Opinion

Choosing a forecast

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My snow boots have gotten quite a workout this winter.

Actually, the current weather pattern is precisely how I remember the winters of my youth -- before drought came to afflict us in fits and starts.

Every outdoor chore has become a major undertaking. We don our warm winter clothes, squeeze our double-insulated feet into suddenly snug winter boots, slip on gloves, coats, scarves and hats, all to walk the 40 odd steps to the alley dumpster to deposit each day's refuse.

And we take each of those 40 steps carefully, all too aware of the sometimes hidden dangers of ice beneath the snow.

Sales of snow shovels, snow blowers and de-icer are brisk. And, as the hard-earned cash passes from my hand to the retailer's till, the thought of the many months these tools will remain idle chafes at my penurious spirit. But all are needful, today.

Keeping all of this in mind, you can imagine my delight Monday morning when I downloaded the weather graphic displayed daily on page 5 of the Gazette.

The forecast called for 60 degree days over the next several days, with plenty of sunshine and relatively mild overnight temperatures. Snow would be melting like ice cubes in hot tea!

Almost immediately my delight turned to dismay. A change this radical, though not impossible in our changeable climate, would have been headline news for a week before it came to be. Obviously, someone, somewhere, had made a colossal error.

Experience has taught me to look first to myself when an error is revealed, so I reluctantly discarded the faulty forecast and retraced my online steps, double-checking all of the necessary parameters for accessing the forecast. All was as it should be. The forecast calling for warm sunshine and mild nights was again displayed.

Nevertheless, I repeated the process for a third time. The verdict was in. The error wasn't mine.

I called the 800 number provided on the Web site. Leaving a brief message describing my dilemma, I moved on to other tasks.

Tiffany soon called. She was all too aware of the problem. It seems the trouble wasn't limited to the McCook forecast and she had been busy rectifying the situation system-wide. With a charming southern accent, she apologized profusely for the error and was even more apologetic when I jokingly asked her if she couldn't rather change the weather, leaving the forecast as it was. After all, the faulty forecast was ever so much more desirable than the real thing.

If only we could write our own weather forecasts, summoning sunny skies from dawn 'til dusk, ordering up a beneficial rain to gently fall between 1 and 4 a.m., and, of course, have a standing order for six inches of powder light snow to fall during the early morning hours of Dec. 25, no matter where we live.

Alas. It cannot be. My sunny skies would undoubtedly conflict with my neighbor's appreciation for dark thunderheads, swollen with moisture, moving on the winds. And, of course, we would miss the rainbows that signal the end of the tempest and serve to remind us of the promises of God.

Weather forecasts are an important tool in our modern day. The weatherman is seldom 100 percent right in his prognostications, but is often close enough for me to give heed to severe weather warnings. I am a stocker. If the forecast calls for ice or snow or a mix thereof, you can find me at the grocery store, buying milk, bread, eggs and any number of items I simply don't want to live without. I have given into this impulse so often this month, I've little space left to hold my "just in case" items. Nevertheless, the next time a "wintry mix" is on that weather graphic, I'll be making yet another list and yet another run. And if the weatherman misses, it's no harm, no foul. I'll have plenty of eggs, milk and bread on hand.

Of course forecasting is not limited to the weather. Wall Street makes its living by forecasting the financial health of this company or that company, the effect of events in this country or that country, and so on. Financial analysts and investors do well to heed these forecasts.

Scientists are busily fine tuning forecasting for earthquake and volcanic eruptions. If they perfect the process, then pity is all that's left for those that ignore the well-timed warnings.

Long before Jesus came to the stable in Bethlehem, long before he cleansed the Temple, long before the cross appeared on his horizon, he saw the signs.

Men were deathly ill. And the disease ran rampant. No one was immune. Everyone was infected and the prognosis was grim. We were all dead men walking, because we were all dead men sinning.

We can prepare for a storm, evacuate ahead of an earthquake or volcanic eruption, but when it comes to sin, there is nothing we can do to change our desperate circumstance.

Look to Jesus. He saw the signs. He knew the forecast. And he changed everything, offering a permanent cure and a full pardon to all who would believe. And he still does.

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" John 1:26

Things you won't see in heaven:

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