Sunday, August 28, 2011

Facing Irene #6, Final Report

Boy, is it hot. Been outside, picking up debris, hot and sweaty. Yuck. Blue sky, gentle breeze, river is calm, not even any chop. Water level has gone back down to near normal levels.

Went to bed last night around 10:30. Still had power, wind was a steady, maybe 25 kts out of the north, raining lightly, worst is over.

Well, maybe not. Power went off at midnight. It woke me up; the wind was howling, perhaps the strongest we've had. No idea of speed, but it was making a weird, loud noise.

Big deal, just another hurricane, made sure mom had her flashlight, and went back to bed. I mean, what can you do, right? No power, dark as a coal mine, and it's very nasty outside. Bed is the best place to be. No brainer.

The morning light revealed virtually no real damage, just the normal litter after a heavy storm.

This was the source of our power problem. The Northern Neck Power Cooperative had a truck here this morning, and by 10AM we had juice.

Raymond and I got to work quickly on the lawn litter. Raymond is a local handyman extraordinaire; practically everyone on the Northern Neck wants to hire him. Before long, Broad Reach was looking pretty ship-shape once again.

Oh! Almost forgot the dock. It had a little visible damage, and probably some damage not apparent. I think the deck needs to be re-anchored to the pilings, but other than that, it seemed to escape with most of its timbers intact.

And floating peacefully at anchor, right where it is supposed to be, is the barge I had feared might wind up on our beach.

My brother, Louie, in Norfolk is likewise ok, and has but little damage. The waters in his neighborhood exceeded the mark set by Isabelle. They came within one inch of doing some real damage, but no closer.

My nephew and his wife, Jake and Atoosa, who live within a frog's croak of the Dismal Swamp, likewise escaped significant damage, and as a plus, Jake believes that the deluge of rain (we got about 11 inches, according to the rain gauge) may have finally put out the Dismal Swamp fire that has been burning within a mile of their home.

Another nephew and his wife, Adam and Melissa, live farther up the Chesapeake Bay. They spent the night sleeping in an interior hallway that leads to the basement; apparently it was pretty wild and wooly, but they, too, escaped damage.

For me, it was completely unplanned but entirely appropriate that this little Irene series followed my post on gratitude. The Lord is good, even in the midst of disaster, even when everything turns belly-up. His plans for His elect are always good, even if we can't always understand or perceive the goodness. That's where faith in a real and living God, a real Person, governs our understanding.

But I am thankful He spared my loved ones.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.  Psalm 91:1-6 (NASB)
Reporting from Broad Reach, on a bright, sunny, Sunday afternoon.

Facing Irene, #5

[Internet connection was lost, yesterday, so this is posted one day late]

This entry is being done without Internet connection, so will be posted after the fact. We lost Internet connectivity, I think around 11 AM. Power went off, but resumed after three minutes or so. The lights have been flickering all day. Emptied the rain gauge at 3PM, 5.25 inches. It is now 6:10 PM and it shows 2.75 inches, for a total of 8.0.

Boy, was I wrong (in post #4) about the worst being over. Not long after we lost connectivity, the winds began howling through here, and the rain came down in buckets. Even though high tide was at about 11AM, the water has continued to rise.

The dock has sustained some damage that I could see before it was completely inundated, as it is now.

Water is spilling onto the roadway. This, by the way, is the road that I mentioned in an earlier post that simply ends in Whitehouse Creek.

The water has completely covered the beach, and is lapping the boardwalk itself. No sign of the beach!

As of six PM, we are still (supposedly) awaiting the worst, which should occur around nine. Overall, so far, we’ve not sustained any significant damage. The wind direction, coming out of the NE, means that Broad Reach has been sheltered from the worst of it.

I hope to post this tomorrow sometime.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Facing Irene #4

Well, that was dumb. Just went outside in a rainsuit, but was wearing my sneakers instead of wading shoes. They'll be wet for a while.

