Friday, September 30, 2005

Storm Surge

Storm Surge

The boat rocked. Waves slapped its wooden hull. The men on board lunged with the craft, stances unsteady. Streaks of electricity split the charcoal skies, bringing the prospect of even more danger. One direct hit to the mast and they were going down.

The stormy night, beyond their control, spewed water into the hull of their boat. If a massive wave came along, no human strength could stop the boat from capsizing. Fishing nets they could mend and manage, but the roiling lake grabbed the fishermen’s imaginations and took them on a spin of terror.

The men clung to the boat’s rigging, hoping for the storm to abate. But the storm didn’t go away. Instead, their reasons for alarm increased when what seemed to be a ghost appeared above the water surface. They wanted the approaching phantom to disappear. Blinking water from their eyes, shaking their heads, they tried to banish the ghost from their vision.

The supposed apparition didn’t go away, but spoke to them with a familiar voice — the voice of Jesus. His soothing voice offered hope to his fishermen followers, “Take courage.”

His presence and words seemed to say, “I’m here now. Cheer up. I’ve got enough courage to go around, and besides all that, I control the fury of storms.” After identifying himself to his disciples, Jesus again urged them “Don’t be afraid. Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed” (Mark 6:50-51).

When the disciples thought they saw a ghost, they despaired, because false spirits create doubts and fear. Fear tends to over-cloud hope. Charles Hodge says, “Fear is the darkroom where negativity is developed.”

On the Gulf Coastline of Texas where we live, the term “storm surge” is in the news again. It means a productive landmass is temporarily overcome by seawater and robbed of normalcy. Storm surges or bad news can arrive at any time, due to weather, a bad health report, or a rumor of war.

The psalmist declared that when he called, God made him “bold and stouthearted” (138:3). He can and will do the same for today, no matter what is in the near future. Take a deep breath and exhale it in prayer, then take courage from the Savior. One of his specialties is climbing into rocking boats and calming storms.

You may contact Cathy Messecar at

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Never again

We're experiencing rolling black-outs due to Hurricane Rita, and as common, God has pulled me to the blackboard. There are lessons I'm still learning. One of the lessons involves a question I will ask my closest Christian friends, the other is an exaggeration I will try not to use anymore.

The media has done a fine job of portraying the suffering. These last few days in Texas have been some of the hottest we experienced this summer--but it's fall all ready. The killer heat is slaying people, literally. The extremely frail, the ill, young, and old, cannot live through this heavy heat without air conditioning and some way to cool down.

Last evening at our church facilities, we readied a meal before Wednesday night classes. The food was cooked by moving it to four consecutive places, because of the black-outs. Just when the food was prepared and hot (from the fourth ovens), off went the power, so nearly 60 Christians and guests ate hot and steamy chicken spaghetti, veggies and homemade bread in the hot and steamy dark.

Good cheer prevailed, and time after time I heard one person ask another, "How are you? Do you have power?"

This is a question I plan to adopt. It's a question Christian's could ask each other throughout the year. A few Sundays ago, Beverly G. said in Sunday school, "I don't care for that phrase 'plug into God'. Christians are plugged in. The problem arises when we turn off the appliance."

So, in my adopted question, "Do you have power?" I'll really be asking myself and others are you "walking in the light?" are you "recharging through Jesus?"

Now, for the statement I will not be saying anymore. I've seen the devastation caused by hurricanes to homes and businesses. Strewn over miles and marshes are treasures renamed debris. We southern coastal women repeat a cliche about cluttered houses, homes that are structurally sound, but homes that we haven't tidied up in a few days. I've witnessed the suffering of my sisters and seen their sanctuaries spread over treetops and blacktop. I'll steer away from the overkill cliche from now on. When my house isn't as clean as I like, I'll avoid saying, "My house looks like a hurricane hit it."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

We made it

We're safe and all our family is well. At 2:00 PM Saturday, the sun has peeked out. We're only getting local coverage, so we don't know how much damage was done to the folks in the direct path of the storm.

One family member is a police officer and expects to be on duty for several days. Officials want Southeast Texans to stagger their returns. Most Houston schools are closed until Wednesday.

Thank you for your prayers. We're in good shape here, a few limbs down, but all is good.

We had family strewn through the house in odd roosts. At 2:45 AM this morning my birthday-son was in the recliner next to me; I was stretched out on the sofa. The wind and rain Rita-brew were mixing with our hot humid air. Gales began. I reached out and touched my firstborn and reminded him that 35 years ago, I was in a hospital bed and he was in a crib beside me. A nice moment. A genuinely nice son.

