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Lowell Michelson

Lowell Michelson

Thursday, 04 January 2018 13:54

Rejoice

Christmas Day reader

“The mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12

I never understood this phrase. Singing hills and clapping trees? I’ve heard the passage in worship for years and read it occasionally in my own devotional life. I’ve savored the beauty of creation from expansive vistas and lush valleys, but I’ve never witnessed trees clapping their hands, except for the creepy scene in The Wizard of Oz when the trees cheer and jeer and toss apples at Dorothy and her traveling companions.

On Christmas Eve, we read some similar words from Psalm 96, which describes all of creation raising their voices at the coming of the Lord. The Psalm culminates with a rejoicing earth, roaring seas, and “all the trees of the forest singing for joy” (v.11 ff.). For some reason, on that holy night, the words of the psalm writer began to make sense.

Maybe they began to make sense because of the howling wind that blew snow and knocked around trees, as well as rustled Christmas Eve clothes and hair. Maybe understanding carved a path in the ringing hand bells and singing voices, the flickering candles and sparkling lights. Maybe, faith and understanding connected through spoken Scripture and sung refrains telling of the night that Christ was born. Maybe, clarity came in the hot chocolate and coffee which flowed freely and the warm greetings and hugs of reunions, as friends and family connected.

Thankfully, our “Jesus Christ is born!” declarations weren’t only contained within the walls of sanctuaries and worship spaces. Outside, all creation joined in the birthday announcement, too. The glistening trees, falling snow, whipping wind, and hush of bedtime led us into Christmas morning and beyond. Did I hear some trees of the field clapping their hands?

This side of the Christmas and New Year celebrations, the rejoicing isn’t as easily found. The cleansing, white blanket of snow has turned to black slosh on roads and icy clumps clinging to our wheel wells. Garbage cans are overflowing, neighborhood curbside recyclers have extra cardboard packaging to pick-up, and the lifeless, naked Christmas trees are discarded as they wait to be hauled off. Inside, many of us have already packed up decorations and crammed lights and ornaments back into their nests for an 11-month nap. For some, the happy buzz of glad tidings have given way to the daily grind.

As we jump into the new year, creation won’t allow our exclamations to end. Christ is born and the world is changed! All creation, including us, is summoned to declare it. We continue to celebrate and look for renewal. We continue to cry out for justice and peace. We pray for those who are ill, lost, or alone. We work to care for the Earth and one another. Could it be that all creation cannot help but respond to the arrival of God coming among us?

The very end of the Psalms says as much: “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6).

Joy to the world!

Pastor Lowell

Thursday, 28 December 2017 11:38

Gratitude

LOL Staff Christmas 2017

As we reflect on 2017, our gratitude overflows for the many ways you have served and participated in life and ministry at Lord of Life throughout the past year. We thank God for each of you and the numerous ways that you generously share your lives for God’s mission here, in our community, and throughout the world.

As we enter our 30th year together as a community of faith, we pray that the Spirit of God will continue to bring us health, joy, and peace as we remain rooted in the promises of Jesus.

The Lord of Life staff

(l to r) Paula Drake, Bob Burnette, Intern Lucas McSurley, Pastor Lowell, Donna Harvey, John Johns, Cara Hasselbeck (not pictured Pastora Carmen Brown and Lori Krach)

Thursday, 07 December 2017 15:38

Ripple

splash ripplesfor blog

You’ve seen it. If you tossed a rock in the air and celebrated the pluming splash of water, you were witness to the growing circumference radiating out in a ripple. When you paused to watch a boat carve its way up the Ohio River, your eyes may have followed the ripples as they wiggled all the way to the shoreline. Canoeing or kayaking on a placid lake, the point of entry for your paddle may have drawn your attention and mesmerized you at length.

Christmas is coming. For many of us, the rhythm of daily life has been disrupted by the splashing preparation of the Advent season. The normal surfaces in our homes have been taken over by evergreen sprigs, strings of lights, and nativity scenes, as we anticipate the coming of Christ. In a few weeks, we will celebrate God bursting onto the scene, but long after December 25 has come and gone the realities of Christmas will linger.

Canadian poet and musician, Bruce Cockburn, captures these lasting effects of Jesus' birth as he recounts the story of God in his Cry of a Tiny Babe <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRZxrr4P9FE>.

Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph gets upset because he doesn't understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says "God did this and you're part of his scheme"

Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says "forgive me I thought you'd been with some other man"
She says "what if I had been - but I wasn't anyway and guess what
I felt the baby kick today"

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything

'Cause the governing body of the Holy Land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there's a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums

And the message is clear if you have ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It's a Christmas gift that you don't have to buy
There's a future shining in a baby's eyes

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

From Bruce Cockburn’s Nothing But A Burning Light ©1991

You might not see it or feel it, but that doesn’t mean that the promises of Jesus don’t ripple in and through our lives.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Pastor Lowell

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 11:52

Love

Love and Thanksgiving

These last few weeks have been crammed full of celebrations. We’ve had three weddings in the Lord of Life community, two baptisms, celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and named forty-one of our beloved who died in the past year as part of All Saints worship. It has been a whirlwind of days!

Love has been at the center of each of these moments. Vows and rings were exchanged in love. Water splashed in love. “By grace through faith” was proclaimed and “A Mighty Fortress” was sung in love. Names of family and friends were spoken in love as the chime rang out. What a gift it is to love and be loved.

Each month, we gather on the floor in the sanctuary for preschool chapel times. Coordinating with the morning and afternoon schedules of these little ones, “Miss Paula,” Intern Lucas, and I sing, pray, and read, in an effort to reinforce faith for these children. Think of it as a twenty minute children’s sermon. Frequently, we close by singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We sing it for them, but often the simple words speak a reminder to the deepest part of me that there is a Friend and Savior, Jesus, who loves and cares for me with an everlasting love. What a gift it is to be loved.

Most days, we know this. We not only have an awareness that Jesus loves us, but we also recognize the caring and compassionate embrace of the community around us. What a gift it is to be loved. Other days, though, we feel disconnected, deserted, and even unlovable.

I don’t know what your plans are for this Thanksgiving week. Maybe there is a large gathering happening at your place and you are frantic with preparations. You may still have items on your shopping list and also need to finalize the seating chart and the minute by minute plan for food preparation. Perhaps, you are zipping out of town – or have already headed out – and will be celebrating somewhere else. Maybe this Turkey Day will be more low-key than some of your gatherings in past.

Wherever you are and however you spend this holiday, it is my prayer that you will have the occasion to remember that you are loved. Pause. Breathe deep. Recall those moments from this year for which you are grateful. Then, crank up your stereo, computer, or other music player and listen to “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You.” First recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1964, and then by James Taylor and others, this is an anthem of gratitude in celebration of love. Think of it as your Hymn of Thanks this holiday.

How Sweet It is to Be Loved By You

I needed the shelter of someone's arms
And there you were
I needed someone to understand my ups and downs
And there you were

With sweet love and devotion
Deeply touching my emotion

I want to stop and thank you, baby

How sweet it is to be loved by you

How Sweet It Is lyrics © 1964 Brian Holland/Edward Jr. Holland/Lamont Dozier
Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Barton Music Corporation

With thankfulness and joy!

Pastor Lowell

 

 

Thursday, 02 November 2017 10:57

Gifts

Food Drive Kids

When I was kid, nothing was better than a good birthday party – especially if it was my birthday party. Wacky games and snacks, some kind of activity or craziness, cake and ice cream, and gifts, gifts, and more gifts all helped highlight my special day.

Some of the presents were predictable, purchased after I posted my suggested birthday list on the fridge with a magnet for the whole family to see. Other presents were grand surprises that seemingly came out of nowhere in just the right size, color, or shape. How fantastic!

It was, and still is, very easy to get excited when everything is about me. But that is an illusion, because life is not about me. Victorian era novelist, Mary Anne Evans, knew this and spoke the truth when she said,

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"

When we step back into reality, we realize that each of our lives extend far beyond me, myself, and I.

In a previous congregation I served, I ran into young Henry on his way into church on a Sunday morning. His arms were loaded with bags of non-perishable items. His younger sister, Eva, not to be left out of the excitement, was close behind, arms full of even more food. What a joy to see these little ones coming to worship weighed down with cans and boxes of food that our faith community could pass along to the Methodist Open Door Food Bank.

