Preparing for storm season

Preparing for storm season is part of life in Kansas. Powerful storms and tornadoes are usually the first thing that comes to mind whenever people think about my beloved home state. Even when I was in Ireland, once people realized where I was from, the first thing they asked about was if I had experienced storms.

It was either the tornadoes or The Wizard of Oz. No, I don’t have a dog named Toto. No, I don’t have ruby red slippers. Sorry to disappoint.

Tornadoes are scary things, which is why preparing for storm season matters. I’ve never been in a tornado per se, but I’ve been close to them. I’ve seen them from a distance, and I’ve felt the frightening stillness that proceeds one. I’ve witnessed hail that broke windows and shattered vinyl siding. I’ve seen torrents of rain that washed away roads and drowned wheat crops. And I’ve walked in the debris and rubble of the aftermath. Powerful, dangerous, deadly—tornadoes pose a terrifying threat to people who aren’t ready for them.

But what if you are ready?

In the last ten years, tornadoes have started venturing out of their traditional habitat, the central plains and Midwest. States like Missouri and Massachusetts and Alabama and Georgia have started seeing tornadoes more frequently, and the damage they do is unprecedented. Why? Because few in those parts of the country have ever experienced a storm like that before, and preparing for storm season isn’t something they think about.

In May 2011, an EF5 tornado slammed into Joplin, Missouri. Officially, 158 people died, and more than 1,100 people were injured.

Four years earlier, in May 2007, a gigantic EF5 wedge tornado struck the small Kansas town of Greensburg and leveled 95% of it. The tornado itself was wider than the town. Eleven people died.

Instagram image storm season prepIt was a similar-sized tornado, although the size of the cities was vastly different. So how can one city have seen so many die while the other only a fraction? That’s not to minimize the deaths of 11 people. Any death is tragic. But what made the difference?

There were many reasons, but I wonder if one has to be that the Joplin tornado of 2011 was only the third tornado to hit the city since 1971. That’s three tornadoes in 40 years. Greensburg, on the other hand, probably has at least one close call per year.

People in Greensburg were prepared. They had shelters, safe places, basements. They listened to the warnings and knew what to do and where to go. They were ready.

You can’t expect people who’ve never experienced a tornado to know how to withstand one.

Trouble is natural

Preparing for storm season is a great idea, but we don’t face tornadoes every day. Those aren’t the storms I’m talking about. Jesus told His disciples that facing trouble and storms in this life is something they should expect (John 16:33), and that holds true for us today. So many times, Christians think that life is going to go well for them. We expect to enjoy blessings and good harvests and problem-free lives, and to a certain extent, we are supposed to expect those things. But not from life.

Expect good things from God, but there’s no good thing that comes from life (James 1:17) . Anything good in life is from the Lord directly.

Instead, we’re supposed to expect trouble (1 Peter 4:12). We’re supposed to be on the lookout for storms. This truth shows up in Scripture over and over again. Think of Jesus’ story about the two men who built houses (Matthew 7:24-27). The foolish man built his house on sand; the wise man built his house on the rocks. And when the storm came, the foolish man’s house collapsed.

Storms will come in our lives. There’s no escaping them. So instead of denying that they’re possible or trying to outrun them, isn’t it better to prepare for them?

Preparing for storm season

Build your life on a solid foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10). When you’re putting down the bedrock of your life, be sure you’re building on unchanging truths. God is good. Jesus saves you. The Holy Spirit will guide you. And He’s working everything for our good and His glory, regardless of what it may feel like right now. If that’s your foundation, no storm can collapse it. Sure, the wind might rattle the glass, but your house will stand.

Nahum 1:7Have a safe place to run (Nahum 1:7). Storms hit us in every moment of our lives, and we need to be ready to run to God for help. Throw your worries to Him. Let Him carry the weight of your burdens. Stop trying to carry it yourself or stand up against the wind on your own strength. Rest in His strength.

