Pray Tell What?

This is the third part in my series on 5 life lessons that I learned from Labor Day weekend in 2005, while volunteering with efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

It was the end of our first day working at the River Centre shelter.  We’d driven through the night the day before and I was now working on only about 6 hours sleep for the past 48 hours.  I was exhausted and at the end of my rope.  But, we now had a 5 year old boy latched onto us who needed some love and attention.

His mother had left the shelter that morning around 10a and he didn’t know where his mom was.  It was now about 9 hours later and we didn’t want to leave this boy alone.  I’d already sent most of our team off to find the place where we were supposed to be sleeping, but now after searching for his mom for about 90 minutes I was at the end of what I could handle.

In selfish desperation, I said a short prayer…

Lord, if there’s any way possible, it’d sure be nice if this boy’s mother could show up here in the next couple of minutes.

Literally about 90 seconds later I see 2 women walking in and this boy going to them.  It was the boy’s mother and aunt.  God had answered my simple prayer.  I couldn’t believe it.  The timing was just too weird to not have been God’s personal response to me.

So, why do I tend to only turn to God and ask for his help as a last resort?  Why do I think I have to solve things on my own and exhaust all other resources, before turning to God?  It’s either that I don’t trust him, or I’m too proud to feel like I need his help.  Either option is stupid.

Lord, help me to come to you with my daily needs.  Help me to trust and depend on you in both the little and big stuff of life.  Without you I’m not all that hot, and I need your help.

Do you have any stories of when God answered a really simple prayer of yours?  Do you have trouble asking for help with the simpler needs in your life?

A Little Less Action, and a Lot More Talk

This is the second part in my series on 5 life lessons that I learned from Labor Day weekend in 2005, while volunteering with efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

When we arrived at Baton Rouge and checked in for job assignments, my team was told that we were needed to comfort and encourage people at a medical clinic and at a shelter.  I remember thinking, “What!  I don’t know how to comfort people.  I was expecting to do real stuff like clear brush, move supplies, or repair houses.  I don’t know how to comfort people, let alone lead others in doing this.  Give me a chainsaw instead.”

Then suddenly I was put at ease.  I told my team that I was a bit anxious about this sort of work but encouraged them (and myself) that this just meant listening to people, understanding their struggles and pain, and giving plenty of hugs.  I could do that.

Over the next two days I used my skills as best I could to look up information for people on the internet.  I connected a mother to her daughter that was about to give birth in a hospital.  I looked up phone numbers for distant family members.  I sent email to people to let them know their family members were in our shelter.  I searched through the lists of missing, safely found, and confirmed dead for names of their family and friends.

But, the bigger thing I did was that I took time to listen to each person who asked for my help.  People were lonely, confused, and hurting.  They wanted a friend who cared, even if it was only for a few minutes or hours.

I heard a elderly man tell me how he got out of his house, only to discover his wife didn’t follow him out immediately and was then trapped.  He left his home absolutely helpless to save her.  I could tell several others had similar experiences, but they couldn’t work up the courage to talk about it.  Instead we’d exchange big bear hugs with understanding tears in our eyes.

Several other people told me how they had been estranged from their families in previous years and how that was so painful now when they needed them.  Besides the trauma of the hurricane, the hurricane brought their normal, every day pain to the surface and they couldn’t ignore it as easily as normal.

People need compassion and relationship more than they need their questions answered or problems fixed.  While it’s good to help people by serving them, everyone’s deepest needs are for love and relationship.

Lord, help me to see people’s need for love and relationship.  Help me not get distracted with doing good things and miss really getting to know the people around me.

Am I the only one who struggles with this?  Tell me about your experiences and struggles with this.  We can encourage each other in this area.

5 Lessons from Katrina

At the beginning of this year I tried to post a series of blogs about what I learned in 2007.  I never did get past the first post, because I quickly realized that I didn’t really grasp yet what I’d learned in 2007.  It’s often hard to look at your recent past and fully understand what you’re in the process of learning.

But, tonight I was reminded of a huge thing I learned during Labor Day weekend in 2005.  That was the weekend following disaster in the Gulf Coast, known as Hurricane Katrina.  As I was thinking about this one lesson that I learned that particular weekend, I realized that there were some other lessons I learned that weekend.  And each of these were really huge, significant lessons that have shaped my life since then.

So, this is an introduction to 5 key lessons that I learned from the weekend after Hurricane Katrina.  Read about my 5 lessons here over the next few days:

  1. Techno Savior
  2. A Little Less Action, and a Lot More Talk
  3. Pray Tell What?
  4. It’s Safer Driving from the Back Seat
  5. Shouldn’t This Be Less Fun?

One of the habits that I want to develop is documenting my life lessons and glimpses of when I’m certain God showed me something.  These lessons from this one weekend are just that.

How do you remember when you learn a life lesson?  How far after an experience do you typically need to be to understand what that experience has taught you?