Fear and trembling: Remembering the Great Storm of 1975

It snowed today in Nebraska — a lot. Here in south central Nebraska (and I’ve lived here since 1994) we don’t get a lot of snow. At least, not in the way I remember growing up in southwestern Minnesota. It seemed like we always had more snow when I was a kid. It would start in late October or early November and there was enough to go sledding down big hills or to build tunnels around our yards or forts for snow fights. We spent a lot of time outdoors because, frankly, there wasn’t a lot to do indoors except maybe get on my mom’s nerves, which was pretty easy to do when you’re a rambunctious kid and you have three channels to choose from — four if you count PBS, but nobody did.

And, when thinking about snow like I am today, my mind always goes back to the big blizzard of 1975. The one that started on Jan. 10 and kept us snowbound in our house for three days without power. My family laughs at me because I recount this episode by talking about all of my family sleeping with all our clothes (and coats) on in one bed to stay warm and eating cold peaches by candlelight. The cold peaches part of the story always brings laughter, as if there were another way to eat peaches (peach pie, I suppose, but the point is lost on my family as they dissolve into laughter).

While anyone can be suspicious of an older person (or a not-so-old person in my case) when they start to wax nostalgic about big storms of the past, my advantage is that I have weather history to back up my stories of just how bad it was. It was bad. The snow came fast and hard and then it just blew furiously for days. We lost all power (as did our entire little town) early on and no one was able to go anywhere. One of my sisters, driven by cabin fever and a loathing for little kids I’m sure, decided she would rather spend the blizzard with one of her high school friends. I never did quite understand this since the friend she chose happened to be from a family of 18 kids. Miraculously, she managed to make her way to her friend’s house though she was literally snow blind almost immediately upon leaving our house.

How bad was it? Try out these facts and shudder:

Winds were blowing at 90 mph in Iowa during the blizzard. North Dakota and South Dakota were stung with wind chills of -80ºF.

The snow began falling on Friday, January 10 and continued for the next two days. Snowfall of a foot or more was common from Nebraska to Minnesota, with a high amount of 27 inches in Riverton, Minn. The heaviest snow fell to the west of the low pressure center, which tracked from northeast Iowa through central Minnesota up to Lake Superior. Sustained winds of 30 – 50 mph with gusts from 70 – 90 mph produced snowdrifts up to 20 feet  in some locations. Some roads were closed for up to 11 days.

Sioux Falls, S.D., saw visibilities of below one-quarter mile for 24 straight hours, and just east of Sioux Falls a 2,000-foot broadcast tower collapsed under the storm’s fury. In Willmar, Minnesota, 168 passengers were trapped in a stranded train for hours, unable to walk to shelter because of dangerously low wind chills. In Omaha, Neb., a foot of snow fell, Sioux Falls saw 7 inches, Duluth, Minn., saw 8 inches, and International Falls, Minn., saw 24 inches.

Record low pressures were recorded in communities in Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, with a low of 28.55 in  in Duluth, Minn. In all, approximately 58 people died from effects of the blizzard and over 100,000 farm animals were lost. The combination of snowfall totals, wind velocities, and cold temperatures made this one of the worst blizzards the Upper Midwest has experienced.

It is a fearsome thing to see weather like that. Days like this in Nebraska, when the snow falls steadily and the wind blows hard, take me back to those days. We are all so utterly small and helpless before the mighty hand of God.

Pastor Matt Chandler rejoices in God’s goodness in suffering is his own life

If you have never heard of Matt Chandler, he is a man who loves God deeply and has served well as the lead pastor at The Village Church in Highland Park, Texas. On Thanksgiving morning, he suffered a seizure in his home and it was discovered that he had a tumor growing in his brain. This past Friday he underwent surgery as neurosurgeons removed it. This is a message he taped for his congregation before his surgery. Please keep Matt and his wife and three children in your prayers. He loves God deeply and his life points to God’s greatness. Here is his message to his church and for all of us.

This is the update posted Sunday by the elders at The Village: Matt was moved out of ICU on Sunday and continues to get plenty of rest as part of his recovery, per doctor’s orders. Please continue to pray for patience during this recovery time and to honor family-only visitation until further notice.
Pathology results of the tumor are due sometime mid-week, and we will keep you notified whenever possible.

Useful resources on bioethics from STR: Abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research

Stand To Reason is a great organization that puts out great material to help Christians think more clearly about their faith and give a gracious, even-handed defense of it. This page has some great resources from STR and other places that are useful when talking about issues such as abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia.

Here are just a few of the topics addressed:

The condescendence of Scrabble players

OK. Maybe not all of us are this way. But we’ve all seen it. You know what I mean. The person who just can’t allow you to somehow stumble to a big play or win against them. “I had a really good word for that spot but you messed it up.”

