Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned and a Tornado Blows Through Town

I recently read a post from a lady by the name of Rebekah that was written about the recent tornado outbreak in central Illinois and I just had to share it with others.
 My wife and three older children were at church actually about 5 miles away from where all the devastation had happened that day. I do not know this woman, but after reading some of her other post's I realized that we could all truly learn a lot from her and relate to her as well. Rebekah's Blog!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those individuals who may have suffered from these storms.
God bless, Scott Johnson

Well, this was one of those days that didn't quite go as planned…whatever that means.
It started out like any other Sunday.  I woke up and immediately began getting people ready for church, beginning with a shower for myself.  A little one rolled out of bed, and an infant woke up crying and a little boy that seems to be growing an inch a week made his way out from his room.
Grandma was here and well, Sunday mornings go so much smoother when grandma is here.  We worked together for about an hour getting kids ready and fed and she corralled the four older children and headed to Sunday school.  I stayed behind.  I’ve gotten out of the habit of attending Bible class.  You skip church or Bible class once and it’s so much easier to skip the next week.
The baby went down for a short nap and I attempted to make myself presentable with the two year old make up that sits on the bathroom counter.  Sunday might be the one time a week I actually brush my hair.  Maybe the second, I don’t really know.  I contemplated going back to bed for 30 minutes but I figured I could catch a nap in the afternoon, so I decided to set the table instead.  I had a few more minutes to kill so I checked Facebook.  I don’t ever comment or “like” anything Sunday morning though, I wouldn’t want anyone to know the Pastor’s wife is checking Facebook during Bible Class.
The time came to leave, so I woke the baby up and we headed out the door.  It’s normally pretty windy in this town, but today was windy, even for a windy town.  The previous day was very similar.  I remember looking up at the sky, feeling the unsettled atmosphere swirling and blowing my long hair everywhere and telling my husband, “It’s almost like God is frustrated.”  Well, the last thing I’m going to do is make some prophetic claim that God is frustrated, but it was just a thought that passed by as quickly as the leaves rustling and blowing down the street.
We did the normal church thing and we sat in the back pew, my favorite pew of all.  The kids filled up the pew with bulletins and communion cards, the (thankfully) happy baby jumped and wiggled and grabbed hymnal pages and the toddler did the usual toddler thing.  They were pretty good actually.
The pastor preached a mighty strong sermon.  One that stood out.  Not that they don’t usually stand out, but I particularly love the “end of the world” passages of the Gospels.  He talked about all the terrible things that had happened in ages past to the followers of Christ.  He talked how these things were only a foretaste of the calamities to come upon the world as the end of time draws near.  Devastations and persecutions.  Enough to make you terribly frightened if you stay awake (or wake up) long enough to think about it.
As always, there was a message of hope.  These disasters are not reason to despair, but rather to rejoice.  Because they merely point to the hope that we are a day closer to the end of it all.   Jesus said it himself.  When we see these things take place, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.  Our Lord is returning soon to put an end to death and disaster forever.  To release creation from the groans of the curse that befell the world  long ago.
Even though it was a good sermon, I probably would’ve forgotten about it.  After all, we went home, prepared to eat lunch and have our afternoon quiet time as planned.
That is, until the tornado sirens sounded.
Plans can change in an instant.
The lasagna will have to just wait because out of nowhere tornado sirens were going off and that meant heading down into the basement to take cover.  The women and children sought shelter while the husband stayed upstairs, keeping watch on the radar and skies.
We huddle beneath the steps and to the children I read aloud the words of Psalm 91.  My standard reading for the dozen plus times we’ve huddled under those steps during a storm.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”….The words seem appropriate as clouds swirl above the house, a funnel cloud forms a mile away, and in times like that all you can do is pray that God will be merciful and spare any disaster from coming near our tent (Psalm 91:10).
The kids ask, “What if our house is blown down?”  All I can say is, “Well, if our house blows down, we will deal with that if it comes, but we can rest assured knowing that God is in control of the storms, we needn’t fear.”
Needless to say, this isn’t exactly how we’d planned to spend the afternoon.
Sometimes life doesn’t quite go as planned.
Sometimes it means squishing together under basement stairs instead of eating lunch.  Sometimes it means a hard-working pastor misses an afternoon Sunday nap because a tornado just plowed through out the outskirts of town, and there is a house down the street that has flipped upside down and neighbors need help clearing debris.  It means instead of energetic teens going bowling for a youth group event, they cancel the event to go help their neighbors in need.  It means many hard-working men who planned on relaxing and watching a Sunday afternoon football game, get up off the couch and jump into a fire truck and bravely head out into the unknown, ready to help anyone that might need it.
For some people, it meant they woke up expecting to have a house to fall asleep in that night, but instead have no house any longer.  For a few, it meant they woke up this morning…only to fall asleep in death, falling victim to the storm.
I don’t know what it meant for most people, but God does.
Yeah, today was one of those days that didn’t quite go as planned.
But I can’t help but think of this morning’s sermon.  About disasters and troublesome times falling upon the earth.  We often feel immune in a small town, until that is, a tornado plows through out of nowhere.
So is this time for despair or for hope?
When things don’t go as planned, is it time question God or to trust God?
Storms can level homes, snap a telephone pole in half, and uproot a massive tree from the earth.  Storms will weaken the foundation of houses and might even weaker our faith in a good God.  Storms can suck up livestock and barns and literally suck the breath of life out of a human being.
But the storms of life can strengthen communities, strengthen hearts and strengthen the hope we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I remember the words from the Gospel reading in church today, the same day the storm came through:
“Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Luke 21:28
Rejoice, little towns and all who live there and those who suffer now.  Lift up your head.  Our redemption is one day closer.
Says the God who rebuked and calmed the storm.