Get ready now because you won’t have time later

Yesterday evening started out like a normal Sunday night. I was getting ready for my workday in the morning (packing up goody bags for Christmas presents, if you must know). My folks were doing their own thing in another room.

That’s when a huge clap of thunder rattled the house.

We live in Kansas. A thunderstorm isn’t necessarily unusual–but a thunderclap that loud in the middle of December? That’s a bit strange. Even for us. But I wasn’t prepared for what I heard next: Dad shouting from the living room that our county had just been placed in a tornado warning.

A tornado warning? Seriously? Not just a “hey, watch out because you might get some bad wind” sort of a thing. But a Tornado Warning, which usually means there’s a tornado on the ground, and you need to get to shelter almost immediately (after you run outside and take pictures of it).

I dropped everything I was doing and verified that he was right. Yes. Big glaring red spot on the radar map. Heading straight for our house.

Of course.

Click for Video of the December 14, 2014 Tornado

Click for Video of the December 14, 2014 Tornado

The next thing I did? I grabbed my backpack from the corner and took it downstairs to the basement. My backpack has everything that really matters to me in it. My laptop with all my latest writing, and my flash drives with all my latest backups. Then, I put on my shoes and helped my mom carry down some valuables. Then, I went outside with Dad and watched the crazy amount of lightning.

And then, because I’m a hard-nosed, vicious, uncaring farm person, I grabbed my outdoor farm kitty (the unflappable and ridiculous Amelia Pond) and brought her inside to the basement too.

Just as we all got settled, waiting to jump under the stairwell with the twin mattress off the guest bed on top of us–the National Weather Service canceled the warning.

And that was it. We got some wind. More lightning and thunder. A bit of rain. But the rest of it went around us, or it died out before it got to us.

Some folks who don’t live in Kansas might think we were overreacting, but you don’t screw around with night tornadoes. Just like rain-wrapped tornadoes, you can’t see them, and you have to rely on the Doppler indications. By the time they’re close enough for you to feel the pressure drop in your ears, it’s probably too late.

Now, was it weird to have a possible tornado less than two weeks before Christmas? Sure. But it’s Kansas and anything can happen. Heck, they’re forecasting snow on Wednesday.

What I’ve learned after 20 years of living in this crazy, bipolar state is that you never take the weather for granted. Here it can change in the blink of an eye, and I’ve discovered that dyed-in-the-wool Kansans usually live very simple lives. Why? Because their material possessions may be blown away in a tornado a week before Christmas. If you live here, you have to be ready to dive into a shelter at a moment’s notice.

You have to be ready.

(not the tornado from yesterday)

(not the tornado from yesterday)

Today’s verses are Matthew 24:42-44.

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

If you are a Christ-follower, you should know that this world isn’t our home. We’re just passing through. We will live forever in a place that God made for us Himself, but we don’t get to go there until Jesus comes back to get us.

The problem? We don’t know when He’s coming.

When you’re waiting for someone and you keep waiting and waiting and waiting, it’s tempting to lose focus. I mean, you’ve been waiting for so long, it feels like you’ll never stop. And then you start wondering if the person you’re waiting for is actually coming. What if you’ve been waiting for no reason? What if you’ve just been wasting your time watching for someone who never intended to come get you in the first place?

Christians, living on Earth with that mindset is like not believing that there can be a tornado at Christmastime.

That’s not to say that Jesus won’t take you if you aren’t ready. No, if you belong to Him, He’ll take you home when He comes back. But wouldn’t you hate to leave this life with unfinished business? Wouldn’t you have to leave people you love behind? Wouldn’t you hate losing your most precious possessions–your friends and family–because you didn’t take Jesus seriously enough?

Be ready all the time. Never stop watching for Him. He’s coming. Like a tornado at night. You might not be able to see Him coming, but you see the indications that the time is getting closer.

So don’t take it for granted. Don’t weigh yourself down living a complicated life with too many things that don’t matter. Live focused. Live simple. And secure the things that you never want to lose–like your own soul and like the souls of the people around you.

He’s coming. Nobody will expect Him. He’ll just be here. And then you’ll be gone.

Get ready now, because you won’t have time later.

Stones of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

What we expect determines our focus

My brain is a mess this morning. I’m not exactly sure why. It may be because I had a very pleasant, thoroughly relaxing weekend where I didn’t think about anything and accomplished even less. I woke up this morning, and my brain just simply won’t engage. Have you ever experienced that? Where your brain simply won’t settle on a topic and jumps randomly from distraction to distraction? It happens to me frequently, and sometimes it’s useful. But when I’m trying to get something done, it’s a pain in the neck.

It’s times like those I really pray for focus because there are important things to do, and if I can’t bring my focus in, they won’t get done. When I was thinking about staying focused this morning, today’s verses came to mind.

Stones of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Stones of Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Matthew 24:42-44.

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

This is Jesus talking about the End Days, about watching for the day when He will return to Earth to take His followers home. Most times you’ll hear this referred to as The Rapture. That’s not a term that’s used in Scripture, but it’s what we use to describe what happens.

It’s hard to stay focused on something you’re not expecting. That’s kind of the point of this passage. If you expect that something is going to happen, you’ll be alert. You’ll be watching for it. You’ll be focused on it. If you’re not expecting anything to happen, you’ll be content to sit down, kick up your feet, and chill out. And I don’t suppose there’s any harm in that, but you wouldn’t be doing your job, especially if you’re supposed to be watching.

It’s kind of like this blog, honestly. If I’m not expecting God to do anything with it, it’s easy to get sidetracked in the mornings when I’m writing it, especially when I wake up in such a fog. I don’t really write this blog for anyone else but me, and it’s miraculous that my working through what God is doing in my life out loud actually encourages other people. I don’t take credit for that; that’s all Him. But if I don’t expect that I’m going to see something true or something encouraging out of the Bible in the mornings, it’s easy for me to suddenly want to give up. Or at least go back to bed and sleep for another half hour before I have to go to work.

What we expect determines our focus.

So what do you expect today? And I’m not exactly talking about what you expect to happen today. You can try to plan for what’s going to happen today, and that’s a good idea. It’s a good idea to be prepared if you can be. But what happens to you isn’t as important what you learn from it. So I guess a better question would be what do you expect to learn today? What do you expect to get out of the events of today? What do you expect you will learn about God today?

Do you expect anything at all? If you don’t, your focus is going to suffer. If you’re a guard watching a door, if you don’t expect someone to come out of that door, you won’t be ready when they do. Your focus will fail. It’s the same with life. If you don’t expect to learn something about God today, you won’t. If you don’t expect God to provide you an opportunity to help someone, you won’t see it when it comes. You’ll blow right past it. You’ll miss it.

If that’s what you expect, that’s what you’ll be focused on.

Instead, think about focusing on who God is. Remember, He’s God. He can do anything, and He’s promised that we can do anything through Him. So if you’re in a place where you don’t get to see Him working, or if you’re too busy, or if you’re too stressed, try to expect Him anyway. You never know where He might show up, but if you’re not expecting Him, you’ll miss Him.