Rain, Rapturous Rain

Even with the Day of Judgment drawing nigh, my neighbor laughed as she unloaded twenty pounds of dog food from her car.  “Shoot,” she said. “I’m always looking for a reason to put off doing laundry or going to the grocery store. The end of the world seems as good a reason as any.”

Poor Harold Camping. When he predicted Jesus’ arrival back on earth in 1994, all he got for his trouble was a messianic no-show. The reason, he explained, was a slight mathematical miscalculation. After tweaking his figures, he decided to give it another go and announced this time it was for real, this snatching-up of the saved and destruction of the damned. The day would be May 21, the time, 6 p.m. local. Be there or be square, as the saying goes.

At that point, it was open season on the man and his beliefs. Like my neighbor, everyone (other than the good Reverend’s followers) was ready to have a little fun at Camping’s expense, especially after the deadline had passed. The Huffington Post published Nine Ways to Tell the World is Over, a typically-Huffpo-like but still funny list that included Sean Hannity going through with waterboarding, Donald Trump shaving his head and the Cubs winning the World Series. Time magazine tried to get in on the fun with their list of the nine best Apocalypse Not Yet tweets.  Given the nature of Time and tweets, most weren’t really funny, but I did laugh at the message from Jesus, who defended his right to run the Apocalypse by tweeting, “It’s not over until I say it’s over”.

By the end of the day, it clearly was over – not the world, but Harold Camping’s ability to hijack the news cycle. Here and there, people posted reports that everything seemed fine in their neighborhood. When I saw my own neighbor this morning, she’d already started her laundry. With the dog walkers out on the streets and the finches back at their feeder it’s become just another day, another blown prophecy.  But for fans of Leon Festinger’s work, the story’s just beginning.

Harold Camping and his Family Radio network is only the latest in a long line of more-or-less well-intentioned preachers, cult leaders, self-styled messianic figures and just plain scam artists who’ve populated the world for centuries. Most of them have been embedded in traditional religious traditions, although more recently time travelers, UFO-sighters and  black hole enthusiasts have joined their ranks.

I became interested in these folks – the followers as much as the leaders – after reading When Prophecy Fails, a study of a UFO cult that didn’t quite make it to the planet Clarion. Written by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken and Stanley Schachter and published in 1956, it’s a classic example of participant-observation and absolutely relevant to our latest example of public prophecy.

When Prophecy Fails examines the beliefs and actions of the “Seekers,” a group of people who gathered around Chicago housewife Dorothy Martin, a woman who claimed to be in contact with residents of the planet Clarion. According to her contacts, Martin said, the world would be destroyed by flood and the faithful rescued by a flying saucer at midnight on Dec 21, 1954.  Followers gave away possessions and quit jobs to wait in Martin’s house that night for the arrival of the saucer.

Eventually, as their chariot seemed to have been delayed and the group was growing restive, Martin “received” another message from the aliens saying the group “had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction.”  Responses from the Seekers ranged from anger to shock and numbed disbelief.  Some  disassociated themselves from the group and began the process of reintegrating into the larger society. Others re-doubled their commitment to the cause, becoming even more fervent in spreading their beliefs.  Both those who left the group and those who committed more strongly were attempting to cope with “cognitive dissonance“, the term coined by Festinger to describe the behavior of people who’ve seen their most cherished beliefs contradicted by life.

Now that Judgement Day 2011 has come and gone, Camping and his followers will have to confront the same issues.  The 89-year-old evangelist himself seemed to have gone silent on Saturday. Family Radio was playing recorded church music, devotionals and life advice unrelated to the apocalypse. The Oakland, California network headquarters was shuttered, with a sign on the door saying, “This Office is Closed. Sorry we missed you!”

While it’s tempting to label this Rapture talk “old news” and move on, a recent experience suggests there may be less distance between “normal folk” and the “loonies” of the world than we imagine. 

As many of you know, Texas has been suffering from increasingly serious drought for months, and a longing for rain permeates the atmosphere. When rain was forecast for our area last week, the excitement was palpable.

We hadn’t been given the standard 20% chance of rain that television weather-readers use to save themselves embarassment. We’d been told by the High Priests of Meteorology themselves we were going to have significant, measurable rainfall, with thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.  Convinced that salvation was at hand, gardeners and homeowners hung on the words of the forecasters as though they were prophets. National Weather Service discussions weren’t read, they were exegeted. They might as well have been holy writ or communiques from another world.

Obsessing over the radars, we watched the echoes of the building clouds, the formation of the storms. Rolling toward Houston, the line picked up speed. Mesocyclones developed, and hail.  Winds began to swirl, wrapping and unwrapping around invisible vortices, scudding along clouds filled with life-giving water.  And then, almost literally above our heads, the rain dissipated.  Clouds filled with water produced nothing more than a scouring wind that sucked even more moisture from gardens and lawns.  As we watched, the storms scooted off to the north and east, only to re-form over East Texas and Louisiana and drop lush, beneficent rain.