Hear His instructions and obey (Psalm 32:8-10). God has given us the Bible so that we know what’s right. He teaches us how to live, how to be blessed, how to be wise. But many times, we just hear and don’t put what we’ve learned into practice. You have to do both (James 1:22).

Storms are scary

When the sky goes dark and the wind starts to blow, when thunder is rumbling so loud that it shakes you, it can be terrifying. And you can feel alone. But don’t. Because you’re not. And preparing for storm season means you don’t have to be afraid.

Life works the same way. If you’re a Jesus-follower, storms are going to fall on you. But you don’t have to be afraid of them. God’s already given you everything you need to withstand them. You just have to use it.

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A roller coaster that holds on to you

I think I’ve been looking at God-opportunities wrong all my life. So many times when God starts doing something, I’m ready and willing to jump on board and hold on tight as the ride shoots forward at a breakneck pace. But is that really the best way to ride?

On a roller coaster, you’re usually strapped in so tightly that holding on white-knuckled can’t make you any more secure. The only exception to that was the old wooden roller coaster at Joyland in Wichita, which was a death trap.

What do you do with your hands on roller coasters? Most people hold on for dear life, yeah, but what should you do with them? I’ve never tried it, but some brave souls throw their hands in the air. Why? Maybe it’s a crazy trust exercise. Maybe it’s to demonstrate that they’re fearless.

Either way, I’m sure you’re probably a lot more comfortable after the ride is over if you aren’t having to use a crowbar to pry your fingers off the harness.

But that got me thinking. If God is inviting us to ride the wild roller coaster of life with Him, would it be better to hold on tight for dear life or let go and enjoy the ride?

Courtesy of Joel A . Rogers, http://www.coastergallery.com/

Courtesy of Joel A . Rogers, http://www.coastergallery.com/

Today’s verse is Exodus 14:15.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!”

This is what God says to Moses just before He parts the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross to escape Pharaoh’s army. Really, you ought to read the whole of Exodus 14 to get the feel for the story. But it comes down to God telling Moses what to do, and the Moses does it. But the Israelites aren’t just standing there. When the Red Sea parts, they still have to cross it.

Maybe my thinking is all wrong, but all my life, I’ve looked at the rapid pace of God’s plans, and I’ve automatically decided that the best way to approach them is to hunker down and hold on tight. If I don’t, I’m bound to fall off, right? Because there’s no way I can keep up on my own.

Going back to the roller coaster analogy, if we’re riding it, we don’t need to keep up. We’re strapped in six ways from Sunday. We’re on the ride, and a roller coaster doesn’t stop to let you off. Once you’re strapped in, you’re committed.

What would rapid-pace running with God look like if I weren’t holding on for dear life? Because there’s a big difference between holding on to the ride and participating in the ride.

What if I trusted Him enough to let go and put my hands in the air? If all of my strength and focus wasn’t invested in holding on tight, I could use that strength and focus in other ways. Like enjoying the ride. Like marveling at how fast we’re going. I could keep my eyes open and see what’s coming.

What is it about running with God that makes us think we have to do something to stay on the ride? If He invited us to get on, don’t you think He’ll make sure we stay on? The only reason why we’d fall off is if we sabotaged our harness, and any thinking person wouldn’t do that.

The point is this. Instead of holding on to the ride, hold on to Christ and reach forward together. You’ve got two hands, and you don’t have to cling to your harness with all your strength. You can be busy doing things while you’re on the ride. Don’t be afraid of the speed. Don’t be afraid of the sharp corners and loud sounds. God knows what’s coming, and He’ll make sure you stay in your seat.

You don’t have to keep up. You don’t have to add anything to the ride. But what you can do is be ready. If all your focus is on holding yourself in one place, you won’t notice the opportunities to help others. You won’t anticipate the moments when you can do something more than just let go.

If we’re on the ride with God, we should spend less time holding on and more time letting go. It’ll be fast, yes. It’ll be wild, absolutely. But it’ll also be the best thing you’ve ever experienced. And you won’t spend it holding on for dear life.