Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Big Storm of '08

Storms seem to take on epic proportions in people's memories. The last few days of cold and snow flurries in Enumclaw will long be remembered as the storm of 2008. After all, Sunday we woke to a blanket of 2" of the white stuff - more where it had blown into drifts. Today, they are predicting additional snow although it looks like we could scrape by with just a trace. You would have thought that it was several feet deep with temps in the low teens or lower. School is closed today and we are in a quandry as to whether things at church should be cancelled.

Growing up in Colorado, and having lived in Chicago for 5 years, I know snow storms, and this is no snow storm...that is until it is recounted and retold over the next several years. "I remember the snow storm of 08. There must have been at least 3 feet of snow on the ground and sub-zero temps. The worst storm we've had in ages." In a few years it will have reached epic proportions.

Of course, my wife accuses me of looking forward to snow and ice on the roads just so I can go out and drive on it. She's right. Once, when we lived in southern New Mexico, we had a rare snow storm that dumped 14" of wet heavy snow. All the roads - including I-25 & I-10 were closed down. Did that stop the Davis family? Ha! Not a chance. We all piled in the family 4 wheel drive (an Isuzu Trooper) and headed to El Paso to do some Christmas Shopping. Closed highway - no problem. And we had the mall virtually to ourselves.

It reminds me of the storm of 1971. "the worst blizzard in years" according to some Denverites. Actually, I think it was just my mom who said that and she tended to exaggerate storms anyway. It was January 2 and Judy and I were due back at Wheaton College after the Christmas break and a friend had offered his car if we would drive back with his wife and two kids aged 6 and 9. We said sure. It was a cool car and these were close friends. Why not? What could go wrong?

When we woke up on Saturday morning, the day of our planned departure, there was about 8" of snow and it was still coming down hard. I convinced Judy's and my folks that I was a good snow driver and that, since we were driving East, we should get ahead of the storm and be able to outrun it all the way to Chicago. Yeah, right!

We spun out on black ice near Kearney Nebraska. We got stranded outside Lincoln along with thousands of others. It was snowing so hard that at one point I was walking in front of the car trying to feel for the side of the rode so I could direct Judy who was behind the wheel. They said the wind was blowing in gusts of up to 50 mph and the wind chill factor was well under zero. There were drifts of at least 5' if not more.

Some really nice people about a quarter mile from the highway took us in - half frozen, hungry, discouraged - then began leading others to safety and shelter. By the time evening had rolled around, over 80 of us were huddled in two adjacent homes. What an experience. Next day, the roads were all closed - but guess what? That's right, we forged on and 15 hours of drift-dodging, lane-changing, slow driving, we made it back just in time to shower and head off to our first classes of the morning. Ah yes, the storm of 71. Worst storm ever!

But I digress. Sorry about that trip down memory lane. As I was thinking about how inconvenient snow, icy roads, school closures, and all are I received a letter from one of the missionaries we support in Southern Africa. It told the horrible tale of cholera, AIDS, rampant violence and incredible inflation in Zimbabwe. Sometimes, I don't realize how good I have it.

Then when I got to my office, I read a prayer/support letter from a friend in Casas Por Cristo - an organization that builds houses in Juarez, Mexico. He spoke of how increasing drug wars, escalating violence, and the crumbling American economy had deeply curtailed their mission of building houses with and for God's people in need along our southern borders.

Both these situations - Zimbabwe and Mexico - were set in perspective of God's sovereign grace as our missionary friends have had to trust solely on Christ's reigning power to meet needs protect them and accomplish God's purposes in spite of dire circumstances.

I guess a little snow on the ground and some cold weather isn't so bad. Maybe God is going to work in my life today in some unexpected, gracious way. In the meantime, I guess I will stoke up the fire in the fireplace, pour myself another cup of coffee, and enjoy the beauty and peace of falling snow....and oh, yes, spend some time praying for my brothers and sisters around the world whose lives really are difficult. I guess the storm of "08 isn't so bad after all!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Crowded airline seats, luke warm coffee, and a big surprise

What's the deal with airline seats? Could they possibly cram more seats in and make them more uncomfortable? How much leg and elbow room does a full grown person really need for four hours anyway? Sounds like the opening of a bad stand-up comedy routine doesn't it?

Why is it always the case that the three largest people on the plane always seem to get shoehorned into the same crowded row?

I thought I was so smart reserving a seat just behind the bulkhead but when I went to sit down between my two traveling companions, movement of any kind became almost impossible. Just to drag my computer out from beneath my seat took a contortion effort worthy of a limber, circus performer. The worst thing about my assigned seat, though, is not its cramped conditions. It is sitting here having to watch the first class passengers - just one row forward and just beyond the "wall" - luxuriate in spacious, comfortable seats, waited on hand and foot and enjoying what looks to be a pretty good breakfast of scrambled eggs, fruit, bacon and a pastry. I got a small banana nut “breakfast cookie” whatever that is.

