As images of Hurricane Harvey’s destructive path have flowed before our eyes, floodwaters of incredible magnitude have flowed through an estimated 30-40,000 homes and impacted the lives of 13 million people.  56,000 calls to Houston 911 came within the first 15 hours, with additional Good Samaritan rescues too numerous to count.  Having taken a mission trip to a flood zone years ago, I have a tiny sense of the miserable and heart wrenching devastation floodwaters cause, but the enormity of the impact is hard to fathom.  I know many of us feel helpless.

In response, I offer two things. The first is an important message from the director of Episcopal Relief and Development that can be found here.  In addition to reminding us that this is a marathon, not a sprint, he outlines the three overlapping phases of Rescue, Relief and Recovery as well as concrete ways to help, including what not to do.  I commend it to you.

The second is a beautiful reflection by Shellee Coley, who lives in Houston. She created a moving video during the storm on her cell phone, and shared it through Work of the People. I found her longer written message, including a practice to consider, to be incredibly moving.   I’ve included it below my signature.  I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

I invite you to join in praying, and in committing to practices such as Shellee outlines below and in giving generously to a relief organization like Episcopal Relief and Development. This Sunday we’ll be both offering prayers and will be directing the loose offering to Episcopal Relief and Development. We affirm in our baptism the truth that out of the waters of chaos comes a new creation. May it be so.

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Elizabeth

Shellee Coley’s Reflection

Like many of you, I have been at home, glued to my tv, feeling helpless and devastated about what is happening all around me in Texas this week. I went to bed exhausted the other night from watching story after story of people losing their homes and businesses and dignity.

As I tried to sleep, images of families with children, elderly and pets, displaced at gas stations, on roofs and in shelters, flooded my mind and I just could not sleep. I turned the news back on to an interview of a woman and children coming off of a rescue boat and the woman said to the news anchor, “please don’t try to hug me or I might cry and I gotta stay strong for my babies”.

Heart broken.

I felt helpless. I was questioning god. I was questioning humanity. And I was quite frankly, feeling guilty for not having a boat to go rescue people. So I did the only thing I know to do when I feel desperate and I wrote a song about it. Here is my version of a “boat”. I hope it brings you a moment of peace or comfort or whatever emotion you need to feel.

Hold somebody. Let them cry. And then PLEASE get out there and be THE HANDS AND FEET. Heal each other. Seriously.

A Contemplative Practice to Consider…

Often when I can’t breathe, I will go for a drive and roll down the windows or walk through my neighborhood and start naming things I am grateful for. Literally anything that comes into my sight, I will try to figure out a statement of gratitude for it. When I went for a short drive the other day to see some of the aftermath of the devastation, I was struggling to find gratitude in seeing so much of my community’s loss. And even my gratitude for my own personal safety, left me feeling guilt for the little to no damage my family and I had sustained. And so I just drove and breathed and allowed the sadness to move in, to be felt, to be honored and to be named.

Naming emotions is one of the most powerful meditative practices I have found, because it gives me the freedom to call things out and let them slip though me instead of getting stuck. I felt the guilt, but didn’t let it turn to shame. I felt the sadness, but didn’t let it turn to isolation. I felt the anger at god, but didn’t let that keep me from asking “WHY”? (After all, you don’t get answers unless you are brave enough to ask the questions) I felt my helplessness, but didn’t allow myself to stay helpless. And then by the time I got home, I was looking up shelters and donation sites and planning out what I could do the next day to turn my raw emotions into actions and healing, both for myself and others.

We are at a time in history where we are slammed with thousands of negative words and images every minute that effect our emotions and it’s easy to lose faith in all the beauty that humanity embodies. That beauty and service of one another is where I personally find god. Friendship IS SALVATION. Community IS SALVATION. And we are all saving each other, one complicated interaction at a time.

My hope in the coming months of clean up from this catastrophe, is that we would stop tearing each other apart with political, social and racial differences and go out and look for opportunities where we can co-create through our pain, and watch the vapors of beauty and hope RISE UP out of that work. Are we finally ready?

Love Hard. Be Human. Find Beauty.