Morning by Morning (9/4/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The many opportunities to help others after the hurricane.  These are good chances to remind myself of what we as humans and as Christians are called to do. Plus, as a person who does work that is emotional and social, manual hard labor feels therapeutic and meaningful.
  2. The awesome volunteers who are blessing those helping with home made sandwiches, snacks, bottled water, free snow cones and all sorts of other stuff. These people are encouragers and supporters and remind me of the many different ways we can be neighbors.
  3. A needed three day weekend.
  4. Scrambled eggs. Delicious!
  5. Steve Sandifer and all the hard work, pastoral care, wisdom, and laughter he brings to our church and me!

Picking Up The Cross of Heartache

(Note: some of the images are not my own but from other friends in Houston.)

The pictures are stunning. Perhaps a kind of remarkable that we don’t like. Sometimes, thinking about the rising waters and flooded streets and burdened reservoirs and bayous of Houston, I just have few words other than oh my. I don’t know how to make meaning of it.

That’s my suburb.  Surely it couldn’t be that much under water right? Stunned silence. But what about the city? 

I can’t even make sense of that.  So much rain and I can’t even begin to grasp the amount of water that fell.  What bayou system could survive 45″ of rain or more? What city has the capability? How did it happen? The many reasons have been shared and bantered back and forth:

  1. Too much rain period.
  2. No zoning laws that safeguard green spaces for water to escape to.
  3. Poor development habits that have overwhelmed prairie spaces that let water sink in.
  4. The flat Houston city scape, which compounds the water building up and gives no help.

We know these things, but it doesn’t change the stunned silence.  Wow. Oh my. Shaking heads.  We feel in shock by how fast the city filled, how the rain kept coming, and how the hurricane just stalled after destroying Corpus and Rockport and Victoria. We knew it was coming, felt prepared, but not that prepared.

And the images still keep coming. Water images that reflect helplessness, like hospitals that can’t take patients in dire need or send their healthy home.

That’s what it is. Helplessness. Many in their homes were helpless as water rose and seeped through cracks, doors ajar, and every gap to destroy their homes, drown their pictures and books and furniture, and pushed them up the stairs or into an attic or on the rooftop. Helpless as they stood watching out windows while neighbors houses filled up.  Helpless to stem the rising water as it forced them out of homes.  Helpless as some were stuck at the hospital where I was, but only able to call loved ones who were evacuating and being flooded out or constantly anxious about what would be lost. Some were helpless as they helped others inside one place, but whose every being wanted to help those in another. Helpless because some were far from home and had no idea what the water would do.  Helpless because toys were lost, homes were lost, pictures were lost, normalcy was lost, and stress and grief were gained. Some were separated from their babies and had little clue as to their husbands and babies and where they would evacuate to because how would they get there.


Helpless. When hurricanes or tsunamis or floods come, there is little more to feel but helpless.  And regardless of whether your home was lost, the anxiety and dreaded worry filled almost all with grief. Regardless of a death toll, the grief is real in Texas between Corpus Christi, Houston, Beaumont, and every town in between. 


This is typically where many ask about God.   

This is also typically where many tell those that grieve, “They are just possessions.” Or they say things like “you have your life at least.”  Perhaps “what is the worth if a man gains the whole world but forfeits his life.” Perhaps they say more atrocious things like “God will make it better” or “Don’t worry” or “Gods got a plan for this.”  

I will not say that. I am a hospital chaplain who sees children sick and dying almost daily and knows not to hide grief and helplessness.  

Perhaps when Jesus asks us not to hide our light under a bushel, we might not just imagine him talking about our joy.  Our pain and sorrow do not need to be hidden.  As challenging, as stunned, as grief stricken or angry as we are, we live that.  

We live it because God speaks through those to everyone else. God doesn’t speak solely through happiness. Gods speaks in the grief of a people who wrestle, who get their nails dirty in mud, who climb in boats from their kitchen doors and shake their heads towards the heavens. God speaks in the heartache of memories lost through waterlogged photo albums and the tears of people evacuated twice over because of Hurricane Katrina or the Memorial Day floods.  

In Matthew, Jesus rebukes Peter for telling him grief and ugliness would not be so.  Jesus rebuked him for denying the cross of pain and grief he, and we are called to bear.  No, losing your stuff is not the cross you bear. Grief and sadness and shock and heartache are.  Will you see with more honest eyes? Will you pick up your cross and follow Jesus into the grief and pain and trust that God is there? Will you share your burden trusting that God will speak and that Gods love still shines? Will you lament and trust that God listens? Pick up your cross and follow me. This is not a post encouraging you to gladly accept Gods plan of losing your house, or not a post encouraging you to be minimalist or resigning yourself to lives of pain or woe. Those responses aren’t denials of self, but rather ways we keep ourselves and our eyes untouched.

Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me.  Dare to experience it all and see it all with honest eyes. Did you feel the hand on your back from your friend comforting you as you tore out water logged carpet from your home? Did you deny yourself the pleasure of your own comfort and serve the broken hearted? Did you see the love in your neighbor eyes for you as you hurt losing your sons pictures or your late husbands belongings? Did you see differently? I hope I am. 

When Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, one way to hear it today is that he dares us to give up our way of seeing. Where is God here in our helplessness? Where not? Did we see God in first responders? Did we see God in people on boats rescuing families from neighborhoods? Did we see God in the chaplain who hugged the nurses who were scared for their children out there? Did we see God in the prayer circles, the hugs, the outstretched hands, the church showing up to demo your home, or the loads of musty laundry the neighbor is doing for everyone? Did we see God in the tears cried or the laughter shared in friends homes while we waited out the flood? Pick up our cross and see that somehow even the grief of Jesus cross opens space to see God is still there. 

