Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Horror and Hope in Haiti

I have been somewhat reluctant to write anything about Haiti. This is not because I've had no thoughts on the matter but because so many are writing on the subject with such profound insight and meaning that any thing I added may be superfluous. It is also true that my thoughts keep migrating back to Haiti even after putting down the newspaper or turning off the news. Two themes of thoughts keep recurring in my thinking. One is obviously the sheer horror of the quake and its magnitude on such an impoverished nation. The devastation of the quake is unspeakable enough but Haiti's ability to deal with the aftermath is almost non-existant. I use my imagination often to inject myself into other people's situations to try to link myself to their joys, pain, questions, feelings, fears and hopes. I hope this helps my prayers, empathies, and messages to them. But I am simply not able to make my imagination go to the horror so many people in Haiti must feel with the loss of loved ones, friends, and their homes. If you can believe that the whole earth behaves momentarily like an ocean wave then you get an idea (so I'm told) of what a major earthquake feels like. The solid earth lifts, curls, and crashes with liquidity reserved for large bodies of water. The infrastructure, such as it was, in Haiti could not handle the shift. But what really shifted was not just the earth but every one's tenuous balance on life that had been held up by the relationships, homes, routines, and what they considered normal. There will be a new normal in Haiti after this horror. That brings me to the other theme in addition to the horror. In the midst of this tragic loss there nonetheless is hope in Haiti. We see this in the world-wide outpouring of aid to this poor nation. We see the magnitude of effort being made to bring help through every humanitarian means possible. Governments, relief agencies, doctors, nurses, missionaries, and construction workers are mobilizing on a massive scale. We see the hope in the heroics of families searching for and uniting with families. Can you imagine the strength of hope that generated missionary Frank Thorp's odyssey to drive eight hours to Port Au Prince, find in all the rubble the building that had collapsed around his wife Jillian, and dig for three more hours and pull her out alive and well? Amazing. Can you imagine the strength of hope for the six year old in the grocery store that fell on him who discovered fruit roll ups within his reach and munched on them for five days? What did the two year old girl think about and how did she keep going for six days until she was found in the darkness and dust of what was one time home for her and her family? Stories like these are being told everyday of hope and help arising from the rubble of Haiti. We often hear, even from our own lips, questions to God of why? Why did you let.....Why don't you....Why didn't you stop...? They seem to come with each tsunami in the Pacific, tornado in Oklahoma, hurricane in the gulf and with earthquakes across the globe. Idiots say its God's judgement ignoring the scriptures that say judgement begins with the household of God (I Peter 417)and that we must all appear before the judgement seat of God (II Cor. 5:10)to give an account of each idle word and action (like the one where I called someone an idiot). These ignore the very words of Christ who just before His betrayal and death declared "Now is the time for judgement on the world; now the prince of this world will be driven out." (John 12: 21-32) A little humility will go along way in making statements about God's judgement. That is His business and He is the only One qualified to say and assess what is to be judged as to how and when. Even Jesus in His time on earth faced the occurrence of catastrophe in Luke 13:2. A tower had fallen killing eighteen people. We are not given the particulars regarding the tower as if it were in existence or was being constructed or if an earthquake or wind caused its destruction. Christ didn't answer all the "why" questions that must have surrounded this tragedy but he also made sure people understood it was not the judgement of God on eighteen people who were worse sinners than the rest either. He admonished the people of His day to be ready for terminal times through repentance. Do you ever wonder why we don't question God's grace and outpouring of blessings during good times the way we question Him during the horrific? Doesn't seem quite fair does it? Yet, in many, if certainly not all ways, God has answered the why questions. We see in the horror of Christ's cross that He is present with us and working redemption. We see in His promises of eternal life and heaven's accessibility through faith in Christ His answer to both our own brokenness and the world's. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoptions as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-24) His answer to a broken world is the promise of a new, whole one (Revelation 21:1). His answer to broken lives, broken by sin, guilt and ravaged by death, is new life in new bodies where sin is forgiven, guilt is removed and death has died. Meanwhile we groan. (II Cor. 5:2) The promise is not fulfilled in total, but it is secure. There is horror in Haiti, but there also is hope both temporal and eternal. Where is your hope today? Cos

