Wildfires, Power Outage, & Doomsday Prepping

In October 2017, 250 wildfires ravaged Northern California, including the Tubbs Fire, which burned in Napa, Sonoma, and Lake Counties. At the time, it was the most destructive fire in California. Santa Rosa, in particular, looked like a bomb had gone off as whole neighborhoods burned down to the foundation. Altogether, the fires caused $14.5 billion in damages and an estimated $85 billion in cost to the economy.

In November 2018, the Camp Fire in NorCal’s Butte County surpassed the previous year’s fires to become the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. The fire burned for seventeen days and devastated the densely populated foothill town of Paradise, claiming at least 85 lives and $16.5 billion.

Beginning just after midnight today, October 9, 2019, PG&E began shutting off power to at least 30 NorCal counties due to fire risk. Close to 1 million people will lose power for an estimated one to five days. In emails to customers, PG&E says: “Power will remain off until weather conditions improve and it is safe to restore service. In most cases, we would expect to be able to restore power within 24 to 48 hours after weather has passed.” Previously, they also said that employees would inspect every inch of power lines to ensure public safety.

From local reactions, you’d think the world is ending. People are doomsday prepping like I’ve never seen living in California. Well, okay, maybe like they did for Y2K. The grocery stores are out of ice and bottled water. The hardware stores have run out of flashlights and batteries. I’ve never seen the gas stations so crowded in our small town, and the pumps are mostly empty anyway (I tried, but after pulling up to three pumps, I gave up. I have enough gas to get me where I won’t be going since nothing will be open).

I get it, be prepared, but we all need a giant dose of calm as well.

For my part, I’ve frozen blocks of ice in tupperware that I will transfer to an ice chest with food from the fridge. I brewed coffee to store in water bottles; I can drink it cool, but can’t survive without. I’ve chilled reusable water bottles because people stockpile water in unusual situations, even if clean flowing water does not seem in threat.

We have flashlights and candles in every room. We’ve charged our portable phone chargers and ordered a solar charger that should arrive by Amazon today. I did not raid the grocery store because we have enough PB&J and granola bars to last a week if not a month. Also, apples. And I should be able to use the gas stove to reheat the soup I made yesterday. We’ve got all our camping gear should it become necessary. Oh, and I made banana bread, but mostly because I needed to use the spotted bananas.

Though it does feel like PG&E will be holding the Bay Area hostage for the next several days, and that this may be an extreme reaction, caution is good. We certainly don’t want a repeat of the last two fire seasons. And though many have expressed that this is a sign of things to come, that we should at least expect higher rates in the near future, complaining doesn’t seem like a good use of our personal or collective energy, either. Rather, a few deep breaths and a sense of humor will serve us better.

With potential for school and office closures, I’m looking forward to the possibility of a few days of down-time with my kiddos. Without power for TV, video games, and computers, and with the need to limit power usage on their cell phones, we can instead enjoy each other’s company. Read books. Play board games. Get outside for a hike. Ride bikes. Eat simple meals by candlelight.

We have the opportunity to live lightly on the land, perhaps the best way to live all the time and not just in unusual circumstances.

 

Cover image by David Mark from Pixabay

Power Posing

I first heard of power posing years ago from a friend who mentioned that she was teaching her young children to stand in front of the bathroom mirror every morning, hands on hips like Wonder Woman or Superman, and speak positive words to themselves, for example, “I am amazing!”

Okay. I’m all for positivity. Whatever works.

Turns out there is scientific support for assuming a power pose. Our body language both reveals our inward state and can influence it. In my early 20’s, I remember having to sit through an uncomfortable staff meeting. Afterwards, an older-than-me wise woman pulled me aside and told me that my crossed legs, crossed arms, and downward chin-tilt had given me away. I am an open book, and I definitely have resting bitch face, and working toward more positive body language will improve not only how I feel but how others feel toward me.

Power posing in the mirror, with positive affirmations, may help, apparently. As will taking up all the space I need, physically and otherwise. (Why do women need to be taught these things that men seem to know instinctively?)

This week’s Bible study comes from one of my favorite passages: Psalm 139. This beautiful poem about God’s passionate pursuit of His beloved–the Psalmist, me, you, humankind–never fails to move me. I need, we all need, regular reminders of how loved we truly are.

But this week came with new insight. Those three big theological words/concepts, the Omni’s–that God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere-present), and omnipotent (all-powerful)–are also pictured in this Psalm. In fact, they can serve as hand-holds to the poetic structure: vv1-6 show God as omniscient; vv7-12 show God as omnipresent; vv13-18 show God as omnipotent. What a beautiful pairing: that God is as ALL as the biggest theological concepts and so intimately involved with His creation. Yes!

But then, what about vv19-22, where the Psalmist moves from God’s love to invoking His wrath on “the enemy”? Well, isn’t that just so human? He knows he is created and loved by God, and also angry that everyone doesn’t get it. The world isn’t as it should be and the Psalmist feels ticked off, like we all get from time to time. And yet, he doesn’t dwell there but quickly asks God to search his own heart, to clean up his junk and lead him in righteousness. Good move!

What does this have to do with power posing? I was struck again this time through that our all-powerful God comes searching for us, before we were a twinkle in our parents’ eyes, before we had anything to give. And His pursuit of us, when we acknowledge it, should give us courage, should empower us to know deep in the core of our beings that we are amazing. Because He made us.

We can stand, hands on hips, speaking aloud The Truth: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” We don’t give ourselves superpowers, but receiving and repeating the truth of God’s love sung over our lives should give us renewed strength. What might change in my day, in my life–or in yours–if we regularly repeated those words to ourselves?

Who is God: What is God Like?
Psalm 139

Connect
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?

Study
Read aloud Psalm 139:1-6.
Notice all the things God knows.
What does it mean to be hemmed in by God, with His hand upon you? Explain.
Read aloud Psalm 139:7-12.
Notice all the places God is present with us.
What does it tell you about God that He is always present with you?
Read aloud Psalm 139:13-18.
What does this section say about God’s power?
What value does God put on each day of each human life?
Read aloud Psalm 139:19-24.
Why is the Psalmist angry? How does he handle his anger?

Live
What does it mean to you that our all-knowing, everywhere-present, all-powerful God is also so intimately personal with people?
How does it (or might it) impact your everyday life that God pursues you so passionately?
How can you share with others the love of God portrayed in this Psalm in ways they can receive?
What is God saying to you through this study, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Pray aloud the prayer of vv. 23-24, ending in silent confession and dedication.

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on Psalm 139:13-14 individually and with your family.
What does it mean to you that God made you?
How might your day be different if you said to yourself (and God) in the mirror every morning, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”?
Thank God for doing such good, creative work in your life and the world.