"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
July 28, 2010
This is the last devotional I'm writing using our Yellowstone vacation as examples; at least for a while. So you will get a reprieve for now, and won't have to indulge us by looking at our pictures every week. That doesn't mean I won't sneak a vacation picture or story in occasionally!
While driving through Wyoming there was something that I kept seeing beside the interstate and other highways that I had never seen before. I asked Jon what they were and he said they were snow fences. The only places I have ever lived is Missouri and Oklahoma, and we don't get enough snow in the winter to need anything like this. Most times when we do get snow, we're able to safely get back on the roads a few hours later. So it's hard for me to imagine getting so many blizzards and snowfall per year that the state would need to put up snow fences. From my understanding, most of the states that get huge amounts of snowfall utilize these. We failed to take any pictures, so I have no photos to share this week.
I was curious exactly how snow fences work. There is a lot of physics involved, which I don't understand, but from the research I have done here is a simple overview.
A snow fence is a structure used to force drifting snow to occur in a predictable place, rather than randomly or not at all. They are primarily used to minimize the amount of snowdrifts on roadways or railways. In rural areas, ranchers and farmers may use temporary snow fences to create large drifts in basins for a ready supply of water in the spring. In the ski industry snow fences may also be used to catch snow in order to increase coverage in specified areas, and are also used in avalanche control.
Blowing snow is a maintenance engineer's nightmare. It blinds drivers, causes accidents, and makes clearing the road difficult; and at times impossible. When the snow melts, runoff seeps under the pavement, where water can cause cracking and heaving. A well-placed snow fence program can provide a solution to blowing snow problems. The snow fence slows down the wind and the snow will drift there instead of on the highways.
There is a lot of research and physics that go into figuring out the exact placement of snow fences. If they are placed too close to the road, it can actually increase the amount of snow on the road. The distance must be at least 35-times the height of the fence. But if placed too far away, then they lose their effectiveness. The fence is placed perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction.
Benefits on Wyoming's I-80 include a reduction of snow-removal costs of more than one-third, and a 70-percent reduction in accidents during blowing snow conditions.
Some states are now initiating a living snow fence program. A living snow fence is simply a series of tree and shrub rows arranged in such a manner to eliminate the need for traditional snow entrapment structures. The only downside is that it takes several years for the trees to grow strong and tall enough to really be a benefit.
There is also still a lot of open range areas throughout Wyoming. I'm not sure whether or not this is the reason why there are cattle guards across the roads at most onramps.
When we left Steamboat Springs, CO on Sunday morning to head towards Wyoming, Jon drove for a few hours. He started getting sleepy, so I took over after we got into Wyoming. It was rainy and cloudy, and didn't take Jon long to doze off. I had been driving down a 2-lane road and it abruptly ended at the interstate exits. I have seen cattle guards used on farms, but never on main highways. It made me wonder for a second if I was on the right road. Later we saw where many onramps across Wyoming use cattle guards.
There were also road barriers or gates across all the entrances to the ramps. Wyoming Department of Transportation, Highway Patrol, police and sheriffs have the authority to close highways due to safety reasons; which in the winter means for ice, snow, poor visibility and other hazardous driving conditions. As we were driving down the interstate or other highways we saw many signs with lights on the top by exits that read, "Road Closed When Flashing Return to Town." There were barriers attached that could be lowered to block the road. There were also signs with messages that there would be a fine if you didn't exit the highway.
I read where even before a storm reaches Wyoming workers get ready. A network of 27 weather-monitoring stations collects information via sophisticated sensors in the road surface at remote locations. With the heads-up alerts that the sensors provide, maintenance crews can be on the scene when a storm begins, already putting down an application of sand and salt mixture to forestall the accumulation of ice and snow on the road.
As I was reading all the precautions that Wyoming does to try and make their highways safe and prevent accidents, it struck me that a lot of time and expense went into this. Granted we didn't travel every highway in Wyoming, but Jon and I were impressed with how well maintained the roads were. We're used to the bad Oklahoma highways. We commented that as much snow as they got and the constant plowing and putting down of chemicals on the roads, you would think that they would have potholes and be in bad condition. But they were smooth and overall in great condition. We also loved the fact that we could drive 70 mph on most highways!
I also read where Wyoming was the 10th largest state in the U.S. with a population of only a mere 544,270. Tulsa County, the county that we live in, has a population of 591,982, so that gives you a comparison. Our county is always griping about being broke and giving excuses for the horrible road conditions. It makes me wonder how Wyoming can manage to have such great highways and go to the expense of installing snow fences in order to try and keep their roads safe, since there are so few people who reside there. Could it be priorities?
The Wyoming Department of Transportation does everything possible to try to keep their highways safe in the winter. The Highway Patrol, police and sheriffs are vigilant in blocking off highways when they are hazardous. But there can still be individuals who think they are capable of driving on icy roads and ignore all warnings. I'm sure there have been accidents due to drivers who push the limits and think they can make it to their destination. One of the reports I was reading warned drivers to exit and get off the highway if the warning lights were blinking and barrier was down. It said even though it may look safe right there, it could be dangerous further down the road. They could end up getting stuck somewhere along the road and get hyperthermia and freeze to death. But even then, there are some who think that would never happen to them.
