This morning, I’ve been reading devotions in 4 magazines and books I use for spiritual reading: The Upper Room Disciplines 2020 (I’m rereading a lot of these because this year featured writers from Weavings magazine, my favorite magazine The Upper Room published between 1986–around 2013), The Upper Room Disciplines 2021, The Upper Room daily devotional guide, and Mornings with Jesus (a Guideposts publication).
Some days the different publications contain different messages. Today I got some messages that all seemed to have a common theme: God said, “I will be with you” (story of Moses’ calling in Genesis 3), God calls us (which includes me) to care for creation (The Upper Room had a story about a man trying to rescue a baby robin from a window well; the baby fought him, but he eventually was able to free the fledgling), “Look deeply into scripture and its message for you” (The Upper Room Disciplines 2021 centered on the scripture from Romans about how we glance at a mirror and then look away, forgetting what we look like), and “Take action to help others, trusting that God will lead you in the right direction.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about the people of Waverly, Tennessee, whose lives were upended (and at least 20 people died) by severe flooding this past weekend. They got 17 inches of rain in about 6-7 hours, according to news reports. Nashvillians remember our devastating 100-year flood in 2010, which took 31 lives in Tennessee alone (it also affected neighboring states), sent many people running from their homes at a moment’s notice, and damaged many businesses and homes. It took years for Nashville to recover from that flood, and we are a big city compared to Waverly. I remember wanting to do something at the time of the Nashville flood. I got a chance later in the month (May) when the Festival of Homiletics (homiletics is a fancy word for preaching) met in town, and they decided to do a community service project during the festival. I went to work in Bellevue along with many other volunteers. Our job was to carry detritis from people’s homes to the curb to be picked up by garbage trucks. It deeply affected me to pick up pieces of people’s lives that were destroyed in the flood—toys, clothing, strollers, picture albums, books, pieces of furniture, artwork, kitchen items. I was reminded that all of our possessions are temporary; we won’t take them with us when we die.
I am now especially touched when I see people affected by flooding. It’s too bad that it sometimes takes a tragedy in your own backyard to sensitize you to the suffering of others in your state, another state, or another country. A small consolation is seeing how people come together to help others in need in the aftermath of natural disasters. I’m sure a lot of heroic acts play out every day when ordinary folks pause in their busy lives to help others recover from these tragedies.
This morning I am thinking, “Lord, what can I do?” Right now, nothing except pray and share financial aid. The needs will persist in the Waverly area for a long time. I am praying for God to move me in the right direction to help however I can, that I won’t soon forget this tragedy and move on to something else. I pray that God will move others to help too. Waverly and Humphries County (McEwen, Linden, and other towns) are hurting right now. People are traumatized and will be for some time to come. The story of the couple whose 7-month-old twins were swept from their daddy’s arms really got to me. Lord, help those families and those friends who have lost loved ones. Help us all to care when natural disasters affect our brothers and sisters near and far. I especially pray for their emotional and mental health as they recover. May they find the help they need. May we be the hands and feet of Christ in all the places that we can. Lord, help us all to care and to remember all people affected by tragedy, whether it’s flooding or the aftermath of our country’s troops withdrawing from Afghanistan. Lord, have mercy.
I started out this entry thinking about the words of a hymn that I love, “Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated”:
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love,
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for thee.
Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasurestore.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee.
—Words by Frances R. Havergal, 1873 (based on Romans 12:1); this hymn is No. 399 in the United Methodist Hymnal.