The New Houston Strong: Don’t Read Unless You Want Your Faith to Grow Crazy Strong

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he woman we’re standing with, she is kinda a modern-day Job in a floral kimono.

Even if she looks like any woman you might see in a Texas H-E-B grocery store or in a Sunday morning pew on a steamy Houston morning, worn Bible on her lap.

She’s wearing two bracelets on her left wrist. One read: IF …. as in: IF GOD IS REAL — THEN HOW WILL I LIVE?

The other one read: I AM LOVED.

Laura nods my way, those two bracelets glinting in the Texas sun — and then turns to the moulding and muddied heaps of her earthly existence, water-stained furniture, swollen drywall, stacks of soggy photos and books and papers, piled outside her flooded Houston home, and the woman speaks a steadying faith that needs to make headlines, because it rents the heart wide open: “

Laura’s house has flooded —  twice. Laura and her family have lost nearly every single one of her household contents — twice.

Don’t ever doubt: There are giants of the faith that look like victims in the eyes of the world, but are victors in the eyes of heaven. Giants of the faith are simply the ones who commit to giving every small thing to God.

I memorize her faith.

“Honestly, you have to understand about the first time everything flooded,” Laura walks us through the crumbling piles of rotting rugs and ruined kitchen appliances and flood-wrecked chairs.

“It was 16 months ago; it was tax day 2016. Our daughter was up at 3am reading Huckleberry Finn and she came into my room and said, “Mom and Dad, get out of bed. The house is flooding!

“It had started raining at 8:30 that night. And by 3 am, we had water up past our ankles. We waded through the house grabbing things. One of the things that God prompted me to grab was my IF journals. And in the midst of everything, I had laid my IF journal on my dressing bench at the edge of my bed — and I forgot to go put it back in my bag.”

“As we drove out of here between 3:15 and 3:30 am, we could barely get out of the driveway. The cars were sputtering because the water was so deep – it was halfway up my shins. That was the first time.”

“When we came back, I went into my bedroom. There was the bench on the other side of the room — the bench had floated to the other side of the room. And my IF journals were still sitting right there on top of the dressing room bench. God wanted me to know: He had saved my journals.

The rising flood water about washes away cars, but God saves the evidence of what’s moved one woman closer to Him.

Laura stands admist the destruction of her home, literally piled around her, and I ask her to be honest: “Did you ever say to the Lord, ‘You already had this happen once, you can’t dare to have this happen again.’?”

Laura looks me right in the eye. “This is God’s story. And I’m okay with that.”

I don’t look away but ask her straight up: “Do you feel that this is a story that God should be ashamed of?

“No,” Laura’s eyes are gentle. Brave. “Because He is so faithful. I cannot tell you the way I see – I’m not looking at this destruction. I know He has a purpose in this, and I’m looking at the waters that washed through my house, not from an earthly perspective, but in a spiritual aspect.”

She points to her flooded and gutted kitchen:

“Look — even if, you take one of the worst things — you can allow it to help you know Him more, or you can do the opposite and be bitter and be angry.”

I nod.

You always have options.

Either the the hard things help you turn more toward more Him — or the hard things make you grow more bitter toward Him.

You can choose to be bitter. Or you can choose to be Beloved.

You can choose to grow angry. Or you can choose to grow more in love. Wilderness can be where God woos you and floods can be where you sink into the expanse of His love.

This real faith of living given in the midst of Job-like loss, this is a story for our time, a story for our church, a story for all of our North American faith.

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I have to know: “What did you do beforehand to cultivate a deep enough faith so that when you hit crisis — this is where you are?” I look into her lit face.

It’s her husband that answers immediately for his Job-strong wife:

5 a.m. Bible open in her lap.

Laura nods. “The Truth is so much stronger than the grief anyway. The Truth has the power to heal it all. I think the thing is? Once you recognize how rewarding it is to spend time in the Word, I would rather do that than anything else ever. My dream vacation is to go to a nice hotel and sit with my open Bible, my open journal.”

We are standing in all the rubble of their material lives.

And I nod — let faith like this be seen and heard far beyond Samaria, Jerusalem, Houston, Texas.

Laura hands me her journal and I run my hands across the scrawled pages and there it, clear as ink and this gospel incarnated in one 5-foot feminine powerhouse of prayer:

Veneer faith’s a mile wide with touted, trite words but only an inch deep with time in the True WORD.

Victorious faith is only an inch wide with public commotion, but a mile deep with private communion.

Come face any crisis, catastrophe, crossroads and there is your lifeline: You will handle your world only as well as you handle the Word.

And you will publicly navigate through the world only as well as you privately saturate in the Word.

Laura shows me how she wrote this verse in her journal — she reads it slowly, surrounded by heaps of her ruined house: “For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is in you…

For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but give us power, love, and self-disciple.

So don’t be ashamed about the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His flood VICTOR”

Laura looks up at me: “First I wrote victim, then I thought that didn’t seem right —”

I can see where she crossed out victim and wrote VICTOR.

Laura reads the next line: “Rather, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”

Laura keeps smiling into my face and there’s no denying it: Put on Christ and you move from being a victim to a victor.

“Even if our house floods twice — and we lose everything twice? I know God’s for us.” Laura nods. “His people just keep showing up.” And the woman knows what she’s about and I can’t stop nodding and I have no shame in blinking it back:

When God’s people show up, people see that God shows up.

“Laura?” I question her slowly. “I’m just thinking about all us who are hanging on. What would you say to us who haven’t lost everything? What do you say to us who are sitting in our homes in comfort?”