When did we flip all those calendar pages? Where did the time go?

Friday, September 23, 2005

10:30-so far all is well

In my home, the TV is rarely on through the day, but of late it's been on almost non-stop because of monitoring Rita.

Of course the reporters cover the human dramas that a storm churns up. Churches, schools, individuals and communities have opened up their facilities and homes to those stranded without gas and with mechanical problems.

"I was a stranger and you took me in." the words of Jesus.

4:08 Central Standard Time

It seems as if Rita is changing her mind, for the moment. One computer model has her going in at Louisana, others still Texas.

My hubby used his straps and chains, for securing 18-wheeler-flatbed loads, and looped them around the rafters in our barns and anchored them to equipment parked inside. He always thinks of inventive ways to help out.

I haven't seen our cows in two days. They know something is coming. There's several creeks on the farm and the farm bridge has three cement culverts tall enough for us to stand up in. Dave's 6'4". We've always thought they'd be a good place to shelter from tornadoes, but their sidekick of rains might prevent using them. We 're surrounded by pine trees and tall oaks, so we don't have the advantage of sighting tornadoes. We have to rely on TV news to let us know one is headed our way.

A tiny lime green tree frog was behind the thermometer on the porch when I was moving everything inside the garage. Sure hated to disturb him.

9:00 PM--Rain started. Gusting winds. Spotted the cows. Had birthday cake with son. With a strong gust of wind, he blew out his candles. My son and I both cried the moment he was born.

Rita is Arriving

Throughout the rest of today and into tomorrow, I 'll be blogging on Hurricane Rita's travel until/if we lose electricity. The forecast at 18 hours before landfall says we'll get 65 winds with gusts to 85. We will be on the clean side of the storm, fewer tornadoes. Already, blue sky is covered by Rita's skirt tails. Where yesterday was a sweltering, no-breeze 102 degrees, the bushes and tall pines are already beginning to sway and Rita has several hundred miles before estimated time of arrival.

All the potted plants, bird houses and such are "hunkering down" in the garage. My larger wind chime I brought indoors and hung it in a double doorway. I thought it might be a good indicator of how much the house is shaking. The house is brick, built in 1960's with a hip roof.

I have a birthday cake in the oven for my 35-year-old son. Today's his big day. He's still moving medical equipment, but is through now and is about 60 miles from our home. He said Interstate 45 is almost deserted.

The other big news is we had pork chops and gravy for lunch today. If worse goes to far worse, at least we had an old southern dish for our final meal.

I'll check in later today...Cathy

Friday, September 16, 2005

Questions Aid Communication

Recently, my dad, Kenneth, told me an amusing story from his childhood, one I’d not heard before. His family roots are tinged with the red clay of Arkansas. But during the Depression, they moved to different work locations in Texas. His summertime story took place in La Mesa.

My grandfather worked on a pipeline, and his young sons made small change by doing odd jobs in the community. Dad’s younger brother Bob often carried drinking water to the oilfield workers. They’d usually tip him when he approached with a jug of cool water.

Rumor mill said a young boy could make 25 cents at the golf course. My dad, about 9 at the time, had never seen a golf ball or a green. The only “tee” he’d heard of was a Model T. “Birdie” simply meant bird. He didn’t know the rules or game, but he’d heard that spotters at the golf course could earn two bits. He decided to give it a try.

At the course, he approached three men readying to play and asked to be their spotter. They hired him. His job description was laid out in simple terms. “Keep your eye on the ball, son.” They swung their clubs, and daddy ran ahead, fanatically watching where each ball fell.

Enjoying the out of doors, the golfers cajoled and ambled toward the fairway. Just over the rise, my dad eagerly awaited. He’d watched the flight and the landing of each ball. He’d picked them up, and in the middle of the fairway, three balls were lined up in a neat row. The golfers threw up their hands and fired the kid on the spot.

Dad’s experience reminded me of the most common dilemma in relationships: misunderstanding. When one person’s response doesn’t meet the expectations of another, problems arise.

Adept at relationships and teaching, Rabbi Jesus’ actions can be trusted to help clarify communications. Jesus asked questions. Questions often cause rumination, pondering. Unless rhetorical, they are usually answered, and understanding between people is enhanced. Sincere questions also reveal the willingness to instruct and to receive feedback.

One example is when Jesus taught his disciples and a crowd. He asked two questions: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his own soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36, 37). With questions, he plumed the depths of their hearts and let them know he had answers.

