I have lived in Orlando since 1956. A purist would argue that I’m not a native, but my roots run deep through the sandy soil of Central Florida.
I spent summer afternoons swimming in Lake Fairview to escape the heat of a house without air conditioning, eating grilled hot dogs at a concrete picnic table while swatting away flies.
I vividly remember the Wigwam Village Motel that once stood on the Orange Blossom Trail with its teepee shaped cottages. In those days, the roadway’s name suggested adventure and opportunity to discover new frontiers.
Charming. That is how I would describe the city where I grew from a toddler. The City Beautiful. My home town. I love this place.
Thanks to a certain mouse, my hometown has grown beyond anything I could have imagined, from just over 52,000 residents in 1956 to more than 2,000,000 today. It’s diverse; it’s teeming with professional sports teams and cultural venues. It’s not the sleepy little town of my childhood.
To the world, it’s the gateway to Disney theme parks; to people like me, it’s home. It’s the place I learned the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship.
Today my city and her surrounding communities are in mourning. Home became a target, and the unthinkable happened in our back yard.
Much like a family, we need to rally around one another, setting our differences aside. This is not the time to argue with an uncle about politics or religion or anything else, for that matter.
I have another citizenship that was impacted by the events of this past weekend. I’m a Christian.
For Christ followers, this is a sacred moment, a call to be the Church. We stand on holy ground.
The weight of it is too much and so I pray that we will get this right:
Our hearts are heavy, God. We cry for those who have received word of loved ones gone; we ache for those who wait still.
Remind us that you catch every tear and make note of every sorrow.
You linger with those who mourn.
Teach us to linger in the uncomfortable places.
Fill our hearts with your compassion;
give us wisdom and grace far beyond our human capacity.
We ask you, the great physician, to heal the wounded.
Show us how to lift up the arms of those who are doing the work we cannot.
Here in the home of the happiest place on earth, hundreds have no joy.
Restore in us the joy of your salvation; make us vessels of your joy
so that we may pour into the lives of the hurting.
As a community of believers,
make our feet be beautiful,
carrying your perfect love to hurting people.
Take us to the places you would go;
give us the words that you would speak
and one more thing, Lord…
You gave a donkey a voice to get the attention of Balaam; and when he finally understood your mission he said “Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that shall I speak.”
Let us speak only the words that you put in our mouths.
Lift up our faces that we may behold your beauty in the midst of ashes,