Be heartbroken, grieve, be stunned into silence, and feel the sadness of the flood. Let Gods love come seeking you there in your brokenness, not just in your victories. Gods love can find you, even when you feel so broken and grief stricken. I don’t always know how, I struggle sometimes to see it, and I don’t understand sometimes, but we still are challenged to pick up the cross of trusting Gods love will go with us.

Yes, Jesus challenge to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow me means a lot of things. But this week, it means being willing to see that we are never separated from Gods love in Christ, whether in death or life, joy or grief, sorrow or relief, height or depth, baking sun or whelming flood. God is here.  God is here in the hands, the feet, the ears, and the heart that surrounds us. God is here and speaking through it all. And regardless of how high the flood waters, I have to grieve and trust that God does not recede when the waters rise or rise when the waters recede.  I am called to bear that cross, be heartbroken, and be still.  

Morning by Morning (8/17/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The many voices for justice and speaking truth to racism and systemic inequalities.  Our failures and flaws in this country are insidious and must be met. May the prophetic voices find root where they need to, including continued growth in me.
  2. The new GN’s of the PICU who I can’t wait to meet and then watch them care so compassionately for our families!
  3. Lifeline Chaplaincy, for so many reasons.  They are built into my life and the passions that Lifeline stands for are my foundations.
  4. Ryan’s emotion changes when presented with fruit snacks- from night to day, tears to smiles!

Morning by Morning (8/14/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The many fellow parents who both challenge and guide me in how to teach my kids about justice, racism, and living a life in line with the compassion and eyes of Jesus.
  2. The elders of our church who have served our church with faith and commitment for a long while. Their recent health struggles weigh heavy on my heart.  They love Jesus, and that is always seen.
  3. The Muslim woman, the black mother, and the white nurse who came in to the chapel to pray (separately) as I was writing this gratitude and reflected faith and humanity in their bowing down in tears.  They are part of the reason I am troubled and discouraged by the events and subsequent rhetoric in speech and Facebook interactions in Charlottesville.  Being human is what we all bring to the table, and justice and beauty is what we are called to seek.  When I am tempted to just be troubled and not lift my voice, I am grateful for them and the human face that needs my voice as well as my prayers.
  4. A great weekend with Ryan.  I love being a dad, and I love being his dad.  

Morning by Morning (8/12/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. A wonderful day with Ryan, including good toilet training, shopping and him pushing the cart, playing in the backyard, the pool, and building a cardboard airplane.  I love my time with him!
  2. Getting to hang out with DeAndre, Keyshon, and Taylor at the pool today. I marvel at their fun and resilience, but I am also very impressed and grateful with their gentle encouraging interaction with Ryan.
  3. Dinner with Elana and Carleigh and Levi! I can’t wait to officiate their wedding and I am so blessed to have gotten to know them outside of TCH!
  4. Japanese Sea Perch sushi.  Really really good!

Morning by Morning (8/8/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. My internship in 2005 at Lifeline Chaplaincy that has shaped much of my life since that time.  Virgil, Paul, Ann, Sarah, Rosa, Maya, Josh, and all the others made an impact that I cherish almost daily.
  2. The prayer warriors at our church that I love so much- Robert and Bernardine Barboza, Novie Booker, Ruth Noel, and Betty Grant to name a few. These are the people that I admire and who challenge me in my walk with Christ.
  3. Observing my parents be grandparents.  That’s an amazing gift that I just can’t ever put to words but is so beautiful and joyful to me.

Morning by Morning (7/31/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Ryan’s fun exuberance with balloons.  He gets so energetic and excited when he sees one and little be trying to keep it in the air, and it’s…so…cute!!!
  2. Michael Tucker’s sermon yesterday that explored the reason for celebrating the Lords Supper around the table and over a meal.  It was an enlightening message and encouraged our church towards meaningful and faithful participation in this special practice.
  3. All the anniversary celebrations I have seen on Facebook over the last couple weeks.  It’s been an amazing gift to realize that I am surrounded by many couples who create such beauty together.
  4. Luci Bell, Mikey Weesner, and Andrea Day for their awesome work coordinating, decorating, preparing, and leading VBS this past week.

Morning by Morning (7/25/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. All the good people that helped Elana get home last night and kept her safe along the way.
  2. For Elana’s dad who will be fixing her car and getting her back up and running.
  3. The way Ryan hugged me as I picked him up from Pawpaw’s house- the kind of lingering hug that feels like fireworks and wonder!
  4. Helping set up for VBS this past weekend at church.  The community, the friendships, the humor…they were all a great encouragement.

Morning by Morning (7/14/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. A really encouraging, supportive, and open conversation among good friends tonight at a good friends house.  Politics and religion, personality and styles of wine, all good and challenging conversation.
  2. Phil Rice.  Good friend, faithful Christian brother, a mentor to me also! What a gift!
  3. Rachel Brownson, a chaplain in Michigan who reflects the beauty of honesty and courage while seeking Gods voice within her all the time.  She has been a great guide to me in our short interactions and helpful in me becoming a better person and chaplain. I particularly have been moved by her humble and passionate to give voice to those who are often marginalized or even maligned.  Happy birthday Rachel!
  4. Good wine.  Yes please.

Morning by Morning (6/15/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Kavian McMillan, a friend from college who I am remembering and appreciating for his humor and his sense of racial and theological justice for this world. As a friend, he also served as Gods prophetic voice to me.
  2. Greg Kendall Ball and his theological call to Oculus Dei.  That night he shared about that mission and how God was using his gift, I have never thought about image and Gods eyes the same.
  3. The friends from SouthwestCentral that are so good to me, Elana, Aiden, and Ryan. They are blessings!