Had to explain to Rosie, about an hour ago, why she could not go outside to play.

Then realized that she's probably not going to, ah, do her duty unless someone goes outside with her. She has no interest in going out into the mini-maelstrom by herself. So, I suited up, as mentioned, and went out with her.

The tide should now be ebbing, so it looks like the dock survived assault #1.

The water is pretty high, and coming onto the road, but this might be the worst of it for Bertrand.

Funny who you run into in the middle of a hurricane. County building inspector, Steve Daum, drove up, and I introduced myself. We started talking about my dad, and he mentioned that he and dad put their heads together and figured that his dad taught my dad to fly in Pensacola, during the war.

Faithful mop-dog followed me to the dock. Not sure if she attended to her, ah, business, but sure hope so. Mighty wet out here, and I'd kinda like to keep the wet, um, out here, if you get my drift.

Okay now for the vital statistics: winds out of the NE at 30kts, gusting to 36. I expect some of the gusts are actually stronger. Constant rain. No electrical storm activity that I can detect so far. Lights still flickering significantly. A few limbs down so far, but nothing notable. Lighting is sort of a perma-twilight. Interesting. Northern Neck may have missed the worst of this: we'll see.

Facing Irene #3

10 AM Update.

Winds are now easily 30kts, with higher gusts. Thankfully they are coming from the ENE, which means that they are not coming, unblocked, straight up from the Chesapeake. Rain is coming in squalls, which means visibility goes from several miles (over the water), to an impenatrable wall of mist, visibility down to a few hundred yards.

I made the mistake of letting Rosy, mom's dog, out for a bit. Rosy is very affectionate, very excited, and, well, very all-over-you. Nothing like having a wet, handle-less mop throwing herself at you. Got a towel and dried her off.

Tom the waterman is out laying anchors for his work-barge. I don't think he trusts the dock. Small wonder, since the dock was obliterated by Isabelle. As you can see, the water is already almost up to the deck of the dock. Not quite yet high tide (approx 11 AM). This is Whitehouse Creek.

Out on the Corrotoman, white caps cover the water. It's beautiful, but I would not want to be in it.

Here at Broad Reach, I have a ring-side seat. Lights are flickering already, but the power is still on. Right now, we have it pretty easy. More to come.

Facing Irene, #2

At 8:40, its windy, guessing 20-25 kts out of NE, raining (not heavily), wind is carrying lots of mist, whitecaps on the water, but not solid. Visibility across the river, probably 500 yards.

Time for breakfast, more in a few minutes. . .

Facing Irene #1

Hurricane Irene is barreling up the coast, threatening my mom, my brother, two of my nephews and their families, my niece. Okay, lets just say that Irene is a family affair. We’re all praying she won’t be a home wrecker.

Doris and I rode out Hurricane Isabelle (September, 2003) with mom and dad, and the destruction was significant, so I decided to come to Broad Reach to help her through Irene’s visit. Thank you BFC Board for allowing me to go on short notice; thank you, Pastor Robb, for preaching and handling Sunday School on such short notice.

I’ll be posting frequent updates to my blog (until we lose power) with the latest news from Broad Reach.

Let’s start with the drive. Twelve looong hours. It started clear.

As I headed east, it was clouding up

It was a long drive, but it wound up being a radio feast. Today I listened to:
  • Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (awesome stuff!)
  • strait-laced Christian music
  • Beethoven’s Eight Symphony
  • A bunch of country and western music
  • An Adrian Rogers sermon
  • a bunch of country and western Christian music
  • And the absolute best bluegrass pickin, grinnin, and fiddlin you ever wrapped your ears around. Found this great station around Richmond. I’ve got to find out who was playing that banjo – unbelieveable. Take me home, country road!
As I got into Virginia, I began passing bucket trucks, usually in pairs. Looked like someone was pre-positioning repair stuff for the electric grid.