When I offered a word of thanks for their donations, Henry’s face lit up as he explained, “All of this food was from my birthday party!” On Henry’s birthday invitations, he had made a unique request of his buddies:

This year,

for Henry’s party,

please consider bringing

a donation for the local food

pantry in lieu of gifts.

Guess what happened? Everybody did it.

Henry’s friends – and their parents – stepped beyond normal birthday protocol of “fill the kid’s room with a mountain of toys” and instead showed up ready to fill empty bellies and souls. Just a few simple words gave his friends permission to think of others.

Henry’s parents said that if you asked him why he was doing this, he might say, “It is important to help other people who don’t have as much food in their house as we do.” At age seven, Henry was already living a life of gratitude. He recognized that having food on the table is a gift and that others are in need.

One of God’s favorite activities is giving. Gift-giving is central to what God is up to in the world. God is constantly looking for ways to share skills and talents, joy and blessing, as well as love, peace, and comfort. Over and over again throughout the Bible we hear stories of God pouring out blessing on people and delivering hope in the most desperate situations. But gifts aren’t just stuff of the Bible.

We’ve been talking for months about how God blesses the world through Lord of Life. We are blessed when we share in worship, learning, and fellowship moments, and then God makes it possible for us to bless our neighbors, community, region, and beyond! God’s good gifts spill into our lives and then out into the world!

Take time to thank God for the many blessings we receive and consider how we might share our gifts with the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Henry, as an act of love and compassion, used his birthday as an opportunity to think beyond himself. Fill your arms and fall in line behind him. Ready to share. Ready to love.

With gratitude.

Pastor Lowell

Thursday, 26 October 2017 11:06

Reform

Reformation Pound on Doors Daniel Scheurer

By now, you’ve heard that this Reformation Sunday is a milestone. October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the day that Martin Luther took his hammer and a list of 95 proposals to the front doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in hopes of reforming and correcting what he saw as errors in the Church. While this sounds bizarre to us, the doors were a central and prominent location for posting announcements and items for public discourse.

For this major anniversary, music settings and art pieces have been commissioned, hymn festivals have been organized, historical dramas have been staged, and special events and exhibitions of every kind have been pulled together. Wittenberg University, our closest Lutheran college, is currently hosting a display of Reformation era artifacts, including a first edition of The Book of Concord, a 1520 copy of Luther’s Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity, an autographed letter from Luther, and a Koberger Bible from the late 1400s.

Around the globe, and here in our own community, Roman Catholics and Lutherans have come together – many for the first time – to share in moments of study and conversation, as well as moments of worship and prayer. Sadly, for hundreds of years, our church bodies have viewed each other as enemies, rather than as children in the same family of God. We have chosen to focus on what divides us, rather than celebrating that which unites us.

This anniversary is a good excuse for us to begin anew and refocus our efforts. It is time for a fresh start. As we glance back and celebrate Luther and so many others who were catalysts for renewal and change, we also need to look forward and ask the Spirit of God to open a door to the future.

Doors are powerful images. Doors are gateways to new adventures. Open doors are avenues to hospitality and discovery. We use them to welcome, explore, and learn. During one of his sermons, Jesus invited people to “ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks, receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7-8.

Knocking on doors is big stuff. Little ones will be knocking on doors this week, hoping to generate a little candy treat. As we ask, seek, and knock, Jesus says that we’ll discover something much sweeter. We’ll receive freedom and joy. We’ll find peace and consolation. We’ll find an open door that offers unconditional forgiveness and radical hospitality. I pray that this season continues to reform and transform you.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Pastor Lowell

meme created by Daniel Scheurer

Thursday, 28 September 2017 11:03

REFORM

luthers rose

You may have heard that this Reformation Sunday is an extra big deal. October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany – an act that sparked the Lutheran Reformation. For many years, Roman Catholics and Lutherans have been striving to find common ground and heal divisions in the Church.

This fall, we commemorate this anniversary and celebrate the steps toward unity in a variety of ways, both locally and regionally, including some exciting events right here in our area. REFORM: A Roman Catholic-Lutheran Conversation will bring together various voices for worship and learning. Join us as we seek to Rediscover Common Ground, Renew Relationships, and Respond to Local Needs as Jesus Christ calls us into the future. Centering ourselves in Ephesians 3:16-21, “Now to God, who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,” we’ll explore the many ways that the Holy Spirit continues to work in our lives, congregations, and communities.

