Archive for the ‘NOLA’ Category

Dear Mother Nature

Friday, September 12th, 2008

hurricane

Don’t let names like Gustaf, Andrew, or today’s storm, Ike, fool you. For years tropical storms were named for women.

It was in 1953, in fact, when the U.S. National Weather Service, which tracks hurricanes and issues warnings and watches, began using female names for storms. The practice of using women’s names for storms dates back to the end of 19th century when an Australian meteorologist, Clemente Wragge, started giving women’s names to tropical storms. Why were storms named after women? Hmmmm, let’s see: how about the notion of women as unpredictable, temperamental, fascinating, dangerous, whimsical, vexing, unforgiving?

The practice of naming hurricanes solely after women came to an end in 1978. Why then? The Women’s Movement put an end such typecasting. After that men’s and women’s names were attached to storms.

Every time we get tornados, hurricaines, blizzards, floods, and other weather woes the news and weather media blame it all on “Mother Nature.” Similarly, when we have wonderful weather and a beautiful day there’s something like, “Mother Nature smiled on us today with this warm weather.”

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Mother Nature:

“Mother Nature is a common anthropomorphized representation of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing features of nature by embodying it in the form of the mother. Images of women representing mother earth, and mother nature, are timeless. ”

hurricane

Dear Mother Nature

I know. It’s that time of year again.

You have your assignment. You have your reasons.

All I ask is that…

Despite our manifold sins against the planet.

Be kind to the coastlands.
Spare your children who live and love there.

Remember the poor who can not flee in your wake like the rich can.
Our hearts can not repeat another Katrina.
We got your message.

Thank you for water.
But spare us your wrath.

Once again, you have your assignment.
There is no standing in your way.

Do what you must do.

But be kind if possible.
Be merciful where it’s needed
Be forgiving.

Be a mother.

Love.
Renita

How Lonely Sits The City

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Our prayers and thoughts go out to those families that are praying for the best, but bracing themselves for the worst, as Hurricane Gustav arrives on land today.

lonelycity

How lonely sits the city that was once filled with people.
How like a widow she has become,
She who was once great among the nations,
And a princess among the provinces has become a slave.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has none to comfort her;
All her friends have dealt unjustly with her;
and have become her enemies… (Lamentations 1:1-2)

Only because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning.
Great is Your Faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Do They Play Jazz in Heaven?

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Back home this morning from New Orleans where I went down earlier in the week to join thousands of others in commemorating the second anniversary of Katrina. It’s a wonder I was able to post the things I did here on this blog on gender, marriage, and the church this week. My heart was on the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. But I wasn’t sure if those who read my blog had a choice between talking about New Orleans and talking about male-female relationships –well, let’s just say that I decided to stick with the story that’s been on the tongues of everyone in the church for the last couple of weeks. God forgive me.

“Enough is enough!” said Susan Taylor at the Essence Music Festival back in July. “It’s the shame of the nation that the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have been abandoned and are suffering without the most basic necessary supports while our tax dollars are directed toward war.”

I follow my heart today by urging everyone to let’s put aside the gossip of this week and be about what we’re supposed to be about as people of faith: seeing to the needs of the needy, the naked, and the despondent. Two years later, thousands of Gulfport residents remain displaced. The city of New Orleans remains in limbo, the Lower Ninth War where the city’s black population once resided is a ghost town. The money to rebuild has been slow in coming from the government despite the president’s grand promises of two years ago.

Remember the citizens of New Orleans and the Gulfport region in our prayers and in our protests. Pray. And when you finish praying, phone your legislators urging them to release the funds needed to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulfport region.

Let us not forget the victims of Katrina. Let us not forget what we witnessed two years ago: the throngs outside the SuperDome, people camped out on their rooftops and bodies floating through the streets. Remember the tears we cried. Remember the music we lost.

Tell your churches: Yes, God sent the rain; but the nation failed its citizens.

And now for Friday’s quote:

How lonely sits the city that was once filled with people.
How like a widow she has become,
She who was once great among the nations,
And a princess among the provinces has become a slave.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has none to comfort her;
All her friends have dealt unjustly with her;
and have become her enemies…
(Lamentations 1:1-2)

Only because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning.
Great is Your Faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

God, Where Were You?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

As a minister I’m expected to know what God is up to.

Is God punishing me?

How do you know when God is speaking?

Why did God let this happen?

If I don’t have the answers to these questions what use am I as a minister? I used to wonder when I was younger and demanded answers to everything. Which probably explains why I chose to become a scholar instead of a pastor.

“This is not a course on what God said,” is how I’d open my lecture the first day of class when I taught the Old Testament survey class. “This is a course on what Israel said God said.” Always good to start off with a disclaimer. Whether God actually commanded Joshua and his followers to annihilate the Canaanites and to seize their land, I don’t know. But I can come up with a few pretty plausible reasons why Joshua and his followers would say that God told them that.

I understand what makes people appeal to God to explain why they do the things they do and why things turn out the way they do. I’ve done it a few times myself. But I always do so looking back over my shoulders. I’ve been known to be wrong.

When you’re reared Christian (of a particular sort) and raised believing in a sacramental universe, it’s natural to want to point to God to explain stuff you don’t understand. In a sacramental world in everything that happens, God is trying to communicate something. Especially helpful is the trove of proverbs hurting people pass along to comfort other hurting people beginning with, “God never puts more on you than you can bear.” No one talks about the times God has miscalculated.


Did God cause the bridge in Minneapolis to collapse sending 13 people to plunge to their death in the Mississippi River?

Did God cause the levees to break two years ago in New Orleans causing thousands of people to lose lives, home, and nearly their sanity?

Why didn’t God bring those Utah miners out alive?

Why did God allow the Virginia Tech massacre to happen?

If God didn’t ordain slavery, why didn’t God prevent it?

It’s hard giving up on this way of thinking even when you know better. Listening to the rationalizations folks in pulpits, on CNN, and across the dinner table come up with to explain everything from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the unexpected death of a child makes you shake your head and wonder if we’ve all gone mad from trying to make sense of our world. Humans demand an accounting. Tragedy is easier to survive if it can be explained, we think. The book of Job was supposed to be a masterpiece. But folks couldn’t resist asking Jesus centuries later, “Who sinned, the mother or the father, that this boy was born blind?” (John 9:1-3).

Why, oh why, must it be always about divine punishment –especially when the “punishment” is obscenely excessive given the crime, and especially since so many innocent lives end up perishing along with the guilty? It’s easier to blame God than it is genetics, capitalism, racism, violence, fate, human error, etc.?

Here’s what I believe, or think I believe, until the next time I’m knocked to my knees with grief.

  • Life is hard. It’s a miracle that we believe in God and goodness.
  • Unlearning old habits is tough. I try to resist asking “Why God?…” when bad things happen. If the words come out (because it’s hard unlearning old habits), I don’t expect an answer, not really. What I mean to ask is, “What should I do?” “What can I do to make things better?”
  • Where was God in it all? Probably standing nearby crying as well.
  • I’ll take an empathetic God over a punitive God, for now.