Relax - what you're seeing here is not a bad case of tailgating; he's towing that red car. Guess that sometimes linemen need to drive somewhere without taking the bucket truck with 'em.

Finally got to the Northern Neck. By this time I was listening to that incredible Richmond station, and deciding that I absolutely had to find out the name of that album they were playing. Good thing no one was in the car with me, as I was yee-hawing through the Virginia country side.

This is deer country, by the way. Listen, we don't have a deer population in Darke County. Here on the Northern Neck they are as thick as mosquitos. Sometime I'll have to tell you the story of Ginger the Deer. But you'd never believe me, so, maybe not. She rides in cars and has the run of someone's house here on the Northern Neck. . . . told you wouldn't believe me! It's true, though. They haven't taught Ginger how to drive yet, however. And that's the truth, too. If you visit and see a good sized doe sporting a red ribbon around her neck, that's Ginger. By all means, don't shoot her. You'd have half the county after you.

I'll bet Ginger's gonna be wearing a life-preserver tomorrow.

So what does all this have to do with a hurricane? Oh, absolutely nothing. Today was a travel day. Tomorrow is when the serious stuff starts.

Finally, my GPS tells me I have arrived. Since Doris is in Iowa (shooting a wedding), the GPS has to tell me. By the way, this road runs right into the creek. Pretty exciting drive, late at night, if you don't watch the signs. Notice the GPS is encouraging me to turn left. Now.

Mom and Rosie are waiting. By the way, she cooked a terrific steak for dinner. Delicious. You can just sign me up for all the future hurricanes.

The house looks out on the confluence of the Rappahannock and Corrotoman rivers, just 8 miles from the Chesapeake Bay. See the tip of the yellow push-pin.

It is a straight-shot due south-east to the bay: when the wind comes from that direction, nothing stops it.

Anchored about six miles off is this barge. I hope it's not sitting in the front yard tomorrow night.

It's 11:30 PM now and overcast. I can hear the surf on the beach. We've got a steady 12kt breeze (estimated) coming out of the east. The air is hot, wet, and heavy; a perfect fuel for cyclonic circulation.

The Emergency Mgmt people were out earlier tonight at the point just across the little creek (see the picture above the barge), ordering an evacuation. The land and road on that point is very low. We're high enough here to be safe from the high-tide plus storm surge, coming in conjunction tomorrow night. High enough, that is, unless God forgets His promise to Noah. Not likely.

Pray for Louie - his house is like, 5 feet out of the evacuation zone in Norfolk. That's too close for comfort. Most of his yard, including his wood shop, are in the evacuation zone. That zone is based on elevation above mean sea level. When Isabelle came through, his street was under water.

Next post - tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Worth quoting: on gratitude

From C. Hassell Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), p. 162.

The psalms of thanksgiving tap into one of the great spiritual resources of Holy Scripture and offer us a spiritual home where the passions of life can find their moorings in a source outside the human self. One of the great tragedies of the human spirit is to become a prisoner of ingratitude, for ingratitude shuts the human spirit up in a world lightened only by the self, which is no light at all. It creates a dark dungeon of selfishness because there is no horizon to give perspective to an individualistic world. Ingratitude is a closed system that prohibits the individual from opening up to God and neighbor. Gratitude, on the other hand, throws the door to this prison wide open and liberates the soul to thank God for what he has done and to share this spirit of grateful elation with fellow human beings.
In one of my classes at Westminster, I remember my apologetics professor, Dr. Bill Edgar, speaking about someone's salvation experience; I don't recall if he was relating his own, or quoting someone else's. But he summarized it with this sentence: "I finally knew who to thank."

That really stuck with me, as in some ways it mirrored my own experience. I've always loved the natural world, and the natural sciences. As a child and a teen, I marveled at the beauty of the cosmos. When I accepted Christ during my freshman year of a geology major at Colorado State University, it was like going from black and white to color. What had always been a beautiful world, suddenly became indescribably awesome. And I finally knew Who to thank. Worshiping the Creator/Redeemer became the longing of my heart, not some religious obligation.

