Sunday, January 9, 2011

Be Prepared

New year prompts so far:
Keep in touch.
Learn something new.
Today, be prepared.

That phrase is not the exclusive domain of the Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts, though they do a pretty good job at instilling the value of the motto in many languages around the world. I first learned it as a nine year old camping at Camp Wahi, and - like much of what we know first - it keeps coming back to me. Learning to plan for the expected and unexpected alike is a life skill we need to refresh.

We find ourselves squarely in the winter storm watch across the deep South today, and it is a good time to assess our collective preparedness. Warnings of extensive power outages scroll across the red bar of the TV screen as meteorologists rise to the occasion of their ratings highs. The frustrating experience of bursting water mains in this city during deep freezes has taught us to fill bathtubs with water and to keep frozen jugs of water available for both personal use and to keep cold foods frozen without power. We take inventory of the essentials we have on hand and know how we can meet the needs of family members when our usual means of operating are interrupted. These periodic check ups are a nuisance to some, but are helpful to sharpen our survival skills, lest we become lazy and forget how to live without coffeemakers, hairdryers and microwaves. Perish the thought.

A man visiting from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania today surely found it humorous to observe Mississippians in near-crisis mode as he heard about the imminent ice storm with predictions of 30 degree temps and as much as 1/2 inch ice accumulation. He had to laugh. Grocery shelves had been picked clean of water and staples, as well as the ingredients for snow ice cream (after all, we do not get snow very often, and the kids may not get another chance this year.) Then it occurred to me that beyond weather, a crisis is relative.

What may topple my equilibrium and send me tumbling may not even be enough to tip the balance of your harmonious life. One's orange alert crisis state can be merely another's routine way of relating to life - of living with low-grade crises so much that it is the norm. The sharp edges wear down with repeated exposure and pain becomes tolerable. They do not even recognize signs of a heightened alert situation because the numbing effect of its omnipresence has made them blind to the danger embedded in it. I have counseled women who have failed to see the signs of abusive husbands and dangerous family situations because they had so lowered their expectations that they no longer hoped for a changed relationship... until one day when there arises a tipping point that cries out for self preservation.

What is our crisis threshold?

We have no meteorological forecasts giving us a ten day personal outlook or an hour by hour satellite picture of how our lives will unfold. There may be no audible warning alerts sounding on city streets to advise of our approaching disastrous decisions. We must gain our early warning system alerts from other sources - consider wise counsel and prayer - and be prepared to act before and during a crisis.

We do know that storms and trials will come to each of us, so we can be prepared.
  • Have essentials on hand. What really matters? What is the spiritual equivalent of food, clothing and shelter to each of us?
  • Live with a working knowledge of how to cope when life gets challenging; it will.
  • Know why faith, hope and love endure.
  • Keep relationships in good repair.
  • Practice learning to live with contentment irrespective of our circumstances.
  • It is still a pretty good idea to be cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Dear God of new beginnings and Ancient of Days, instruct us in the way of wisdom as we begin another year with You. Teach us what is essential in the faith we share. Give us understanding, and calm our anxious hearts as we follow You. Inspire us to be prepared as we grow in faith and give an account of the faith that is within us as You strengthen us. May we trade lives of quiet desperation for Your peace that abides and dwells richly within us. We pray in the name of the risen Christ, Amen.


  1. always love reading your thoughts! thanks for sharing :)

  2. Thanks for the great ways to "be prepared"!! I'm waiting and wondering if I will be able to fly out of Orlando today. No weather crisis here.....but everywhere else!!