Tuscaloosa and Toomer’s

Since my last post on April 7th, a lot has happened. Most recently was the tragic devastation left behind by rampaging tornadoes in my part of the country. The following was reported by The National Weather Service in Birmingham:

“The Tuscaloosa/Birmingham Tornado is at least an EF4…could be rated an EF5 based on information the survey team sees.

It touched down near Union in northern Greene County and roared northeast for 80.1 miles. It was 1.5 miles wide at its widest point, when it crossed I-65 north of Birmingham.

At least 65 people were killed and 1,000 injured, making it Alabama’s deadliest tornado in history.

It lifted just before it would have crossed Highway 79 and gone into the Jeff State area of Center Point. It likely would have struck the campus directly. Thankfully, it did not or an already terrible day would have been even worse.”

These tornadoes and everything they brought, took and left behind; will be a topic of conversation for a long time coming. So many people were impacted in so many different ways. The sadness anger and bewilderment that was left behind like flotsam of a forgotten bay will take years to clean up. Certainly the physical destruction is tremendous and something to not take lightly, for in many instances it drives the mental and spiritual impact; but these physical things will either be razed for future generations to build upon, fixed or replaced. The mental and spiritual impact is not something to be manhandled.

The detritus of these tragedies invariably involves horrific stories. Some that involve the loss of life. Some that incorporate those losses with great triumphs and feats of heroism.

In the Alexander City area I was told of a child that was found dead in a tree. I can’t even begin to imagine the fear that was involved. In our community I was told of a mother that could not get to a place of safety fast enough. She was hanging on to whatever she could, while holding on to her baby. The baby was snatched right out of her arms. My best friend, Tim LaValley, told me of a young man that is going to the University of Alabama on a baseball scholarship. His roommate was laid up in bed with back problems. This young man picked him up and carried him to a closet, then realized that wouldn’t be safe enough; so he picked him up again, grabbed a mattress off of a bed, went to the bathroom and placed his roommate and himself in the tub covering themselves with the mattress. When it was all over with, the tub was the only thing left…

I had a text conversation with one of my good friends and he wrote:

“Man, as this event unfolds, it amazes me what those tornadoes did. I just can’t understand how so many lives were lost. You think people just didn’t take the warnings seriously, or are there just not shelters in those parts?”

Two hours later I had not come up with a good answer for him. I had heard that the front part of these storms was so strong, that strait line winds had knocked down power poles and many areas didn’t have power. I told him as much in reply and also stated:

“I really don’t know… For the size and number of them… We knew there would be lives lost… As large as the one in T-Town was and as far as it traveled I’m surprised there were not more… My gracious, it went through a heavy populated city and utterly destroyed everything in it’s path!”

What else can you say? Why did it take the lives it did? Why did it even happen?  There will be some that will blame God. There will be some that will be drawn closer to God. But still, what can you say? What answers can there be?

My best friend Tim LaValley is no stranger to tornadoes. He lives in the Oklahoma City area. The day following the storms he sent me a text message asking, if we were OK. In my reply I told him how the storms seemed to break up before they got to us then re-organized on the other side.  He said:

“The good Lord was looking out for you!”

I had to think about that for a while, for I don’t know if that was the case or not. It could actually be just as plausible that God was giving me more time to get my life right, and I told him so. He replied,

“What’s up bro, you not living right?”

I was actually ready with a response to this and wrote back:

“If it came down to a choice between me and someone that was a sinner, I would rather He take me… I hear phrases like, ‘you must be living right,’ and it just makes me think… Why take the ones that are not living right and leave the ones that are, unless there is work that he expects me to do…”

Now, I wasn’t looking for a pat on the back, or sympathy, and I’m still not; but it does give me pause. Tim replied,

“One of my good coaching buddies, older man in his 60’s told me this when I told him I was about to have my 5th child. ‘It’s good that you are having another one, we need more good people in this world.’  If you think about it he is right and sometimes I think God thinks that way too. There were times I thought I was a gonner and came away clean. I think he is right. God wants to keep more good people in this world. I don’t know those people who died, but I do know he has a plan.”

You may take what Tim said, sniff it, eyeball it, chew it up then spit it out or swallow it. It’s all conjecture anyway.  We just don’t know. Why was my family and all of those around us spared, when others were not? I don’t know. I do know that being on even the outskirts of a storm like this, makes me even more dedicated to living my life in the proper manner, so that if one day that storm does not pass me by, I can face my death knowing I have that eternal home that was promised to all those who love Him and keep His commandments.

When all is said and done, the only thing we can truly rely upon is God’s word. Now, we have the decision to either find comfort or fear in His word. I choose to find comfort!

It is easy for us to blame God for natural disasters. We call them “Acts of God” and why not? We certainly have examples of such things in the Old Testament. In Genesis the sixth chapter we can read of the most devastating act of God ever, the flood. In Genesis 18 and 19 we can see how two corrupt cities were destroyed by God with fire.  In order to get the Israelite’s attention and have them return to God; famine, drought, pestilence, plague, war and earthquakes were brought upon them. We find that in Amos the fourth chapter starting with verse six.

What becomes an issue is blaming God for all disasters. Really? You really think that God is personally responsible for every single death that has occurred due to nature? Ecclesiastes the ninth chapter and verse 11 tells us that time and chance happens to us all.

The innocent do suffer. Look at Job. His kids where destroyed by a mighty wind. His best friends even accused Job of having sin in his life; something horrendous that would cause God to send such punishment upon him. Job basically told them they were crazy; and in chapter 42 verse 7, God told Eliphaz, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

So why does God allow it to happen?  Again, we only have ideas that we can gain from His word to enlighten us. First of all, I would say that seeing pain and destruction in this world only emphasizes the glory of an eternal home more. Matthew the sixth chapter tells us that we should not lay up treasures. because they are going to be eaten up with rust or moths, or in this case by 165 mph winds. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to look at our sojourn here as temporary. In chapter 13 and verse 14 he writes:

“For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”

There is another way to look at such things. Consider all of the good that is going to come out of it. I realize this might be small, or even no comfort for those that have lost so much; but in reality it is there. Romans the fifth chapter, verses three through four say this:

“3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:”

In James the first chapter, he tells us that we should be joyful when we have been tried; for the trying of our faith brings patience. Then if we let patience do its work, we can eventually be complete.

There is a lot of good that will come from these tornadoes. Let me relate just one more anecdote to emphasize the importance of this.

If you have not heard about the poisoning of the trees at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, you have probably been living under a rock. I won’t go into great detail on this, except to explain that a professed Alabama fan confessed to purposefully poisoning the historic trees that the Auburn faithful roll with toilet paper after winning a contest of sports. As soon as some Alabama fans heard about this, knowing how important those trees were to the Auburn faithful, they didn’t laugh and make fun and joke about it (at least the majority didn’t). They came together and created a not for profit organization, Tide for Toomer’s. This organization raised $50,000 and presented it those responsible for the trees.

 

 

On Wednesday April 27th, the weather had just barely settled down when we saw another organization had been put together, Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa. We will probably never know how much all of the donations and help will be worth before it is all said and done, but I have a feeling it will be worth every bit of $50,000.

When there is tragedy people come together. Certainly there is pain and loss and anger, but there is also so much good. When it is all said and done, good is what we should be striving for.

 

 

Gal 6:10  As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

I want to ask three things of you as you finish reading this. First of all, I am asking you to say a prayer for those that lost something in these storms. Secondly, I’m asking you to say a prayer for all of those that are donating. Whether it is time or monetary; it is a blessing. Last of all, I ask that you say a prayer for us all, that we might all do good, all of the time.

May God bless each and everyone of us!

 


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