Our time together will include a prayer service for unity, panel presentation, small group discussions, and reflections on how we can continue to love and serve the people of God as we respond to local need. The following dynamic voices will invite us into engaging God’s promises and one another as we look to the future.

REFORM: A Roman Catholic-Lutheran Conversation
Tuesday, October 10, 7-9 pm
St. Susanna Church, Mason
with Father Eric Roush, Parochial Vicar at St. Susanna
& The Rev. Jonathan Eilert, Pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

REFORM: A Roman Catholic-Lutheran Conversation
Thursday, October 19, 7-9 pm
Christ the King Lutheran Church, West Chester
with Father Norm Langenbrunner, former Pastor at Sacred Heart
& The Rev. Brian Ferguson, Pastor at First Lutheran Church

REFORM: A Roman Catholic-Lutheran Conversation
Saturday, October 21, 10 am-noon
St. Maximillian Kolbe Church, Liberty Twp.
with Dr. Martin Madar, Professor at Xavier University
& The Rev. Lisa Bernheisel, Pastor at The Presbyterian Church of Wyoming

We are offering the same program three times in various locations in the hope that more people can participate.
Sign up is requested. Sign up today online today.
A freewill offering will be taken for Matthew 25:Ministries for Hurricane Relief.

In addition to the REFORM events, please be sure to explore these other events in the area:

THE REFORMATION: CATHOLIC & LUTHERAN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
Thursday, October 12, 7 pm
Immaculate Heart of Mary Church
7770 Beechmont Avenue, Cincinnati

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati and ELCA Southern Ohio Synod are sponsoring conversations this Fall to understand the origins of the Reformation, our differences, and our growing unity in Christ. Dr. Mengel (Xavier University Dean of College of Arts and Sciences and History Professor) will highlight the historical roots of the reformation. Fr. Endres (Dean of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and the Athenaeum of Ohio) will speak about the reforming movement’s impact on the Catholic Church leading up to the Council of Trent. Both will also speak to our hopes for a future of greater reconciliation and unity.

SOUTHERN OHIO SYNOD REFORMATION SERVICE
Sunday, October 22, 4 pm
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
5475 Brand Road, Dublin

Join Bishop Dillahunt and hundreds from around Southern Ohio for a synod wide Reformation Service in observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The worship service will be followed by a fellowship dinner provided by the members of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. Please be in touch with the church office (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) if interested in carpooling to this once-in-a-lifetime event.

FESTIVAL CHORAL SERVICE to COMMEMORATE THE REFORMATION
Sunday, October 29, 7:30 pm
Weaver Chapel, Wittenberg University
200 W. Ward Street, Springfield

This service commemorates the Reformation on its 500th anniversary, and thanks God in word, prayer, and song for the reconciliation in the Gospel that is occurring among Lutherans, Catholics, and other Christians in the one, universal Church. The service will include the participation of both Catholic and Lutheran clergy, and laypersons of a variety of Christian traditions. Please be in touch with the church office (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) if interested in carpooling to this once-in-a-lifetime event.

500th REFORMATION ANNIVERSARY
Joint Prayer Service
October 29, 4 pm
Kumler Chapel, Miami University

Join Father Jeffery P. Silver, members, and friends of St. Mary Catholic Church along with Pastor Logan Dysart, members, and friends of Faith Lutheran Church for this service of prayer and hope in Oxford.

REFORMATIONS OF THE 16TH CENTURY:
MARTIN LUTHER AND HIS WORLD 500 YEARS LATER
A conference on the European religious reformations of the sixteenth century
November 2-3
Miami University Art Museum
802 W. Patterson Ave. (U.S. 27), Oxford

This conference will host a variety of voices and topics, including:

Thursday, November 2
4:30 pm Martin Luther and the Reformation
The Rev. Dr. Joy A. Schroeder, Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University

Friday, November 3
9 am Martin Luther the Radical Prophet, Dr. Ronald Rittgers,
Eric Markel, Valparaiso University

10:15 am Panel Discussion: Reformation and Language
Tudor and Stuart England – Peter Williams (Comparative Religion)
Germany – John M. Jeep (German)
Scandinavia – Ruth H. Sanders (German)

11:15 am The Theology and Politics of Jewish Liturgical Change in the 16th Century
Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Hebrew Union College

1 pm Three Surprises about Women in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation
Renee Baernstein, Miami University

1:45 pm Panel discussion: Reformations Beyond the Germanic World
France – William Brown (History)
Italy – Wietse de Boer (History)
Eastern Europe – TBA

3 pm The Shroud of Turin as Image and Relic in the Age of Reform
Andrew Casper, Miami University

This event is co-sponsored by Miami University Humanities Center, Faith Lutheran Church, and Hillel at Miami University​. Free and open to the public.

