My county is under water.

The levees broke, the rains fell, and we collectively moved to higher ground.

The devastation is overwhelming.  News footage shows families climbing into rescue boats.  Businesses are lost, families are displaced, and homes are destroyed.

We park our cars at the end of flooded roads and take pictures of things we used to know.  Now they’re just seas of dirty water.

Passport Aerial Photography

The chaos and loss are rampant, and – as you do in crisis – we’re clinging to one another.

Fred Rogers famously said:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'”

And Mr. Rogers is always right.  Mills county has been barraged with scary things but there are helpers.  Oh, there are helpers.

helpers

 

The helpers are at our food banks – in cars packed together at the drop off line.

The helpers are in our local government – the utility workers who I guarantee haven’t slept in days.

The helpers are in our school – the administrators and teachers who are caring for our frightened children.

 

helpers2

The helpers are serving three meals a day at the Methodist church and they are climbing out of flooded homes with rescued puppies in their arms.

The helpers are in local business, refusing to let people pay for bread or water or boarding their displaced pets.

At the Mills County Storehouse, I chatted with a woman who was handling donations.  Her eyes filled with tears as she described handing a donated baby doll to a small girl who had lost her own.

On Facebook, I’ve scrolled through endless offers of housing, furniture, clothing, food, pet rescue, gas cards, and bottled water.  Neighboring towns, schools, and churches are showing up daily with flatbeds of water and resources.

In a time of unprecedented loss, there has been unprecedented love.


 

This morning, I tried to work but my mind kept drifting to my county.  As I so often do when I’m troubled, I reached for Douglas McKelvey’s book of prayers (Every Moment Holy).   I flipped it open, randomly, to this.  No lie.  A liturgy for…flood victims.

The words broke me open.

They created space to lament, and they created space to hope.  I needed both.

Here they are, in case you need them too.


 

A liturgy for

 

Leader: O Christ in Whom
Our Lives are Hidden,

People: fix now our hope
in that which alone might sustain it.

O Christ in Whom
Our Treasures are Secure
fix now our hope in you.

In light of all that was so suddenly lost,
O Lord, in light of all we had gathered
but could not keep,
comfort us.

Our nerves are frayed, O God.  Our sense
of place and permanence is shaken,
so be to us a foundation.

We were shaped by this place,
and by the living of our lives in it,
by conversations and labors and studies,
by meals prepared and shared,
by love incarnated in a thousand small
actions that became as permanent a part of this
structure as any nail or wire or plank of wood.

Our home was to us like a handprint of
heaven.  It was our haven, and now we are
displaced, and faced with the task of great
labors – not to move forward in this life,
but merely to rebuild and restore
what has been lost.

Have mercy, Lord Christ.

What we have lost here are the artifacts
of our journey in this world, the very things
that reminded us of your grace expressed
in love and friendship, and in shared experience.

It is for these reasons we grieve the loss
of our home and its contents – we grieve
them for what they had come to signify
in our stories, for they were charged
with such meaning and memory,
and woven with so much that is eternal.

O Father, we have suffered a hard loss,
and one that we cannot endure alone.
May we emerge in the months to
come – even in our frailty – stronger than
before, more deeply rooted in you, and more
wrapped in the necessary arms of community.
Give us humility to receive that which we need
and cannot repay, when it is offered by others.

We thank you for the presence of friends
who would share this burden of grief
by simply showing up in the midst of it,
and grieving with us.
We thank you for small mercies
and kindness extended.  For the
grace of thoughtfulness translated into
the tiny details of life.  For beauty.
O Lord, let us not lose sight in
our grief, of all that is yet
bursting with beauty in this world.

Let us not lose sight of the truth
that we live in the midst of an
unfolding story of redemption, and that
even this loss of ours will have its
counterpoint
at the great restoration.

Indeed, for anything spared and salvaged,
we give you thanks.  Let us see that
even in disaster, there is grace still
at work, for you know the limits
of our hearts.

Be with us now as we sift and clean,
as we slog merely to reclaim
some fraction of that which we
once took for granted.

Be with us now as we navigate the countless
details that must be tended and
decisions that must be made
between now and the time that we
begin to feel normal again.

Be with us as we slowly recover
from the shock of sudden loss,
enough to begin to imagine what the
restoration of our home might mean,
for to build again a thing that we know
might easily be lost, must be an act of faith.

Let our rebuilding be a
declaration that a day will come when
all good things are permanent, when
disaster and decay will have no place,
when dwellings will stand forever, and
when no more lives will be disrupted by
death, tragedy, reversal, or loss.

So by that eternal vision, shape our vision
for what this temporary home might become
in its repair, O Lord, that in process
of planning and rebuilding we might also
streamline our lives for stewardship, for service,
and for hospitality in the years ahead.

But those are all tasks for tomorrow.
We do not even know yet today the full
measure of what we have lost.

Today is for mourning.  So let us grieve together
as those who know the world is broken, but
who yet hold hope of its restoration.

A moment of silence is observed.  Then any who wish to speak aloud their specific expressions of grief may do so.  The leader then continues with these words read by all.

Comfort us, O Lord,
in the wake of what had overtaken us.
Shield us, O Lord, from the hurts
we cannot bear.
Shelter us, O Lord,
in the fortress of your love.

Shepherd us, O Lord, as we wake each
new morning, faced with the burdens of a
hard pilgrimage we would not have chosen.
But as this is now our path, let us walk it in
faith, and let us walk it bravely, knowing
that you go always before us.

Amen.

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