20180416_100328_1523899731218The old idiom that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb didn’t quite hold true in the Midwest this year, as is well illustrated in a message from a friend in Minnesota in mid-April: “Today’s Spring blizzard is reminiscent of the delicious winter blizzards of my youth that caused school cancellations (public libraries are closed today because of storm—a small nod to the school closing ‘cheers’ of my childhood). The wind is angry, and pounds in bursts that nearly knock you over; snows whirl in madness; snow-downfall can be measured in inches per minute, and drifting creates splendid art forms that no human hand can rival; visibility is measured in feet, wind chill effect on temperature is surprising, and it’s all better looked at than felt!  I suppose, all in all, it is an exciting farewell to winter.”

I’ve rarely experienced such a snow storm, but can clearly remember the historic Christmas flood of 1964. Today there are markings on trees and buildings of how high the water got, and it boggles the imagination. All roads into Humboldt County were cut off and the sky was full of helicopters doing all the things that helicopters do when there’s no other way in or out. We lived about half a mile from the Mad River, fortunately on the uphill side. This very angry river was often reduced to a trickle during the summer when it would only reach to our ankles as we waded across. But looking out over it that Christmas, all of the surrounding dairy and farmlands were totally under water for miles, with the tops of houses or barns peeking out of the water here and there.

The upside for us kids during what came to be known as a thousand-year flood, was that since there was no reception from any of the 3 incoming television networks (totally laughable now!), the local station played old movies nonstop. Since we couldn’t go outside in the rain and were on Christmas vacation anyway, Mom let us sit there and watch them for hours on end, an unheard-of treat. What else was she going to do in a house bursting at the seams with five bored kids in those day that were pre-computer, pre-smartphone and pre-electronic games? I loved it!!! Finally, when we could go back outside, there was a huge pond in the woods across from our house and someone built a raft that we paddled around for weeks, often falling off and getting soaked, but such fun!

It was pretty exciting to be in the midst of this big, terrible storm, but I had little comprehension of the impact of grief and despair it was having on many other people because we were safe and warm, and I had not yet experienced anything so tragic in my own life.

I still have some local newspapers that my mom saved, and looking through them on occasion reminds me of the widespread devastation. By the end of January 1965, about 200,000 square miles had been affected in parts of Oregon, Idaho, California, Washington and Nevada, 47 people had died, and thousands were left homeless. In our area near the mouth of the Mad River, the river not only met the ocean but also reached over to join with Humboldt Bay, causing a whole peninsula to become an island. Hundreds of dead cattle floated out to sea along with innumerable logs and stacks of lumber from the many sawmills the area, and the beaches were left with piles of wood and trash where the mighty waves of the Pacific deposited much of that which was lost. Aside from the physical and emotional trauma that cannot be measured, the price tag of about $540 million would equate to around $3.9 billion now.

Planted by the Rivers of WaterToday, if one is traveling through the scenic Avenue of the Giants a stop at the Immortal Tree will show the incredible contrast of a gorgeous little creek flowing behind the tree and a high-water marker on the front—mind boggling! IMG_2023

 

 

Perhaps my youthful lack of sensitivity to the vast reaches of destruction all around me are representative of the ‘it-can’t-hurt-me’ philosophy of so many today in regard to what the Day of the Lord will look like when Jesus returns:

Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
    cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
    and to destroy its sinners from it. (Isaiah 13:9)

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3)

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:10)

The great day of the Lord is near,
    near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
    the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
    a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
    and against the lofty battlements.

I will bring distress on mankind,
    so that they shall walk like the blind,
    because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
    and their flesh like dung. (Zephaniah 1:14-18)

 

I pray that many will choose the safety that will belong to those who have chosen Jesus, for we will not have to endure His holy outpouring of judgment against His enemies that far, far exceeds anything as small as an April blizzard or a thousand-year flood.

...so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:7-8

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)

 

A Light and a Voice

After living in the California desert for over a year I longed for a glimpse of the ocean, and the day finally arrived when I got my first look at the mighty Pacific—Southern California style.  I was surprised and disappointed beyond belief because homes, businesses and roads hugged the sand from Redondo Beach to Malibu; miles and miles of congestion with masses of people swarming the beaches.  Where was the lush vegetation?  Where were the majestic cliffs?  I felt kind of like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she awoke and discovered she was certainly not in Kansas anymore.

In Northern California the coastline is magnificently green and rugged, with huge rocks around which wonderful tide pools form when the tide is out.   Long stretches of beach are almost uninhabited by people, and boats often bob around on their anchors in natural harbors instead of being confined to massive marinas such as in Newport Beach or Marina Del Rey.

The Pacific of the North Coast can be dangerous though, with violent storms and treacherous currents being the cause of many shipwrecks.  At the entrance of Humboldt Bay alone, just about every kind of vessel imaginable has gone down—from 1800’s sailing ships to fishing boats to passenger ships to Navy destroyers and submarines.   Nine historic lighthouses dot the coast from Point Reyes on the south to Crescent City on the north, all of which were built in an effort to safeguard these ocean-going vessels, warning them to navigate around hazardous spots and providing lights in the darkness.  Foghorns also abound, giving audible alerts of dangerous rocks or shoals.

Just like the Northern California coast, life itself can be a dangerous place.  We are surrounded by evil, with one stormy trial after another occurring throughout our time on earth.  Fortunately, as the lighthouses and foghorns direct ships away from harm, so do Jesus as our Light and the Holy Spirit as our teacher guide us through life; providing for our every need and warning us of the pitfalls ahead.

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.  (Matthew 4:16)

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.  (John14:26)

And Day and Night Shall Not Cease

The Mad River wasn’t always angry.  During the summer it might dwindle down so far that we could wade across in a just few inches of water; or hop from rock to rock, never even removing our shoes.   In the shadow of the railroad trestle we’d play in the water until a logging train came by—then we’d stop and wave at the conductors who would wave back and give a loud whistle blast in return.

But the Mad River lost its temper during the week of Christmas 1964.  In the midst of a 100-year flood it joined with all the other rivers of the Pacific Northwest to rage over its banks, engulfing the surrounding land with wet devastation.  From our hilltop vantage point all we could see was water with a few rooftops and telephone poles sticking up here and there—for miles and miles the entire low-lying area around the Humboldt Bay became a vast sea in which hundreds of dairy cattle were doomed as they floated out into the ocean; and at least a dozen communities were completely wiped out or forever altered in the Redwood Empire.   But as bad as it was, there was once a flood that was much, much worse—the one we read about in Genesis 7 when God’s anger was unleashed against a wicked world and, the flood was on the earth forty days… The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth…and the mountains were covered…Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.

I returned to that hilltop a few years ago and gazed out at lush green dairy land, with a scattering of cows peacefully munching the grass; and a pleasant walking/biking path traversing the old railroad trestle.  I pondered God’s mercy and remembered his promise after the biblical flood, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.  While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22)