A Day Without Power

[written 2 Dec 2011]

I like that title because it has so many interpretations. This post could easily go on to relate a struggle with some besetting sin issue and the sense of helplessness and weakness that drives me to lean more completely on God’s grace. It might describe a day in the life of a child struggling with muscular dystrophy or a middle aged man gradually succumbing to Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS or amyotrophic lateralizing sclerosis). Or, the disease could be more transient, Guillian-Barre or an epidural injection gone wrong and waiting to wear off with time. But today’s post is about the wind, candles, and camping in your own home.

Last night Los Angeles experienced gale force winds as part of our seasonal Santa Ana weather pattern. One report claimed gusts of up to 90 mph. Those who live in tornado- or hurricane-battered parts of the country can easily guess the outcome of such a windstorm - thousands left without power.

I just so happened to be up when the lights went off at home - a crash outside followed by a pop and a fizzle sound inside and my work preparing a lecture on the emergent management of major thermal injury was all but finished. Using my cell phone as a flashlight, I went to the cupboard where I store the candles and got some small measure of light going. “Ironic,” I thought, “that I should be lighting so many candles after having just constructed a slideshow on burns and house fires.”

The lecture went better than the milk in the fridge and at 5 pm the following day I relit the candles and settled in for a dark and quiet evening. No internet. No TV. Only as much computer and phone as my batteries will allow. I cannot very well read by the puny candlelight that I have, much less write in my journal. So what is an over-busy American emergency medicine resident to do with himself?

Slow down.

I take a deep breath and then a nap. I take a little snack and spend some time in prayer. With candles flickering around the house it looks like a seance but it feels like a camping trip. And really, why not use it as a time for special communion with God? There is something emotional, dare I say, romantic, about candles around the house for mood lighting. Perhaps God, in His infinite wisdom, ordained a tropospheric sneeze to extinguish the lamp of the the LA DWP so I could spend this evening with Him. Maybe He cut the cables connecting me to the nuclear power plant south of San Clemente so that I’d rely more on the connection I have to the omnipotent Sustainer. For that, I am thankful...and for the fact that we still have running water.

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