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“Squalls out on the Gulf Stream, Big storm comin’ soon.”
Those are the words that begin Jimmy Buffett’s ballad, “Trying to Reason with the Hurricane Season.” The song is not fast-paced, ramped up or frantic like the topic its title might suggest. You would need “Rock You Like A Hurricane” by The Scorpions to get that kind of in-the-midst feel.
Rather, Buffett is feeling kind of burned out from life’s pace having run him into the ground. The impending weather’s interlude almost acts as a forced break in the frenetic pace he has been on. But in the midst of his exhaustion, “Feelin tired, then I got inspired,” and from that he writes the very song he sings!
Well, guess what? Today’s column comes to you in just such a fashion. Because just like when Florence graced our area, then followed by Michael a month later last fall, Dorian is coming to visit on a Thursday, the very day that I submit my weekly column. And just like those two times last fall, I actually had another idea to write about.
Last year, I wanted to talk about the first Free Comic Book Weekend Mini-Comic-Con we were holding in September, but Florence was all anyone wanted to hear about. Last year I wanted to talk about our annual Oktoberfest we were holding in October, but Michael was drawing the headlines. And this week I was going to emphasize a monthlong collaborative effort with Veterans Residential Services that kicks off this weekend with our “God’s Work, Our Hands” Sunday to collect more than 1,000 cans of food to help feed the vets in our area.
The drive is hoping to build a 5- to 6-foot pyramid of food cans culminating, ironically, at our combination of the aforementioned Comic-Con event with our Oktoberfest in what we have dubbed “Contoberfest.” It’s not until the last weekend of this month, Sept. 27, 28 and 29, so maybe the next hurricane (probably named Elrond, Etrigan or Elongated-Man — surely the next one is something catchy) won’t spoil the party.
But as I pen these words, Dorian has left devastation in the Bahamas, has marched along the coastline of Florida and Georgia and is pressing at the border of the Carolinas just east of Pedro’s giant sombrero. The rains are falling. Reports of tornadoes, flooding and power outages have been coming in from further south, and there is cautious hope and trepidation as the ominous waiting takes place, fueled by the soundtrack of thunder in the distance.
So when and if you are able to read this on Saturday morning, how will you see it looking back?
The projected path has Dorian taking a quick right-hand exit from our coastline and heading out to sea. The rain and wind could cause all of the stuff that has happened to the south but perhaps to a much lesser extent. It could end up that we have that wonderful feeling of crisis averted!
Maybe we will have many whose faith is revived by the miracle of having been saved from what we have so obviously seen could have been evidenced in those lovely resort islands now devastated by capricious forces. And maybe we are moved to be so grateful for God’s providential protection of our homes and accouterments of our lives that we provide aid to those on those lonely islands so far away.
But sometimes those projected paths are wrong, like in 1954 when Hazel from about where Dorian is right now forgot to turn right and plowed straight ahead, continuing to tear things up all the way into Canada. If this storm takes that kind of attitude, papers probably are not delivered because there may not be facilities to print them anymore or even the houses or streets used for delivery. And even the mystical internet version may not be available.
There will still be those who are moved by faith at the miracle of lives preserved in the midst of so much loss because some things are just more important. And there will still be those who are reaching out to others who have lost everything with only the little bit they have left, because ultimately, faith is not about the self but about God and how we treat the “other.”
The faithful know that the Great Commandment is all about love. It’s about loving God. It’s about loving neighbor, the other. It doesn’t talk about loving self. That job is for God and neighbor because they will probably do a better job anyway.
Hope and faith are driving me to believe that your paper did arrive today or your computer did indeed find this column available. They drive the optimism that the good is always possible.
But faith and hope also give credence to the possibility that the worst outcome is possible and God will help us through it.
That same hope and faith is sprinkled with enough grace that allows us to prepare for the worst but pray for the best, expecting the latter, but braced for the former with the same God who sustains us through both!
So, prophetically, I find myself at the same point that Jimmy Buffett was as he closed out the lyrics to his song:
“Well, the wind is blowin’ harder now
Fifty knots or thereabouts
There’s white caps on the ocean
And I’m watchin’ for water spouts
It’s time to close the shutters
It’s time to go inside.”
His very last line of that verse is one of optimistic outlook as he looks ahead one week to a trip he must take to Paris which he says is “a mighty long airplane ride.” I too look a week away to a trip I must take to Florida, but for me, down Dorian ravaged I-95.
I have all faith that I’ll be able to tip my hat to Pedro’s sombrero still standing. And I’ll have plenty of time to give thanks. After all, to paraphrase Jimmy, that’s a mighty long highway drive.
Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 28 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” appears weekly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.