Staring out windows or at their computer screens, more than a few people were irritated and despondent. Some felt betrayed, saying, “But they promised we’d get  rain!”  Others just wandered away, muttering to themselves about the foolishness of trusting anyone’s weather predictions. Explanations abounded. “The moisture ran into dry air.” “The seabreeze set up a barrier.” “The waters of the Lake and Bay cooled the clouds.” “The heat from the land evaporated the water.”  Some explanations were bad science, but they were familiar human psychology.  The rain-deprived denizens of far southeast Texas were acting precisely like devotees of some strange apocalyptic cult, trying to explain why their promised deliverance hadn’t arrived. If Leon Festinger had been around, he would have grinned.

Obviously, the analogy isn’t perfect. Waiting for rain isn’t the same as waiting for a messiah or a mothership, and even if you feel like that afternoon spent spreading fertilizer on the lawn was a danged big investment of time and energy, it’s not quite the same as pulling a few thousand out of savings to help post billboards around town or giving up your job and moving to the top of a mountain.

Still, in the past week rain and rapture have made an interesting pair, with a blown forecast providing a brief glimpse into the world of failed prophecy. What happens with Camping’s followers now is anyone’s guess. If Festinger is right, a new date may be announced once the calculations have been redone, and an even more firmly convinced group of people may be ready to follow their leader into the great unknown.

As for the weather-watchers, there’s little question they’ll soon forget their vows to stop worrying about rain and start scanning the skies for signs of its arrival.  One thing is sure.  The chances for rain far exceed the chances of a messianic visitation or an afternoon drive in a flying saucer. When the rain finally falls, the rapture will be undisputed.

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  1. Thanks for another beautifully written and thought-provoking post. Those of us who have always lived in the Northeast can’t appreciate the phenomenon of waiting for rain. Our summers and winters can be irritating at times and we have even gone through a few periods in my lifetime in which there was little enough to prompt the authorities to strongly urge conservation.

    On one occasion a temporary pipeline was run across the George Washington Bridge to move water from New York to New Jersey. There evidently was a significant drought when I was young, because I remember hearing public service announcements all day long on our kitchen radio: “Camels can go eight days without drinking. You can’t. Please conserve water.”

    During one dry spell, there was a lot of talk here about constructing a system that would make it possible to move water more easily from North Jersey to Central Jersey and vice-versa. The proposals involved the Passaic River in the North and the huge and largely untapped Round Valley Reservoir in mid-state. The next time we had a shortage, a reporter asked Gov. Brendan Byrne what had happened to those ideas. It was simple, Byrne said: “It rained.”

    • charlespaolino,

      Thank you for your kind words about the post. Your own story about Gov. Byrne and the coming of the rains is wonderful. Life during drought can be so complicated, yet we’re forced to live with the truth that the simplest solution can’t be forced.

      I don’t remember drought as a kid growing up in Iowa, although the 1950s were significant drought years. Ironically, that drought began in the southwest, including Texas, and at the time nearly every county in our state was declared a federal disaster area.

      It might be time to adjust, just a bit. I stopped by our local garden center recently and wandered into the cactus section. Whole displays were labeled with signs that said, “Please do not water until July”. Perhaps someone needs to check the back 40, just to be sure someone hasn’t stuck a similar sign in the pasture. ;-)

      Linda

  2. Sure wish I could send some of ours your way. Lately it feels as if everything (and everyone) seems to be heading toward one extreme or another: is it a shortage of gravity? a surfeit of hot air? … hard to say. So it is good to come here and find good humor and common sense, a perspective that seems in short supply. Lovely writing, too. Thank you!

    • anno,

      So many people seem to be experiencing life just now as being out of balance, both weather-wise and otherwise. It certainly is strange to look at the national severe weather map and see drought-stricken Texas snuggled up against a state being innundated by flood waters.

      As for hot air… Well, there is plenty of that around. Just turn on the news. ;)

      Good humor and common sense are qualities I cherish. It makes me happy you should find them here. They’re even more important than good writing in my book, though of course I’m glad you like the writing, too!

      Linda

  3. Great Post! It was fun to poke at Rapture day but I do wonder how his followers feel. Imagine to wake-up and discover you are still here :O

    But on a serious note – several years ago one my sister’s students joined a cult, dropped out of university, and believed the end was near. She’s never heard from or seen him again…It’s scary how people can get caught up in their beliefs and ruin their whole lives on faulty premises.

    • belle,

      I’ve seen suggestions that, despite differences between today’s group and the “Seekers” originally studied by Festinger, there should be a similar followup on these folks. In 1994, the Reverend said Judgment could come either in 1994 or 2011. After 1994 was a bit of a bust, he invested everything in 2011. They don’t have a fall-back date now, and I’m sure that will be hard for some of them.

      Cults are scary, dangerous and interesting. When I read about your sister’s student, I suddenly remembered the Heaven’s Gate cult, whose members committed mass suicide. Of course there was Jonestown, and the Manson family – but there are other cults that exert just as much influence over their members despite wearing Dockers and carrying iPads.

      I suppose as life gets more complex, simple answers become more appealing, and what could be simpler than having a strong, charismatic leader to tell you what to do? It’s not my cup of tea, but I can understand it.

      Linda

  4. I’d also like to add my name and congratulations on a well written, thought-provoking post PLUS marvellous photos!

    I do hope – as I mentioned in my blog – that Mr Camping’s going to help his followers who gave up everything.

