Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Thoughts On the Early Show Series

I wish I could adequately describe the range of emotions I am feeling this week, watching the CBS Early Show series on Greensburg, KS. I feel like I'm on an emotional roller coaster.

I'm excited when I see a familiar face.

I'm heartbroken when they show large, overhead shots of the town, since there isn't much there now.

I'm overwhelmed with joy when I see the generosity of people who have donated toys, library books, playground equipment, basketballs, t-shirts, musical instruments, time, and money to the people of that town and community.

I am filled with such pride when I hear the stories of how people are continuing to rebuild--people who never said, "the country owes us," but are so thankful for any help they receive. People who would have rebuilt without any assistance, as they helped their friends and neighbors recover. But the same people who are amazed at all the ways people all over the nation--and yes, even from other countries--have reached out to assist them in any way possible.

I'm sad that the town few people knew about before May 4, 2007, is now well-known because it was destroyed by a horrendous tornado.

But I feel that the crew from the Early Show, as well as all the other news people who have been there in the past year, are going to discover what all of us have always known: Greensburg isn't great because of the Big Well, the businesses that were there, or even the beauty of the Kansas plains. Greensburg is great because of the people. I grew up on a farm near Greensburg. I've known this all my life! I'm grateful that the country is now getting to see it, too.

I know there is only so much a one-week series can show. I wish they could recognize every volunteer who has come to help clean up or rebuild. I wish they could show the face of every emergency worker who showed up the night of the tornado. I wish they could show the National Guard soldiers who came in to protect the people and what was left of their belongings. Or each of the law enforcement officials from surrounding towns that helped to keep things orderly. Or a list of the hundreds of organizations and individuals who have donated so many resources. Or the faces of the local city and county workers who worked in incredible conditions (and continue to do so) to try to get things back on track. (Among whom are my sister, niece, and brother-in-law.)

If you want more information on the series, or ways you can help, click on "Early Show" above, and it will take you to the CBS website. Or click on one of my sidebar links.

God bless.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Lest We Forget

For so many people across the U.S. and around the world, the events of last May 4 have faded into the fog of the past. For myself, and anyone else familiar with what has happened since then, the story is still unfolding. And it is very much a part of TODAY. It's current news.

On the night of May 4, 2007, the town of Greensburg, KS, took a direct hit from a EF-5 tornado. 95% of the town was completely destroyed. The other 5% may have survived, but there was still damage. Though a small town by many standards (pop. 1,500), it is still mind-boggling to think of an entire town being destroyed. The town wasn't the only place to be hit, either. There were other areas in the community (farms, homes, etc.) that were hit by that tornado or others that went through the area on May 4th and 5th. Thankfully, few lives were lost. Sadly, hundreds of people were left without ANYTHING. Their homes, cars, businesses, belongings, and the businesses that provided the basic necessities for the community were completely wiped off the map.

There have been donations and help from across the country and around the world. Fund raisers of every type have been held. Teams of workers have come from every corner of the nation. It has been a remarkable thing to witness. The residents of Greensburg are truly thankful. They are a hard-working, community-minded people. They have "pulled themselves up by the bootstraps"...but they are thankful for all the outside help they have received and are continuing to receive.

This week, the Early Show ( on CBS--click link to see related articles) is broadcasting live from Greensburg. They are doing a week-long series of interviews and stories on how the town is rebuilding. While viewing it this morning, I saw a few people I knew (Jackie C., my dad!, my aunt, Scott B., etc.). But what I saw of the town looked nothing like the Greensburg of my growing-up years. Or the town I saw just last year, when my family visited my parents, friends, and relatives in that area. Oh, there are a few recognizable things: the grain elevators, the courthouse (damaged, though still there), etc. But most of it is either a pile of rubble, or an empty space where a building used to stand.

At the end of this week, there will be special events held. Just another way for the people to join together as community, and remind each other that they're in the rebuilding business together. President Bush will be speaking at the high school graduation, too. (Which had to be rescheduled to accommodate his schedule. But still...he's going back there. That means a lot.)

