When the ground shakes.

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Every year GNS Science locates over 15,000 earthquakes in New Zealand. About 100 – 150 of these quakes are large enough to be felt, – the others we only know about because they are recorded by seismographs. Historic trends and records dating from the 1840s show that, on average, New Zealand can expect several magnitude 6 earthquakes every year, one magnitude 7 every 10 years, and a magnitude 8 every century.

Ok, so I guess it was ignorance on my part in moving here to be aware that earthquakes do occur, but oblivious of how common it can be in certain places. Yes, I was introduced to GEONET and then had somewhat of a fascination of following it as part of my daily routine. After waking up one morning and being asked if I had felt a little shaking during the night, I thought that maybe I should ask more questions about this. However, since thinking about what it would be like to actually experience an earthquake, I have also been considering what I could write for this blog post.

From what I gather and can imagine, there is the major feeling of being out of control that is present during such a time. In what do you even place your security in? You might not trust the walls around you for protection. You wouldn’t feel confidant in the ground below you. You probably wouldn’t feel in control of your own body as it too reacts to the rolls beneath your feet!

I believe life can be like that some times. Can you remember a moment when you felt like you were so out of control and wondering what to do? There are a few that I can recall, one in particular was last year. At the time, I wasn’t making any connections to earthquakes. Instead, I was likening it to being swept over and over by strong waves and not having anything to grasp onto to bring me to safekeeping. I knew that Jesus was the only person I could place my trust and security in as circumstances seemed so foggy and confusing. One Sunday morning during worship, I remember singing out to the lyrics of ‘Lord, I need you’ , where it says:

And when I cannot stand, I’ll fall on you. Jesus, you’re my hope and stay”.

This is what I want to say when trials come my way or if I ever happen to experience an earthquake. I want my foundation to be so rooted in Christ that no matter when I am shaken with nothing else to trust in, not even myself. That He is enough. He is all that I need. I can depend on Him and His ways fully, even though the things around me are wavering, He is that strong fortress.

When I think about having the deep foundations that give a house more of a chance of withstanding shifting landscapes, I also am reminded of the picture of a tree, having its roots deep into the soil so that it can withstand the strong winds that shakes it’s branches. Psalm 1 acknowledges that the blessed man is like ‘ a tree planted by streams of water’, who yields fruits, whose leaves do not wither and who prospers. This person takes delight in God’s word and thinks about it’s truths. This tree is planted by water, a picture of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to live a life that is righteous. I want such foundations and roots within the ground, soaking up more and more of the truths that will help me to stand firm when all else is shaky ground. Notice how Psalm 1 describes the blessed man as someone who not only delights in God’s word but meditates on them! This is taking the time to allow His word to ruminate our thoughts. It is not passive but active, so that when we feel like things are out of control, we know that God is still very much in control. His promises and his truths keep us safe and secure. To know that even when we do stumble, we will not fall because the Lord upholds us with his hand. Psalm 37.24. Even when my emotions betray those promises and say there is no hope. Even when my circumstances look bleak and confusing. Even when someone betrays me. Even when I cannot fathom what I will be doing next year, or where I will be living, or all the other the questions. Can we still say that God is good, when we don’t understand and when everything seems to crumble around us? Because He is and He always will be. He doesn’t shift like the ground below us, He is firm and unchanging. He is good.

There are a few other analogies that come to mind but with keeping it short and simple today, I will leave at that with this reminder.

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be shaken but endures forever. Psalm 125.1

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And a little about the earthquake of 2011 in Christchurch…

Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12.51 p.m. Christchurch was badly damaged by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake, which killed 185 people and injured several thousand.

The earthquake’s epicentre was near Lyttelton, just 10 km south-east of Christchurch’s central business district. The earthquake occurred nearly six months after the 4 September 2010 earthquake, but is considered to be an aftershock of the earlier quake.

The earthquake occurred at lunchtime, when many people were on the city streets. More than 130 fatalities were caused by the collapse of two multi-storey office buildings – the Canterbury Television and Pyne Gould Corporation buildings. Falling bricks and masonry on Manchester St and in Cashel Mall killed 11 people, and eight died in two city buses crushed by crumbling walls. Rock cliffs behind houses collapsed in the Sumner and Redcliffs area, and boulders tumbled down the Port Hills, with five people killed by falling rocks.

Although not as powerful as the magnitude 7.1 earthquake on 4 September 2010, this earthquake occurred on a fault line that was shallow and close to the city, so the shaking was particularly destructive. In the February 2011 quake, the fault movement and structure of the bedrock produced exceptionally strong ground motion – up to 1.8 times the acceleration due to gravity in the eastern suburbs. In the city centre, ground accelerations were three to four times greater than those produced by the September 2010 earthquake.

The earthquake brought down many buildings that had been damaged in September 2010, especially older brick and mortar buildings. Many heritage buildings were heavily damaged, including the Provincial Council Chambers, Lyttelton’s Timeball Station, and both the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral and the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Among the modern buildings irrevocably damaged was Christchurch’s tallest building, the Hotel Grand Chancellor. More than half of the buildings in the central business district have had to be demolished.

Liquefaction was much more extensive than in the September 2010 earthquake. Eastern sections of the city were built on a former swamp. Shaking turned water-saturated layers of sand and silt beneath the surface into sludge that squirted upwards through cracks. Properties and streets were buried in thick layers of silt, and water and sewage from broken pipes flooded streets. House foundations cracked and buckled, wrecking many homes. Despite the damage, there were few serious injuries in residential houses in liquefaction areas. However, several thousand homes have been demolished, and some suburbs will probably never be reoccupied.

The government immediately activated its National Crisis Management Centre, and a national state of emergency was declared the day after the quake. Christchurch’s central business district was quickly cordoned off.  Electricity was restored to 75% of the city within three days, but re-establishing water supplies and sewerage systems took much longer.

The cordon around the central business district was progressively reduced over the next two years but not completely removed until June 2013. It will take several more years to completely restore the city’s electricity and water networks to pre-earthquake standards. Many areas in the condemned ‘Red Zone’ will not have services restored to this standard.

(http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/page/christchurch-earthquake-kills-185)

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This photo was taken in February when I first arrived. The following describes the installation piece in detail.

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