Jesus, the founder and keeper of souls, followed his questions with instruction. “If any man is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (vs. 38).

A “do you understand” question aids understanding and shows concern. Opposite attitudes smack of indifference, such as “They’ll eventually catch on” or “They’ll live and learn.”

Questions till thoughts. They turn topsoil. They stir imagination. If one of the golfers had asked young Kenneth if he understood their game, he could have spotted golf balls instead of retrieving them like softballs. Dad’s good-natured telling of the golf faux pas reminded me to better communicate with questions.

Questions, anyone?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Rearing or Raising

God, Parents and Stained Glass

Parenting children is like living in a desert. Sandstorms and beautiful sunsets come with the real estate. Grit and beauty usually arrive on the same day.

Home’s the place where loving, refereeing parents civilize kids. “Raising” and “rearing” can have different definitions. Our family “raised” chickens, and unlike children, they didn’t require much care. We opened the coop in the mornings, and threw out grain.

No need to baby sit hens. Let them fend for themselves. They won the battles with the beetles. Then at night, we locked up the brood so critters didn’t steal them.

There’s a barnyard of difference in “raising” chickens and “rearing” children. With dedicated, watchful parents, children prosper. Homes need mothers and dads standing guard, making their abodes sanctuaries against unwholesome influences. Families aren’t perfect, but they are one of the God-ordained units where goodness can get a toehold.

The family is a schoolroom where one clan under one roof will provide plenty of teachable moments. Successes open doors for celebrating triumphs. Failures provide opportunities for empathy and correction. Wrongdoings occasion forgiveness.

Radio host Joe White says that through families “God is in the business of building stained-glass windows.” The windows are “made from thousands of broken pieces, skillfully picked up and dusted off and soldered together in magnificent murals.”

Erma Bombeck told about her frolicking young son knocking a bubble gum dispencer over. Glass and colored orbs scattered. Many onlookers overheard her say he’d “never see another cartoon the rest of his life” and that he “was going to be making license plates for the state.”

Embarrassed by the attention and scolding, and “in his helpless quest for comfort,” he turned to the one he most trusted, threw his arms around his mother's knees and “held on for dear life.”

It’s comforting to know that God sees the sparrows and our babies. He is looking at the blueprint for every child’s life, and his influence is supreme. One of the best requests parents can make is for God to be their children’s teacher. Then, offer thanksgiving for the job of lab assistant.

Parents, keep handing God the soldering tool. Gorgeous light shines through assembled pieces of colored glass.

“Love is patient, love is kind . . . It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Heart Beat

Tonight in our women's Bible class, about 23 women circled up to pray and we held hands. A newcomer was with us, Judy*. A victim of hurricane Katrina, she and her husband, and two children, one a teen and one a pre-teen were "adopted" by our congregation. Our congregation, Conroe Church of Christ, is caring for a total of nine families.

My right hand clasped Judy's * and my left hand linked with a longtime member. At different times during the prayer, I felf both of their heart pulses against my palms.

For me, the experience symbolized what Christianity is all about. Humanity is linked in many ways, but the one that counts the most is the sibling factor in Christ. He is my older brother, the firstborn; I have many brothers and sisters, and Christ wants more family members.

Jesus especially wants me to feel the pulse of my neighbor's life.

*name changed to provide anonymity

Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina Eyewitness from LSU's student assistant, Bill Martin

The article below was written by Bill Martin a student assistant of the LSU Sports Information Department and explains whats happening in Baton Rouge. This is the link to the original article at , Mike Scarborough's coverage of LSU's athletics and recruiting or read it below.

Little did I know what I would be doing following Hurricane Katrina's aftermath but as I type right now, there won't be a more gratifying or more surreal experience I went through tonight. We went up to the office today and held a press conference regarding the postponement of the game and it was the right decision. As the PMAC and Field House are being used as shelters we decided as an office to do everything we could to help the situation.

At first, we were just supposed to make copies of this disaster relief form for all of the people. The copiers will never print a document more important than that. It's weird. Nearly 12 hours ago we were running off copies of game notes for a football game that is now meaningless. We printed the copies and carried them over to the Field House at 6:30 p.m. I wouldn't leave the area for another 8 hours.

On the way back to the PMAC in a cart, it looked like the scene in the movie Outbreak. FEMA officials, U.S. Marshalls, National Guard, and of course the survivors. Black Hawks were carrying in victims who were stranded on roofs. Buses rolled in from N.O. with other survivors. As Michael and I rode back to the PMAC, a lady fell out of her wheelchair and we scrambled to help her up.

