Maybe 25 years ago, before I moved from Boulder to Washington, I was in DC for a few days on business. A NOAA friend and his wife were kind enough to invite me to their home for dinner. I forget the precise context, but NOAA was going through a difficult patch. [So it seemed at the time. Today people looking back might just see the good old days.]
These friends were Pentecostal Catholics. We talked a lot about our faith that night. At one point their adult daughter, who was living at home at the time, said “I just love adversity!”
“It signals God is going to act in a powerful way.”
Some of my meteorological friends of faith reacted in a similar fashion over this past Memorial Day weekend in response to a blogpost on National Weather Service kairos. To people of faith, kairos is the appointed time in the purpose of God.
That’s important right now because on the surface, the news for the National Weather Service continues to worsen. Last night’s Washington Post website carried this article, by Lisa Rein and Jason Samenow: “National Weather Service says furloughs possible for up to 5,000 to close budget gap.” Worth reading the details, but here is the situation in broad strokes. The NWS appears to have misallocated Congressionally appropriated funds over the past few years in an effort to keep things running in the short term. This misallocation didn’t solve any problems; it merely postponed and aggravated them. As the difficulties have come to light, no one is happy. Not the Congress. Not the Weather Service. Not the public they serve.
NOAA has requested supplemental funds to cover the shortfall. Congress has refused that request. So the National Weather Service is working out plans, if you can call them that – procedures might be a better word – for furloughing as many as 5000 employees for as long as 13 days.
During the summer storm and hurricane season.
Obviously, the plan is not to furlough everyone at once. What’s contemplated is a staggering of the furloughs, working with skeleton crews, etc.
Nevertheless…Risky. Wrenching. Utterly demoralizing. Under this scenario, the people being impacted – the vast majority of NWS employees and the public they serve – are not guilty of any crime. [Even when it comes to the handful of individuals directly involved, no one was feathering his nest.] An agency that should be focused like a laser on nature’s threats is preoccupied instead with the bureaucracy and red tape needed to scramble back to fiscal normalcy.
Where’s the good here?
Well, it turns out that these days it’s much better to have a big problem than a small one. You have a small problem? Suck it up. Things are tough all over. [Wait a second, I see from my vantage point that this problem is bigger than you can handle. Maybe I need to help you after all.]
You find out who your true friends are. For example…that same Senator Mikulski who can’t find anything good to say about NOAA’s satellite acquisition or its management practices? The Post article quotes her this way:
“We cannot allow furloughs because of inept bureaucracy,” … “I am on the side of the men and women of the Weather Service, and the American people who depend on their forecasts and warnings.” [I am working with Republican colleagues] “to get all the facts so we can agree to a new plan to prevent furloughs in the short term.”
Hmm. Sounds like a friend to me.
But most importantly, when you and I find our limits we better appreciate God’s strength. When we realize our bankruptcy is not of that Chapter 11 variety which can be solved by a momentary “reset” but is of the more total, more enduring, lifelong Chapter 7 variety, that we’ve never been as great as we thought we were…when we’re humbled by our circumstances…that’s when we begin to understand our true place in the universe.
It’s not our weak hold on Him but His firm grasp on us.
The outlook for the National Weather Service, and for those of us who depend on their outlooks, forecasts, and warnings? Stormy now, but skies clearing down the road.