I just got home from seeing Julie and Julia with a friend. This friend sheepishly confessed to me once we were sitting in our big theater seats with our salty popcorn and fizzy Mr. Pibs that this would be her second time to see it. Silly me! Sweet friend! Now I wish I would have bought her ticket. I loved the movie. I'm hesitant to say that because when you go see it and realize it was rated PG-13 for a reason, I don't want you to be mad at me. I thought it was a wonderful movie and it makes marriage look like the greatest thing in the world, with food coming in at a close second. When I got home I was understandably hungry after all the images of delicious French meals I'd just seen. So I microwaved a Lean Cuisine. Bon appetit!
I'm about to completely change gears. Ready? Okay.
Today was the first anniversary of Hurricane Ike. I know it didn't make a huge impact on our nation as a whole (although gas prices skyrocketed and the economy did collapse shortly after), but it seriously impacted our city. Southeast Texans now benefit from a keen awareness of how fragile our society is. I no longer put my hope and trust in our government to provide for us in an emergency. It's very humbling to know how quickly everything can crumble. Grocery stores were emptied. (What they did have was the bizarre stuff we'd never buy, like organic peanut butter. Oh help me!) Gas pumps were sucked dry. Traffic lights were dead, causing awful delays everywhere we went.
The rich and poor alike had no electricity. I heard the story of a wealthy woman who volunteered in a stew-cooking truck during the day, then got in line with the rest of humanity to receive that same meal at night. Not that things were equal during the aftermath between people with means and without. The privileged could head out of town and hole up in hotels while others dealt with the heat and humidity in their darkened homes. I was well aware of how blessed we were to be able to escape to my parents' ranch 7 hours away from the storm.
On one freeway there was a billboard that I always meant to write about. (Houston is the city of billboards, in case you didn't know.) Its layers had been stripped away until the perfect image of an old Houston Post advertisement could be seen. The Post closed down in 1995. The colors on the ad were a lot more neon than we would ever use today, if I'm remembering correctly. The billboard remained undisturbed for several months and I always loved driving by it. It was an unexpected peek into the past. Those billboards are like time capsules, I suppose.
What I really want to do right now is re-post something I wrote after Hurricane Ike late last September.
There is a Rescuer
The National Weather Center issued the stern warning to those living on the coast: "Those living in one or two-story single family homes must evacuate or face certain death." It was debated whether the wording was too dramatic. For some, maybe it was, but the words were sadly appropriate for what may amount to hundreds of others. Unbelievably large numbers of people did not heed the warning. They wanted to stay with their homes and be able to protect their belongings after the storm. What they didn't consider was that there would be nothing left to save, regardless of their presence. The hurricane would not make landfall until Saturday, but they didn't plan on the storm surge reaching the coast as early as Friday afternoon. With the sun still shining, the gulf waters began overtaking Bolivar Peninsula, making a last minute evacuation impossible for hundreds of people. They drank in the sight of water covering the roadways and were forced to swallow the bitter pills of regret and dread. They called for help, but only a fraction could be rescued before the winds became too strong for the helicopters. They called their loved ones and said, "I made a mistake. I'm really in trouble here." They were helpless. And their loved ones are left traumatized. Emergency operators would receive countless calls for help during the storm. They would not be able to offer any hope. It was too late. In complete and utter darkness, people were swept to sea in their own homes. Their broken, swollen bodies are currently being recovered all along the coast amid debris, alligators, water moccasins, and swarms of mosquitoes. The Houston Chronicle reports that hundreds of people are unaccounted for. You can go to their web site and search the names and faces of missing fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters. It is horrifying.
In the midst of this, while many in this region remain mercifully unaware due to lack of power and/or cable TV, our country is on the verge of financial disaster. And while the coast is still cleaning up, we will elect a new president and proceed to change administrations in the middle of a war. Simply put, it is all very scary.
People, look around and see that the storm surge of Hell is rising around us. It is lapping at the Sea Wall. It is beginning to flood the only road off the island. We stand on the decks of our fancy beach homes built on sand and watch the water rising, submerging the pillars we trusted to keep us safe. We've already been warned of disaster. Scripture says "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). And "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Our sin - the thing inside us that makes us do wrong - has earned us spiritual death, an eternity apart from God. Indeed, an eternity in hell. The hell on earth around us now is only a shadow of what is to come when we will reap the terrible harvest of the sin we sowed on this earth. It is a dire message. A terrible thing to have to hear. But true.
My friends, the good news is that we still have time to call the Emergency Operator and ask to be saved. While the Bible says that we deserve death, it also says "But the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). We can call upon Jesus to save us - from ourselves and from the unquenchable fire of hell that is eager to overtake us all. There is a way out, but there is only one way.
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Call on Jesus.
"Therefore [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." (Hebrews 7:25-26)
Jesus made a way for us to be saved when He came to earth and lived a perfect life. He was fully man and at the same time fully God. He was completely without sin. He laid down His life for us while we were still doing everything wrong and spitting in His face. He loved us that much. He was tortured, then nailed to a cross and died. On that cross He bore the wrath of God for all of humanity's sin. He suffered and died in our place.
He was resurrected on the third day and appeared to many men. This is one of the most well documented facts in history. All of time revolves around His resurrection. At this moment He sits on a throne in Heaven next to God. He waits for us to call upon Him for salvation, to surrender our lives to Him, to put our hope and trust in Him. Romans 9:10-12 says, "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'" He waits with open arms for the Saved, the Forgiven, the Rescued to enter into the splendor of an eternity with Him. There, the foundation is solid and there is no fear. There is only joy and the fulfillment of every need of your immortal soul in the presence of the One who created you.
Just like the hundreds of people who died needlessly when they did not heed the evacuation orders on the coast, we will suffer in hell needlessly if we do not take Jesus Christ up on His offer of salvation. What? You think you don't deserve to be rescued? Well no one does. It is all by grace, no matter how "good" you seemed or how "bad" you were. What? You want to stay in your house and protect all that you've gathered for yourself on this earth? It will all be destroyed anyway. What? Your husband won't go with you? You'd rather stay behind with him and ride it out? How foolish. Take your children and go. Call upon His name before it is too late.
Hurricane Hell is in the gulf. It is churning. It will certainly make landfall for each of us, but we are not given a forecast. We do not know when it will hit, but we do know that it brings with it "certain death." Will we say the warning is too stern? Or will we call upon the Savior and be rescued?