Friday, April 29, 2011

Ways You Can Help in the Wake of the Alabama Disaster

As many of you already know by now thanks to the power of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, Alabama has been devastated by storms that swept through April 27, 2011. The number of fatalities is staggering. Many of you may want to help. I have been in contact with several companies myself and will post as I can about the ways they have responded periodically. There is an outpouring coming from all over the country via various Facebook pages with people wanting to donate items and volunteer.

This storm has disrupted many lives in Cullman County, the Birmingham metro area, and the city of Tuscaloosa and several smaller communities along the way. There are a lot of pictures at http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/04/tornadoes_kill_over_200.html. ABC 33/40 has a lot of aerial videos at their weather blog: http://www.alabamawx.com/.

An announcement from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa stated yesterday that the semester was ending and students could take the grades they had as of April 27, 2011 or schedule their finals at a later date, but their graduation has been moved to August.

Radio stations in Birmingham have been working fervently to compile lists of ways people can help as have television stations. And my list is not complete, but it will be updated as I can.

1. Pray.

2. Contact the American Red Cross.

3. Contact area churches and missions agencies for ways you can donate financially or donate items or volunteer.

4. The church I attend has set up a disaster relief Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Oak-Mountain-Church-Disaster-Relief/182244861826158. They also have a page on their website: http://www.oakmountainchurch.org/tornado-disaster-relief.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oh Alabama. Can We Be Like a City on Our Knees?


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlaKYbG5Bq0

I love how certain songs ring louder during certain times. TobyMac's "City on Our Knees" wrenched me.

We have been physically and emotionally devastated, some more than others. May this song be one of encouragement and hope.

I Saw Jesus in the Clouds

This month has been a hairy scary one.
Trees crashing. Lights flashing.
Thunder rumbling. Cars squealing
Tornadoes. Wind.
I was in my car and looked up at the sky.
I saw a face.
I saw Jesus in the clouds.
Was He there to offer peace?
Was He there to offer comfort?
Did He know what was going to happen?
Was He there to offer love and hope?
I saw Jesus in the clouds.

Tornadoes, Uprooted Trees, Mass Devastation, Social Media, Royal Weddings and Providence

We here in Alabama are going through a gamut of emotions this morning as the reality of yesterday's brutal weather starts to sink in. This month has been storm after storm after storm. In my own backyard, I see providence. April 15 brought two tornadoes to Alabaster and because of forethought, my miracle dog was uninjured when a tree crashed in her area because she was inside. Last night, providence was clear as the dog's house was moved two feet and an entire tree was uprooted missing the house by about five feet. Again, the miracle dog was inside.

But the damage in Alabaster and Pelham pales in comparison to Tuscaloosa and Cullman. We who live in Alabama who only have downed trees and no structural damage or injuries are fortunate. Yes, it is ugly, but we are fortunate.

I have friends in Cullman who I have not heard from yet. I have friends in Tuscaloosa who are fine but in shock. And to be frank, I am with them. Most of Alabama is with them. Our hearts are torn over this.

Growing up, I lived in tornado alley in Oklahoma. My parents shielded me from "The Wizard of Oz" until high school. I saw "Twister" and "Tornado." But the footage from Tuscaloosa was exactly like what was in those films. Only real.

I heard McDonald's, Krispy Kreme, Hobby Lobby, and the shopping center off McFarland Avenue were flattened. And I wanted to cry. These are familiar places for any of us who have attended the University of Alabama. I want to go there and gather all my friends in hugs and cry with them.

Ten years ago, we relied on television, radio, newspapers and telephone for news about loved ones. Today, Facebook and Twitter. News of this tornado spread internationally via Facebook from the international students.

Yet, a royal wedding has been half of the focus on morning news shows. In the wake of mass destruction, we Alabamians do not care about the royal wedding. A wedding is joyful but lots of people get married and do not get such media attention. In the wake of the destruction in Alabama, the news media need to wake up and reset their priorities.