    We’ve had several years of drought over here in S. California and even though last winter was predicted to be another one with NO rain, we had RAIN up the gazoo… It felt as though we were living in San Fran…

    • dearrosie,

      Thanks for the complimentary words. Somehow I just couldn’t let The Rev. Camping slide off into the mist without at least a little acknowledgement!

      I have a feeling anyone who bought into this Rapture is going to discover it’s a “no exchanges, no returns, no refunds” deal. Besides, if you liquidated your assets for the cause and what you expected to happen, didn’t – well, the ways of the Lord are inscrutable, no?

      I have a friend who lives in Seal Beach. Thanks to her, I’ve learned all about the marine layer, Santa Anas and other such esoterica. You’ve had your share of fires out there, too – I remember how nerve-wracking it was when they were worrying over Mt. Wilson.

      Ironically, it was the Bay Area that gave me my first taste of weather-boredom. My first year in Berkeley I can remember thinking, “Good grief – can’t we get some rain or something? This unchanging “nice” is driving me crazy!”

      Linda

  5. Obviously the earthquakes did not materialize, but perhaps it’s possible that the rest of the “Rapture” did indeed happen. It’s a little surprising, however, and certainly not gratifying that there are this many of us still here.

    I do hope that you will get some of that life-giving rain soon.

    • montucky,

      Now, there’s an amusing thought that hadn’t occurred to me. Looking around, I see most of my friends and neighbors are still here. On the other hand, there are a couple of folks who haven’t been posting on the weather boards since this weekend… ;-)

      The rain will come. In the meantime, I’ll luxuriate in your gorgeous photos. They do a fine job of filling the flower-gap in my life.

      Linda

  6. As was to be expected, “Poor Harold” has come up with a new date, 10/21/11. As the Irish Times put it:

    Reflecting on scripture afterward, Mr Camping said it “dawned” on him that a “merciful and compassionate God” would spare humanity from “hell on Earth for five months” by compressing the physical apocalypse into a shorter time frame.

    But he insisted October 21st has always been the end-point of his own End Times chronology, or at least, his latest chronology.

    What I find more distressing than the hundreds (thousands?) who believe Camping are the millions who believe he’s right about everything except knowing the date.

    • Al,

      “Poor Harold”, indeed. The perfect egotist, set into a quasi-religious context. It certainly didn’t take him long to reinterpret the data, although Dorothy Martin’s Clarion callers were faster.

      I’m always bemused by obsessive anxiety over the Last Judgment. After a lifetime of being judged by family, friends, teachers, employers, the snotty high school cheerleading squad, the woman behind the fragrance counter at Bergdorf and assorted internet posters who’ve never met me, the thought of a last judgment – an end to judgment – sounds pretty refreshing.

      Since God is supposed to be “merciful and compassionate”, as Camping and the tradition agree, I’d surely rather leave the judging business to God than to anyone else.

      Besides, if Camping hasn’t noticed, there are people around us every day – as in Joplin – whose familiar worlds have ended. I’d rather help them rebuild than fund a billboard.

      Linda

  7. Why does the end of the world always require people to empty their bank accounts? If the predicted events were to actually take place, wouldn’t they automatically take care of the disposal of material possessions, including assets?

    As Internet scams make clear, no matter how ludicrous the claim, someone somewhere will believe it — and fork over their hard-earned money in the process.

    Great post, as always, Linda. I love the tone of this one.

    • bronxboy,

      It is amazing, isn’t it? I once saw a ten dollar bill in a parking lot and thought twice before picking it up. After all, I grew up around kids who’d put wallets in the middle of the street attached to fishing line. They’d wait for someone to go for it and then jerk it back.

      It taught me a lesson that lingers, and probably contributes to my unwillingness to jump when the Nigerian fellow who’s just discovered $600,000 lying around tells me I can get a cut of that, if only I’d help out with a few thousand of my own.

      But we love the thought of “easy” – whether it’s easy money or easy salvation. Add a dollop of promised instant gratification and voila! Another huckster’s happy.

      By the way – I did see the date’s been recalcuated and October 21st is the day. I’ve got it on my calendar, fer shure. ;-)

      Linda

  8. It seems the 21st is the day of choice for a lot of these events! I hope you get your rain before the next 21st! We’re under thunderstorm and tornado warnings all week. I’m not real tech-savvy when it comes to emailing rain or I would send you some!

    • Claudia,

      As bad as things have been in the heartland, it makes drought seem not so bad. I hope you have a safe week.

      Wouldn’t it be great if we could email weather around to places where it’s needed? Well, maybe this will have to do for a while. (I do love the internet!)

      Linda

  9. If the folks who gave him money would read their Bibles, they would have known he’s a huckster. (“…But of that day and hour knoweth no man,…) Matthew24:36. Men like him give all preachers/pastors a bad name. I live it. My husband pastors a Baptist Church in Arkansas and we shudder at hucksters and my husband isn’t afraid to call them what they are from the pulpit.

    Good read, and I do see a bit of an analogy. People want to believe in something and someone.

    • sherri,

      Good for your husband. Calling a thing what it is never hurts – especially when it’s hucksterism, or even worse, a flatly twisted presentation of historic Christianity.

      Most media representations of “Christian faith” are pathetically off the mark. They only feed the stereotyping of Christians as bigoted, rigid, judgmental sorts who can’t stand the modern world and tend to drool a lot.

      As for the profits prophets of doom – well, they can sell all they want, but I’m not buying.

      Linda

  10. Last summer, we were shudding beneath a rather savage heatwave. I was outside when the rain finally came: first there was the fragrance of coolness in the air, then the droplets began to fall. When I was standing in that saving rain, well, few things could have been as rapturous.

    • aubrey,

      Only one song I know captures that rapturous feeling – a song so old most people today never have heard of the woman who made it popular.

      Jane Morgan recorded The Day that the Rains Came Down in 1958. I was twelve years old, and to this day I remember every word of that song. One of these days I’ll have the chance to pull it out again and share it.

      Linda

  11. With all the fierce weather happenings this year, it’s almost possible to believe there is something world-shaking going on in the atmosphere. We have had more rain at home than I can remember, after a bitter winter and a cold, grey spring.

    My father-in-law and my aunt were great believers in the imminence of the rapture. Had they been alive on the 21st, they would probably have been standing on the lawn with arms upraised, calling “Come get me, Jesus!”

    Another great post, Linda! Thanks for putting it all in perspective. And I’ll do a little rain dance for you :)

    • Becca,

      As we say in Texas, what goes around comes around. This year’s events are terrible and significant, but hardly unusual.

      There’s 1927 and 1973, of course. And 1895, for all that. But I remember being five years old, trying with my parents to get out of Kansas City in the midst of their 1951 flood. The death toll and number of displaced during that event exceeds what we’ve seen so far this year, and the flood itself was just remarkable.

      I’m beginning to understand the connection between age and perspective. As one of my very young friends puts it, “When you’ve lived longer, you’ve got a bigger database”. Well, yes. ;-)

      As for your father-in-law and your aunt… I like to think there’re up in heaven right now, looking down from their own new perspective and just shaking their heads at our foolishness!

      Linda

  12. Oh, Linda — how I love the richness I find when I arrive here! You always, ALWAYS, find something, riff on it and then find something related that is even more fascinating and tie it all back at the end like a wonderful gift, shaped like the “infinity” symbol!

    On “Rapture” day, I headed off to the art festival to work, listening to a piece on Morning Edition about all those who gave away everything, waiting to shoot up into heaven. By my calculations, I would be either be shooting up or left to deal with torment at the conclusion of the festival that day, 6 p.m. As six rolled around, I realized — with mixed emotions — that I would indeed have to endure aching feet, hips sore from standing on cement and one stubbornly sore callous for another day at least. And I was mighty glad.

    With all our odd weather it does indeed sometimes feel like the end of the world — drought for you, cold and wet for us, and those tornadoes. All we can do is go from day to day, be our best when we can and try never to be the worst we know we can be, help one another, and do what we can to bring rapture into our lives every day — however we define it — for as long as we can.

    • jeanie,

      I was caught by your remark that “it does indeed sometimes feel like the end of the world”. While Camping and his friends wait for the “big end”, there are worlds ending around us every day. Anyone who’s suddenly lost a job, or a relationship, or been forced into a transfer at work, or been in a serious accident knows what it feels like to have a world end.

      I know people are trying to be helpful, but telling someone who’s just been blindsided by life, “Oh, come on. It’s not like it’s the end of the world…” is missing the point. For the person with the aching heart or sore spirit, it is the end of the world – at least temporarily.

      I’ve wondered whether its possible that Rev. Camping and his followers are so eager for The End because they just can’t stand the inevitable endings of life in the real world. There’s no way to know, but it makes as much sense to me as anything else.

      The good news is that while that crew refocuses on October 21, we’re free to live – aching feet, sore hips and all!

      Linda

  13. Cynic that I am I went down the mountain to Dolega and paid the electric bill seven hours before the cataclysm was scheduled to take place here in Panama.

    As far as meteorological prognosticators are concerned my father used to say, “Anyone who’d believe what a weatherman has to say will believe what a politician will tell them.”

    Our small town of Orleans, on Cape Cod, had a lot of “summer homes” owned by people from Boston, New York and New Jersey. One was owned by Boston’s Channel Four weatherman, whose name escapes me until after I press the “Post Comment” button. Like so many of the summer folk the families with children would take up residence when school let out for the summer and stay until Labor Day. The bread winners would come down on the weekends and for their two-week vacation. They would, of course, come to our restaurant on the beach regularly for the onion rings and fried clams.

    Well, one summer when we’d been having a prolonged dry spell and the woods were little more than tinder boxes Don (it’s coming to me) the weatherman came down for his two week stint, and wouldn’t you know, it rained nearly all day, every day, for those two weeks. Of course when he’d show up at the restaurant, which was quite often since the onion rings were addictive, my father was relentless in his criticism of the poor guy’s choice of a weather window for his vacation.

    One last thing…isn’t it a shame Molly isn’t around now that Governor “Good Hair” is contemplating a run at the White House? I’d love to read her columns about THAT.

    • Richard,

      I don’t think paying that bill down in Dolega indicates cynicism so much as a firm grip on reality – not that I’m contesting your cynicism, of course. Our beloved Molly had something to say about that. “It’s hard to argue against cynics,” she said. “They always sound smarter than optimists because they have so much evidence on their side.” Ain’t it the truth?

