"Kids, Dogs, Service, Sorting, Getting Lost, Almost Destroying a Car, Steven Curtis Chapman, Storms, Accidental Fasting, and Chaos - How It All Ties in to Theology, Missions, and Disaster Relief" has got to be my longest blog post title ever. I'm not sure, but it may be the longest title of anything ever. If you find anything in the record books longer than this title, let me know.
Chaos. The last two weeks. My AD/HD and my brain are going crazy. Next week is going to be a week that I'll HAVE to consistently take my Vyvanse regardless of how I feel. I need some sleep. By the end of next week if I have not been able to quiet my overactive brain, I'll have to call my prescribing doctor and see about a non-addictive sleeping medicine. I hate sleeping medications, but my brain won't SHUT UP! Oh, and let's see. I've got about four songs running through my head all at once that all encourage me and have served as inspiration through these past two weeks, particularly this past week and a half since April 27, 2011. Thank you TobyMac, Casting Crowns and Steven Curtis Chapman.
Kids. The first thought that came in my head when I awoke April 28, 2011 was all those children just lost everything. They don't even have a stuffed animal to hold right now. I look at my bed. I see the one my mother swears I stole from her when I just a little baby. I see one from one of my two trips to New York City to the Disney Store. I see my first bear from Build-a-Bear. I see a black panther I had gotten my first year at the University of Montevallo when I visited Toys R Us in Hoover that I called Salem after the black cat in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. But those kids lost everything. So I contacted Build-a-Bear. Last I heard from them is that they were working with the Red Cross, but they thanked me for thinking of them and how they might be able to help. I just found a twin to one of the little plushes I have that I can donate. I have another twin around somewhere that I would like to find and donate as well. Already donated four stuffed toys. Two of them were these pillow pet type of things that can serve dual function.
Dogs. The second thought in my head was pets. What happened to all the animals? I remember one of the reasons some people didn't evacuate for Katrina was that they didn't want to leave their family pet behind. Some of the pets have ended up in foster homes until their owners can be relocated out of shelters. Some of the animals found range from newborn puppies and kittens to older animals. A few, sadly, have died. Some have been reunited with their families. And the saddest thing to me is the fact that those litters have possibly lost their own mother cats and dogs. Too young to survive on their own, and possibly too young to survive. I remember one of my first dogs was a rescue from a flood in Oklahoma. The poor thing never could get over storms after that. He was seen floating atop a dog house. He died several years later after I had to leave him behind during the move to Alabama. He had heartworms. I only saw him once between the move and his passing. He barely remembered me.
Service. Let's just say that anything that anyone does toward the disaster relief, be it clean up or sorting clothes or even just donating, is service.
Sorting. Sorting clothes. My first time was sorting at the Christian Service Mission in Birmingham. I was hand sanitizing left and right after that one. Someone tried donating dirty underwear. Not just used, but really badly stained. EW!! I am fine with gently used shoes even though I would never buy shoes from a thrift store. But all I could think is come on people. You would not debase yourself to buy used underclothes or socks or bathing suit bottoms from a thrift store or yard sale, let's not subject our victims to them either! My second sorting job was at the Salvation Army Disaster Relief Warehouse. Sort of in between Birmingham and Bessemer. It was better except for the bags of strongly smelling of cigarette trigger an asthma attack clothing. Ugh. And one of the people who ended up helping at my table found an adult clown costume. All we could do was laugh. It was a little sad.
Getting lost. What I did when I was going to the Christian Service Mission. Should have followed the GPS mapping on my phone. Ended up following the exit and got turned around because the street was a one way street. That part of Birmingham is not very safe for single women under 40. I feel safer alone on the streets and the subways of New York City than I did around there.
Almost destroying a car. Really. The road leading to the Salvation Army warehouse was worse than the potholes and craters on I-65. But I felt safer. However, I am noting that I need to work on finding any and all possible alternative routes that don't use I-65.
Steven Curtis Chapman. Got stuck on a song of his this week that fit all too perfectly with everything that Alabama just experienced. I'll post the lyrics and a link at the bottom of this post.
Storms. The more we have threaten Alabama, the more fearful and anxious I become. My city and my county were spared the worst of the damage. And every time I close my eyes, I see trees falling and getting uprooted. Because in three of the storms during April, we have had three trees break and crash.
Accidental fasting. Yep. It's been so bad in the state of surrealism about everything that I accidentally fasted the greater part of the week. I did not realize that I did not eat anything Sunday until midnight. And I've been lucky if I've eaten at least a snack one time during the day the rest of the week!
How does it tie in to theology, missions and disaster relief?
