Who hasn't been touched by the images of Katrina's aftermath? Communities that had flowerpots on the front stoops and barbecues out back now show pictures of devastation.
The magnitude of the work needed to clean up and restore order can bring on a second, silent flood of discouragement both to those in the midst of it and those at a distance.
The Psalms give voice to those moments of despair, but then sing a journey up and out and onto the solid ground of comfort in God's presence. And each of us is invited to come along.
We may not recognize that invitation initially, but it's there. Quietly, persistently, it will make itself known in a way that can't be ignored.
My invitation was delivered years ago by a smooth-coated collie we had adopted. She was a sweet but timid dog and slightly aloof. One thing was certain, she hated any loud noise whatsoever. Even the swatting of a mosquito would send her slinking into the far part of the house for a silent den of safety.
So what was she doing down there on the first floor of our house with me and the deafening roar of the wet-vac? The spring rainfall that year had exceeded all previous records, and I was desperately trying to keep ahead of water pouring in through the floor and walls.
This had been our dream-come-true house - a perfect home for our young family. Our boxes of precious memories and photos hadn't even been unpacked when the waters seeped through the cardboard and began destroying everything in them.
So there I stood, vacuuming into the wee hours of the morning. Tears welled up as the water inched its way toward our 8-year-old daughter's bedroom. I had been praying for the situation to change, but the flooding only came in faster.
"Where are You, God?" I shouted within myself.
Instead of any cosmic answer, I felt our collie right behind me, pressing up against my leg.
As I knew how much she loathed noise like this, I patted her appreciatively and encouraged her to go back up to the second floor where it was quiet. I even turned the wet-vac off long enough to try to coax her toward the stairs. But she wouldn't budge. So I turned it back on, thinking that would drive her away. Instead, she simply lay down next to me, the cold water flowing over her paws and halfway up her chest. She kept her dark eyes focused intently on me.
I kept wondering what she was doing there when a soft, gentle thought penetrated the din around me. "She's a collie. A shepherd dog. She's here to let you know you're being shepherded through this."
On the heels of that angelic message came the words of the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Heart in my throat, I stopped working long enough to savor those familiar lines. Here was an affirmation of God's presence with me through the whole journey from chaos to cleanup, meeting my needs for strength, hope, and confidence that the work could be done.
I hadn't been left to cope with this on my own. My Shepherd was ever-present, all-encompassing divine Love. And nothing is too great for Love to surmount. This really was the perfect home, because it had challenged me to find God's presence, no matter what was going on around me.
When I looked down, our collie had vanished. She never found her way back downstairs when subsequent wet springs brought a fresh influx of water (and more cleanup) until we had the resources to improve the drainage around the house. She didn't need to. I had learned that each of us can find divine Love right with us every step toward a more enduring harmony and a home for the heart that can never be washed away.