These are exciting days to be the Church of Christ! Make time in your schedule for one – or several – of these commemorative events. Who knows, God may use them to reshape and reform you!

Always being made new,

Pastor Lowell

Thursday, 14 September 2017 12:06

Serve!

1 GWOH Full Group

One of the greatest gifts that God gives us, is the opportunity to love and serve one another. Even though Jesus said to do it and to do it often exhausts us, it also continues to be a deep source of joy and a blessing for all involved! “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Each year, the ELCA has a day of service to kick off the school year, called “God’s work. Our hands. Sunday.” It is an opportunity for congregations around the United States to be the Church in the community as we serve and love our neighbors and demonstrate God’s love among us and through us. One participant declared, “We love Jesus by serving others!” This past Sunday, families and individuals, young and old, came out to serve and “Live Generously,” as our T-shirts exclaimed!

This year, we shared in three projects. One group showered the West Chester Police Department and West Chester Fire Stations with food, posters, cards, and affection, visiting a total of six stations!

Another crew prepared our fellowship hall for our Family Promise guests by putting up the mobile walls, loading in beds, nightstands, lamps, and then cozied up the rooms by making beds, creating welcome signs, and assembling care bags for each person. After they were done, they also prepared a delicious lunch for the entire crew.

Our third team helped with several outdoors projects at Union Elementary School, including playground clean up, trimming and mulching the back side of the building, and unearthing an outdoor classroom that had been overgrown for some time.

It was fun and empowering to see how our one congregation, one body of Christ, motivated by the invitation to serve could make such an impact on our community in the name of Jesus. This was certainly God’s work, through our hands, feet, words, kindness, and generosity.

So often, when we seek to be a blessing, we are also blessed. That’s how the Spirit of God works in our lives. We are simultaneously loving and being loved, serving and being served, encouraging and being encouraged.

One of the songs from worship last Sunday morning spoke to this reality of gratitude for all God’s good gifts.

For the beauty of the earth,

for the beauty of the skies,

for the love which from our birth

over and around us lies:

Christ, our God, to thee we raise

this our sacrifice of praise.

For the joy of human love,

brother, sister, parent, child,

friends on earth and friends above;

for all gentle thoughts and mild:

Christ, our God, to thee we raise

this our sacrifice of praise.

Folliott S. Pierpoint, 1835-1917

As you step into the rest of your week, continue to live generously, following the example of our loving Creator!

Peace.

Pastor Lowell

Thursday, 07 September 2017 12:06

DESTRUCTION & HOPE

Mattress Mack gives Houston flood victim 0 4051423 ver1.0 640 360

Last week, I wrote about the devastation of Hurricane Harvey as it took aim at the Gulf Coast, not once, but twice. Now, as I write, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Haiti, following a demolishing blow to islands in the Caribbean. Irma is projected to lash Florida, this weekend, and then possibly crawl up the coast with more relentless destruction. Residents on islands and the mainland are scurrying for higher ground – or at least property that is at a safer distance from the shore – unsure of what this category 5 storm is going to do. They are bracing for the worst.

On the other coast, massive wildfires are burning from California to Montana, now consuming over 1.5 million acres of precious forestland. 800,000 immigrants, who came here as undocumented children, are trying to figure out what the recently rescinded “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) protections means for their future.

Across the globe, massive floods have impacted 16 million in South Asia, not to mention escalating wars, food insecurity, and the plethora of other natural and man-made disasters that bring daily despair.

So often, we are overwhelmed by the need. We want to help. We want to give. We want to share. We want to make a difference, but we feel ill-equipped for the struggle and destruction around us.

