Last Friday, Good Friday, Doris and I were sitting in our family room visiting with some of our very best friends from Ohio. The TV was on providing background noise to the animated conversation of catch-up and the loud laughter that marks such moments. The weather the day before had been gorgeous with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s. On Friday it was a little cooler and the sunshine was broken from time to time by a dark, heavy cloud.
As we talked the television became more insistent and after awhile we were focused on the red swirling circles tracking their way from Spring Hill, Franklin, and Almaville directly toward Murfreesboro. The weather map was vivid with storm warnings and watches and a big TORNADO WARNING that flashed repeatedly on the bottom of the screen. We watched and the talk turned to basements, or the lack thereof, roof structures, and the Wizard of Oz.
Just a little after 1, as the sky was getting really black, our electricity went out. I don’t know if you know this but cable TV, satellite internet, and home phone service are all pretty dependant on electricity. Even our cell phones quit working as we found out later, the nearest tower was downed. It is hard to imagine that in our society, in the midst of the information age, that we could so quickly become so absolutely isolated. We were cut off from the goings on of the storm, the weather channel, and all that was happening around us.
We watched intently the black sky out the windows and the trees bending to the ground. There were no funnel clouds. We did not see cows flying through the sky. We didn’t hear a train. All we saw was ugly, angry sky, torrential rain, and a black TV screen. Our cell phones worked, not to call out, but to receive calls, we found out when family and friends began to call and text, asking if we were alright.
While we sat in the dark and made nervous jokes about squeezing into the bathtub with couch cushions (Doris’s 1st plan of escape) an F3 class tornado was hitting within a half mile on three sides of us. The national news later reported there were 92 homes destroyed, over 50 people injured and, both tragically and miraculously, only two deaths. We were without power for 30 hours. It took us several hours to get our friends back out to the highway. (I don’t think they stopped until they were all the way back in Ohio.) The road was blocked on both ends from our house and within easy strolling distance office buildings, churches, and whole neighborhoods were leveled. Even as we were going to the airport on Monday, traffic was being diverted to side roads and back streets around the rubble and clean-up efforts.
We have been amazed and humbled by the hundreds of emails, text messages, and phone calls from people that we love and that love us, checking on us and asking about our safety. God was merciful to us. Neither our home nor Branches was damaged in any major way. All of our family, Chonda and David, mom, Josh and Jennifer and Jon-Mical were unharmed. Jacob, it scares me to even think about it, was driving to our house from the campus of MTSU during the height of the storm and drove right across the path of the tornado literally moments after it passed. He said he knew he was still in Tennessee when he saw a guy in pajama bottoms and a camouflaged flannel shirt, walk out of a building with no roof, holding a can of beer, scratching his belly and looking up into the sky. Jacob was safe. Thank God.
Well, because I’m writing a blog and not a book I need to wrap this up. Here’s the message of the morning, the moral of the story. We just never know. We think we are so well informed. We feel like we have a purpose and a plan. We have it all together and all figured out but the very moment that we are “crying peace, peace sudden destruction is upon us.”
Now I figure we can do two things with that. We can spend our lives like Chicken Little saying, “The sky is falling.” Preaching gloom and doom and living in a spirit of fear and anxiety. Or, we can be busy about the Father’s business. I live in a world full of broken people, watching black TV screens and listening to cell phones that will not work. The message is all around them but they don’t hear it.
I’m not going for melodramatic here but I am reminded that, as my father-in-law always says, “There’s only one life. It soon will pass. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” At Branches, and in my own life, I am determined to get the Word out. Oh, I’m still going to laugh, and tell funny stories, and show pictures of Jon-Mical. But always in the background there needs to be an undercurrent of urgency. The storms are still coming and only Jesus has the safety we desire. Whether its demolished houses or shattered marriages, damaged roofs or hurting hearts, Jesus is still the answer.
The people I love, heck, the people I don’t even know, deserve my best effort, in the words that I say and the way that I live, at showing the love of God to them and for them. “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight oh Lord.” Or as St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach Christ and where necessary, use words.”
Now, that’s enough for today. I’ve got to go get Doris out of the bathtub and put the cushions back on the couch. By the way, we love you all.