Tornado!

Carol and I were visiting our son, Jeremy, and his family in Oklahoma when my cell phone interrupted us. It was a tornado warning for Siloam Springs. We’ve received tornado warnings in the past and were thankful the storms passed over or around our town. But this time, it was different.

After midnight on October 21, 2019, an EF-2 tornado, accompanied by straight-line winds, hit Siloam Springs and a few other places in northwest Arkansas. An EF-2 can cause major damage.

The next day, our daughter-in-law, Angela, checked the news and found that up to nine tornados hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The worst of them was an EF-3. Soon, the topic of windstorms, especially tornados, prompted a discussion among the grandkids.

When one of the granddaughters learned that these circular winds can pick up cars, rip roofs off buildings, topple trucks, and pick up and splinter houses, she asked, “Grandpa, how does a tornado pick up huge things like cars and houses?”

Aha! A teachable moment, and five or six grandkids were close by.

“Gloria, what’s the name of the machine that cleans your carpets?”

“A vacuum.”

“Right. And what does it do?”

“It picks up dirt.”

“Right, again. The roller with brushes on it is sometimes called a beater. The roller turns almost 6,500 times a minute. That’s about 108 turns a second. But the machine also has a fan that sucks in air. So, when the roller and brushes vibrate the carpet and shake the dirt loose, the machine pulls loose dirt in with the air. If the vacuum hits a piece of mud, the mud usually breaks apart and the vacuum sucks up the pieces. Small rocks can’t break apart, so the vacuum just swallows them.”

“That gets loud. But how does a tornado pick up cars or houses?”

“I’m getting there. Does your mama have a blender?”

“Yep.”

“When you turn it on, what happens?”

“It chops up food, spins it, and makes it into a liquid.”

“What does it look like as it’s spinning?”

“It pulls the food down in the center and pushes it up on the sides.”

“Right. A tornado does that but upside down. A tornado is like a huge blender but without the blades. The powerful force of the wind and change of air pressure – vacuum – are what tear things apart. Now, let’s put this all together.

Tornados are like a combination of upside-down blenders and right-side-up vacuums. Vacuum heads are only 8-16 inches wide and can pick up dirt, sand, pennies, little rocks, socks, things like that. But a tornado can be as small as 500 feet wide or as large as several miles wide. They create winds as slow as 80-miles-per-hour, or over 300-miles-per-hour. And they can pick up things that weigh several tons.

 “When a tornado hits a car, the car is like a rock and doesn’t break apart. So, the wind moves the car and the vacuum sucks it up. It’ll get banged up, thrown around, and most of the time it’s destroyed. When a tornado hits a house or building, the wind normally tears it apart like a vacuum cleaner breaks up a piece of mud. The tornado sucks up the pieces of buildings and sends them several yards and sometimes miles away. But once in a while, a gentle part of the tornado – that sounds funny – picks up an entire house without shattering it. The house moves sideways for several feet or is turned around without breaking up.”

“But the plumbing and electrical system has to be repaired.”

“You got it. The power of the wind breaks the house loose from the footing, and the upside-down blender suction picks it up and turns it. However, even though the house might look mostly fine, it might have to be rebuilt anyway because of internal damage.”

That brief, over-simplified explanation satisfied the grandkids’ curiosity.

But tornados of other kinds, such as death in the family, loss of job, poor health, breakup of a marriage, can tear up our lives. We might appear to be fine, but we are broken up on the inside, and simple explanations don’t help. A counselor might help us cope, and friends can help us recover; but only God can help us heal.

Don’t be afraid to ask the Lord for help. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (NLT). Jesus gave his life for you. Turn to Him and trust Him in the turbulence of your life.

Do You Plan Ahead?

Yesterday (as of this writing) Carol and I were driving from Rogers to Fayetteville (Arkansas). We took the Sunset Blvd. exit in Springdale, and were waiting for the green light. We were headed for Denny’s on the east side of the I-49 freeway. Three vehicles were in front of us. It was 8:35 am.

The light turned green. Two seconds later, I heard a loud “WHUMP!” Well, to you, it may have sounded like “CRASH!” or “CRASH and then WHUMP!”

As the dust settled, we saw what happened. The light turned red for the traffic on Sunset Blvd. (which is also highway 412), and two drivers made a mistake. The driver of a white pickup heading east on Sunset was in a hurry, and couldn’t stand the thought of waiting another four minutes for the next green light; so he hit the gas-peddle and ran the red light. The driver of the brown pickup who was ready to turn onto 412, assuming the green light meant “safe to go”, made a jack-rabbit start. The two pickups met in the intersection.

I couldn’t see the front end of the brown pickup, but he had broadsided the white pickup and pushed it across the intersection and over the curb on the south side of 412. The front end of the white pickup was mangled with both front tires broken off. Police were called. As I drove past him, the white pickup driver was holding his head in his hands with his elbows resting on the steering wheel. In my estimation, the truck was totaled, and the driver apparently felt miserable and stupid for running the red light – all to save four minutes.

Being in a reckless hurry, the driver lost an entire day – and his truck. His mistake also cost hundreds of other drivers much more than ten minutes in their schedule. And the other driver?

The brown pickup driver, assuming green was “safe to go”, took off without looking to see if it actually was safe. By the time he saw the white pickup, he had already hit it. If only he had hesitated and looked both ways, he would have been aware of what was happening and could have taken preventive action.

Within ten minutes, two police cars, a fire truck, and two ambulances were on the scene. One pickup was destroyed, another needed major surgery, two people were injured, and hundreds of other drivers were delayed.

All because one man wanted to save four minutes!

In our cross-country trips, Carol and I have seen hundreds of careless or reckless people driving foolishly. No matter what the speed limit (Carol and I stick closely to it), many folk drive ten to thirty mph over it. But what’s the big hurry?

Don’t people plan ahead anymore? My father taught me a very important principle: “It’s better to be an hour early than a minute late.” On the other hand, if I do run late, I don’t try to make up lost time as I drive. It’s better to be late than to risk anyone’s life – including my own.

Planning ahead is the key that would prevent most problems on the road; actually, it would prevent many problems in life. If I need to be somewhere at ten o’clock and it will take thirty minutes to get there, I allow an extra fifteen minutes for traffic delays, and leave no later than 9:15. If I’m going across country, I allow extra time in each phase of the trip so I’m not in a hurry. In our last trip to Tennessee, we hit a two-hour traffic tie-up; but we had included four extra hours in the schedule so we weren’t late.

We should plan ahead for every trip – including our final trip in life that starts at death. Have you made appropriate plans? Yes, insurance and estate planning are necessary; but have you planned to meet the Lord Jesus Christ? After all, that will be the most important trip of your eternal existence.

Don’t try to “run the red light” at the eternal intersection and expect to make it across safely. It won’t work. Prepare now by studying the road map – the Bible. Avoid the traffic delays in life – called sin. And call the Highway Patrol – the Holy Spirit – for advice. You must plan ahead in order to safely reach the destination – being with God forever in heaven.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

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