Romans reminds us that we can make a difference. Filled with the power of the living God, we step forward trusting that the Holy Spirit will empower and guide us for loving and serving our neighbor. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers” (Romans 12:9-13).

You may have heard of Jim McIngvale, known as Mattress Mack to many in the Houston area. He wanted to make a difference for those suffering in his community, so he did the only thing that made sense to him. As the owner of a large furniture store, he opened his doors to anyone in need. Warm beds, hot meals, and compassionate conversations brought hope to hurting people in his corner of the world. Watch his story here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/houston-businessman-jim-mcingvale-opens-furniture-stores-to-evacuees/.

This weekend, God calls us to serve, too. After refueling and reconnecting in worship, we’ll head out into our communities to serve. We’ll be showering the West Chester Police Department and West Chester Fire Stations with food, posters, cards, and affection, helping with outdoors projects at Union Elementary, and setting up for the Family Promise homeless shelter and preparing a delicious lunch for the entire crew. Pick a project and sign-up if you want or just show up ready to serve on Sunday. We are collecting restaurant gift cards, snacks, and drinks to fill the baskets for the police and fire departments of West Chester.

There is much destruction and sorrow in the world, but there is also one Jesus Christ who brings hope to the hopeless, light into the dark, and life from death.

Called to serve!

Pastor Lowell

If you are looking for a way to contribute to the relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, or other natural disasters around the world, Lutheran Disaster Response is one of the best organizations around. “Lutheran Disaster Response brings God’s hope, healing and renewal to people whose lives have been disrupted by disasters in the United States and around the world. When the dust settles and the headlines change, we stay to provide ongoing assistance to those in need.” You can find donation and volunteer opportunities here:

www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response

Thrivent will match up to $3 million in personal donations made online through Thrivent.com to specific disaster relief organizations (including Lutheran Disaster Response) responding to Hurricane Harvey.

Thursday, 31 August 2017 09:15

Harvey

Harvey tent on roof blog

As I write, Hurricane Harvey is coming back to shore to thrash the Gulf Coast, once again. After dumping record amounts of rain over the last week, Harvey swirled back out into the Gulf of Mexico to refuel for a Round 2 beating on the Texas and Louisiana coastal cities. Many are predicting that rain totals may reach at least 50 inches by the end of the week.

The Houston Chronicle states that there have been as many as 13 million people affected in over 50 counties, with 13,000 water rescues, and 31 deaths, including a police officer in his cruiser and a family of six in a van. 10,000 people are sheltering at the convention center, while 274,000 are without electricity. 14,000 Texas National Guard troops have been deployed with another 24,000 in the queue for next week. (www.chron.com August 30). These numbers are staggering and we have no idea what the level of need will be after the waters recede, other than the recovery will be massive and will extend for years.

A Lutheran pastor in Indiana posted a reflection earlier this week:

“My daughter came downstairs for breakfast, saw the pictures of Houston on TV, and said – without hesitation – ‘We have work to do.’ It took me a minute to realize she was talking about the ELCA Youth Gathering, and the recovery work we'll contribute to next June.

I am proud of her for not asking, ‘Oh, shoot, how will this affect me and my friends having a good time?’ but instead for instantly seeing her calling in the midst of this tragedy. And, this makes me realize even more how important these experiences are for our youth.”

It is no accident that 30,000 teens - yes, you read that number correctly – will be descending on the greater Houston area in June 2018. Who could have imagined, when the initial planning began for this gathering of Lutheran High School students more than four years ago, that Houston would be ground zero for this devastation?

A friend of mine lives on the banks of the Ohio River. Their home was built to include flood vents, confident that rising waters will sometime threaten their property and home. These vents allow water to flow in and through the house in the hopes of reducing structural damage from flooding.

This can be a powerful image for us as people of faith who often find our identities in the waters of baptism. We speak of dying and rising, washing away sin and rebirth, cleansing and renewal, but we also recognize that God’s love and generosity flows in and through our lives. As we pray for and stand with the people of the Gulf Coast, may we remember that God calls us to love and serve our neighbor.

Here we go!

Pastor Lowell

If you are looking for a way to contribute to the relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey or other natural disasters around the world, Lutheran Disaster Response is one of the best organizations around, with a rating of 93 out of 100 on Charity Navigator. You can find donation and volunteer opportunities here:

www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response

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