At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:1-13 (NIV)
Sunday morning the cool dry air and wind caused me to pause. It felt eerily like just before a hurricane arrives. I shook off the feeling and went about my day. I’d been out of contact with news and weather, but much to my surprise by afternoon I discovered that indeed there was a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico. It was just offshore right about the time I sensed its presence. Who needs the Weather Channel when there’s a Florida native around? Though the bumper stickers say, “Working in Florida is a Tropical Depression,” tropical storms don’t depress true Floridians. On the contrary, for us they are like consuming a case of energy drinks. We get an adrenalin rush greater than anything Red Bull provides. Tropical storms are the antidote to the dog days of summer. Just about the time we think we can bear the heat no longer, an approaching storm knocks us out of our doldrums. I’m not talking about a media induced anxiety. We don’t need the news anchors to get us wound up and frantic. It is more an expectation, an alertness, a rising to the occasion that gets our attention. I use the words, tropical storms, to denote both the “little” systems as well as the big hurricanes because our coast has had more damage from the pass of tropical storms than the huge smack of a hurricane. In some ways, tropical storms benefit Florida. Without them, we would sleep through August and the first day of school. We wouldn’t clean our yards of the accumulated debris. A garbage can lid, drug out into the center of the yard by the dogs, becomes a giant Frisbee capable of breaking windows in the hands of storm. Lumber piled from the last home improvement project would never be disposed of, but lie piled until disintegrated into a tiny mound of termite poop. Demolition by neglect would take over our houses before we repaired eaves, restored siding and replaced broken windows. Trees would tower over our lawns and obstruct our views if we didn’t feel compelled to trim them away before the wind played with them like pick up sticks. There would be no canned goods for the Thanksgiving food drive for the poor. Hotels would be empty in the season between school’s start and the arrival of the snowbirds. Not to mention, the sand dredge companies would go broke if not for storms that wash away all the high valued beaches. Tropical storms are good for our state, mentally, economically, and esthetically. I’m only partly facetious here. I know how devastating a massive storm can be to our coastal communities. Heck, I live in one. But, it’s still an excuse to clean up and get ready even if we’re jilted and it goes a different way. The Bible tells us of another event we need to be prepared for. We don’t know when it will happen, but Jesus is coming again. Are you ready?