      Personally, I don’t think Perry is going to go for it. I just don’t. Like so many of them, he can’t resist a little speculation, a little of the spotlight, a little fawning by the political hangers-on. I could be wrong, but I think he’ll sit tight for this election cycle.

      I do enjoy your stories of life on the Cape. Your description of the “summer folk” remind me of our summer trips to a lake in Minnesota when I was a kid. We went every year (though not for the whole summer) and it was fun to reunite with friends made on previous trips.

      As for that poor weatherman – well, what can we say? They do pretty well these days with things like the tornado outbreaks of the past couple of weeks, but as far as rain and dry? Not so much. On the other hand, if that weatherman has a track record of bringing rain – send him down here!

      Linda

  14. This is the part that kills me: Shouldn’t a pastor, who supposedly has read the Bible, be familiar with this verse, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24: 36

    I, too, was rather hoping for rapture so that, like your friend, I wouldn’t have to go ahead with the day’s tasks. But, I never for a minute believed that man could predict when He would come for us.

    The only thing that’s sad to me, is that escapades like this give the world cause to mock Christians. When he clearly had no foundation on which to stand when speaking for the faith.

    Love the rainbow, and your shots of rain. How rapturous it is indeed.

    • bellezza,

      There’s been a tendency in press reports and analyses of Harold Camping and his group to refer to him as “Reverend” or to call him a pastor. Neither is justified.

      Camping received a degree in Civil Engineering in 1942. He was a member of the Christian Reformed Church until 1988. He taught Bible classes. That’s it.

      However, I did find this, tucked into the depths of the Family Radio page:

      “…We are now compelled to teach the
      Biblical truth that God has shifted the final task of world evangelism to individual Christians who are outside of a local congregation. In obedience to these Biblical teachings, Family Radio, which is completely outside of any church institution, and which is supported and administered by individual believers, does teach that today,
      as we are heading for the end of this world’s existence, we should not be a part of a
      local church.”

      Obviously, the only foundation Mr. Camping has to stand on is his own idiosyncratic interpretation of scripture. If I were interested enough, I’d do a bit more exploring to see if I could prove my hypothesis: that Mr. Camping, a Bible teacher in the Christian Reformed Church, started interpreting scripture in some pretty weird ways. The congregation became uncomfortable. Conflict ensued. Camping left the church, and came up with a theological justification. It happens.

      But we still have rainbows. ;-)

      Linda

  15. Growing up on the Wet Coast of Canada it was impossible to imagine drought. I remember one stretch of more than two weeks when it didn’t stop raining. It fell day and night for the entire time.

    In the early 80s we had another period that was shorter – maybe only a week or so – but the rain was more intense. A few of the rivers swelled up so high, one of them swept away a highway bridge in the middle of the night. The bridge was on a winding road hugging the side of a fjord between Vancouver and Whistler. Drivers couldn’t stop in time as they came around the corner. One did manage to stop in time, got out of his car, and waved frantically to a driver coming up behind him, but the driver must have been in a hurry, because he whipped past him and over the brink. They’ve still not located many of the bodies.

    • Ian,

      We’ve had some experience of that kind of rain here in Houston. We called it Tropical Storm Allison. Now, more and more people are saying it’s going to take some “rain with a name” to cure this drought. I’d prefer not, but we’ll take what we get.

      I didn’t notice your “Wet Coast” reference until a moment ago. Sometimes we read what we expect, and I expected “west”. I do wonder if the road you mention isn’t the one you posted about some months ago in relation to the Winter Olympics. I remember that it ran alongside a fjord and it looked – exciting – even in good conditions.

      It’s hard to imagine the force of water. When I first started roaming the Texas Hill Country, warnings at low water crossings seemed silly. Eventually I learned low water can become high water in an instant, powerful enough to sweep away a car. Or a highway bridge. What a truly terrifying story.

      Linda

  16. I love that top photo, the huge clouds and the tiny little rainbow.

    I find it intriguing that people will believe in things such as a given date for the end of the world. The really worrying thing for me is that belief in this kind of prediction, in the extreme case at least, can lead to people not doing what they can to improve or even fully enjoy their lives

    • juliet,

      Isn’t that rainbow wonderful? If you don’t know the site, Atmospheric Optics (out of the UK!) has wonderful pages on every sort of phenomenon – I’ve linked to the rainbow page. And be sure to check out the “What’s New” section, or the picture of the day. Who knows? You might see something on one of your walks worthy of submission!

      I think you’re so right about predictions leading to passivity. If the end is coming, there’s nothing to be done but wait. I must say, I find it amusing that folks who are waiting for the rapture always are convinced they’re going to be among the saved. I can’t remember ever – EVER – hearing someone say, “The end of the world is coming, and you all are going to be saved, but I’m going to be left in torment.” It seems the damned always are “those folks over there”. Funny how that works. ;-)

      Linda

  17. AHA! I was thinking of you and your call for rain even in previous posts and then came here and voila! a wonderful entry on rain and rapture! And the burgeoning meanings and connotations of each. While I cannot laugh at anyone’s belief or hope for “the” rapture, I am prone to exhale in relief when predictions turn out to be merely that. What people hold as sacred is fed by so many things (tho’ I must wonder with Bronxboy why such religious ecstasy involves people emptying their bank accounts?)

