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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The size of your trouble doesn’t matter

A few days ago, the lightning woke me up. It was a storm of epic proportions bearing down on my house, driving rain, ferocious wind, and the storm system on the map was all sorts of red and yellow. But because of the crazy winds, the storm was moving fast. No warnings had been issued. No alarms were going off. As near as anyone could tell, it was just a thunderstorm. And moving as quickly as it was, it would blow itself out soon enough. So what did I do? I went back upstairs and went back to sleep.

You learn to read a weather map at a young age in Kansas. You figure out really quickly where your city is on the map too, so when you watch the riotous march of primary colors that represent a storm system on the television screen, you know just where your house is in relation to the storm. You know how bad it’s going to be. And you know if you have time to run out and take photos before the hail tries to give you a concussion (then you decide whether or not the concussion is worth it).

I’ve ridden out crazy storms in this old house of mine, alone and with family. I’ve experienced the scary storms, and I knew just by looking that the most recent storm wouldn’t be much trouble. And it’s that kind of perspective that we need arm ourselves with as we face the trouble in our lives every morning.

DC6TBI9X7JToday’s verses are 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Life is full of trouble, but if you can keep it in perspective, it won’t feel so overwhelming. The thing about trouble, though, is that is tends to gang up on you. It’s not just one problem. It’s usually three or four or maybe more, all at once in varying levels of trauma or frustration. But when you run into trouble (or when it finds you), give yourself permission to stop for a moment and think.

I guarantee this isn’t the first trouble you’ve experienced in your life, and it won’t be the last either. But it may not be the worst.

Either way, the size of your trouble doesn’t really matter. If you get right down to it, your trouble is too much for you anyway. Like the storm, it’s not how big it is. It’s how fast it’s moving.

Time is a tough concept to understand sometimes, especially as a Christ-follower. We’re going to live forever. Forever. That’s longer than a long time. That’s forever! Do we get that? I don’t think I do. My soul may be wired for eternity, but my brain isn’t. My brain is still in the here and now, but who I am as a person will live long past the expiration date on this old asthmatic tent I’m living in right now.

So what’s a day or two of trouble? Heck, what’s a year or two? Maybe you’re not comfortable right now. Maybe you’re going through a storm. And believe me, I know that’s not fun. Storms are wet and windy. Sometimes you get hailed on. There are scary moments. And there are moments when you think it’s going to get better and then all of a sudden it just gets worse. But that’s the nature of a storm, and storms don’t last very long.

Life’s no different. And neither is following Jesus.

So what trouble are you facing today that’s got you down? What difficulty is in your path that you’re afraid you can’t overcome? Don’t you know who’s on your side? The God of the Universe. The Creator of All Things. Better known as Abba Father, who is reaching out to offer you His personal help.

Storms get worse often before they get better, but that just means they’re moving. So just be still and let them blow around you. God will give you the strength to stand your ground until it’s over, and then He’ll give you the wisdom you need to move forward.

Jesus is stronger than your worst storm

Living in Kansas, I get to see some pretty spectacular storms. I’ve seen funnel clouds before, and I’ve been close to tornadoes on several occasions. But I’d never actually seen a tornado form–until last week.

It had been a scorcher of a day. The temperature without the heat index was about 104. With the heat index it was around 110. Dad had been airing out the camping gear in the yard for our upcoming camping adventure. I can’t even remember what cause me to look out the window, but I did. And far in the distance, I saw a funnel cloud dipping out of the dark clouds to the north of us. It was some distance off, far enough away to know we weren’t in immediate danger. So what did I do? That’s right. Like a good Kansan, I ran outside to take photos.

As we watched (and tried to pack up the camping gear, losing a tent stake in the process), the tornado formed to the north, the funnel stretching down to meet the rising dust cloud from the earth halfway. It was an impressive sight, and it probably would have been much scarier if I’d been closer to it.

Tornado touching down nearly 20 miles from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Tornado touching down nearly 20 miles from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 8:23-27.