We met Coach Miles and Coach Moffiit in the PMAC to see all the survivors and it was the view of a hospital. Stretchers rolled in constantly and for the first time in my life I saw someone die right in front of me. A man rolled in from New Orleans and was badly injured on his head. 5 minutes later he was dead. And that was the scene all night. What did we do, we started hauling in supplies. And thousands of boxes of supplies. The CDC from Atlanta arrived directing us what to do.

One of the U.S. Marshalls was on hand so the supplies could not become loot. I asked him what his primary job was. He serves on the committee of counter terrorism, but once he saw of the disaster, he donated his forces to come help. He said the death toll could be nearing 10,000. It was sickening to hear that.

After unloading supplies, I started putting together baby cribs and then IV poles. Several of our fball players and Big Baby and Tasmin Mitchell helped us. At the same time, families and people strolled in. Mothers were giving birth in the locker rooms. The auxiliary gym "Dungeon" was being used as a morgue. I couldn't take myself down there to see it.

I worked from 8 pm until 2:45 am. Before I left three more buses rolled in and they were almost out of room. People were standing outside, the lowest of the low from NO. The smells, the sights were hard to take.

A man lying down on a cot asked me to come see him. He said,"I just need someone to talk to, to tell my story because I have nobody and nothing left. He turned out to be a retired military veteran. His story was what everybody was saying. He thought he survived the worst, woke up this morning and the levees broke. Within minutes water rushed into his house. He climbed to the attic, smashed his way through the roof and sat there for hours. He was completely sunburned and exhausted. Nearly 12 hours later a chopper rescued him and here he was.

We finished the night hauling boxes of body bags and more were on the way. As we left, a man was strolled in on a stretcher and scarily enough he suffered gunshots. The paramedic said he was shot several times because a looter or a convict needed his boat and he wouldn't give it to him. Another man with him said it was "an uncivilized society no better than Iraq down there right now." A few minutes later he was unconcious and later pronounced dead. I then left as they were strolling a 3 year old kid in on a stretcher. I couldn't take it anymore.

That was the scene at the PMAC and it gives me a new perspective on things. For those of you who I haven't been able to get in touch with because of phone service, I pray you are safe. Send me an email to let me know. God bless.

Bill MartinLSU Sports Information

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Notes

Katrina Notes

Two statements coming from media coverage of hurricane Katrina’s aftermath have stayed with me: “We have each other” and “If you know God, pray. . .”

Ann and Vernon’s Gulfport, MS longtime home was leveled. They summed up their losses as significant, but not devastating by saying to NBC’s Lester Holt, “We have each other.” Many now identify with their mantra.

Mansions and mobile homes, bicycles and Chevys, clothing and canned goods are submerged in the toxic soup along the south east Gulf Coast. Louisiana’s governor estimates that at least 500,000 homes were destroyed in her home state. Alabama and Mississippi also carry dismal tallies.

The second statement is from Linda, interviewed by Houston’s channel 2 Phil Archer. On Sunday, Linda’s husband stayed behind to protect their house, and she hasn’t heard from him since. She pled with viewers, “If you know God, pray for my husband.”

In the Bible, Job’s story is one with which sufferers can identify. Job’s disaster-saga included foreign invasion and forces of nature. His sons and daughters, servants and cattle were gone. Finally, he became so ill he was near death.

Job’s life was chronicled for such a time as this. After his immense loss, friends came to commiserate with him. They may not have given him the best theological answers, but at least they had “each other.”

Throughout Job’s misery and his later gaining back more than he lost, he was getting to “know God.” One time, God posed rhetorical questions to Job from a storm. God asked were you there when I “laid the earth’s foundation” (38:4), or if Job had ever “entered the storehouses of the snow (vs. 22).

God further asked, “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion?” (vs. 31). “Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (vs. 41).

After Creator God, itemized his resume, Job said, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5). Throughout Job’s life, God brought him to a better understanding of divine care.

Because of Katrina’s wind and water baptism, Job’s misery is multiplied by tens of thousands in the southern United States. Hurricane victim Linda advised, “If you know God, pray . . .”

Ann and Vernon reiterated what many are saying and reminded the world that family is precious. Grieving the loss of a house is not the same as mourning for friends or family. Pray and cherish, keen reminders that human suffering can improve as long as “we have each other.”

To contact Cathy visit