“Too Blessed To Be Stressed”: Bullsh*t

fa2b07e85e46e055a9d3a4abcb2855a3--grey-stain-pallet-signs

“Too Blessed To Be Stressed.”

You’ll see this phrase often on Christian art and gifts. Tote bags and painted pallets, travel mugs and tea towels that declare that one cannot be simultaneously “blessed” and “stressed.”

I have always found this phrase to be problematic. Right now, I found it downright offensive. Who decided that it’s not possible to be stressed out just because you’re also blessed by God? How are we defining “blessed” anyway?

Right now, around here, “blessed” tends to mean that your family is safe and your house didn’t flood. This was the case for me. However, I have been careful not to say that I was “blessed.” I’ve been saying “lucky” or “fortunate” or other words because saying I was blessed not only seems theologically unsound, it seems rude. If I was blessed by God with a safe family and a dry house all the way through Harvey, doesn’t that imply that other people were not blessed? Doesn’t that imply that God picked and chose who would be blessed or not? Doesn’t that imply that God had some list of people He was going to protect and some people just weren’t on it?

I simply don’t believe that.

I believe that humans are responsible for climate change and therefore are a good deal responsible for massive hurricanes and other events we like to call “acts of God.” I believe that humans have over built this area and did not pay attention to warnings about flooding and so we are a good deal responsible for the extent of this disaster. I believe that whether a person’s house ended up flooding or not was due to chance, because rain fell on everyone, everywhere. The rain fell and where it rose the highest had nothing to do with God’s favor, and everything to do with the way the earth is shaped. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45.

Whether your house is safe or you lost everything, what I have discovered through this disaster is that we are all blessed. We are all blessed because we are loved so deeply by God. We are all blessed because we are not alone. We are all blessed because we are reaching out to help one another, through acts of service, prayers, and love.

That does not, however, mean that we are not stressed. Natural disasters are fucking stressful. Especially if you lost everything, but even if you didn’t. Because it’s everywhere. The water, the damage, the hashtags, the helplessness. The need is overwhelming. There’s so much to do, and often we don’t know where to start. (Hint: prayer is always a good place to start.)

Being blessed and being stressed are not mutually exclusive. In fact, stress can often be a blessing in itself, and blessings help get us through stress. God gives us both.

So excuse me, but whoever came up with that cutesy phrase can shove it. They clearly have never experienced a hurricane.

 

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

 

 

 

Living Water

aug31_harvey_ap2_1

“Are you ok?”

“Is your family safe?”

“Did you get any water?”

When I went to church this morning- our first full Eucharist since hurricane Harvey- I was bombarded by those same three questions everywhere I went. Most of us knew how the others were, thanks to social media. But some of us hadn’t seen each other since before the storm, and all the questions were about the water.

The water. This storm has changed the way I feel about water. I used to love rain, and maybe one day I will again, but right now the thought of rain just sounds threatening and terrible. I never understood the awesome, destructive force that water could be until I drove through a river that was usually a street, until I saw the highways of my city turned into seas, until my friends’ and neighbors’ homes were all but washed away. Until I saw water flood the house where my priest lives for the second time in less than 18 months. Water not only took homes, it took treasured belongings, people’s pets, and even some people’s lives. It took the life of my friends’ son a little less than a year ago, when he drowned in a swimming pool.

 

core_package_small

It’s difficult to see water this way. It’s difficult to feel that the one substance that all of creation counts on to survive has somehow become a force that’s destroying life. Right now, water feels toxic. It feels almost animalistic, like a living thing with a mind of its own, attacking the people of my community, my city, my state.

What brings me back from that fearful place is the reminded of what water means to us as Christians, and especially as Episcopalians. To us, water is living; it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It is what baptizes us into our lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ. We are washed in water then sealed and marked with oil as Christ’s own forever. During Eucharist every Sunday, some water is poured into the wine before it is given to the people. I’ve heard several explanations for this: 1) the water and wine together represent the water and blood that poured from Jesus’ side during the Crucifixion, 2) the water represents Christ’s humanity and the wine His divinity so the mixing of the two is us witnessing his human transformation, 3) the water represents us, the people, and the wine represents Christ, and the mixing symbolizes how we can never be separated. My personal favorite is #3, but those all make sense. The point is that water has a very central place in our liturgy, a very central place in Scripture, a very central place in life. It is the most life-giving substance on earth, both biologically and spiritually, and yet here it is, in hurricane form, causing so much devastation. So much pain. So much loss.

Living-Water

For everyone I know who has been terrorized by water in the last week, my prayer for you is that as you find your new normal, and you work to repair what you can, and as we, your community, help you do so, that you would remember the waters of your baptism. The waters that washed you clean of sin and grafted your hearts onto Christ’s own for eternity. May you feel the healing powers of water: of a hot shower, a good cup of tea. May we remember that everything that has within it the power to destroy, also has within it the power to create.

Together, may we create a brighter future beyond the storm.

 

3edeb2f2a518bfb2883e236dfb512c4a--rivers-savior

And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.

Matthew 10:42

 

 

 

 

We Must: A Hurricane Poem

21106756_10155282314234342_7874135219911076783_n“Be Someone” sign in Downtown Houston

 

We Must

 

The sun

Is out

But the storm

Is not over

We must keep watch

With those

Who work

Or weep

This night

We must keep hold

Of those things

Most important

And learn to grieve

What is not

What is lost

To take joy

In what is left

We must have hope

And believe

Not just in God

But in each other

Compassion

Is salvation

And love

Will dry the tears

The earth has cried

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2017

 

For all those affected by Hurricane Harvey

 

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Psalm 29:10-11

As the Waters Rise

 

gettyimages-839057486_opt

I am struggling to understand.

I am a woman of deep, abiding faith. So far in this terrible storm I have seen God everywhere and nowhere.

If you are in Houston, as I am during this record-breaking hurricane, you probably know what I mean. All around us are beautiful stories of neighbors and friends helping each other, complete strangers jumping in to save homes and lives, dedicated first responders, medical staff, and other essential personnel staying hour after hour to make sure people are taken care of. God is working everywhere.

At the same time, there is devastation all around. Homes are destroyed, precious memories and belongings lost to the water. Whole neighborhoods flooded, businesses gone, so much infrastructure damaged. Tornadoes are touching down, leaving damage and chaos in their wake, as if the flooding wasn’t enough. People are lost. People are dead.

And it is still, still raining.

The thing that has absolutely crushed my heart and I know the hearts of my entire church family is the flooding of the rectory, where our dear priest lives. This house was completely flooded last year, and our priest had just moved back in two months ago after an entire year of exhausting renovation. She and the church had invested so much in that new house, and just like that, it is washed away again.

Beth+ is just…well, she just does not deserve this. No one does, but honestly, I just cannot understand this, and it makes me ill to think of it. The “whys” are too many.

There is so much pain, and so many prayers being sent up all around Texas tonight. My family has been so fortunate. Aside from a leaky roof, we are dry. We are safe. My mom is one of those dedicated nurses who remains at her hospital on emergency protocols, but she is also safe.  I cannot complain. I cannot imagine the disruption, chaos, loss, grief, pain, and distress that others are going through right now. Until the storm passes, and there are more concrete ways to help, I can only pray.

I’ve been praying so much, I don’t even know what to ask for anymore. I suppose all any of us can ask God for is knowledge of His will for us, the strength and grace to live that out, and the knowledge that He is always with us, no matter what. That is the only thing that I know for sure: that God is with us, forever.

May each of you feel God with you, feel His strength bear you up, and His peace which passes all understanding, keep you through this crisis.

Amen.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their                distress. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.              Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired               haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His                                                                               wonders to all mankind!

Psalm 107: 28-31

21150267_1650450474987797_6238208938034283482_n