I know that for myself, seeing horrible disasters on TV (hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, etc.) can be almost mind-numbing. I shut out the horrific scenes so that I don't have to deal with it on a daily basis. But there is nothing I can shut out about Greensburg. These are people I love and many of whom I have known my whole life. My heart will not stop aching for them until they are back in their homes and businesses. And even then, I know the memories of May 4, 2007, have changed them all forever. Not a one of them will ever be able to erase the memories of the sights and sounds on that night and throughout the days afterward. None of them will ever forget what was lost and what it cost them (financially and emotionally) to rebuild.

My heart, thoughts, and prayers are with you all continually, but especially throughout this week. God be with you all...

Google images of Greensburg--before and after the tornado

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Announcement from Isaiah

"I'm going to be a big brother in September!!!"

Yes, it's true! My sister-in-law and my niece are both due in September. I'm going to be an aunt again AND a great aunt again. How exciting!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Pope's Visit to the U.S.

I was going to work on a new post about the pope's visit. But my hubby wrote such a wonderful one, I'll just let you check it out on his blog, One Pilgrim.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Gift and the Giver

I have a story to tell you today, so bear with me. I'm afraid this could turn into a lengthy post. But stick with me. I need your input!

There once was a little girl who loved music. She loved to try picking out church hymns on the piano. She loved to sing "Jesus Loves Me". When she got a battery-operated little "organ" for a present, she spent hours trying to figure out songs. (An older sister even taught her to play "Jesus Loves Me" on the little organ.) Whenever there was a school or church Christmas program, she learned every word of every song, and sang with all the gusto she could muster. She began taking piano lessons at the tender age of 6, and it brought an abundance of joy into her life, knowing what all those wonderful marks on the pages meant.

As the little girl grew older, she continued to play. She learned other instruments as well (clarinet, alto saxophone, and, eventually, tenor saxophone). She would sit at the piano at home, and sing to her heart's content. She would tape record herself playing some of her favorite piano pieces, dreaming of one day playing a piano concert for an appreciative audience.

While in junior high, the girl began enjoying singing even more. With the encouragement of her pastor's wife, she decided to take the plunge and sing in a church-sponsored talent competition. She wore her new Easter dress, and, prepared as well as she knew how to at the time, she sang at the competition. However, there were snickers from older boys. Comments about how her pretty dress made her look "pregnant". Besides, her voice sounded like that of a little girl, in comparison to the others in the competition. She was mortified. She would never, ever get up in front of others to sing again.

She continued to play the piano, though. She even agreed to play for her church's children's choir at their Christmas program. Eventually, she was asked to play for the adult choir and was one of several piano players for her school's high school choir. She even went out on a limb and played the piano for the church-sponsored talent competition. But sing? Not again. Not even at home, really. Just played the piano.

Finally, early in high school, she sat back down at her piano at home and began to play and sing. She was older now, and her voice was somehow different. And she was reminded once again of how much she loved singing songs of praise to God. Her church was going to have a night of singing on New Year's Eve. After fighting through her fear and nerves, she finally decided to put her name down. She would sing in front of others again, if only this once.

But it couldn't end there. After the experience turned out to be a positive one, she wanted to sing, sing, and sing some more! Any chance she got, she would sing. She practiced and practiced, but loved being in front of others even more. It was such a wonderful feeling, looking out and seeing others with their hands lifted in praise, as they personalized the message of the songs she would sing. Leading others to praise wonderful!

There were many who encouraged the girl to continue to use her voice to praise God. Someone even once told her they were jealous of the gift she had. But she didn't see it that way. Not that she was a "better" singer than others. It was simply a way she could express her praise to God.