Providence got us through. Our death toll in Alabama is staggering. Providence will get us through. Our churches need to step in now and help their members and other residents. Show everyone that "Aslan is on the move."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Window in the Skies by U2 Homework

I said I was going to take the pastor up on his holy week challenge as soon as I was well enough. So here I am typing as I am working on the assignment. His challenge was to listen (or view) "Window in the Skies" by U2 and see how much of the gospel message is interwoven through it. The video is available through VEVO on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK_q7tEOPA0. I would recommend following the lyrics as you listen or watch and those are available at: http://www.metrolyrics.com/window-in-the-skies-lyrics-u2.html.

Frankly, I feel it is not one of their better songs and I have a limited exposure to the group, so of the few songs I have actually sat through the entirety of, this is not high on my list.

It sounds like another one of those "mushy" love songs almost on the verge of break up.

It does have some unique musical qualities and riffs.

Where I could see the gospel message is with the stone moved and all debts removed.

I can honestly say though that one part that might bother me some is the line: "I know I hurt you and I made you cry/Did everything but murder you and I." Why? Because when you hurt someone, whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether through words or deeds, you basically do murder them. And if that hurting continues, it can get to a point where you practically kill their soul and their spirit. That eventually starts coming through to the outside, the physical being.

And reflecting on that line brings tears to my eyes as I face both the receiving and giving end of hurt that has been murderous and that I long to see a restoration through.

I have a lot to learn.

One of my reflections this past weekend was on Titus 2:11-3:8, a passage that most of the people I know from church could either recall from memory or recall the gist of considering we only spent about a half a year in that passage. But I can kind of see how that passage was reflected in this song.

I still do not quite understand how the gospel message rings through a lot of U2 songs, but I am teachable and open to debate on it.

Let's just say, this song has a much different tone than their songs from their earlier years.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week Challenge

My pastor put some of us to the task this week and I think I may be taking him up on it, but before I do, I wanted to flesh out a question to ponder. How exactly is there a gospel message in some of the U2 songs? As a preteen, I did not get much exposure to the group's music. Certainly got little to no exposure to them as a teen. I attended a private school based at a church that very much could qualify as legalistic. So when I had more exposure in college, I initially thought "Hmmm...another group singing about mushy love topics." My pastor is a fanatic when it comes to U2. Then again, he is a fanatic about Les Mis, Narnia, Tolkein (enh...aren't we all fanatics about something at some point? Me: TobyMac, Rebecca St. James and apparently Superchick seeing how I can identify a Superchick song on television shows now, and Julie Andrews; my aunt: Elvis). Fanatic is actually a good term. So of course, as a result, my exposure has been heavier. And I'm struggling to see and hear the gospel in a lot of their music. BUT...I will take my pastor's task to heart and come back on here with the results. Soon as I feel better. For now, I have to take some medicine and rest since I got a vaccine yesterday and am not feeling very well today. By the way, nothing but love here right now. Nothing but love.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

God's Providence Is Baffling

Friday afternoon, Alabama saw some nasty weather come through. We lost tree number five. But a lot of good was seen for my family despite that storm.

Good thing number one: We had decided that the dog would come in before the storms Friday because a storm Monday broke the tree and made it lean. We did not know if and when it would finally crash down, but we did not want the dog outside when it did. Sure enough, it crashed down during Friday's storms. The dog's mad at it now, but at least she is alive and unharmed.

Good thing number two: We were in my 4WD heading to Wal-mart in Pelham. They have some gluten free things. On the way, a girl hydroplaned. She crashed into the semi in the left turn lane and not us. The semi had a crossbar under the back of the trailer preventing her from going under. The driver felt it which made him park it instead of driving off and dragging her car with him. But other than that, no one was hurt.

Good thing number three: We stopped by CVS between Pelham and Alabaster which is when the sirens blared. Found out later that a tornado went over the Wal-mart shopping centers in Alabaster. We were not there because we went further out to a different Wal-Mary.

