I live in New Orleans where we had two hot topics last week. The Times-Picayune, our city newspaper, had both subjects on its front page on Thursday morning.
The main headline was Louisiana State University's scorching victory over its arch rival, the University of Texas, in the College World Series of baseball. This is LSU's sixth win since 1991 and the source of much enthusiastic celebration here, despite the heat wave.
And that, the heat wave, was the other hot topic last week. Sharing the front page with LSU's victory was the headline telling that New Orleans experienced the hottest day in recorded history. An official temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded in Audubon Park. Our outside thermometer showed 106 degrees of truly oppressive heat.
This dangerous heat was the cause of a very uncomfortable experience for my Mother and I on Wednesday afternoon. No, we did not have heat stroke. When I renovated the house after hurricane Katrina, I had the whole house thoroughly insulated, so we were cool in spite of the outside temperature.
In the same renovation, I also brought the fire alarm system up to code so that every room has a smoke alarm. Also, in the hall, a unit was installed to monitor for carbon dioxide, as well as smoke. In the laundry room and in the attic, the units test for high temperatures. All of the units are tied into the same electrical circuit and all of them have battery back-up. When one unit senses a problem, all of them go off.
That is what happened Wednesday afternoon. Mother and I were peacefully resting and reading when a piercing wail filled the house - in stereo! - and the hall unit began shouting, "Fire! Fire!" every fifteen seconds. The sound level was enough to destroy the ability to hear and to drive us out of the house.
From a previous experience, we knew that turning off the circuit breaker would not stop the noise because they all had batteries. From that same experience, we knew that as soon as the unit that had been triggered was removed from the circuit, the wailing would stop. In that instance, our neighbor, Mark, had come to our rescue, since our ten-foot ceilings keep us from reaching them.
Fortunately, Mark was available again; so bringing his ear plugs, he came over and removed the seven units that are in the living space in the house. However, even after he removed the others, we could still hear the alarm in the attic. That unit was the one which had triggered. Based on the design specifications, this meant that the temperature in our attic was at least 135 degrees which is the trigger point for the alarm unit. Mark gamely went into that hot attic and removed the source of the problem, bringing peace and quiet back to our household.
The whole episode caused me to consider the way I look at my life. For me, this is a time of peace, joy, and contentment. That does not mean my life is perfect. In 2005 I lost my health and a career that I loved. My home city is subject to hurricanes six months of the year. However, an old hymn we sang when I was a child sums up the reasons my circumstances do not rob me of peace and joy.
"My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand."
Most of the headlines in our newspapers tell about negative circumstances. Unlike the headlines in last Thursday's paper, there is seldom anything on the front page to celebrate. In fact, the world's media usually sound alarms so loudly that they attempt to drive me off the foundation of my life, try to get me to stop trusting and to start worrying.
If they sound an alarm, it does not necessarily signify a dangerous condition. Just as I did when our fire alarm went off, I check the validity of the media's alarms with my actual condition. If the media is saying"Disaster! Disaster!" I read Psalms 91, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty... No disaster will come near your tent." If I hear shouts of "Trouble! Trouble!" God tells me in Psalm 91, "I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him."
I can turn off the TV, throw away the newspaper, change the radio station, click off the Internet; I can silence the alarms. I do not ignore the possibility or the reality of difficult circumstances, but I choose not to be forced off my foundation and lose my peace and joy to worry and fret. I choose instead to trust God and like the writer of Psalm 91 "Find refuge under His wings." Thus, just like last Wednesday when Mark removed that last alarm, the alarms no longer disturb me and peace and joy are restored.