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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Steven's Studio beachhouse - Galveston, TX

Building on stilts

Let me introduce you to my temporary home for a few days: a beach house called Steven’s Studio. It’s one of three (www.3beachhouses.com) built by parents to support their children in college, and they’re all really cute, roomy enough for four people, close to the beach, and relatively inexpensive.

But let me tell you one of the interesting things about Steven’s Studio: it rocks. It’s fairly unsteady. When you’re up on the top floor, you can tell when someone is coming up the stairs outside. You can tell when people get out of bed downstairs. The whole house just moves. And I’m not sure if it was built to be that way or if beach houses with multiple stories always sway. I just know it’s a tad disconcerting.

Steven's Studio beachhouse - Galveston, TX

Steven’s Studio beach house – Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Matthew 7:24-27.“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

This is a story Jesus told, and it’s one of the more famous ones so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard it before.

It’s a commonly held fact that if you don’t build a house on a solid foundation, your house isn’t going to be able to withstand the storms that blow through. That’s a fact we know in Kansas very well. But I have a sinking suspicion people on Galveston Island know it too. When Hurricane Ike blasted through Galveston in 2009, it did ridiculous amounts of damage to the coastal areas. And beach houses, though built to be sturdy, weren’t able to stand up to the winds.

Granted, beach houses aren’t really built to withstand immense winds. They’re houses on stilts after all. But how many times do we build our lives like a beach house?

When it comes to building a life, we really have two choices on where to break ground. We can either choose to live our lives based on Scripture and scriptural principles … or we can choose not to. It’s the difference between the rock and the sand. One is solid; one is shifting. One will allow a building to withstand a strong storm; the other won’t.

Yes, sand has its place and its uses, but it’s not good as a foundation because it doesn’t have any consistency. Foundations need to be solid, unmoving, unyielding as a rule.

The Bible tells us what is right and what is wrong. It tells us how to please God, how to live, how to treat others, how to look at ourselves. It offers an answer to every question, a hope for every despair, a promise for every day. In a world of shifting values and inconsistent people, the Bible is a rock.

It’s good to look into the future sometimes because storms are a part of life, and it’s good to be ready for them. So if you build a life knowing that storms are coming, you’ll build on a solid foundation.

But if you build your life on culture or on our world’s perspective of right and wrong or on socially acceptable values, when the difficult moments of life come at you, you won’t have anywhere to turn. Because all of those things, although they may have some virtue on their own, change with the tides. And you’ll end up like our beach house–swaying with the wind, shifting with the motion of its occupants, unsteady even on still days. And that’s no way to live