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

This is one of those stories I dearly hope God recorded for posterity. I’d love to be able to relive the moment when the disciples, terrified and dripping wet, rush into the innards of the boat to find Jesus asleep. He was taking a nap during a crazy, wild, outrageous storm. He wasn’t worried or bothered at all, in spite of the fact that the storm was threatening to completely overwhelm them.

That tells us a lot about Jesus, even without knowing what happens next.

One thing I love about Kansans is that we don’t freak out about storms. We don’t let the weather determine our activities. If we waited to accomplish something until the weather got better, we’d be waiting forever. Instead, we learn to deal with whatever the weather is doing.

That doesn’t mean we’re stupid. We know when a tornado is on the ground heading our direction that at some point we’re going to need to get into the basement. We get it. But one of the joys of living in Kansas is being able to see 20 miles in all directions, so if it’s a tornado on the ground during the day, usually you can see it coming a long time before it hits.

Kansans understand the power of tornadoes, and we don’t take them for granted. But we’ve prepared for them, and we know what to do when one comes at us.

What’s awesome about Jesus is that He is stronger than any storm. Period. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tornado or a hurricane, an earthquake or a blizzard, whatever. He can calm the winds, stop the rain, and still the earth, because He made all of it.

I think in their deepest hearts, the disciples knew that, but they just forgot. The wind and the rain was just too much too fast. It all came down at once, and they didn’t know what to do. And they panicked.

How often do we respond the same way? When the avalanches of life assault us on all sides, when the storms of politics, legal disputes, office relationships, and family drama threaten to overwhelm us? There’s really no difference between a physical storm and an emotional storm, when you get right down to it. They both do damage. They both can destroy. And they’re both things only God can fix.

Rest assured, whatever storm you’re going through right now isn’t upsetting Him. Jesus is sawing logs at the bottom of the boat of your life, just waiting for you to come tell Him you need help. He isn’t worried. He isn’t panicking. Because He’s stronger than the storms you’re facing. So what are you waiting for? Go ask Him for help.

There’s no storm He can’t get you through safely. Maybe you’ll see some damage before it’s over, but He’ll take care of you until it ends.

Sometimes we need the storms

Sometimes it feels like we’re living under a cloud, doesn’t it? Life just isn’t working out the way you want it to. Sure, there are days when the sun shines and life is bright. There are days when you feel invincible. But what about the days when it feels like the rain won’t stop falling?

It’s on those days when the bad news keeps coming. Minute after minute, hour after hour, the bad news doesn’t let up. You owe more on your taxes than you thought. Your car is broken. Your child is sick. The storm damage is extensive. Whatever situation you’re in, doesn’t it seem that bad news never shows up on the happy days? No, it all has to unload on us at once, on the days when we’re already feeling like we’ve fallen in the mud.

But one thing I’ve learned about God is that He never allows anything to happen in our lives that He won’t turn into something beautiful.

stormclouds_treeToday’s verse is Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

There are days when life feels random, like all the little bits and pieces of life are scattered around without meaning or purpose. And I’m not sure if that will ever change for us because we’re so limited in what we can see. But if you’ve lived long enough to look back over your life, you can start to see the picture forming from the fragments you thought were unrelated.

And then, sometimes, God gives you a glimpse of just how much He cares. I mean, we all know He cares. He’s God. That’s kind of what He does. But there’ s a difference between caring and being intimately involved in the intricate workings of your personal life. It’s one thing to call you a son or daughter, but God goes beyond that and treats us like His children too.

It’s one thing to recognize that God made the sunrise. It’s something else to understand that He arranged events in your life today to help you accomplish something. That’s two different levels of caring.

People know they’re meant for more than this life. That’s what the verse means. We all have this inborn understanding that there’s more to life than just what we can see. As we get older and let the darkness of our world cloud our perspective, we lose sight of it. Or we give into the lies of our culture that say God doesn’t care. But deep, deep down inside, we all know that we’re meant for something more. That’s what it means to have eternity in your heart.

