Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Didn’t Know But Now I Care

One Sunday when I was about six I got special permission to miss Sunday school. The permission was important because I didn’t want it to ruin my year of perfect attendance. By the way that was the one and only year when I got perfect attendance. On this particular Sunday my whole family was going to the Port of Galveston to tour the Savannah, a newly commissioned, nuclear powered cargo-passenger ship. I remember very little about the ship tour except looking through large glass windows somewhere in the ship and being told that what we were looking at was the nuclear reactor.
Way back then nuclear energy promised a glorious clean future. People, my parents and grandparents ages had clear memories of the dirty years of the industrial revolution and even of smoke and cinder spewing steam engines. Nuclear energy promised to be the clean and almost eternal energy of the future. Yes, nuclear power was dangerous but science promised that it could be controlled and back then we believed in the power of regulators to regulate.  
Now forty years later I still want to believe in Nuclear Energy. I want to believe it is one of the ways we can produce clean energy and free ourselves from a dependence on foreign resources but I find that harder and harder to believe. We now can see how fortunate we were that the accident at Three Mile Island was contained. The people of the Ukraine were not as fortunate. The accident at Chernobyl involved the breakdown of one reactor but finally required the creation of a 448 sq. km exclusion zone around the plant. And now we watch the disaster at Fukushima continue to develop. What will the final result before the breached reactors and the spent fuel rods? What will happen to the radioactive water? What about sea life? Is a 12 mile evacuation zone enough? Is a 19 mile evacuation zone enough? There are, will continue to be many more questions and I am afraid more bad news.
I am left with a very uncertain belief about the viability of nuclear energy. A quick search shows that there may be as many as 6 nuclear power plants within 100 to 150 miles of where I live, two in Virginia, two in Maryland and two in Pennsylvania. I didn’t even know and before now I had not even cared, but now I do.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Life giving, Life renewing, Life saving Water

When I was a child growing up in Texas we didn’t have access to a neighborhood swimming pool. Back then counties didn’t build places like Splashdown or Signal Hill waterpark. There was a pool at the Elks Club but we weren’t members and there was a large public pool the next town over but we would only go over there on rare occasions.
These were the days when the ‘Slip and Slide’ and the ‘Water Wiggle’ were invented. But even those were a little upscale for our neighborhood. Our favorite way to cool down was to play in the sprinkler. At some point we would decide we had had enough heat and everyone would run home, put on their swim suit and return for the water play. In contrast to the day the water was cool, refreshing and renewing our bodies and refreshing our spirits.
Today in Japan they work vigorously to pump enough water to cool the reactors and prevent a further meltdown. This disaster that was brought on by the tsunami, a giant wave of water, will continue to grow in magnitude unless more water can be pumped in to cool the reactors and keep the radioactive rods submerged.  
Life giving, life renewing, life saving water.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Remember the Event More Clearly Than I Remember the Lesson

The summer when I was seven was a great summer. That summer we went to the beach two or three times a week. Late in the afternoon my mother would load my brothers and I in the car and we would drive the thirty minutes to the beaches in Galveston. At five when he got off work my father would join us. I am not sure why that summer, but it was a great summer.
One day on our way to the beach we stop at the five and dime. We stayed in the car while my oldest brother went in to make a mysterious purchase. It was only two days before my birthday and I was sure this was all about a present for me.  I was right and unfortunately for my brother the present he was buying was displayed in the window we could see from the parking lot. In those days stores had windows. My brother was buying me a swim mask.
All the way to the beach I argued that I should be allowed to have my present early after all I knew what it was. I would not hear the suggestion that the swim mask was really for the pool and not the ocean. In fact nothing short of them giving in would satisfy me, and eventually they did.
Within minutes of wading into the ocean I was tumbled by a wave that knocked the mask off my face and took it away. I was devastated. I argued and cried that I might be given another mask after all it was not my fault. My birthday and the summer came and went with no new swim mask. I am sure my Mother offered thoughts on several lessons I might learn from this experience. Unfortunately I remember the event more clearly than I remember the lessons.
Yesterday giant waves tumbled inland in Japan taking away everything in their wake. This is an event that will be remembered for generations to come. From it we might learn some things about predicting disasters, improving buildings codes and developing disaster plans but maybe the most important thing we might learn is that; “Life is short and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel  the way with us.”
Some day the tide will come and some day the tide will take it all away.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Rain is Water

All Day Wednesday the weather forecast foretold an oncoming 24 hours of rain with at least 3 - 4 inches expected. Thankfully it would start late Wednesday Night and not interrupt our Ash Wednesday Devotions. As I went in for evening worship the sky was threatening but still no rain.
The service reminds us of the limits of our mortality and frees us from the burden of our sins so that we might live into our lives enjoying the fullness of God’s mercy and grace.
As I exited the building the rain had gently begin to fall as if to complete the washing away of sin and to cleanse my forehead of the sign of my redemption.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Living Into Water

For lent I suggested people take a word and hold it up before themselves throughout the season.  A word that might challenge, confront and ultimately transform them. When I suggested this at church I had no idea what my word might be. At adult forum I invited people to suggest words for themselves and others. We talked about Lent being a time we are asked to look inward and yet our inward looking word might have outward manifestations. A thankful heart might lead to a thank you note. Our list had over 40 words by the time we were done. Words like diligence and vigilance, introspection, meditation, truth and honesty. I still didn’t hear my word. I suggested people still looking for their word might pray and listen.
That night I woke about 12:30 am. A wind storm raged outside our house. I could see the trees swaying with each gust of wind and occasionally the side of the house would shake from a blast of wind. I opened my Nook and read for about two hours. I finished my book. I rolled over to try and sleep. But still I really wasn’t feeling the sleep. The wind was still raging outside my window.  I thought I should pray for my word now. I listened. I thought maybe my word is written on the wind. I listened.
Water.  My word is water?
That is the wrong type of word. How can I live into water?  I listened more. Still, water.
How can water be my word? How can I spend Lent living into water? How can water transform me? Oh yeah it can. Water transforms people all the time. So this Lent among my other disciplines I am living into water. It was 4:30am the last time I looked at the clock.