If I think about it, I saw God's providence and sovereignty and predestination at work Friday. But why is it still so baffling?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Genesis 38 and Scandalous Grace and the Messiness of Life With Sin

I've heard it referred to as scandalous grace. Never really understood that until yesterday at church.

My head still reels from one word that I did not even know was in the Bible. I have a feeling there may be more of them. Let's just say as to what word, the Bible may be very instrumental in sex education and turning things around in that area.

I think if it hadn't been for the floor underneath all of us, our jaws would not have returned but alas, there were a lot of jaws that dropped.

Scandalous stuff in the Bible. No wonder they say that the Bible consists of every literary genre known to mankind.

Psychology, genealogy, sex education, how-to, self-help (sort of), poetry, history, science fiction (hmmm.....), mystery (What happened to Jonah after the book of Jonah finishes?), etc. I think perhaps the only genre that might not be covered is cooking, but honestly, I don't know that it isn't.

Like I said, my head still reels from that passage.

It was good though. Essentially because we live in a fallen world full of broken people with sin, we have to deal with the consequences of that sin. Sin is sloppy and messy. Sin is yucky. That wily devil hits us from every angle imaginable and just when you think you're strong enough to fend him off, here he comes again.

Sometimes it is the devil, but more often than not, it is the sin. Our personal sin, someone else's sin, sin sin sin (Brady Bunch "Marsha Marsha Marsh.").

But just when you think you're down for the count, you can recover (TobyMac "Get Back Up"). You may be down for a season, but as people come to grips with the sin that created the mess, here come the scrub brushes (counsel from others, lessons that you and other people needed to learn, time, etc.) to clean up the mess and set things right again.

Okay, so maybe that wasn't EXACTLY what was being taught in the messiest lesson I ever got from church, but it is what I got. Different people get different things out of the same lesson depending on where they are in life at the present when they hear the lesson and this is what I learned.

Now if only I can get past that one word in Genesis 38.... (Blushing.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Church as Compared to the Human Body

As long as there are imperfect human beings because of the fall, the church as a body will be as broken as the human body. But when you break your arm or your foot, you don't treat it as though it were not part of your body. You doctor it and baby it. You treat it with tender love and affection. Eventually it heals and you go through therapy to strengthen it. When members of the body hurt and are wounded, you don't ignore them and throw them out with yesterday's bath water. You help them, you teach them, you work with them, you grow them, you shape them. You don't cut them off. I Corinthians 12 talks about the body. Casting Crowns even has a song called "We Are the Body." The body is broken but that is the beauty of it! Because all the broken pieces come together and work with what each has to offer and it eventually heals each other over time until the day comes that everything about the body can be made whole again.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Looking for Theology in the Seemingly Mundane Challenge Called Life

Immediate question I anticipate is say what? So I'll back the train up.

Conflict, peace, politics, diet, exercise, nature, films, music, literature, transportation. Everything has theology to be found in it.

How?

Did you ever wonder why conflict happens? While in the midst of it, you struggle to resolve it, but sometimes you struggle so hard you miss the fact that maybe that conflict is meant to grow you and the other person or people. Peace. It's not hard to see theology in times of peace. I'm not going to go into politics. Let's keep this peaceful. Diet. Some people, like myself, have to go on special diets - allergen free, etc. It must be by God's design. Exercise. Put an exercise bike outside and just look around as you pedal. Nature. God designed that giant rose just as He designed the dog or the human body. They're very intricate. Films, music and literature. Think about it. The pastor who can effectively utilize the fine arts in his sermons has found the theology in them. Transportation. Yeah. I don't know where that bus was heading. I think it just headed for disaster.

