Why I Pray in Times of Disaster

As it should be, the airwaves have been filled with reporting and accounts of Hurricane Sandy and its impact the eastern part of the the United States. For many of us who are not being directly affected by the storm, it often feels like all we can do is follow the news coverage on TV, track our friends’ updates on Facebook and follow the immediate reporting through our Twitter stream.

The struggle for me during these times is how to not treat such times as some voyeuristic movie experience that can be paused or halted by powering down my device, but instead find a healthy way to participate in the healing and support. Honestly it is difficult to do, because in times that seem overwhelming and almost surreal, it’s much easier to pretend as if it’s not really happening, to distance oneself from the pain or romanticize the situation all together.

So here is what attempt I do.

I pray.

I give.

I connect.

I pray some more.

While prayer often seems to be birthed out of moments of fear, hopelessness and disbelief, I believe that prayer is ultimately an act of courage, hope and faith. Some think prayer is an act of convenience and an justification for inaction, and I get that, but for many people of faith, prayer is a powerful reminder to be the people we say we are. For me prayer is about remembering that there are always people in need of knowing God’s peace in body, mind and spirit; prayer is about remembering that even out of times of our deepest despair, new life will emerge; and prayer is about trusting that, somehow in some way, the Spirit of God is moving.

Prayer is not a set of demands or a wish list for God, but a powerful statement of my faith in God

And so I pray.

And my prayers compel me to give.

While for some, giving of physical or fiscal resources is not possible or prudent, I choose to give through my own denominational disaster assistance program, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. There are others as well, Church World Service, The Red Cross and many others* doing the front line and long term work of response and rebuilding.

And I connect.

I keep up with friends and family, I try to leverage whatever social networking influence I have for good and I make sure that the lives of those affected so directly remain at the forefront of my mind for as long as possible. From my distance it’s one particular – and hopefully helpful - way to be part of the response and recovery.

And then I pray some more.

Here is a prayer that was lifted up by Diana Butler Bass last night.

I speak for Christ:
Your God is not high in heaven
playing wild games with nature.
Your God is deep within each storm.
Your God is the suffering God,
revealed to us at Calvary,
and suffering with all who suffer
in the aftermath of storms.
Your God is the God of resurrection and new life

Below is an info graphic from my friend Sarah Cunningham. Please feel free to share it or simply consider doing some or all of what it calls us to do: pray, give and remember.

God in your mercy, hear OUR prayer . . .*

www.sarahcunningham.org/hurricane-sandy-infograph

* Please feel free to leave comments with organizations that you think are worth supporting and/or any worship resources or prayers that you have found meaningful.

For Those Who Struggle During Christmas, You Are Not Alone

Like many people celebrating Christmas, whether as a spiritual discipline or social experience, there is no calm before the storm for me. In fact, it seems like Christmas Eve EVE might even be the storm before the calm. Every year I commit to getting everything done early, but more times that not, I’m right in the mix of the final gift buying frenzy, braving the crowded grocery store fighting over that forgotten ingredients and mentally preparing for the interaction marathon that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the Day After Christmas that is my family’s life.

And breathe.

In many ways, this rush is part of the experience, or at least part of what Christmas has become. Sometimes it makes me sad to see how much about Christmas is not about the hope, joy, love and peace that I understand it to be, while at other times, I am tickled by the genuine change in the tone of interactions that happens during this time of the year. From the skip in a business person’s walk, to the tough guy in a Santa hat, whether you think someone has declared war on Christmas or you are declaring your own war on those who have declared war on those who are declaring war . . . this is a pretty wonderful time of the year time of the year.

But, I know, not for everyone.

As I go into these last days, like everyone else, I try to remember the many people for whom this is not a joyous time of the year. With themes of joyous parties, happy families and generous giving surrounding us, those who struggle with depression, estranged family and/or economic survival are often forgotten.  I don’t lift this up in order to compel feelings of guilt or to cast aspersions on folks who are living large during this time, but simply as a nod and a word to those who struggle with these times to say that you are loved.

  • You are loved by this stranger.
  • You are loved by people that you might not expect.
  • You are loved by God.

And yes, I know that my words offered on a blog post will not heal your spirit, reconcile families or feed your body, but in this, I hope you know that there are many who show this love not only during the holidays or not only with words, but who are there for and with you when you need them.  I don’t know where the words and actions will come for you, but I believe there are those people for all of us: it might be your neighbor who has invited you to join them for a meal, or maybe it’s that stranger sitting at the table next to you at the cafe with whom you share a brief conversations or when it is really bad, it’s that suicide hotline that you never would have imagined that you would ever need.

So, while I wish those who are struggling all of the joy, peace, hope and love that I can muster, my greatest hope is that you know deep in your soul that you are not alone.

In fact, if you click on over to this link on my Facebook Page, feel free to say hello, share your story and I bet some folks will hang out with you for a bit.


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