    But oh, the rain. How crazy we are for it! Here, as you know, nearly too much of it. And only hours south of us in your territory, you cannot wring it from a raincloud. As always, it’s the “inequality” of such things that can have us wringing our hands. Why too much there, and not enough here? A plaint heard, no doubt, since time began and certainly not solely in regard to rain, of course.

    How I enjoyed this entry. And hope you feel rain on your face and the joy of it in your hearts and thrumming into your raincatchers and streams and shores very very soon! (and not too much nor too little – but just right!)

    • oh,

      Well, my dear, we’re set for at least another full week of nothing but hot and dry. Perhaps we’ll throw humid in, too, just for good measure. I do like your “not too much nor too little” comment – it’s the Three Bears’ approach to weather!

      Water restrictions have been instituted here – voluntary so far, but soon to become mandatory, I fear.

      As for the Harold Camping saga, I’ll only add this. I can call myself the Queen of England as much as I like, but I’m still going to be minus a palace or two and a tiara. Mr. Camping can call himself the one true prophet of the end times, but… Well, you take my point.

      What irritates me most is that people like Camping make their living by creating fear. Then, they promise to eliminate fear – if only you’ll buy whatever brand of snake oil they’re selling. And that may be the answer to Bronxboy’s question: how else would the good Mr. Camping make a living if his followers didn’t empty their bank accounts? ;-)

      Linda

  18. I just don’t understand why those who are supposed to be Bible teachers like Camping would keep on calculating a day of the second coming, for the Bible clearly states that nobody knows when that day is coming. Anyway, I just feel so bad for those who have quit their jobs and sold everything.

    On another note, I just recently discovered a link between Alberta and Texas, other than oil, rain, or no rain… the wheat fields. ;)

    • Arti,

      Even more ironic is the fact that the “rapture” in any form isn’t a part of Biblical teaching. The doctrine came along later, when theologians tried to fit various Biblical references into some kind of overarching framework. By the time they got done we had pre-Millenialists and post-Millenialists and a whole variety of other “ists” who seemed more interesting in fighting among themselves than anything else.

      I did find one interesting tidbit in Camping’s statement to the press after the failure of his prediction. “I don’t have any responsibility,” he said. “I don’t have any responsibility [for] anybody’s life. I’m only teaching the Bible. I’m simply saying, ‘This is what the Bible says.”

      If nothing else, it’s a good reminder of why the community of faith is so important. The statements of single individuals always need to be tested against the tradition.

      I saw your new post and figured out the wheat! What an absolute wonder – I can’t wait to come over and comment!

      Linda

  19. I think I know a few people who struggle with cognitive dissonance. :) New information that contradicts what they already believe makes them very uncomfortable.

    I hope you get rain soon and lots of it, but not too much. Just the right amount. Slow and gentle and quenching.

    So happy to be reading you again.
    Bella

    • Bella,

      Cognitive dissonance – that feeling you get when you wander into a bathroom filled with mirrors and lit with really good fluorescent fixtures… ;-)

      Well, I suppose that example’s more dissonance and less cognition, but you take my point.

      As for the drought, it’s so bad now that when I wash down a boat, the ducks come flying to take baths and drink in the spray. It’s pathetic. And now the forecasters have stretched out the hot and dry period again.

      There’s nothing to do but work early and late and spend the middle part of the day reading and writing! Doesn’t that sound sensible?

      Linda

  20. The message is clear. Beware of prophets of all kinds! I remember reading of a church minister in Charles Darwin’s time, who had it all figured out from the Bible, and that the world was going to end at a precise time, which was something like “2 pm on a Tuesday afternoon”.

    I’ve hardly ever had to worry about rain forecasts because back in Sydney it never seems to stop raining, and here in Santiago it hardly ever does…

    • Andrew,

      Those end-times prophets are just a hoot. I can’t even guarantee I’ll have dinner on the table at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, let alone pull off an end-of-all-time prediction.

      Part of the problem – maybe all of the problem – is interpretation. The poor Bible never was meant to be raw meat for numerologists and other such who’d find a magic key and “unlock” it. But people keep trying.

      Well, now I know we’re more Santiago than Sydney! I’ll stop focusing on our dying landscape, look at your photos and pretend I’m there. Much, much more enjoyable!

      Linda

  21. This beautiful song by Jane Morgan was sung in French by Gilbert Becaud “Le Jour où la Pluie viendra”…

    Believe it not, Linda, we have not had any rain for weeks, months, not even the usual April showers. Now as I read your wonderful post the rain is falling, gently but surely; it started this morning and never ceased since. I do hope that some favourable winds will bring our rain over the Atlantic towards Texas. It is always so good to read you, thank you.

    • Isa,

      How happy I am to hear the French version of the song, and to know that you have had some wonderful, life-giving rain. A friend in England has spoken of their drought – clearly things are not as they should be. Or at least, not as we prefer.

      I will be by soon to read what you have written. It’s been a difficult couple of weeks here, with a case of flu for me and now my mother in hospital after a fall from which we couldn’t raise her up. No broken bones or such, thank heaven, but I fear we may have taken a turn that may lead her elsewhere than back to her home. Only time will tell.

      It’s always such a pleasure to have you come by – I hope your rains continue.