Laura reaches for my hand: “Be the hands and feet of Jesus.” I squeeze her hand back.

When we are the hands and feet of Jesus — the body of Christ doesn’t grow heartsick.

When we are the hands and feet of Jesus — the suffering see the face of God and don’t lose faith.

When we are the hands and feet of Jesus — the world doesn’t lose heart.

The church cannot ever have compassion fatigue — or hope tires and faith dies and the dark wins.

Enter in and co-suffer with Christ in the sufferings of the world, and you will rise with Christ, defeating the suffering not only in the world, but in your own broken heart.

Embrace the suffering and you find yourself held.

We all will find ourselves held.

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Laura takes me by the hand, leads us through the water devoured home. She shows us how high the water rose. I run my hand across a two by four that has it inked unexpectedly right into the wood, as if the walls if this house laughed unafraid, even if the waters kept rising:

“Psalm 62:7”

On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

In the bathroom, I bend over and pick a bit of the shattered granite that was once a countertop.

My mighty rock, my refuge is God.

What is your most pressing need right now?” I ask Laura, but looking around, I don’t even know where to begin?

“I don’t think I have a pressing need,” Laura smiles.

The woman’s house and everything she owns is water swollen — and her praise to Him swells greater.

“I have wants. I would like to be in a house that I can live in. I want to be settled so that I can do ministry. Teaching little children. Leading Bible studies. Praying over others who have lost everything in the flood. That is my favorite calling — to pray over people. With our house and everything we owned — lost? It’s hard to do everything that I’m committed to ministering and doing and giving.”

The day after Laura’s entire house flooded with more than 5 feet of water? Sunday morning? Laura was in church — praying for the grieving, serving the hurting, teaching the children, giving, giving, giving.

I struggle to smile, to choke it out, “You live as the gift — even in the midst of this. You are living — entirely cruciform, entirely broken and given right now. Why — even now? When you have so much need — why are you choosing to be the gift?”

Because that’s where I find joy. Count it all joy.” Laura is still smiling with the greatest ease, warmth.

“When your whole world is upside down — that’s often used as reason to not live given? How would you feel right now — if you didn’t live given?” I search her eyes.

Overwhelmed and stressed and unhappy.” Laura doesn’t miss a beat.

Bitter.” Her husband chimes in.

When we show up for others, joy shows up in us. God shows up in us —- and we are the ones fulfilled.

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Laura fumbles for her phone, to show us a picture from that first 2016 flood.

“I had these two cardboard letters, “IF” — as decor for a table.” To ask in all things: IF God is real — then how will I live today, choose today, believe today —- live given today?

She finds the photo:

“And there they were after the flood — after everything had floated around the house.

They were laying on the mud on the floor, just like this – ‘I’ ‘F’.

She hands me the phone and I stare at the photo, the evidence.

There are places in this world that cannot stop speaking the Truth, because even the remnants of the flood cry out:

Even if God doesn’t give what we want — we want to love Him forever.

Even if God doesn’t do what we long for— we long to stand with Him regardless.

Even if God doesn’t do what we think best — we know He’s working all things for good and for our best.

Even if God doesn’t prove to be a puppet on our strings — we will prove that our hearts are tied to Him and we will praise Him, no strings attached.

Even if God doesn’t answer what we ask — we answer that we will not question His goodness, His closeness, His kindness and His rightness.

Even if the world says we’ve been abandoned by God — we will abandon ourselves to God.

Even if the waters rise and time runs out and the bottom falls out of everything, we will rise, and we will run and we will fall down at the feet of our God and say: You are mine and I am yours and hell will freeze over before my heart’s flame for you burns out.

Even if.

Even if we don’t have much — we can make much of Christ by giving some of what He has given us, so we have more of Him.

That granite corner of Job-Laura’s cracked and destroyed bathroom from the Houston floods, it was carried home the thousand and five hundred miles from Houston and it sits on here my desk, because there is a rock for a life to stand on, to stake your life on, and it’s worth sitting with the ebenezer of it every single day:

When you live given — to God and people — you get a life infinitely more than you dreamed —- even if everything else gives way.

all photographs by soul sister, Esther Havens, & flood photos by Flood VICTOR, Laura

 

 

This Giving Tuesday — will you live given and #BeTheGIFT and will you help Laura & other flooded families in Houston by giving to the relief efforts of Bayou City Fellowship Church on the ground in Houston. 100% of donations will go to helping FLOOD VICTORS in Houston

Each FLOOD VICTOR family that’s helped by Bayou City Fellowship (a faith community where I have worshipped and been deeply & profoundly ministered to by Pastor Curtis Jones and his wife Amanda, and her Jesus-loving Mama, Beth Moore) is assigned a team who will pray for the FLOOD VICTOR family, evaluate their needs, walk alongside in the rebuilding process, and support them through it all — and Jesus gets all the glory.

Can you #BeTheGIFT and give $5 this Giving Tuesday to Houston’s FLOOD VICTORS because when God’s people show up, the world sees how GOD SHOWS UP! 

Even if we don’t have much — we can make much of Christ by giving some of what He has given us, so we have more of Him.

When we show up for others, joy shows up in us. God shows up in us —- and we are the ones fulfilled.

LET’S BUILD NEW ROOFS & A CITY OF HOPE FOR LAURA & THE FLOOD VICTORS! EVEN IF every single one of us ALL GET to CHIP IN EVEN $5 & SHARE  the JOY of  GETTING to live GIVEN TO Flood VICTORS like Laura & Us all Together is the NEW HOUSTON-JESUS-STRONG. 

Love lives given. #BeTheGIFT. Give HERE

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