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

But John, Denver is a Long, Long Way

I don't know if my grandmother ever made it to Denver, but her bedroom is going. I know this because my son is leaving Austin and taking it there. That headboard, frame, slats, and nightstand are old, I'd guess at least 50 years, but sturdy. They were from Pop and Mamaw's guest room where I'd sleep when I went to spend the weekend as a kid. The wood is hard and the finish is white, even the slats are hard. It seems the wood was better then or at least things were better built. So Clay is off on a new adventure, even if a part of it is on antique furniture. It will be an adventure for Pam and I, too and we will miss him being just 2.5 hours away. It's more like 15 or 16 now. He is going to work on his masters degree up there. His job wasn't much of a job with no real prospects of advancing so he figured it was time to get another degree and really build a career. He is right, I just wish he were right right down the road. We didn't go to Austin as frequently as we probably could have and stay as long as we should have but the fact that we could go at almost the drop of a hat was nice. Austin seemed to fit Clay well. It had quirky places and people. He often swam in Barton Springs even in the winter and could ice skate in the middle of the summer. It has good live music and lots of hole-in-the-wall eateries that he loved and taught us to love, too. It was warm mostly. I've never been but I think that Denver is a bit colder. Oh, well, we gave him a coat for Christmas. The truth is that Austin is still only 2.5 hours away from us. The music will still be played, the funky joints with good food will still be serving. I still need to see the Bullock museum. But there will be less incentive to go that way now. Its all understandable and for a good reason, but a bit sad, too. But it was sad to watch Clay struggle with a dead-end job in an expensive city. It was tough to watch him work really hard knowing that there would be no immediate results from it. Some times you don't get to pick your sadness, it comes as it comes and you deal with it. So with Clay in Denver and Matt and his family (read grandson!) in Farmington, NM, Pam and I will be seeing new parts of the country we've not seen before. We will shop the Internet for discount tickets to places we'd hardly think about a year ago. No we can't jump in car and run to Austin with $40 in my pocket. We will save a little more and plan a little more before we take a trip. But we will because that's what love does. I guess the real adjustment for me is simply the distance. The possibility of getting to Clay in a short span if needed existed. No longer will it but we will do what millions of other families do in similar situations. I also have no doubt that they wish either openly or secretly that their loved ones were closer. Yes, I realize that distance is relative, pun intended. Thousands of people have the objects of their love scattered around the country and around the world. Thousands of them are currently in harm's way. The distance is the joy-stealer, the doubt-incubator, reaching-but-not-quite-grasping shadow that throws its dimness on even bright reunions. Life has its shadows and one learns to deal with them. I heard about another shadow long ago that threw its darkness over the throne of heaven. The distance was not from place to place but an even greater distance-- from heart to heart. With mankind having no hope of spanning the eternal distance he had created, God himself made the trip and made a way back home. The distance was not so great that love couldn't cover it. Looking out from His throne, the Father of Light and of men, Choose to make Himself known and show us the way back to Him. Speaking wisdom and truth into heart of peasants and Kings He began to unveil the Word that would change the course of all things.... Third Day At the end of a day of hauling off junk, gifting Goodwill, and packing Mamaw's bedroom suite into a moving pod with a few other things, I prayed for Clay in the street at the back of my pickup. I don't remember the words much but I do know that at that moment, distance wasn't a problem. And if I understand the heavenly Father's Word, it really never should be. Cos

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Taking Down the Tree

It's funny but to this day I still think a Christmas Tree is magic. Ours never was very gorgeous or fancy. Most of the decorations were homemade or kid made and they developed a tradition of their own. Our tree contained no real theme or scheme with regard to color or decor, it was mainly just memories. Maybe that's where the magic lay. But by the last days of December or the first days of January it loses it magic and its time to take it down again. It usually takes Pam more than one asking and may require a day or two before it actually comes down. Time wins, it always does, and the process starts. I think the ornaments know it's time to go back in the attic. Sitting over in a corner, no lights twinkling, no presents under the limbs, the tree and decorations seem a bit embarrassed to be out there without their magic after Christmas. I suppose their magic comes from anticipation of gathered family, the joy of presents to be given, the love of memories made--- the single red-striped straw that was "made" in kindergarten (it always goes on first), the ugly non-working light which goes on top (last), and our Wizard of Oz characters: Dorothy, Tin Man, The Lion, and The Scarecrow ornaments my mom made. There are things from first grade, second grade, even up to college, many kept only because they annoyed Pam or made the boys laugh. But this odd assembly with no apparent reason to be together has been together for twenty-five or more years now. The only thing they have in common is us and somehow they work their magic for us as a kind of thank-you for a few more weeks of life each December. But it doesn't last long. Its all soon enough packed in the zipper bags and shoe boxes and plastic crates and for the tree itself a rather narrow box. It is stripped of its ornaments, has its limbs folded up in unnatural looking positions. It looks rather sad, stark and naked. So its is folded and stuffed in a box and shoved into a dark place in the corner of the attic. That trip up into the attic in early January is a somewhat sad routine but I tried to reassure the boxes that I'd remember where they were and I'd see them again next November after Thanksgiving. I added that I hoped they had a nice rest but seemed to hear (I think it was the voice of Oz's Scarecrow) "we don't need much rest, we didn't do anything this year." True, with no kids or grand kid around on Christmas eve or morn this year they only had a couple of just-past-middle agers to work with. I reminded them that everyone has an off year now and then so go ahead and rest while you can. They didn't seem to believe me. So I sat down on a box of old Sports Illustrated and said, "Look, I know you may not believe this but I know how you feel. I live with an odd assortment of people who are together only because the one who made us put us together. We don't have that much in common but we have each other. It's called the church. We look kinda silly sometimes by ourselves but when you get us together some real wonderful stuff can happen. And tree, you and I may have the most in common, one day someone will strip me naked, fold my arms in an awkward position, stuff me in a narrow box and put me in a dark place. But if I read the story right, I won't be forgotten either. So hang in there until it's your time again." "You too," I think I heard them say. "You too." Terry