Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Shelter in the Storm

Hurricane Sandy blew through our state and our town, leaving in its wake downed trees and power lines, coastal flooding.  Everyone has a story.  Let me tell you mine.

Monday night, we are sitting at the kitchen table, having dessert, when Debbie looks out the window and says, "What is that light outside?"

We rush to the front windows, and see there at the end of our driveway, at the bottom of a big old tree, a downed power line has fallen and burst into flames by the leaves in the gutter.  Christina, phone in hand, calls 911, Giovanni starts to cry, and basically we all start screaming like middle school girls.  All except for Al who is totally calm.  "Mom, what do we do?" We scamper around putting on shoes and jackets, looking down the street for the fire department as minutes tick by and the fire continues.  Our good Samaritan neighbor comes out with a fire extinguisher twice to douse the fire, which helps for a moment, but the electric wire connecting with the wet leaves starts the fire again.  Twenty minutes, 30 minutes, it is still burning!  We consider hopping out a first floor window. We were terrified the fire would spread to our house!

Finally, the fire goes out from the wire blowing in the breeze and that's when the firemen come down the street on foot with flash lights,  rope off the area with yellow tape, and go back up the street where they came.

About an hour later, the wire blows from the wind and the fire starts again, this time blowing sparks towards our house and cars.  We call 911 again, but this time, no one comes. Instead, after about ten minutes of white-hot light, flames, and wind swept embers, the wind blows the wire into a safer position, and the fire stops. A while later, the electric goes out and we all find a place to sleep, with one eye open, waiting for the fire to start again.

In the morning light, we find that several trees and large branches had fallen across our street preventing the fire trucks from getting to us.  During the day, the crews came in to cut up the trees and then fix our power.  So, here in Bloomfield, life is good. Our electric and cable is on, we only had leaves and branches in our yard, and our house did not catch on fire. At the beach, maybe not so much. 

Here is a photo about two miles from our beach house. See the large white building sitting on the beach front? We still call it "the Thunderbird" and we often walk to it on the beach. See how half of the community is underwater? See some of the houses seem to have gone up in smoke? 

I am not looking forward to my next trip to the beach. 

As I thought about our beach house this morning, I am remembering the new furniture we bought this year, special photos in our book case, all my bathing suits, shells and trinkets we collected over the years, beach chairs and umbrellas. They may be all washed away.

And yet, it was never the house I treasured. The house was a place to sleep and cook and shower and sweep.  It was loved because it allowed us to be close to a place of unspeakable beauty, a place to feel closer to God, a place to enjoy with family and friends.  God, in His abundant generosity, gave it to us.  In a single storm, it may have been taken away.

God does that.  He gives and He takes away.  And while I was always mindful that our house in the sand was in a dangerous spot, all of our houses are really.  The downed wire in front of our house in Bloomfield could have lit that big old tree and our house up like a candle.  Only by the mercy of God were we spared. 

There is no safe place on this planet.  It may look safe and feel comfortable, but with a strong wind and rising water, any house can be swept away.  We can build to code, we can buy insurance, we can minimize risk factors, but in the end, it is only You, Lord.  Only You can be our shelter and keep us safe. The prophet Joel shares this:

The sun and moon will grow dark,
And the stars will diminish their brightness...
The heavens and earth will shake;
But the Lord will be a shelter for His people,
And the strength of the children of Israel.

“So you shall know that I am the Lord your God..."  ~ Joel 3:15-17

In the end, the storm is a reminder of God's awesome power and His great mercy. In the end, it is a call for us to come home to Him, to His shelter.  It is the only safe place.