One of the perks of living next door to a church is easy access to candelabra. This may not seem like a big deal unless you're setting up a haunted house in your cellar or doing your best Liberace impression, but it comes in handy when the power goes out.
Here on Boston's South Shore, we were spared the worst of this week's "Frankenstorm," but at the St. John's rectory we did lose power twice for a few hours.
Having gone without power for a week following a hurricane when we lived in New York with two toddlers, the flickering lights still make me twitch.
This time, thanks to a plethora of candle stubs and said candelabra, we were all lit up at the rectory.
And by "lit up" I'm not referring to any pre-Sandy run to the liquor store but having the whole family awash in candlelight.
For me, one of the enduring images of Scripture is Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). Sure, it would have been nice to have had Jesus doing the same down in New Jersey and other places on Monday; to cry out "Be still!" and have the wind and rain obey. While I don't doubt that he could, the danger here is reducing Jesus to little more than a glorified Mother Nature.
I've always thought this episode speaks more to Jesus' ability to calm the storms that rage within our souls and the way he brings peace into our hearts amid uncertainty and fear. It's not that faith prevents storms from swirling around us -- they are part of the human condition -- but rather it guarantees God's presence with us right in the midst of them. Just as Jesus was in the boat with the disciples during the storm, he is with us in our own metaphorical boats providing comfort and offering hope. Sometimes we only see this in retrospect but that neither diminishes the reality nor lessens the impact.
I admit it was nice having a few hours without the TV or Xbox. Once the kids get past the inconceivable reality that the "on" buttons really don't work without electricity, we can settle into a "Little House on the Prairie" routine. Thankfully only for a short period — there's only so much any of us can take. But being taken out of our routines offers a good dose of perspective on what really matters and forces us to be grateful for the many blessings that surround us. Even if that didn't include a second day off from school (sorry, boys).
One modern phenomenon that brings the world closer during trying times is the advent of social media. Say what you will about the "antisocial" behavior of staring at small screens, but the interconnectedness through forums such as Facebook and Twitter allow us to stay in touch with friends and loved ones in harm's way.
It is this same interconnectedness that binds us together in prayer and so my prayers go out to families and individuals affected by this storm. At last report 30-some people died in the United States alone, and nearly a hundred others in countries to our south. We pray for those who mourn, we give thanks to the first responders who put their own safety at risk, and we ask for God's mercy as communities and lives are rebuilt.
If you are seeking a way to make an immediate difference in the lives of those most affected, please consider a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development Hurricane Relief Fund. Log onto their website at www.er-d.org or call them at 855-312-HEAL.
The Rev. Tim Schenck is Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Mass. Visit him on the Web at www.frtim.com, where you can access his blog Clergy Family Confidential.