Animals, Disaster, Reflectionary

Stray Thoughts on a Sunday Night

I’m not obsessed with dogs, but…okay, I am. I also love my cats. The story that finally caused me to break down and cry the other night was about a little boy getting on the bus for Houston and having his little dog torn out of his arms. “Snowball, Snowball!” The little boy cried until he made himself sick.

Tonight I read that animals have been declared family members. Evacuees will be able to take their pets with them, allowing animal rescue folks the chance to try and collect the animals left behind around the Superdome. I can’t find confirmation of this on the Web; it came via e-mail to a dog list I read.

If I were in the South, I would want to open a shelter for people with pets. As it is, I am far, far away. All I can do is send money, and encourage my church members to do the same.

Oh, and preach about it all. In the sidebar there is a link titled “Sermonic Convergence,” and it will take you to the blog I have for Small Church. The text I wrote for this morning is posted there; if you’ve been reading my blog this past week, the ideas won’t be anything new, but it might be interesting for one or fewer of my readers to see where I ended up. I’m editing the same material for my next newspaper essay, to be published this coming Saturday.

In the end, I didn’t preach from the text, but talked about the themes in approximately the same order in which I treated them in the written sermon. There were numerous elaborations. There were also many tears. #2 Son hugged me on purpose after church, so it must have worked. This was a new experience for me, really dropping the text. It just seemed like the wrong day to be having a love affair with my written words.

The Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ has asked each church to try and raise the equivalent of $10 per member, which amounts to about $1000 for Small Church. I’m encouraging our folk to work toward that but also to give to the effort being coordinated by Quotidian Grace

Pure Luck and I have several things in mind. He’s going to give to the American Red Cross and also to QG’s drive. I’m going to give a small amount to Red Cross as part of an effort by a Bernese Mountain Dog group, as well as giving to the UCC and to QG. It’s all flowing in the same direction, and all those choices feel good.

I’m happy to have an update from St. Casserole. I wish I could give her a big hug. Just last Sunday we were eating a Solidarity Chocolate Cake, thinking it would all blow over. Now her husband’s office is gone, and her family is in two locations, but they are all alive and well and making the best decisions they can.

Finally, as I said at church this morning while preaching, embracing #2 Son in a way that was probably awful for him, but which he kindly tolerated, “If this one, or any of the others dear to me, were near death for a lack of water, I would take water wherever I could find it and not look back.” I know I would. I would do it for husband, children, pets. Yes, I would want to make reparations later, but omigosh, I would not hesitate to do whatever I needed to do to keep them safe.

And really finally, I may have said this in the comments at someone else’s blog, but I want to be sure and say it here. The people who, in the name of religion, celebrate this hurricane as God’s way of making a clean sweep of “sinful” places, people and practices are reading a different gospel than the one I claim. I’m angry that many people will think all Christians are like that. I disavow them. Claiming that abortion and gay rights are the two big things that make God mad, while ignoring the death and trauma suffered by so many this week, is about as far away from a so-called “culture of life” as anything could be.

If anybody wants to know who said so, tell ’em to turn to Matthew 25: 31-46.


Watching the World Go By

Tonight #1 Son asked me how I could watch so much of the hurricane coverage. I thought he was scornful and asked him why? “No, Mom, I just don’t know how you can watch all this and not break down.”

Why am I watching it? Well, on Sunday at the very latest, I’m going to have to try to make some sense of why this has happened, and talk to a roomful of people about it. And to do that I have to understand what’s going on and why it occured and what other people are saying about it.

And I have to know what I believe about God’s involvement, or lack thereof. Didn’t I just preach this sermon? It was about the tsunami, and in it I asserted that I did not believe God had caused that disaster. I called on the people in my church to refuse to accept the notion that God destroyed people in southeast Asia to teach us a lesson in North America.

It was a good sermon, and the texts that week, Baptism of Christ Sunday, were, oh, so perfectly beautiful and painful and right. Where is God, I asked, when the waters close over our heads? I grew up Southern Baptist, you see, so my memory of being baptized is not a sprinkle but an immersion. I remember the long moment after the water closed over my head and the relief when it parted as my dearly loved minister brought me back to the surface.

