they can find their form in You. Help me to appreciate silence and gentleness and acquiescence and to allow these three to overcome what can so easily turn into cynical, sarcastic cheap shots that might evoke a laugh or even two, but which carry no blessing.

Help me, Father, to hear the higher meanings and purposes hiding in other’s comments, so I can use these to lift us all up. Help me to hear with Your ears, Father. Help me to learn these others ways to be. Or help me to keep silent, to learn that I don’t have to speak … or even respond … even if I’m questioned. (How do people do this? How did St. Monica?) Silence is a very difficult response for me.

Only with Your help and Your grace can I learn this lesson, Father.

You’ve placed this challenge in front of me this coming week. Am I ready, do You think? Knowing is so different than doing.

Thank You Father for hearing my prayer. Please bless my way.

Think small

We’ve been told throughout my life. Think big. Live your dreams. We taught our children to ‘follow their passions.’

On this day I don’t want to disparage those sentiments (although they may, in the end, be at the root of much of our current malaise), but to reflect on an almost opposite perspective that has been drawing me increasingly to its position.

Instead of big thoughts, think small. Focus your energies. Narrow your perspective. Revel in each moment.

What is this moment like? Peaceful. Contemplative. Filled with promise and potential. Healthy. Strong. Welcoming this day and recognizing that it is already blessed; a gift from a loving God.

Already my small, narrowly focused thoughts have enlarged my perspective and my sense of purpose.

Think small. I’ve just prepared the mushroom soup for our traditional green bean casserole. Our daughter made sweet potato cheesecake last night. Our family will be with us today. We’ll enjoy an unusually full meal and watch football together. Simple, joyful, fulfilling and fulfilled acts of love and happiness.

Give thanks. Just outside this moment, just outside this place, there may be heartache, peril, physical or emotional threat. But right in this moment I am filled with joy. In this moment I can feel His presence around and within me. In this moment there is certainty that I am fully protected in His loving care. And if now, then so too tomorrow and the day after and one after that…all in God’s time.