Gratitude, combined with the joy and freedom of God's total forgiveness in Christ, is life-changing. It certainly changed me!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shared Wrong Assumptions

Certain brands of liberal and conservative politics share a common fallacious assumption.

Liberal Politics on the socialistic side of the spectrum fails to reckon with man's sin nature.
  • Liberals, in doctrine or practice, deny man's essential corruption.
  • They have an exaggerated view of man's goodness.
  • Consequently, they fail to see that when the temporal incentive for hard work has been removed (ie., either the possibility of sufficient profit, or the need to eat), worker productivity goes down. It should not be this way; everyone should strive to give 100% no matter what the return is. But what ought to be, and what is, are two different things in this fallen world. The worker does not work so hard, and the freeloader need not work at all.
  • The Liberal's pursuit of confiscatory tax rates give the lie to their own confidence in people's goodness, for if people were truly good, they would give to needs without external compulsion. 
Conservative Politics, on the Libertarian side of the spectrum, can also fail to reckon with man's sin.
  • Usually (but not always), conservatives will admit to mankind's essential corruption. Consequently they usually get the profit-motive and essential-need motive of labor right. Getting just these two things right can solve many of the fiscal problems of a society.
  • However, they have an exaggerated view of the goodness of the free market, leading to a disdain for all regulatory restrictions. In short, they do not consistently apply their belief in man's corruption.
  • The typical conservative argument is that the market tends to be self-correcting; if a business is engaging in unethical practices, sooner or later their deeds will come back to haunt them, and market forces will eliminate them.
  • By and large, this is true.
  • But what they neglect to understand is that the history of business is full of people who are very willing to kill a company and walk away from the corpse if the short-term gain of doing so is sufficient. Libertarian-style conservatives may also fail to recognize that there can be dark motives at work, and that the driving force may not be simple economic gain.
  • There is no real market correction that happens when someone is riding a company into the ground for a short-term gain. In such a case, investors (or workers, or management, or the public) can be badly hurt before the company dies. The hatchet man walks away with a tidy profit, and a desire to seek the next victim. The only thing that can rein in this sort of profit-driven intentional corporate suicide, is regulation. The free-market can't do it, because it is being blindsided by an irresponsible non-market motive.
I am a bona fide conservative, and I find most government regulation to be little more than a jobs program for people who lack the ability to work on the outside. I thoroughly resent the intrusive regulatory control of unelected bureaucrats. But to say, as some libertarians do, that there is no need for regulation in the free-market, is to deny in practice what most conservatives will admit in principle: that mankind has been corrupted through sin, therefore law is needed to regulate his behavior, economic and otherwise.

Monday, August 8, 2011

With you, #4 (final in the series)

Because it has been awhile since the last post on this topic, let’s review again: In the first post, the basic point was made that the state of relationship between two parties is illustrated by the degree of separation between them.

In the second post, this principle was shown to be as true of our relationship with God as it is of our relationship with people.

In the third post, God is shown as taking the initiative in the Old Testament, repeatedly, to restore a closeness between Him and His people, and yet because of sin, separation remained.

A final solution to our separation from God was revealed in the Old Testament in the prophesies of the Messiah who would come. The prophet Isaiah let the cat out of the bag, saying, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, NASB). You doubtless recognize this as a ‘Christmas verse’ speaking about the incarnation of Jesus. So what does it have to do with the whole “with you” idea?

Matthew, in his gospel, answers that question. Speaking of the coming birth of the baby Jesus, Matthew says, “Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:22-23, NASB).

Jesus Christ is God Himself, clothed in human flesh, and 2000 years ago He was walking among His people. But in a final display of the corruption of sin and the separation it produces, they crucified Him. What they did not realize was that in God's providential plan, that crucifixion was actually the sacrifice of God's final Lamb, the "Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). It was a plan God ordained before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23).

