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Friday, July 4, 2008

One Country, One Community, One Church

One Country, One Community, One Church

Is it really the 4th of July? Could it be? For our family, this holiday is quite different than years past….

We are residents of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. You may have watched our plight on national (or international) news. We experienced the worst flood in the history of Iowa, and possibly the United States. It has been called a “catastrophic event.” The Cedar River crested at almost twelve feet higher than ever in recorded history, 20 feet higher then flood stage. More than 4,000 homes were flooded as 1,300 city blocks were inundated with water. Many of these people can not go back home. They have been “displaced”- living with friends, relatives, in apartments, two shelters set up in area schools, and now possibly FEMA trailers. These people have lost everything. Clothing, material possessions, pictures, keepsakes…..everything. My friend has lost eight homes in her family- it has affected her mother, brothers, sisters, and cousins. A piece of history was lost as two of the neighborhoods hit were the oldest in Cedar Rapids- historic Czech neighborhoods- Czech Village and the Time Check neighborhood. Czech Village was home to family residences and their businesses- shops and restaurants handed down for generations from Eastern European immigrants. The African-American museum lost precious exhibits, as did the Science Station, the Art Museum, and the downtown Public Library.Between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs were lost as hundreds of local and national businesses were flooded. The debris and trash of the cleanup will be enough to fill two football fields 60 feet deep. Early damage estimates are already in the billions. In the state, hundreds of acres of farm land were ruined, and the effects will be felt across the country in the months to come. President Bush declared many counties a federal disaster area and 99 out of 100 counties were declared state disaster areas. To get a better idea of what we have experienced the past 3 weeks, google Cedar Rapids or check out the many youtube videos of the flooding. This has changed our lives forever….

Yet…..there is hope.

People helping people. Volunteers coming out in the hundreds to help neighbors. The Body of Christ having the opportunity to hug, to listen, to help, to serve our neighbor- to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Suddenly, the “normal” summer activities of baseball games, swimming, and bike rides seem to pale in comparison to pulling out dry wall and carpet, handing out water and cleaning supplies, and providing hope to the hurting with hands and prayers.

“…Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you
were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is
over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:3-6

One thing that has struck me is that we are working together as ONE Body, as Christ intended. No one asks “What denomination are you from?” Churches are banding together, sharing “opportunities” and needs. We work under one organization called “Serve the City” and it is made up of several area churches of various denominations. We work as ONE to help the community and bring the hope of Christ. There is unity as we love the community with our actions.

As I ponder Independence Day, and the sacrifice of our forefathers and patriots, it reminds me that they, too, put aside denominational differences to come together as ONE. I remember that when I visited Charleston, SC, it was interesting to tour the old churches and to see which of the many churches each founding father was a member of. It didn’t matter that they attended different Houses of Worship. In fact, it was one of the freedoms that the country was built upon- the freedom to worship in different ways. They came together as ONE body to fight for freedom.

As I ponder the importance of being an American, I realize that I, too, have a responsibility to my country and to my community….
a responsibility to be a part of something bigger than ME…
a responsibility to make a difference…..
to work together with my fellow Americans to make this the best country possible…
to work with my fellow citizens to make my community the best possible.

But, my greatest responsibility is the one I have to the Church of Jesus Christ...
to be the hands and feet of Jesus…to be “salt and light” to a dark world where “bad” things happen…to live in a spirit of unity with the Body of Believers.

Jesus told me to “love my neighbor as myself.” He said that the world would know the Church by our love for one another and for our neighbors. Jesus called us to love one another. He calls us to DO things for the “least of these.” The world yearns for us as Believers to step up and step out, with open hands of hope and healing, loving our communities and our country through acts of service and love. There is a great reminder for us in the book of James that I will leave with you to ponder...

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?
Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and
daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well
fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” –James

Father God, I praise You! Thank You for Your constant care, especially through the trials of life. Thank You that I was born in the USA and enjoy the freedoms that this wonderful country ensures. Lord, help me to be the light of Christ in a dark and needing world. Help my faith to take action and like the good Samaritan, to DO what You call me to do. Father, thank You for the opportunities You provide to spread hope and healing through the love of Christ. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Questions and thoughts for meditation:

1.This July 4th, take some time to ponder how you can help your country, city, community and church. How can you be the “hands and feet” of Jesus?

2. Ask God to show you the people He has put in your life to help. We may not all live in area where a natural disaster has hit, but we all have opportunities to help needy people. Make a point to help a neighbor in need- send a note to a friend, make a phone call to a sick relative, volunteer in your community….

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Blogger Denise said...

Such a very touching post sweetie.

July 4, 2008 at 2:47 AM  
Blogger lori said...

You KNOW I've been incredibly moved by this post...well said friend...and you truly spoke what I wish we could get the whole world to see...We are ONE body...

Have a great day...
You blessed me!!

July 4, 2008 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Amy B said...

I'm so glad that you and your family are safe, Tracy. I continue to pray for your entire community. We saw some similar things when Katrina plowed through here and that is when we got the revelation that yes, we are ONE body!

July 4, 2008 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger windycindy said...

Iowa has been in my prayers. God bless you all! Cindi

July 4, 2008 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger LauraLee Shaw said...

Beautiful expression, anointed words. AMEN!

July 4, 2008 at 5:35 PM  

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It is good to hear from you... thank you so very much for leaving a note on the table. That makes us smile!

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