      Linda

      • Linda, I was so sorry to read about your mother’s health problem. I hope she will be feeling better soon although what you wrote about her maybe not going back home is sad. That is for tomorrow; for the present let her be as well as possible. Each day brings its own solution, I find. All the best to you both.

        • Isa,

          Indeed, the Biblical admonition to “let the day’s trouble be sufficient for the day” is a good one. Patience is not only a virtue,it can be a necessity in these situations. So. A favorite muffin brought from home, a cup of “real” coffee, the daily newspaper… These are the things that count.

          Thank you so much for your good wishes.

          Linda

  22. Waiting for rain can be like waiting for the Messiah. Both mean salvation, one more immediate than the other when it means crops and gardens, etc.

    As a Christian I cannot understand these ‘predictions’ about Jesus’ return. He Himself said, “No man knows the day nor the hour”. Not even Him, just the Father. Evidently that is too plain of language to be bothered with and so every so often some goofball comes out with this kind of thing, giving a few laughs to some but unfortunately belittling the wonderful things about Christianity and Christ for those who believe and those who don’t. Kooks of any kind never just hurt themselves.

    I hope and pray for rain soon. Not only do I wish it for all those individuals who need it for their livelihood, but also for all of us. When crops are lessened due to drought that just gives the greedy an excuse to jack up grocery prices for everyone. It becomes a bitter cycle.

    In the meantime, summer seems to have arrived way too early here, with 90+ temps already and the air conditioner sucking up paychecks while it cools our hides.

    • Carl,

      Isn’t that the case – “kooks of any kind never just hurt themselves”. Even the more “unusual” folk in the world seem to want to be unusual in the company of others, and sometimes they’ll go to great lengths to drag those others along with them. Sometimes they drag others down with them, too.

      But of course there are plenty of people who don’t take much persuading. For one reason or another they’re more than ready to join the cause and spread the word.

      Like so many commenters, you’ve mentioned the passage about no one knowing the time (or place), but there’s another wonderful, Biblically-based line from Shakespeare about even the Devil quoting scripture to his own purposes. I’d say we have a little of that going on, too. ;-)

      The biggest grocery issue I have right now is birdseed. Like a lot of people I’m feeding more heavily than I usually would because natural food is so scarce – but the cost of food for the birdies is sky-high. I imagine the farmers and ranchers are having the same problem with hay.

      And today? Galveston tied its record high of 94, set in 1953. Those are traditional late summer temps. I’m trying not to think what the heat is doing to the water that supports those danged hurricanes!

      Linda

      • Are you calling me the devil?!?! LOL, just kidding.

        It is sad to think that Shakespeare knew the Bible well enough but so many others who claim to know it don’t. The devil did indeed quote scripture, directly to Jesus, of all things. Shouldn’t be surprised that we (the royal we of humanity) misuse it and use it against each other.

        I think the whole idea of numerology and stuff is fascinating from the standpoint of the interesting fiction and movies that arise from it, but in real life all that stuff doesn’t work so well for me.

        Lets hope and pray hurricanes aren’t the next thing on the horizon. With the Joplin disaster just hours away and all else that has went on this year I think I’ve had my fill.

        • Carl,

          I just had the most interesting thought. I wonder if anyone who does good book reviews (like you) would be even capable of proof-texting? I suspect not – but the reasons will be something to ponder on the dock today!

          Linda

  23. Linda,

    I am so sorry to hear about your mother. I hope she is recovering and doing well.

    I would send you some of our rain if I could, except it comes with terrible tornados and damaging storms. If only we could design a filter for the wind so all we got was the rain or perhaps a funnel to channel all the excess water from the Mississippi over to Texas.

    “National Weather Service discussions weren’t read, they were exegeted”

    Now I am picturing the Weather Service people giving the forecast from behind a pulpit, with much arm waving and two old men in the very back of the room calling out ‘rain’ instead of ‘amen’. ;)

    • Kit,

      And I am laughing – REALLY laughing – at the image you’ve conjured of Sunday night service at the Church of the Heavenly Forecast! That is just great. When some of my weather-geekier friends get started with their atmospheric analysis, they might as well be speaking in tongues. ;-)

      By the way, speaking of rivers – I thought of you when I wrote “Dam Atchafalaya”. I hoped you’d come by to enjoy Carlos Guitarlos. Had it not been for your tutelage, I might have missed Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs. Shall we just say my horizon’s a bit broader than it was…

      Thanks for mentioning Mom. We’ve been on autopilot for quite a few years – long enough to develop a certain sense of invincibility. It’s an illusion, of course, but we’ll see if we can’t prop it up for a while longer. ;-)

      Linda

  24. Hi Linda,
    I’m very sorry to hear about your mother’s fall. I hope she’s OK.

    As I mentioned before I really enjoy your well written posts but just wanted to add that I love the comments your readers leave here. I’ve learned so much.

    • dearrosie,

      The good news with Mom always has been that, despite occasional falls, she apparently has terrific bones and doesn’t break things. At 93, that’s a blessing! I’ve always been able to help her up, but this time she had no strength and wasn’t able to get up even with my help. So, it was time to call in the cavalry, in the form of two young, strapping EMTs who bundled her into an ambulance and whisked her off to the ER. Now, we’ll take it day by day.