On the other hand, there were some who discouraged her. After weeks of practicing for a special community event, and showing up early to set up, it was discovered that no one had had the foresight to set up a sound system. She couldn't sing loudly enough for all to hear her, and she had no way to play her background music, which was all on cassette. The man in charge of the service, a pastor from another church, basically said, "Oh, well. We just won't have music. We don't have time to get a sound system and set it all up." She was so disappointed. And at another of those church-sponsored talent competitions, she made the mistake of drinking some lemon juice before taking her turn at performing. The lemon juice "froze" her throat. Not a decent note would come out of her. She was devastated. All those weeks of practice were wasted. Maybe God didn't want her to sing in front of others after all. Maybe singing at home, in her own living room, was all God had for her.

Thankfully, the voices of encouragement won out. She looked for a college that would allow her to hone her voice and piano skills. A place of ministry training. She found such a college, and looked forward to it with great anticipation. Again, though, the voice of discouragement came. This time, in the form of an audition. Prior to arriving at college, a youth pastor encouraged her to try out for a particular singing group at the college. He assured her that she would definitely be accepted. He was wrong. And there were so many people at the college with much more talent than her. The college was full of music majors who sang and played the piano far better than she did. She withdrew, and only sang in choirs. No more solos. No more singing in front of others, and leading them to worship God with her. She didn't have enough talent for that. The only time she would sing a solo was at her home church, where she knew she would not be rejected.

Finally, near the end of her first year in college, God reminded her that she was hiding her light under a bushel. She took the initiative, and signed up to sing at a chapel service. It didn't matter how many others could sing better than she did. She would use what talent she had to glorify God.

After some time, the girl, now becoming a woman, found the man of her dreams. As they got to know each other, he asked her to accompany him when he led music at the church he attended. He taught her more about playing "by ear" and by chord; he, on his guitar, and she on the piano.

The woman and her "dream man" fell in love and got married. God led them to be a part of a new church that was being started. The pastors of the new church needed a team of musicians. The keyboardist they had worked with previously was out of the country on a missions trip. Would the woman consider playing with the music team? She would try! A few months later, though, the original keyboardist returned. Feeling very inadequate, the woman stepped aside so the other keyboardist could take her place.

Over the years, there were other experiences of encouragement and rejection. There was always someone better, and she would gladly step aside to allow the better musician have the position she held.

All along, though, there was one puzzle the woman could never figure out how to solve. What should she say if someone actually complimented her? How did one maintain their integrity and humility, and yet acknowledge the compliment graciously? Saying, "All the glory goes to God" almost sounded "holier-than-thou". What should she do? Just smile, and say, "Thank you?", then look like a glory hound?

Most recently, the woman was given the opportunity to join a group at her church. The other musicians have played together for years, and she is definitely overwhelmed by their talent. She doesn't feel up to the job. She knows it is something God wants her to do, though.

Yet whenever she is given any type of compliment, it really pushes her in the opposite direction. It causes her to want to shrink away from it altogether. She doesn't want attention. She just wants to sing for God's glory and encourage others to do the same.

And I guess this is the question for all of us. How do we use the talents and abilities God has given us without allowing ourselves to become discouraged when it is not a positive experience, or allowing ourselves to become prideful when it IS a positive experience?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Little Ones to Him Belong...

I had not planned for this to be the topic of my newest post. However, I checked my e-mail just prior to signing into Blogger, and decided that this was more important for tonight.

For the past several months, I have been privileged to be part of a group of people praying for a small baby named Angel. Even before her birth, we were praying for a healing. The doctors discovered some abnormalities while she was in her mommy's womb. The very fact that she survived her birth was a miracle. She has had her ups and downs since then, going through medical procedures, medications, etc. to try to spare her young life.

Today, Angel was welcomed into the arms of Jesus. I cannot imagine the grief her family is experiencing tonight. There is joy, of course, knowing that little Angel will no longer suffer, and that she is at peace in the presence of the Lord. Yet there will always be that longing for the day when they will be reunited with her...

My prayers continue with you, Amanda. I have never met you, but God most definitely placed your little one in my heart and prayers. May His grace and peace be yours in abundance tonight.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Showin' off the little man

I haven't posted a picture of my great nephew in awhile. Can you believe how much he has grown?? (There's another new pic on my other blog.)