It’s difficult to remember sometimes, especially in the dark moments of life, that God cares so much about us. Because if He cared, He wouldn’t let us go through dark times, right? But sometimes we need the storms.

We need to remember that we aren’t in control. We need to remember who sustains us. We need to remember who protects us. And we need to let go of our delusions that success comes from our own performance.

Maybe you’re in an ugly situation right now, and there doesn’t seem to be any hope. But you know what? God will make everything beautiful in His time. Not in our time, because we don’t understand time. Not like God does.

God is the only One in existence with the power to take the ugly and make it beautiful. He can transform anyone and anything, but we’ve got to get out of the way.

The irony and beauty of rainbows and God’s promises

We spent last night around the television, watching the severe storms blow through the area. It’s spring in Kansas, which means that the weather is always exciting. But last night was the first of the really major storms to blow through Kansas.

But just before the storm hit, Dad and I looked out the windows and saw a GIANT rainbow outside. So I threw on my new rain jacket, grabbed my phone, and ran outside in the rain and lightning to take as many pictures as I could.

I love rainbows. I always have, ever since I was a little girl. But I don’t love them because they’re pretty or because they’re mysterious. I love them for what they symbolize.

wpid-0408151940a.jpgToday’s verses are Genesis 9:12-13.

Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”

Did you realize that the original purpose of a rainbow was as a symbol of a promise God made to all creation? I’m not sure a lot of people remember that.

That’s what I think of whenever I see a rainbow. God’s promises.

God made a promise to Noah and his family before the Flood, and He kept His promise. Just like He’d kept every promise before then, just like He’ll keep every promise He’s made since then.

As a child, we learned that God’s promise was never to destroy the Earth by floods again. That was the original covenant that God made with Noah and his descendants. But a rainbow stands for more than that.

A rainbow means that God has made a promise, and that He hasn’t forgotten it. Maybe life is rough for you right now. Maybe things are difficult in your life today. But that doesn’t mean that God has forgotten His promises to you.

What I love so much about the photo that I managed to snap is that the rainbow showed up just before the storm hit. Usually I don’t see them until after a storm is over. But this time I got to see it before the trouble began.

And sometimes God does that for us. He gives us little reminders in a day or in a week to give us something to hold on to. He lets a rainbow show up in our lives to help us remember that He’s still around.

Maybe it’s a smile from a stranger. Maybe it’s a few extra bucks left in a jeans pocket. Maybe it’s a kind email from a friend. Those are your rainbows, friend. Don’t ignore them. Don’t dismiss them. That’s God using bits and pieces of life to reach out to you and remind you that He’s still got it covered.

That doesn’t mean you won’t have to go through the storm. No, that’s the irony about rainbows. You have to have a storm before a rainbow will show up. But we can remember that God will be there before the storm hits and after it’s over.

Clouds on the Kansas prairie at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What good is shelter if you don’t use it?

I’m sitting in my basement (on the couch with my roomie) watching the latest round of severe storms causing all sorts of damage across the Kansas plains. Because I’m just sitting here, I decided to write the devo for Monday morning. I’m so very thankful for my basement and my house, solid, safe places to go when the storms of the Kansas spring are too much to handle.

I know I’ve posted about this before, but it’s something that I was thinking about–having a shelter in the storm. Everybody needs one. Nobody is tough enough to fight off a tornado. I mean, you can try, but you probably won’t accomplish much.

Clouds on the Kansas prairie at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Clouds on the Kansas prairie at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 91:9-13.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

It’s just something that’s good to remember, especially when you’re in the midst of a storm. But what does it mean to make God your refuge? What does it mean to make Him your shelter? How can you do that?

I like to think I’m a fairly practical person, so just saying to make God your shelter doesn’t sound very useful. When I think of shelter, I think of basement, of solid, concrete, tangible protection that keeps out the wind and rain. And God isn’t really something that we can experience on that level.