      You know, I love the comments, too. I’ve always thought of my posts as a “first word” rather than a final word, and I love the way ten comments can go in ten different directions. Those responses make me believe that blogs are capable of becoming almost living things, a new sort of literary genre.

      Ironically, that requires thought, patience and time – things that early bloggers apparently considered passe. Now? Maybe not so much. There are scholarly articles being written. ;-)

      So nice to have you stop by. I’m eager for the weekend and a chance to begin catching up with blogs like yours. It’s been a bit of a week!

      Linda

  25. Hi Linda, Your Mom sounds wonderful for someone of 93! Does she live with you?

    Although I didn’t have a week like yours I’m also looking forward to my weekend because I don’t have enough hours in the day to write my blog, plus keep up with all the other blogs I try to read, plus emails …

    • rosie,

      No, we live in the same complex, only a couple of minutes apart, but she’s been able to maintain her own home thanks to what I tell her is “hot and cold running daughter”. ;-) It’s worked well, but it may not be feasible any longer. We’ll see.

      I have a feeling we’ll both enjoy our weekends!

      Linda

      • Hi Linda,
        I wondered how your Mom’s doing this week? And how are you managing? What a good idea to have her live in her own home but in the same complex as you.
        I love your phrase “hot and cold running daughter”. LOL I’m going to share it with my sister. Although we’re a family with a bunch of children caring for my Mom – who will be 95 in July – has been left to one sister.

        • dearrosie,

          How kind of you to inquire! It’s been a topsy-turvy week. After being discharged to a skilled nursing facility, Mom was re-admitted to the hospital around 2 am yesterday and now is in the ICU. There are various problems, including atrial fibrillation and a continuing fever, but she was more comfortable when I left last night.

          Our arrangement was really been wonderful. I suppose the better part of wisdom now is recognizing that we can’t put off a move to a less happy arrangement. Helping her adjust to that new reality won’t be easy, for a whole variety of reasons. But, as my grandma used to say, life doesn’t have to cope with us – it’s our task to do the coping!

          Linda

  26. I’m not sure Linda. One thing I love about my pastor is that he makes it a point of teaching scripture in the context of the text around it and with other parts of the Bible that address similar topics. I’ve learned a lot about how to read (in general, not just the Bible) from listening to him.

    And please forgive me for not asking about your mom. I read your posts (which are always thought-provoking) and get so swept up in whatever is sticking out in my head to comment about and I lost site of the truly important thing. From the comments it sounds like she is doing okay and I’m very glad to hear that. I’m sorry to hear that her own home may not be an option any more. I can only imagine how important that must be to her, and have been to her over these years. You are a good daughter for being a part of making that happen.

    • Carl,

      You raise exactly the point I came to yesterday. It’s important to allow any text – be it the Bible or the latest Neil Gaiman treasure – to be what it is, and not a Rorschach inkblot. Text and context belong together, always.

      I can’t find the reference just now, but I remember Georgia O’Keeffe once saying (paraphrased, for sure), “Stop hanging all your associations on my work!” I think Mr. Camping did a little association-hanging on his texts. ;-)

      Thanks for mentioning Mom. While I’ll not be live-blogging her hospitalization for a variety of reasons, it’s a fact that we’ve moved into a new chapter of life, and that’s going to be part of my context for some time to come.

      Linda

  27. “it’s a fact that we’ve moved into a new chapter of life, and that’s going to be part of my context for some time to come.”

    I understand and can empathize. My wife’s mother has been in a nursing home for a little over a year now, largely due to health and weight issues stemming from a stroke over 20 years ago. She was going downhill fast and is in a really nice home and is now much healthier, but we are all coming to grips with the fact that she may never go home and are trying to figure out ways to get her out of the nursing home for short trips, etc. Never an easy thing given they have to use a machine to lift her because of her weight and height and really a leg that doesn’t work (again because of the stroke).

    It is hard watching those you love grow old and makes me feel for those who do not have loved ones who care.

    • Carl,

      Friends in the Texas hill country faced the same kind of issues with her mother, and became quite creative in their coping. They live in an old rock house common in the area, with a broad porch across the front. They discovered it was possible to use a small front-loader to pick up the lady in her wheelchair and lower her gently to the ground, where she could be taken here or there in a van. Obviously, someone “rode” in the front loader with her!

      I suppose if there’s anything good about these situations, ti’s that we’re given opportunity to get our creative juices flowing!

      It is hard watching the aging process – and for people like me, wthout brothers and sisters or other “blood relation” nearby, it certainly gives pause when we realize we will not be able to care for ourselves as we now to for others.
      It’s never to early to start planning for that certainty, and make some decisions for ourselves while we’re still able. ;-)

      Linda

      • I agee. I know one of the things I want to start working on here in the next year as we finally get fully out of debt is to get some good nursing home insurance. If I ever do end up at a place like that I want it to be a nice one like my mother-in-law is in and not the average ones I see.

        It is always the hope when we get in these kind of situations that we can rise to the occasion and not only do the right thing, but do it with that creative attitude and approach that you reference. I’m hoping the little town my MIL lives in continues to be creative with its fund raising because it would be great to see that bus service they have continue. Otherwise we may need to look into the possibilty of getting some kind of lift vehicle ourselves.


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