Theology is shaken and stirred and tested when anyone experiences the travesty this great state of Alabama has just been through. Hollywood cannot even begin to come close to being able to portray what happened last week with that monster tornado. How do you handle the theological questions that arise? Why? How come? Why would a loving God allow this to happen? Why would He spare some but not others? Why would He spare me and not them?
Missions. Whether it's going to sort clothes, going to do debris removal or going to serve a hot meal to a community that was affected, it's missions.
Disaster relief. Anything can count as disaster relief. Donating time and money and clothes/items, cleaning up, rebuilding.
TobyMac's "Get Back Up" and "City on Our Knees" were the first two songs that moved me this week. Casting Crowns "Praise You in This Storm" followed. The other day I heard Steven Curtis Chapman's "Beauty Will Rise." It is this last song that I felt more strongly compelled by. As I thought about my own church, Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church, PCA, and the relief efforts that have spun out in response to the disaster.
My first year in Alabama I survived Hurricane Opal. Hurricane Ivan ripped through as far up as Montevallo. I went home to be close to family when that was approaching. I remember having to check in with my resident hall assistant before leaving. But I never thought that other than the random "snow" events which pale in comparison to what New England goes through that my part of Alabama would ever see anything like the images we saw when the tornado ripped through Enterprise (near which I lived for the first half of my life in Alabama (which is exactly half of my life)) or the tornado that ripped through Prattville or the images from Hurricane Katrina. I never would have imagined it to be possible. It is for this very reason that the Steven Curtis Chapman song has really compelled me more than the other songs.
"It was the day the world went wrong." April 27, 2011 started and ended on a bad note for Alabama. There is hardly a county from Montgomery north that was not touched by that nasty storm system that brought that monster through Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Cullman and every small and large town and city in between and around it.
"I screamed til my voice was gone." I think a lot of us have screamed. In horror. In anger. In pain. In anguish.
"And watched through the tears as everything came crashing down." I have not personally gone to Tuscaloosa yet. I do not quite have the courage and the strength yet. But I have seen the images. For me, the full reality has not sunk in yet. But we certainly watched in horror as the face of these areas were changed in a matter of minutes and hours.
"Slowly panic turns to pain as we awake to what remains and sift through the ashes that are left behind." I think of everyone sorting through the rubble, the remains of homes, churches, daycares, schools, businesses, etc. I think of the heartache that many are feeling as they find pictures, documents, toys, remnants of what was a life that was relatively normal as possible before that monster came through and changed everything.
"But buried deep beneath all our broken dreams we have this hope." We do have a hope. A hope and a promise. One of a better life. Maybe not on this earth, but it most certainly will be for the elect, those that belong to God.
"Out of theses ashes...beauty will rise." The cities and towns will be much more beautiful after they rebuild than they ever were.
"And we will dance among the ruins." For every person or animal found alive, there is joy.
"We will see Him with our own eyes." God is in every person who comes to the aid of the victims of this monster.
"Out of these ashes...beauty will rise."
"For we know joy is coming in the morning, in the morning, beauty will rise."
"So take another breath for now, and let the tears come washing down." Right now, we hurt. We need time to heal. And there will be tears. That's perfectly fine.
"And if you can't believe I will believe for you." Your faith may be weak. My faith may be tested. But together we can trust that things will indeed work together for the good of those who love the Lord.
"'Cuz I have seen the signs of spring! Just watch and see." Every little bird and every little flower that survived the storms that ripped through Alabama April 27 is a testimony of hope that springs eternal.
"I can hear it in the distance and it's not too far away." Help is coming. That help is beautiful.
"It's the music and the laughter of a wedding and a feast." I went to Moody with my church this week to a church there that suffered a hole in their roof. But I did not see fear and tears. I saw strength and courage. I saw inspiration. I talked with a couple of little boys who were hanging out by the truck that brought the food afterward. They were both five and in kindergarten. One of them is really excited about starting first grade after the summer. Does he even know or understand how that storm disrupted his life? I don't know, but it was encouraging.
"I can almost feel the hand of God reaching for my face to wipe the tears away and say, 'It's time to make everything new.'"
"Make it all new." And new it will be made.
"This is our hope. This is the promise. This is our hope. This is the promise. That it would take our breath away to see the beauty that's been made out of the ashes, out of the ashes, that it would take our breath away to see the beauty that He's made out of the ashes, out of the ashes." As cities and communities rebuild, it will be beautiful.
"Oh, beauty will rise. Oh, beauty will rise. Oh, oh, oh, beauty will rise. Oh, oh, oh, beauty will rise. Oh, oh, oh, beauty will rise." Beauty will indeed rise.
Lyrics from http://www.metrolyrics.com/beauty-will-rise-lyrics-steven-curtis-chapman.html.
And that's how everything begins to fit together.