We all have been given warnings about various life situations, and sometimes we listen and other times we don't. We may hear the advice and think it sounds reasonable; but other times we think we can handle things on our own and won't get into any trouble.
It's easy for us to preach to kids and teens about caving into peer pressure, but we adults sometimes are faced with peer pressure and don't always handle it maturely. We make excuses, don't want to hurt someone's feelings, or think it's not a big deal. Or we may feel that it's expected of us by business associates or acquaintances.
A while back Jon had to attend a business dinner at an expensive steakhouse. The two men paying for the meal were there to give a sales pitch. Two of Jon's co-workers were also in attendance. Jon and I have eaten at Mahogany's one time, and that was only because I was given a gift certificate. The food is fantastic, but we just don't pay that much for a meal. But the salesmen were out to impress, and spared no expense with the meal. They ordered appetizers, steaks for everyone, dessert and an $85 of wine. The tab was probably between $400-$500, including tax and tip.
When Jon was telling me about it, I asked if he was the only one who didn't drink the wine, and he said yes. One of his co-workers later told him that he normally doesn't drink wine, unless someone else buys it for him. Jon didn't think that his other co-worker normally drinks either. But they were in a business situation where they may have felt that it would have been rude to not drink a glass of wine, since the ones paying for the meal had purchased it for them.
This is the second time that Jon has been placed in a business setting where he stood by his convictions and didn't drink. Several months ago he had to go to Houston for a business trip, which required him to stay overnight. A business associate whom he knows fairly well met him there. That night the two of them met some men from the Houston company for dinner. After they arrived at the designated location, the men all decided that they needed to discuss some business first. They got a table and all the men, except Jon, ordered drinks; and then continued drinking for quite some time. After a couple hours, Jon finally brought up the subject of dinner. After eating, the men once again began drinking. Thankfully, it was within walking distance to Jon's hotel so he could go back to his room after the meal.
Jon told me that he really didn't think one of the men normally drank, but it was more of a social thing for him. I'm sure there are many people who do this, although that's not something they normally would do. It's easier for them to have a drink instead of risking looking like a prude for declining.
It's easy to read this and think, "Oh I would never do that!" But we've all given into pressure to do things at times that we know we really shouldn't. It may be to spend money we don't have, or buy something we really don't need in order to try and impress someone, or go somewhere we really don't want to go, or hang out with someone we're uncomfortable with, etc. We know we shouldn't, but it's easier to just go ahead and do it anyway. And it's so simple to justify it to ourselves.
God can give us snow fences, cattle guards, hazard lights, and put barriers across our path in the form of His Word, our conscience, warnings from people of maturity and wisdom, and the Holy Spirit. He can do everything possible to try and get our attention and caution us that we don't need to be heading down that road. We may look at the road right where we're at and think it looks harmless; but God knows what dangers lies ahead. He knows if we don't stop and obey that we're going to get into trouble. But many times we're too stubborn to heed His warnings, and think we know best what we can handle. Later we realize that we're in danger and need rescuing.
On the Wyoming highways there may or may not be someone who would arrive to help when someone ignores the warnings and drives on past. They could die before help arrives. It's a risk not worth taking.
But the big difference is, when we get into trouble, God will always be right there to rescue and save us. He may not be pleased with our actions, but when we repent, He'll forgive and bring us back to safety. That doesn't necessarily mean that there won't be repercussions for our disobedience; we may have to pay the consequences for our sinful actions. But God will bring us back to a safe place within His arms and give us a clean start.
Sometimes warning signs are easy to ignore. But it's usually the earliest and most subtle signs that are the most important. If we see an greenish sky and tall clouds, we know it's not a time to go for a long drive in Oklahoma. But the color can be subtle at first. And the first time, it might be easy to just admire the odd color, and go on down to the river for a nice walk. But soon, the wind will start to pick up--another sign. Then it will start to rain and hail--another sign. And finally, the tornado sirens begin to sound. If you've ignored all the other signs, it's time to dive for the river bank and start to pray. The storm will come. Not every home will survive, but it's a whole lot better than on a walk, or desperately trying to drive home.
It can be the same with living a life without God. At first, it might just feel like something is missing. We might be able to fill the missing pieces with other things, but they just don't seem to fit. Then, we can feel a mixture of depression and guilt. Every time we see certain places or certain people, it starts to remind us that we're missing something important. We can make excuses, and carry on. But the storm will come.
From which book in the Bible comes the phrase: "Eat, drink and be merry?"
From which book in the Bible comes the phrase: "Wolf in sheep's clothing?"
From which book in the Bible comes the phrase: "Woe is me?"
From which book in the Bible comes the phrase: "A drop in the bucket?"
From which book in the bible comes the phrase: "Can a leopard change his spots?"
Place chicken breasts in baking pan and cover with Italian dressing. Marinate for 1 hour or longer in refrigerator. Don't remove dressing before baking. Bake covered at 325 for 2 hours or in crock-pot until tender. You can also cook pork chops the same way.
People may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon