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Chaos, Social Justice, and Facing Fear in order to Seek God's Face

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An elegy for Katrina, or more on choosing to rejoice…

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Psalms 34:1-4 (KJV)


Seven years ago today, Hurricane Katrina assailed the Gulf of Mexico. Wikipedia records the event as follows,
Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States.  Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall.  At least 1,836 people died in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane; total property damage was estimated at $81 billion (2005 USD), nearly triple the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
No one could have accurately predicted the devastation left in its wake; not to people, not to property, not to the American psyche. Many in the public mainstream including the Associated Press (AP) called storm victims “refugees.”  According to an article produced by the AP in September of 2005,
the choice has stirred anger among some readers and other critics, particularly in the black community. They have argued that "refugee" implies that the displaced storm victims, many of whom have been black, are second-class citizens — or not even Americans.
It was almost too painful to watch, particularly as my widowed mother braved her first fierce hurricane alone. I was more than 1200 miles away, and couldn’t even tell her I loved her directly before her power went out, recovering as I was from oral surgery. I know she felt my prayers. But this is not that story.

In the midst of the worst storm imaginable, my mother, prayer warrior and superwoman, ministered to her community. As the rains abated and the winds died down, she strode out to her hurricane kitchen, the one my dad built for her but never lived to use, to prepare breakfast. She brewed coffee, and neighbors showed up with mugs. She made pancakes, bacon, and dispensed prayer and laughter, sharing what she had to make a difference. She was spared serious harm living away from the coast on high ground. She reasoned that with power out, she might as well cook and share what she had with those who might have not. That’s who she is. My mother chose joy. She chose to rejoice. She chose to share what she had, including the blessing of her company in the midst of the storm. Those who didn’t come by received a visit, and a plate (and probably a prayer). And no one was surprised, least of all me. That’s who she is.

Now, seven years to the day that Katrina landed, we brace for Isaac. I checked in with mom a few days ago, ensuring that she was properly provisioned for the worst. Mom said, “I’m not worried. God knows where I am.” That’s who she is. My mother chooses joy. She chooses to rejoice. And I am thankful that she is in my life. She will weather this storm with grace. She always does. So while I honor the memory of 1,836 dead and 706 declared missing attributed to Hurricane Katrina, I lift praises to God for my mother’s spirit and abundant joy. She is my example of a godly woman. She is my inspiration. She is both mother and friend. She is also a vibrant reminder that my cup is never empty, my reminder that God is so good. 


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