Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
– Mark 13:5-11
NOTE: My wife’s surgery has been postponed until Friday. No explanation for the delay, but if it means the staff are less distracted, I take that as an answer to prayer.
Tornadoes kill and destroy. I mention three incidents below with only one causing destruction. While storms can be fascinating to study, we must remember those who suffer loss, and go to their aid if needed.
I have heard people talk about the end times when there is a massive tornado outbreak. Funny, Jesus mentioned that wars and rumors of wars are NOT signs of the end times. Then Jesus said that earthquakes and famines are only birth pains. There is no mention of tornadoes. In fact, the NIV has no mention of the word ‘tornado’. I recently read in a devotion that God is rarely mentioned anymore in the politically correct world when things are going good. When things are going badly, God is blamed for the hurricanes and tornadoes. Yet, we live in a broken world. To borrow a line from Jesus in the Scripture above, “Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”
My wife and I had a very odd second date, or was it the third? I lived in Port Neches, TX and she lived in Port Arthur (Port Acres, actually). It wasn’t that hard to pick her up and drive just beyond her home to the road to Sabine Pass and the beaches just beyond. I dug a hole in the sand and had difficulty starting a charcoal fire. There were suddenly strong winds blowing in off the Gulf of Mexico. I did not really pay much attention to the growing storm clouds. I was too busy relighting the fire. What was going through my mind was that she was going to believe me a liar when I said that I was an Eagle Scout. When I finally got enough coals to grill hamburgers, I had a moment to look at the beach and the clouds. My future wife said, “I don’t like the looks of this. We need to go.”
I put the fire out and filled in the hole with sand. I loaded everything into the car and we left. By the time we got back to the intercoastal waterway, it was getting dark. We stopped at the top of the bridge and surveyed the horizon. We counted fourteen funnel clouds. The news the next morning said that there were sixteen tornadoes. Somehow, two were hidden from our view. Those people that think certain things like this are omens of stormy things to come would be wrong on this score. My wife and I have had our arguments, but it has been far from stormy.
A year before this date with the woman that I would marry, I was recruiting for Army ROTC in northwest Mississippi. I was about to go to ROTC summer camp, but I was given a region of Mississippi a few hours from my home. I had been volunteered, but at least they paid expenses. For most of the interviews, I went to Grenada, Mississippi and checked into a hotel, having set up appointments all week long.
To the west of Grenada is the Mississippi Delta. The Delta is not a “delta” in the classic definition, but since the Mississippi River had flooded the area so many times, it was a flat area with very fertile soil, like river deltas often are. To prevent flooding, the US Army Corps of Engineers built levees along both sides of the river. Question: What happens when you have so much rain come down in a very short time and you have levees separating you from the river? Answer: It floods anyway. Now the water is trapped in the farmer’s fields. As I drove from one appointment to the next (interviewing incoming college freshmen), I drove past farmhouses that were on islands. I saw a tin can floating upright in one farmer’s yard. It took me a while to realize that it was a can that covered the exhaust of the tractor. Underneath the ‘floating’ can, below the water level, was his tractor. (Good thing that the farmer thought of putting a can over the exhaust pipe to prevent water damage to the engine. – Umm. Maybe not so much.)
When I finally found the gravel road to my next appointment, I made sure that the road was elevated above the water level. I pulled off the highway and looked to the west. There was a twister at the other end of the field. Normally, you would call it a dust devil. It wasn’t really stormy that day. But, since there was water being picked up by the twister from the flooded field, you would have to call it a water spout. I stopped the car to watch the water spout. I was fascinated. It was only a couple of hundred yards away, no, less than that. No, even closer.
“You know,” I thought to myself, “you should probably get moving. This thing is coming straight toward you.” I put the car in first gear and popped the clutch. The engine went dead. (The young people who have only driven cars with automatic transmissions are lost about now.) I cranked the car and just about the time I was ready to put it into gear again, the ‘tornado’ reached the car. As the water spout went from over water to over the gravel of the elevated road and my car, it lost its lift. It dumped the water onto the hood of my car. At that point, it was over. I got out and noticed that the hood of the car was caved in. I got back into the car and slammed my hands into the ceiling and popped the hood back out – hardly a crease in the paint.
This close encounter with a twister caused me to remember when my Dad had been working in Forrest, Mississippi a few years before. He spent the night in a hotel and when he got up the next morning, things outside his hotel room looked strange, out of place. The worst thing was that his car was gone. He went to the office to report the theft. He asked the front desk to call the police, but the desk clerk could not believe that my Dad had slept through a tornado. My Dad walked five or six blocks before he found the car. Most of the sheet metal was gone. He had the doors, a crumpled mess that used to be the trunk, and half the windshield (the only surviving glass). No fenders, no hood, the only floorboard was in the front seat area on the driver’s side, and no roof. He turned the key in the ignition and it cranked. He took his suitcase and tied it to what was left of the backseat with rope and drove home. I saw the car as he drove into the driveway. This is a true story. All three are true.
As for my ‘tornado’ experience, God had plans for me. I came away without a scratch. As for the appointment, the young man had already accepted a Navy ROTC scholarship. Why he made an appointment to talk to me is beyond my comprehension.
But God wanted to show me His power that day.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.