These past few weeks I’ve found myself thinking and praying for a lot of the little towns in South and Southeast Texas — towns around Corpus Christi and Houston. Towns like Refugio, where our First Church response team was working this past week in helping to clear rubble and provide food and help.
I have called some of the schools where I used to perform a number of years ago . . . many of the librarians are still working in them. And thankfully, none of them reported loss of lives, though most have suffered significant damage in their homes and schools. I’ve offered to come back down and provide some free entertainment/storytelling on my days off once the schools are back on schedule. They have all shared with me their sense of wonder and gratitude for the way in which communities and people across the state have come together to bring order to the chaos. There are so many needs, but so many ways we can all help.
All this has reminded me of my days of traveling to small towns in Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana — like Frankenstein, Muleshoe, Greasy Corner, and Big Lake. (There’s actually no water there, at all. Go figure.) I’d perform in their schools, and then follow with a family concert at a local church.
Of course, this kind of travel was rarely glamorous. The more I learned to let go of my expectations, though, and paid attention with a little humility, maybe even allowed myself to get a little lost, the more I discovered about the diversity and wonder of God.
I was remembering a particularly long road trip across south Texas — I decided to focus on resilience of creation. I noted how the trees and grass broke through empty sidewalks and buildings in tiny abandoned towns. I watched the brilliant, fiery display of a sunset across dry, barren landscape. I marveled at the unbroken line of red-tailed hawks, perched at the top of every other telephone pole for miles. Life has a way of pushing through the chaos and seemingly desolate terrain.
The next morning, I performed at a school outside Refugio, and during a break, I struck up a conversation with one of the lunch ladies. She remarked on how amazing it must be for me to get to travel — and how she’d never imagined as a kid that she’d be working in a tiny school cafeteria in such a small town.
“What did you dream of doing instead?” I asked her.
“I figured I’d be a singer or movie star, and I’d get to travel,” she said. “You know, as a kid, you think that stuff — and I liked to sing a lot!” She laughed and then added, “Now I just sing for the kids here as I serve up their lunch, and I tease ‘em when they get too noisy at their tables!”
I thought about this for a moment, and then I smiled. “And here I am, a travelling performer, singing at the same small school in Refugio, Texas,” I said. “And you know what, they’ll laugh and clap — and they may even remember a story or two I tell them for a few weeks or so. But they’ll most likely forget my name before I’m very far down the road. But I’d be willing to bet that years from now they’ll still be talking about Ms. Ramirez, the lunch lady, and how she made ‘em laugh in the middle of long, hot, boring days at school. And I bet they’ll even remember your songs!”
Ms. Ramirez laughed and took my hand. “Thank you for that . . .” she said.
I smiled, “Not at all. This has been a real blessing to me!”
Then she said, “I guess this is one of those God moments, isn’t it?”
I am thinking about Refugio today and a lot of the amazing, enlightening encounters our Response Team had there this past week. And what I’m starting to understand is that they’re all God moments, aren’t they? As it turns out, there are lots of ways to be privy to the Kingdom of God, to be a vehicle of joy or curiosity — or a connection to hope and compassion. A lot of ways we find, and bring, order to the chaos in our lives.
This Sunday, singer/songwriter Hannah Kirby (from The Voice) joins us as we explore the opportunities we have to respond creatively with love and hope no matter what life throws in our path — to find God in all the moments of our lives.
I hope to find you there!
Sunday, September 17
The Gifts of Chaos
“when life gets chaotic — get creative”
Rev. Tom McDermott
And the eleven:eleven Revolution Band
eleven:eleven Community Lunch
Wesley Hall, 12:15 – 1:30 pm
(Jason’s Deli, Nothing Bundt Cakes — $5 donation)