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Bless all people of the Flood, those helping and those who need help, those wet and those dry, because we are all affected in some way and we all care.

 Four Faulty Aphorisms, often heard in a time of crisis: 

 What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

No. Suffering does not necessarily make people stronger. One, two, or three body blows have an accumulative effect on our bodies and psyches as well. Each one of us has a breaking point. Inching towards a breaking point does not suggest strength.

 God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.

No. This statement is faulty at several levels. Does God dish out stuff to afflict people?  If so, is such a god worthy of respect, praise, or worship? That god is not, in my opinion, worthy of belief. If The Flood of 2016 teaches anything, it is that rain falls on the just and the unjust, the poor and the not-so-poor.  And we, who trustingly believe in, for the most part, flood maps and governmental planning bodies, are all vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life.  Someone from Ponchatoula won the $1.1 million dollar lottery during the great storm last month.  Talk about a vicissitude! Can you and I name persons for whom ill fortune seems to have fallen incessantly? Of course, we can. Stuff happens —floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and illnesses -  as a consequence of events well beyond our control.  To suggest God dishes it out, sullies God’s reputation and deprives us as free agents in the same breath.  A good theology needs to tell the truth about the way life is, —sometimes absurd, sometimes deliriously delightful— while pointing to the nature of our finite existence.

 We must not live by bread alone.

OK, but let's not live by that verse alone, because we must not live by spirit alone. We are material beings, after all. We are not ether. We are material. The loss of food, shelter, photos, stuffed animals, an old car we coddled to keep running and other keepsakes are connections to a lived life, no less real than the connections to people in our lives. When folk say to themselves or to others, “It’s only stuff,” think again. The material is what we are. We are not made of ether. We are not mere spirits.    

 What happens to us is up to us.

No, not exactlyEach individual has freedom but that freedom is limited, or as theologians would say, we are contingent beings. Can you name a thing that is not interrelated, connected, contingent upon something else? Each thing has some degree of freedom. Everything is interconnected. Quantum physicists, do you agree? William Ernest Henley wrote, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."  If only that were completely so. Perhaps Henley's experience was his realization of personal freedom.  But we do not have freedom in an absolute or infinite sense. When something bad happens, we may ask, "Why did this happen?"  But as Rabbi Harold Kushner in When Bad Things Happen to Good People says, this question does not move us forward. Instead, he suggests a better question, "Now that this has happened, what am I going to do about it?" It is up to us to ask that question and to the best of our ability, often with help and encouragement from others, answer the better question with a plan, "Now that this has happened, what are we going to do about it?"