Jesus Christ is God’s full, and final, answer to sin. Joseph was told to name the baby, Jesus, because He would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Hebrew equivalent of the name ‘Jesus’ means savior or deliverer. It is through the death of Christ, and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, that our separation from God is eliminated, because of a change in the state of relationship between us and Christ.

How does that work? We have two main problems; both must be overcome. Problem #1: we have sinned. We have actual transgressions that offend the holiness of God and demand His righteous judgment. Those sins must be dealt with, otherwise the sinner will face eternal judgment.

Problem #2: We sin because we are sinners. We inherited from Adam a latent hostility against God. In the sinner’s heart of hearts, he hates God. This is a difficult thing for most people to see, but becomes obvious when people are confronted with the difference between the way they live and what God requires. They have no regard for, treat lightly, despise, God’s commandments.

The adulterer is not offended by “thou shalt not murder;” he might even agree with the command. But he despises the command, “thou shalt not commit adultery.” The thief is not particularly troubled by the prohibition against adultery, but he despises the command, “thou shalt not steal.” And so on. To despise the law is to despise the law-giver. And God does not grant eternal life to anyone who despises Him.

If Jesus, therefore, is God’s full and final answer to sin, He must conquer these two problems, and so He does. First, in His death on the cross, He accepts in His own body the full wrath of God against the sinner’s sins. You can see that in Isaiah 53:4-6

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
This is not merely beautiful poetry (which it is), it is also divine, life-changing truth in every word. God’s righteous wrath against the sinner who has fled to Christ for safety, was satisfied completely (and eternally) by Jesus' death on the cross. The resurrection is proof of that.

Secondly, when we repent of our sins and place our faith in Christ and His death and resurrection for our sins, we experience spiritual birth (the theologians call it regeneration). Our heart that was innately hostile against God is transformed, and we are given a new heart that innately loves God. Ezekiel spoke of this: “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26, NASB). Paul refers to it as being brought to life in Ephesians: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NASB).

All of this is accomplished the instant a sinner trusts in Christ. Those things which led to our separation from God no longer exist; we are free from them. We “turn back” to God, and “return” to Him; in other words, we repent of our sins, knowing that we will experience a loving, “welcome home” from our heavenly Father. The Old Testament uses a verb, shuv, with an interesting range of meanings: concretely it means to turn or return. But when used metaphorically, it frequently means, "repent." In fact, there are passages in which it is difficult to make the distinction between "return" and "repent." It casts repentance in spatial terms.

Paul speaks of this life-change in spatial terms similar to what we see in the Old Testament: “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13, NASB).

This has been God’s desire from the start: to be with His people, and to allow them to be near to Him. I suppose the final proof of this great “with-you” desire of God, can be seen at the end of the book of Revelation, at the consumation of the ages:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’” (Revelation 21:3, NIV, emphasis mine).

So what’s the big idea with this whole mini-series? It’s quite simple.
  • God created you to serve Him, worship Him, and fellowship with Him.
  • But, like the rest of us, you have sinned against Him, and your sins result in actual separation from Him, now, and in eternity to come. The whole orientation of your heart has turned against Him; deny this if you wish, but even that very denial is an act of hostility against Him, for you are refusing to believe what God has clearly said in His Word.
  • It is God, not you or I, that takes the initiative to change the current situation. He sent Christ to pay for your sins, and to give you a new heart that loves Him, if you will, by faith, place your trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection for you.
  • This involves believing the testimony of God’s Word, turning from your sins to God (repentance), and confessing Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior. It results in an entirely new orientation to Him, such that you love Him and His Word, and you delight in serving Him.
  • The instant you trust Christ, God comes to dwell with you in the Person of the Holy Spirit, and He will receive you into His kingdom when you die, where you will dwell with Him eternally.