Well, think about it. When you’re in a shelter–a basement or a safe room or whatever–what are you doing? You’re waiting for the storm to pass, right? But in relation to your shelter, you’re trusting that shelter to keep you safe. You trust your safety to that shelter, trusting it’s been built strong enough, trusting it will protect you.

How is that different from how God protects us? At least, that’s the way it should work.

God will keep us safe, although He may not do it the way we expect Him to. But He does. What I had to learn is that He’s less concerned with our physical wellbeing than our spiritual health, because it’s our eternal destination that matters more.

But whether you’re facing health issues or mental issues or financial issues or spiritual issues, God offers to be our shelter, our trusted place of refuge, and all we have to do is trust Him.

But basements or storm shelters don’t do you much good if you don’t use them. You still have to make the choice to get in your shelter when a storm is coming if you want it to protect you. So why do we think that God is any different?

We have to trust Him. We have to choose to take refuge in Him and not in our own abilities or strengths.

So whatever you’re facing today, remember that you don’t have to face it alone. And you don’t have to be vulnerable. God has offered to protect us. We just have to take shelter when He tells us.

Storms north of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God is bigger than your storm

Storms are a part of life in the Midwest. It’s not that we get used to them; it’s just that they don’t really surprise us. That’s good to a certain extent because few people panic when bad weather approaches, but it can be bad too because sometimes I think we take the weather for granted and forget how dangerous it can be.

We’re entering into storm season, and the country has already experienced quite a bit of tragedy associated with our normal spring storms. Death and destruction always follow big storms, and it’s easy to get to the point where you think it’s too difficult to keep on. I mean, what’s the point of rebuilding when another storm is probably just around the corner?

Storms north of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Storms north of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The world is full of storms, both literal and figurative, but the difference between an actual storm and a stormy season in your life is that usually you can take shelter from real wind and rain and hail. And a stormy season of life is something you really can’t escape. It follows you everywhere. Almost like you have your own black cloud hanging over your head, and there’s nothing you can do to get away from it. It just follows you around, dumping rain on you constantly.

Believe it or not, you aren’t alone. You may feel like it some days, but you aren’t the only person to ever have to weather a storm. And there have been many others who’ve gone through the same storm you are. And many of them are just waiting for the opportunity to encourage and help someone else get through it, but they can’t help if they don’t know about it.

Today’s verse comes after Jesus sat His disciples down and pretty much told them that He was going to die and go away for a while. He wanted them to know that even though He was leaving, they would be okay and they wouldn’t be alone.

When we encounter storms in our lives, it’s easy to lose hope. It’s easy to give up. It’s much harder to hold on to faith, believing that there’s a purpose and that God can bring beauty out of the destruction. He can. He’s done it countless times throughout the history of the world, and our lives are no different. But when you’re in the middle of a storm, it doesn’t feel like anything can be beautiful ever again, and it doesn’t feel like anything has a purpose at all.

The disciples were going to feel that too. Jesus knew. And that’s why He told them this. No, I don’t think they got it right away, but we shouldn’t be too hard on the disciples. Many times we miss the point of what Jesus says too.

Everyone faces storms, figurative and literal. It’s part of being human. It’s part of living in this broken world. But what we should never forget is that God is bigger than our storms. Yes, a storm can cause immense damage and can take precious lives, but God is strong enough to help us through it. If He allows us to go through a storm, there’s a reason. There’s nothing random about God’s choices.

God is able to overcome any trouble we face, and for those who belong to Him, we don’t need to fear the world or anything in it. God is bigger than the world’s problems, and He’s strong enough to take disaster and make it beautiful.

It’s our job to remember that. It’s up to us to never give up. Hanging on to faith and hope is difficult, especially when you watch the storm tearing down pieces of your life, but we have to remember that God is in control and He never lets us go through anything without a reason. And no matter how impossible the obstacles in your life may seem, God is still bigger.