I still have a lot to learn. We all do.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Huge Announcement Post StadiumFest

First thing, if you missed StadiumFest this year, it was totally AWESOME! I got assigned to an inflatable - a slide - over in the Bronner Burgess Children's Play Area. Seeing the children have fun on it was a highlight. Bello, well, let's just say, he scared me. That man is absolutely crazy! Climbing to the top of some 90 foot sway pole. The minute he got to the top, I panicked. Did not see him come down the thing head first as I kept covering my eyes most of the time while he was up there. I'd sooner face a snake or a spider than watch that kind of stunt. Yikes!

Hearing Rick and Bubba give their testimonies. I was amazed. Befuddled, but amazed. I forget which one referenced the age of accountability, but as I have learned, there is no age of accountability. It's not Biblical! In the grand scheme of learning more about predestination, God knows exactly who and when someone will finally accept His pursuit of them and become a Christian. But they still had great stories.

Casting Crowns. I'm not much into their music. They have the same flavor as MercyMe. And their music is not really up my stream. But Casting Crowns was great. They sang "Praise You in This Storm." Mark Hall wrote it as he was going through some hard stuff involving his adopted daughter, who like me, has a lot of medical challenges to face. His story about his daughter really hit close to home and gave me a new source of inspiration. And believe it or not, this really stiff Presbyterian actually raised her hands WAY up during some of the songs that Casting Crowns did. Good luck getting me to actually do that at church though. I don't think I'm quite there yet.

Oh my word. All I could think is when is TobyMac coming out, right? TobyMac was my highlight. Sort of, but I'll explain in a few paragraphs about the sort of. They brought Bello out again. Let's just say, the difference in seeing him on top of that pole in broad daylight and then at night, well, something about the night does really make things much scarier and more intense. Absolutely could not watch this time around. Those hands shot over my eyes allowing for only a small peek. You know like how when young children get uncomfortable when two people on the screen start kissing? Yep.

Finally, TobyMac. Let's just say, I wasn't the only one who nearly burst at the seams. Funny thing was that near where I was seated/standing, there was a family with teenagers and their mom was more excited about TobyMac than I was, and I was like a giddy school girl when he came out. Yep. I actually squealed in delight! If you have never heard me emit that high-pitched squeal before, good luck getting it out of me.

And I know he reads his Facebook fan page! I actually had posted that if he sang "Made to Love," "Get Back Up," and "City on Our Knees," that it would be the highlight for me. Guess what? He sang ALL three of those songs! He did songs off every one of his albums and quite a few off his newest album. And one of the culminating songs was a throwback to DCTalk days - "Jesus Freak." When he finished "City on Our Knees," he spun off with "Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city." Instantly I thought of my church and my pastor, who absolutely loves the message of that song. Sadly, TobyMac wrapped us up with "Sha na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye." I think I actually wanted to cry at this point because I did not want the night to end.

By the way, I reapplied sunblock every two hours. Came out with seven sun burned patches. I did not know I had to put the stuff on my ears. And I think I may have gotten the darkest I'll ever get on my arms, but mostly I have more freckles. Ugh. God's design though. Fair skinned, red-haired people are not made for the sun. And wearing ear plugs. Uncomfortable little things, but with a mild hearing loss, I saved whatever hearing I have left. There's a reason God made a worrywort.

One thing that concerned me. My church does not do altar calls. I could kind of understand why after witnessing no fewer than four of them at StadiumFest. The emotions are high at those kind of events, so if you have altar calls, how many of those professions of faith are genuine? And how do altar calls fit in the grand scheme of predestination? And Scott Dawson made it sound as though if you prayed the prayer and did not go forward that you were somehow sinning. So of course, I have some confusion.

But I said I had a huge announcement.

I went into StadiumFest as a volunteer. Thank you Facebook advertisements. But I had some serious doubts about my own salvation going in. So, during one of those calls, I did pray that little prayer. I did not go forward, but I did pray. And the majority of my doubts are gone.

Now if only I could help make things right with some friends and all of us could see restoration, I think everything might start looking brighter. There's a prodigal who wants to come home and a little lost lamb who wants to return to the flock. She just needs to know that it's okay.
There was an error in this gadget