My friend--a pastor in Seattle--told me the story about a remarkable woman in his church. She was licensed by the state to be a foster-care home for children with special needs. This requires fortitude and resilience, not knowing how long the children will be with you (maybe days or perhaps weeks), or how many children you may have at one time (as many as six). One year, at Christmas time, money was short.
This refrain will sound familiar. This isn’t the Sabbath Moment I planned to write (as I watch the images of the storm now thrashing Florida).
On A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor tells a poignant story about Lake Wobegon life on the northern Minnesota prairie, where children knew what it meant to travel a great distance to school. And where a sudden winter storm is life threatening.
In preparation for a winter storm emergency, each child is assigned a storm-home, a place nearer the school, where the child will go, and stay, if the weather becomes too treacherous for travel. On the first day of school, slips of paper are given to each child. The paper says: “Your storm home is with the (blank) family.”
Garrison tells of being assigned to the Krugers. The Krugers were an elderly couple and, as he recalls, very kindly. They had an impeccable house with a fence around a large yard. On normal school days Garrison would walk by the house and imagine what it would be like if he had to take refuge there. He imagines the crackling fireplace, a delicious meatloaf, and a quilted blanket on the bed. And Garrison imagines Mr. Kruger speaking to the principal, and pointing over toward him and saying, “There, that little boy over there, we would like him for our storm child.” All of this imagining made Garrison feel secure, even though, as it happened that school year, he never had to stay in his storm home.
Some storms, like Harvey and Irma, are literally life-threatening.
Some storms, are not. Even so, they still rock our world.
But most storms are not even weather related, though the effect feels the same.
This I know to be true: sometime in our life, every single one of us needs a storm-home.
I’m in Vancouver BC this week. Far, far away from any storm. And if I avoid TV or newspaper or wi-fi, I can be oblivious to most of the world’s calamities or conundrums. It’s very tempting.
Because I don’t like it when my world is rattled. I don’t like what insecurity does to my heart, or mind or spirit. (Times when life feels much bigger than me.) I don’t know what to hold on to, or what to be certain of. Where is the solid ground?
Because the list of what I don’t know is too long. And the list of what can go wrong is even longer.
So, back to the Sabbath Moment I expected to write. It’s always better when I have my ducks in a row, don’t you see. One less thing to worry about.
Just this morning, someone told me a story about family members in a Florida town (where evacuation has been recommended, or at least finding refuge in a shelter). Both are impaired physically, but even so, will not agree be taken to the shelter. Their reason, “Shelters are for poor people.”
When it comes to the storms of life, we are all poor people.
Brokenness plays no favorites.
A few hundred yards from my house on Vashon, there is a growing mound of flowers and bouquets, around the now car-scarred trunk of a century old fir tree. Where a life ended earlier this week. An accident, yes. A tragedy, yes. Playing favorites? No. But now, life is heartbreakingly different.
I’m not in the eye of any storm today. That I know of.
But what about the catastrophic winds that are personal? Times when relationships unravel. Health deteriorates. Beliefs crumble. And hope evaporates.
A church leader I respected and admired died this week, and I am very sad.
This week I couldn’t quite see eye to eye on a project dispute, leaving it difficult to avoid hurtful feelings.
Call it what you want, but there are days when I carry a sadness or heaviness for reasons I cannot explain.
Here’s the odd part. Lord knows that too often we want to weather any storm on our own. We don’t need a storm home, we protest. But, you see, the storm doesn’t care…
At some time, we come face to face with the reality that no one of us is on this human, or faith journey, alone. Life is fragile and therefore, we are connected.
So, here’s the deal: it’s in our DNA to be, and to need, storm homes.
To offer storm homes to others.
And to ask for a storm home when we struggle.
Here’s the good news… we can be a storm home even if, and when, our own life is less than composed or collected.
I spend so much energy shoring up the vulnerable places in my life. You know, those places susceptible to breaking apart. Because there are many reasons to be unnerved, believing the worst or “what if.” We need to be reminded that being unnerved doesn’t disqualify us from human connection, or from being a storm home… or, from being a helper.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” Thank you Mr. Rogers…
Caring is not predicated on having your act together.
Being a storm home is not predicated on being a resolve-all-fail-safe.
A storm home is a place where our spirit can park, sit a spell, and find perspective and replenishment.
And speaking of vulnerable places. Today is 9-11. A day our world rocked.
We didn’t need platitudes, we needed a storm home.
After 9-11, St. Paul’s (near ground zero) became the way station for first responders.
In St. Paul’s one reporter overheard a firefighter say, “When I come in that door, I’m covered with blood sometimes, and they hug me. They love me, they take care of me, they treat me as a real human being. And then they feed me, and they massage me, and they give me adjustments. These are my people. This is my place. This is where I come to be with God.”
So, let us give ourselves permission to rest in what is true. We don’t need to let the commotion and disorder be the whole narrative.
Tonight, I will watch the sunset in Steveston BC, a fishing village in Canada (sun peeking through the clouds). The water in the harbor is a mirror, imaging the clouds. Mesmerizing.
I’m working this week with the good people at St. Joseph the Worker Parish. Join me if you’re in this neck of the woods, evenings Monday through Wednesday.
P.S. When the twin towers were hit, FDNY Chaplain Father Mychal Judge chose to suit up, and go where he was needed, into the upheaval. To save a life, it cost him his life. Knowing his sacrifice, it is worth reading these excerpts from his Last Homily, delivered at a Mass for Firefighters on Sept. 10, 2001. “You do what God has called you to do. You get on that rig, you go out and do the job. No matter how big the call, no matter how small, you have no idea of what God is calling you to do, but God needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us. God needs us to keep supporting each other, to be kind to each other, to love each other… We love this job, we all do. What a blessing it is! It’s a difficult, difficult job, but God calls you to do it, and indeed, He gives you a love for it so that a difficult job will be well done… Turn to God each day–put your faith, your trust, your hope and your life in His hands. He’ll take care of you, and you’ll have a good life. And this firehouse will be a great blessing to this neighborhood and to this city. Amen.”
Quote for your week…
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Note: We need to postpone this week’s webinar, because Nick and Diana (my webinar and tech gurus) are in Houston helping Nick’s mom with her flooded home. Maybe the safe home goes with us where we go. So… join us September 20 or 21. Reserve a spot today.
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Whisper Like An Angel
Have you learned how to whisper like an Angel
Have you learned how to stand up to death
Have you learned that life is as strong as its weakest link
Have you learned that truth never rests
Have you learned that love will save you
Have you learned how to whisper like an Angel
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Rabbi Harold Kushner