So, I have to write another sermon about God and the flood.

I also have to pray.

Here’s my problem. The more progressive my theology becomes, the less accountable I hold God for much of anything, the less I want to ask God for, and the harder it becomes to pray for my own needs. Now, I don’t apply this to others. I do pray for them. But who in the, well, in the Heaven am I praying to? I’ve given up the grandfatherly fellow with the long white beard, and I’ve passed through my goddess phase, in which I learned to trust The Mother, a hard thing to do when you haven’t felt trust for the mother.

But somewhere, sometime, I went on to another place. My beloved Cousin Jack calls it being post-theistic. I have wondered what being post-theistic means for prayer. How does he pray? When we stayed at his house, and we sat down for dinner, he prayed. I don’t know what I expected, but what I heard was the old familiar language of a well-educated, elegantly-spoken Southern preacher, what I think of as a real prayer. You Episcopalians know how to pray beautifully, but it’s more than that. Somehow Cousin Jack can think big, tall thoughts that liberate God from our limiting definitions, but still pray as if God is something or someone who hears us and knows us.

We’re limited. We’re limited. I am, certainly. I can sit and watch the coverage and contemplate the deaths and the social injustice and talk about and read about it and even blog about it, but, oh my God, I go to bed and lie there like a stone because the God I have come to believe in is so detached from us, too much a scientist looking down on a lab full of rats, too much a big boy with an ant farm, too much and too little and I know I am limited in my understanding.

Then, thank God, I remember Jesus. I can talk to Jesus. When I look at the looters and wonder why they took so many sneakers, I stop and think of Jesus. Would he be sitting down to dinner with the governors and senators and cabinet secretaries? Would he be looking out the window of Air Force One at overflowing New Orleans and storm-shredded Biloxi? God, no. Oh, my God, no.

Jesus would be on the balconies with the families waving their pillowcases, or at the Superdome with the frightened old folks and the hungry children. Jesus would be walking the debris-strewn roads with wives looking for their husbands, comforting the man who saw his neighbors drowned bodies in the water as he hung on for dear life. Jesus would be in a neighboring state with the people who were smart enough and well-resourced enough to get away, but who are suffering now as they hear of the destruction back home and wondering how they can help when their homes and workplaces are gone, too.

Jesus is in all those places. And believing that, I can pray.


Teddy Bears

A little while ago on the Today Show, Katie Couric interviewed a woman from Texas who was surrounded by children holding teddy bears. The children have collected the bears to send to children in Sri Lanka who have lost their parents and their homes. And while I suppose it’s a good thing that the kids in Texas are *aware* there is such a place as Sri Lanka and that a devastating tidal wave destroyed homes and families there, I also wonder how helpful a teddy bear is when you have no food, no medicine, no clean water and no safe, dry place to lay your head.

A family in our nursery school had a house fire the other day. They are staying at the Embassy Suites. Orphans in Sri Lanka are not staying at the Embassy Suites.

It just struck me as off, somehow, as if no one stopped to think about what is really needed.


Disaster Relief

This afternoon I sat watching the coverage of the Asian tsunami with my sister-in-law. For the first few days, there weren’t too many pictures of the waves or the aftermath, but today they flooded the screen. It was a reminder that we in the U.S. we are just a button-push away from knowing everything that’s going on, but in other parts of the world the news takes days to be reported. There are islands off the coast of Indonesia from which there is no word yet. The waiting continues, and the grieving.

The image of a mother holding a dead child in her arms lies in stark contrast to our visions of Mary holding the baby Jesus in hers. But Mary and Joseph were as poor and as powerless as the people of Asia and Herod reacted as fiercely as any force of nature when he ordered his soldiers to kill all the children under the age of two.
Relief came in a dream to Joseph and Mary, and they took the baby and fled Herod’s killing spree. They were not swept away.

As a little girl, I had a cherished illustrated Bible, and in it I remember a picture of the little family, with their donkey, sitting under a palm tree, safely on the road.
As the people affected by the tsumani try to recover from this disaster, I pray that relief will include not only safe water and food but a chance to stop and breathe and feel the safety of connection with those they love.