Five Years Later

My friend Roger Mills used to tell us about Hurricane Andrew and the total destruction of Homestead, Florida during the time he preached there. And then he liked to tell us about it a few months later. Then a few months later, he told us again. In fact, I heard that story many times, and I always enjoyed it. But I didn’t understand the retelling of it.

Until five years ago. Hurricane Katrina and the recovery effort became a formative part of my thinking and spiritual growth in such a pervasive way that I think I shall never escape it. I’m not sure I want to. Even now I catch myself telling ‘Katrina stories’ and try not to look at the person I’m talking to – afraid they’ll be rolling their eyes, or counting how many times they’ve heard the same stories.

But Roger and I…well…we just can’t help it. Unfortunately Roger withstood not only Andrew, but also Katrina. I’ve lost touch with him, and I’m ashamed of that. My blog is full of Katrina stories, so I do not intend to retell them today. It’s been such a busy weekend I have only thought about it once or twice.

I reckon the common understanding will always be that Katrina struck New Orleans. But that’s not quite accurate.  I (and the rest of the world) watched live television coverage of Katrina from New Orleans because that’s what was on television. We heard the news reports of the breaking levees, watched with horror as people walked up interstate ramps that led to nowhere – islands of helplessness. Nightmarish stories came from the Convention Center and Super Dome that sounded almost post nuclear or apocalyptic in nature.

But it was quiet in Waveland, Mississippi. That’s because there was nothing left where Katrina made landfall. It was scraped off of the face of the earth. Nearby Bay St. Louis came close to the same fate. All along the Mississippi Gulf Coast the storm surge wiped out thousands of square miles of homes and businesses. And for a few weeks, it was mostly quiet.  There were no news reports from South Mississippi for what seemed like forever. Once the thunder of recovery began to rumble, that all changed. I applaud our Governor, Haley Barbour, for his amazing energy for the state of Mississippi. Today he and his wife spoke to hundreds who gathered in Gulfport in remembrance.

No matter where you lived along the Coast or how you experienced it, Katrina is the tale of your lifetime. You’ll never stop remembering, telling those tales, reliving those moments. You couldn’t forget if you wanted to.  It was a time when you realized that your best friend in the world was the next door neighbor you had never met before. You found out that the human family rushes to take care of its own, even when it didn’t know your name. And the opportunity to learn one of life’s greatest truths was brought to your doorstep: you best find your way out of your troubles by helping someone else out of theirs.

Eighteen miles down the road my friend Al Sturgeon had his own Katrina experiences. You can read his five year reflection HERE.

Not sure I added anything to the Katrina conversation, but I felt like I needed to reflect on it all for a bit. Thanks for reading.

John

Three Costly Gifts

Today I received three costly gifts.

The first I want to mention is a ticket from Monroe Police Department for not wearing my seat belt. What a joy it was to be stopped along one of Monroe’s busiest streets with the flashing lights behind me. I wonder how many of our church members drove by? Ah well. Getting lax on simple things that can make a big difference is a recipe for regret. The officer was kind, and fair, and right. I expect he has witnessed the results of accidents where seat belts were not in use. I am appreciative of the reminder. Some gifts are costly!

The second is a carved olive wood statue of Jesus carrying the cross. It originates in Jerusalem. I think most of us are on the same page about worshiping icons … I wouldn’t know how. But a physical representation can gravitate our attention and focus our thoughts. I’ll also be reminded of the dear friend who placed this in my hands today.  I’m appreciative of another costly gift – a price I couldn’t pay.

The third is a copy of Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I talked about Bonhoeffer in a lesson and one of our deacons, a history buff, bought this book. Today he gifted it to me. I’m looking forward to diving in! The book cost a little, but Bonhoeffer’s writings are quite a gift to Christendom. Still, the price he paid for his commitment to Christ was the ultimate in costliness: his life.

I’m thankful for the gifts I received today … these three that I am acknowledging, as well as many more blessings that filled the hours. I am made aware that I am often ungrateful for all that God has done on my behalf. While I usually thank Him in generic, I’m moved to thank Him in specific today. What has been gifted to you lately that was costly to someone else?

Thanks for reading,

John