It's the third consecutive day that we have been snowed in. I had thought that I would have time to read, reflect and get organized while my two children frolicked in the snow. Instead, my days have been filled with cooking meals, cleaning up and doing laundry after changing wet, dirty, snowy clothes into wearable garments. We have gone through almost 3 gallons of milk making hot chocolate.
The highlight of the first day was walking a mile from our home in Atlanta to sled down a long hill. There, we met up with friends and ran into acquaintances. The highlight of the second day was shoveling off our own driveway and that of our neighbors. After being cooped up, it was a welcome change to be out in the fresh air engaged in physical activity.
Stuck at home, we have seen a lot of our neighbors, and it has reminded me of the importance of community -- real community.
Community is important because it's through our relationship with others that we define who we are. Alone, we face no challenge, no need to communicate, relate or connect. It's the connecting with others, especially those who have different ideas and opinions, that is challenging and life-changing.
Last Friday, I had the privilege of speaking at a legislature prayer breakfast in Newton County. It was started a few years ago by judges serving in the area, and sponsored this year by the Kiwanis and Rotary service organizations. The audience of more than 150 people included more than 30 elected officials. It was moving to be involved in an event that focused on the importance of prayer, working together, and serving each other and our nation.
The event was not about partisanship or politics -- it was about joining together as a community to pray.
While talking to one of the judges before it began, I realized that I had to alter my planned message. The right message was to relay my personal experience, my understanding of the incredible power of prayer, as well as my original message of the importance of faith in the history of our nation.
I talked about my mother's diagnosis of cancer five years ago, her journey through chemotherapy, her stay in a nursing home, her move to assisted living and her return to independent living. She often references the power of prayer in describing her recovery.
The power of prayer cannot be overstated.
The day after the community prayer meeting, our nation was touched by a tragedy. The heartbreaking event this past Saturday defies understanding. In a free country that celebrates free speech, an unthinkable tragedy occurred.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords', D- Ariz., public meeting with constituents, a typical "meet and greet," ended with a shooting, the death of six people and the wounding of 14 others. Giffords, shot in the head, was initially reported dead by CNN and others, then alive. As I write this, she is in stable condition and facing an uncertain prognosis.
Giffords was doing her job, meeting with her constituents and listening to them.
Those killed were Gabriel Zimmerman, Dorwan Stoddard, Phyllis Schneck, Judge John Roll, Dorothy Morris and Christina Green.
Two days before the shooting, Giffords had participated in the reading of the U.S. Constitution on the floor of the House of Representatives. She read the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
This amendment is important to the foundation of our nation. Even those who do not agree with a particular point of view understand and appreciate the importance of people being free, and that these freedoms are inherent and cannot be taken away by Congress.
While some are attempting to assign blame of the tragedy, assigning blame cannot create change. But prayer can -- prayer for the victims, for their families, for the speedy recovery of the wounded and for all those touched by the tragedy.
As President Abraham Lincoln stated in his second inaugural address, "Let us judge not, that we be not judged."
Prayer changes both those who are prayed for and those who pray. A nation in prayer is a nation with unimaginable power.
Remember, and practice this week, the incredible power of prayer.