I just finished my third cup of luke-warm coffee, having watched the attendant pour it while shakily holding the pot right over my knees. At least, if he had spilled it, it wouldn’t have been hot enough to cause more than minor discomfort. Now I am just hoping I can make it another 45 minutes and to the relative safety of O’Hare airport.

Why, you ask, am I enduring such nihilistic torture? The answer is simple. My 8 year old grandson Davis is in a program at his school and he so much as begged me to come see it. Im-pulsively, yet with Judy’s blessing, I used some accumulated air miles to buy the ticket, take the time off during a crazy, busy season, and head for the frozen climes of Chicagoland to watch a second grader perform. I can hardly wait.

Most everyone I have talked to agrees that this is a cool thing to do. Only one naysayer suggested that if I do this, I will set a precedent that I will not be able to accommodate every time he might ask. Who cares? It is worth it this one time and maybe - no, for sure - I’ll do it even more often. Life is too short.

So I guess I’ll ask for one more cup, hope it doesn’t spill on me or my seatmates, and patiently – if uncomfortably count the minutes till arrival. I wonder if Davis will be surprised.

On another note, the idea came up, more or less at the last minute, to plan a “Blue Christmas” service at Calvary. I think the leaders of our Stephen Ministry actually suggested it. That is not really what we’ll call it but it does depict what many people feel as the Christmas celebration approaches. For those who have lost a mate or a child or a parent, Christmas is different and not always a happy time. For those facing debilitating and chronic illness, the thought of merriment and joy sounds completely foreign. For people who are facing foreclosure, job losses, economic hardship or other difficult trials the joy and bright merriment that is all around them is hard to accept let alone participate in. Some people are just affected in a sad way by the short dark days and even longer nights of winter. Thus, a service just for them to put words to their feelings and to give voice to the hope that Christ’s advent promises and to feel the support and community of others who may feel much the same way. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” May it be so for those walking in darkness right now.

Post Script: I am finishing this post at 5:00 am CST Thursday morning. It is about 15 degrees outside. Today is the day of the big Christmas/Hannakuh/Kwanzaa (no - there isn't a Festivus for the rest of us a la Frank Costanza on Seinfeld) Davis was so surprised he didn’t even recognize me at first; then big smiles and hugs and a celebratory dinner at his favorite place – The Rainforest CafĂ©; and finally a late night viewing of “The Three Amigos” – Boppa’s and Davis’ favorite funny movie. (We will not die like dogs, we will fight like lions for we…are… THE THREE AMIGOS)

Three days parking at MVP parking in Seattle - $30.00; Dinner at the Rainforest Cafe - $60.00; sitting with my grandson cuddled up watching our "favorite movie" - priceless.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coming or going?

Advent - It has come quickly this year. There are only 22 shopping days 'til Christmas (fewer than that if you shop on line and expect something to be delivered by Christmas day). But is that what Advent is really about?
I don't think so. It is about expectantly waiting for the celebration of Christ's birth for sure. It is about looking and hoping for the coming in glory of Jesus to claim and establish his eternal kingdom. It is about listening to and for God's voice in the midst of all the bustle and crazy, hectic schedules of this time of year.
At times I wonder if I am coming or going? Who's coming to the party I've planned? I've got to go this meeting and that party, and, oh yes, the concert tomorrow night. Christmas is coming so I have to get going. I of course am going to church, I wonder if anyone else will be coming. Coming and going. Going and coming. Judy and I are so busy we hardly have a chance to talk to each other.
I read a book this week called "The Circle of Seasons." The author Kimberlee Conway Ireton reflects that Advent is much like the experience of a pregnant woman awaiting the day her child will be delivered. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation - or at least it should be.
Waiting is not a passive thing - it is dynamic hope; it is staking our life on the hope of the Gospel.
It is preparing to hear God's voice in the familiar Christmas story. It is eagerly expecting the arrival of Christ in glory. I remember one person telling me that the Biblical concept of hope is much like hanging onto a safety rope for dear life as you dangle over the edge of a precipice. Am I hanging onto the Lord like that? Am I eagerly waiting for Christ to come anew?
And yet we, I guess I should say I, clutter it up with all our comng and going; so much so that it is easy to lose the true meaning of the season which is all about Jesus.
Hey, the lights are great (after all, I spent a lot of time organizing and decorating our boat). I love the music. And who can say no to all the incredible food laid out before us at party after party after party? All those things make this season wonderful too. But they can also add stress and anxiety if we're not careful and we let them take precedence.
The four main, traditional themes of the Advent season are hope (first week) peace (second week) joy (third week) and love (fourth week). This year I have been trying to slow down enough to really focus on those ideas and see how Christ wants me to live them out.
The angels said to the shepherds (and it is a good word to us as well) "Don't be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. Unto you is born this day in the city a David, a savior, who is Christ the Lord."
Well, I better get going. I have someone coming to my office soon for an appointment.