I am not a high-level player, not even close. I do enjoy playing the game, though, and that’s why this amused me. It’s an account in Slate about how one person scored a record 830 (!) points in a Scrabble game, including a record 365 points on one turn when he played QUIXOTRY between two triple-word spots. Here is how author (and self-proclaimed competitive Scrabble player) Stefan Fatsis described what Michael Cresta, along with his oppponent Wayne Yorra (who scored “only” 490 points) accomplished.:

I asked Jason Katz-Brown, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology junior ranked 10th in North America, to analyze the game. Unlike most players mid-level and higher, Cresta and Yorra didn’t keep track of the letters they drew on each turn, so it’s impossible to fully examine their possible moves. But we do know what letters they played on each turn. When Katz-Brown input those into a Scrabble-playing computer program he co-wrote called Quackle, he found that Cresta and Yorra had better moves on 14 of their 22 nonbingo turns. One example: Cresta scored just 30 points using the second blank when he could have held it and tried for another bingo.

Technically, Cresta’s strategy was unsound. Fishing for a once-in-a-lifetime play might be understandable in a casual game, where winning is less urgent. But in competitive play—even in a club setting, where there’s less on the line than in a rated tournament—exchanging letters three times, as Cresta did, to enhance some combination of Q, U, I, and X is unorthodox at best, suicidal at worst. (The strategically correct move was to dump the cumbersome Q and move on.) In Scrabble, the player who waits for the miracle word usually loses. The implication: Cresta wasn’t terribly worried about whether he won or lost.

(By the way, for those like me who don’t know, to “bingo” means to use all seven tiles in one turn)

So Cresta didn’t play the “sound” way and he was rewarded with an incredibly high score and a catty article by Mr. Fatsis. In the end, Fatsis proposes that Cresta’s score stand as the mark for club  play while the previous record (held by “Mr. 770” Mark Landsberg in a 1993 California tournament) stand as the mark for competitive play. Somebody call the waambulance!

Mardy Gilyard: More to the story

One of our favorite football players is Mardy Gilyard because not only does he excel at what he does — catching passes for the University of Cincinnati — he also takes time out to console small children. But now we find that he has a great work ethic to go along with his big heart. So, for the time being, kids: Don’t be the next Tiger Woods, instead be another Mardy Gilyard.

You want brooding literature? Put down Twilight and try The Brothers Karamazov

At one time in my life, I worked a temp job as a telemarketer. It was a great job because I didn’t have to sell anything but instead just took orders from people who were responding to a television commercial. What it meant was that I would sit in a room with lots of other “service reps” and wait for the phone to ring. You could tell when the commercial ran because there would be a wave of calls that would last for about 10-15 minutes. The rest of the time we sat and waited. For me, it was a fruitful time of reading because it helped the time pass.

It was during that time that I read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I have never considered myself a big book reader because I read so slowly. Certainly there are a lot of books out there (and many fewer good ones), so you can’t, or may not have time to, read them all. But Dostoesvky’s books are well worth it. For me, the hardest part about it other than the sheer length of the books was reading the Russian names and them keeping them all straight through the book. Once I determined to note them without devoting too much time to sounding them out, it got easier.

But, for those still daunted by the task yet still desiring to read a great piece of classic literature, there is hope. Christianaudio.com has for this month made The Brothers Karamazov the free audiobook download for December. All you need to do is go here and, when you check out, enter the promotion code DEC2009. So, you too can be an appreciator of great literature while not having to tackle how to say all those names. Here is some background about the book from Christianaudio.com:

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s crowning life work, The Brothers Karamazov, stands among the greatest novels in world literature. His exploration of faith, doubt, morality, and the place of suffering in life are equaled in no other work of literature, save the Bible.

The book explores the possible role of four brothers in the unresolved murder of their father, Fyodor Karamazov. At the same, it carefully explores the personalities and inclinations of the brothers themselves. Their psyches together represent the full spectrum of human nature, and continuum of faith and doubt. Ultimately this novel seeks to understand the real meaning of existence and includes much beneficial philosophical and spiritual discussion that moves the reader towards faith.

This new abridgment done exclusively for Hovel Audio by Russian Studies scholar Thomas Beyer keeps the important religious themes of the novel intact. It is an excellent way for the admirer of Dostoevsky to refresh himself, or to introduce Dostoevsky to a friend who has yet to experience the joy of reading his works.

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) writes with a passion and keen insight of biblical grace like no other modern novelist. His works Crime and Punishment and The Idiot testify to his great skill. The Brothers Karamazov has been hailed by readers for over a century as one of the finest achievements in all of western literature.

Thomas R. Beyer is Professor of Russian at Middlebury College in Vermont. He holds three degrees in Slavic Literature including a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. In his decades of teaching, Tom Beyer has read The Brothers Karamazov dozens of times. His abridgment of the novel for Hovel Audio shows his thorough knowledge of his subject.

Learning where to place my hate

I think about this a lot because I think there a lot of people who look at Christianity as living daily to deny yourself some pleasure without going any further. C.S. Lewis addresses this kind of thinking in The Weight of Glory when he says that we are far too easily pleased, settling for the temporal joys of this world instead of striving for the eternal pleasures that we are offered through Jesus Christ. Because we don’t understand the magnitude of pleasure in Jesus, we don’t understand why we need to hate our sin. Timothy Keller, in Counterfeit Gods, does a great job explaining why this matters:

“In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose it’s attractive power. We learn only to refrain from it for our own sake. But when we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us – seeing what it cost him to save us fom sin – we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what the sin cost God. What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.”

Anything that keeps me from achieving the greatest amount of joy (in Christ) — my sin — is not something I want to protect but instead should be hated and left behind.

HT: Of First Importance