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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Sun over wheat - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God recognizes and welcomes people who need help

What do you look like when you’re looking for help? Do you get that blank, worried expression you see on husbands who are seeking peanut butter at the store and have no idea what aisle it’s on? Or do you play it cool?

When I’m looking for help, I try not to look like I’m looking for help. That’s probably silly, and it’s probably a pride issue. But I don’t like to look helpless even if I am. But there are some times when I know I look utterly and completely lost, but even at those times not everyone around me is willing to offer help.

There’s a big difference between recognizing that someone needs help and choosing to stop. 

Sun over wheat - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sun over wheat – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Nahum 1:7.

God is good, 
   a hiding place in tough times.
He recognizes and welcomes
   anyone looking for help,
No matter how desperate the trouble.

God is the sort of person who will help anyone who comes to Him. Satan wants us to think that God will eventually give up on us and that if we screw up too many times, God won’t help us anymore. He’ll wash His hands of us.

That’s not true. Nowhere in Scripture has God rejected a living, breathing person who turned to Him and asked for help. No matter what kind of trouble we get into in this life, no matter how badly we screw up, no matter where the consequences of our actions have taken us, God is always waiting to welcome us home.

Not only does He recognize that we’re in trouble. He is also willing to help us, eagerly anticipating the day when we get our heads straightened out and come to Him. Like the story of the Prodigal Son. God symbolizes the Father. He’s out waiting in the road, watching for the crazy kid to come walking back.

This passage out of Nahum is pretty interesting. If you have a chance, I’d suggest reading all of Nahum 1, but I’d recommend reading it in the Message (which is the version I used this morning). Nahum is one of those minor prophet books that you need to understand the context before the translation will make sense.

Nahum was a prophet that God sent to Nineveh. Nineveh was a pretty evil place. I’m not going to go into details, but Nahum wasn’t the only prophet God had sent there. And the reason God sent Nahum was to warn the people of Nineveh that judgment was coming and if they didn’t repent, they were all going to die rather unpleasantly. If you study ancient history, in all honesty, losing aspects of Ninevite culture wouldn’t have hurt the world that much. But God doesn’t take anyone for granted, and He doesn’t want anyone to die without giving them a second chance. That’s what Nahum was for.

In the Message, Nahum 1 starts out with the phrase, “God is serious business.” And that’s very true. That statement is followed by a long list of what God is capable of doing. How powerful He is. How mighty He is. How strong He is. The Creator, the Sustainer of everything. What happens when He turns His rage on people who defy Him?

And then we get to Nahum 1:7. “God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble. ”

What other god would give the people who’ve betrayed and hurt him a chance to come home? Not only a chance to come home, but the opportunity to be safe. Nahum 1:7 tells us just how deeply God cares about us, that He recognizes when we need help, that He welcomes us into a safe place no matter how much trouble we’re in. Even if it’s facing consequences of our own stupidity, God is waiting to welcome us.

So whatever trouble you’re facing, don’t hesitate to take it to God. And if you see someone who is in trouble, stop and help them. And don’t beat them over the head with their troubles. Welcome them into a safe place, like God does for us.