Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Battered by Tornadoes

My daughter called last night to report OK City barraged by tornadoes; did we know it? We knew they were predicted; we did not know they had formed and threatened a wide path of my Cherokee Indian’s growing up grounds.

We spent the rest of the evening watching the reports from OKC-Tulsa and unheard of places like Prague, Boley, even Welty--her birthplace. This morning, when she called her brother, she learned that baby brother (a retired preacher-police chaplain) got caught outside in a hail storm that left him with a head-wound that required 26 staples.

Today I watched our favorite weather forecaster report from WGN-TV and heard his experience with the chase teams viewing the expected battering of Kansas-Oklahoma. I was somewhat amused when he excitedly reported being almost overtaken by funnels that formed directly overhead. They fled for cover, but he proudly acknowledged now being among those select weathermen who have observed a “live” tornado--his first in decades of forecasting from the radar reports.

We actively follow these occasions, especially since baby brother had been very involved in the deadly Moore tornado a few years back.Such episodes recall deep memories, like the day this very young Michigan flatlander stood on the plateau housing Buckley AFB, near Denver, CO. That August afternoon of 1947, I watched the storms forming in Western Kansas--visually counting 13 funnels.

That should have given me pause for concern that afternoon in San Angelo, TX, 1953, when I stubbornly overrode the “hysteria” of my young wife, and proceeded to drive directly toward an approaching tornado. I saw a huge boiling caldron of wind, rain, hail, et al; but no funnel--she needed to get to her piano lesson.

So I drove on in spite of her protests. Having grown up in “tornado alley” she recognized all the signs and had caught sight of the funnel. Fortunately for us, the tornado coming directly at us bounced off the wall of the dam just northwest of the city and changed course. Instead of striking us dead-center, it did a 90 degree turn to the east and chewed up the north fringes of the city. It struck Lakeview High School and separated the two funnels, one inside the other. One funnel turned back north and blew out thirty miles in the country while the other funnel stayed in tact and struck Waco two hours later--200 miles distant--killing or injuring 200 people.

Out of that storm I conducted my first funeral--my best Sunday school teacher, Lola Todd. We searched hoping for a rescue, but only a recovery, but, I learned a very important lesson--respect for wind storms. As an adolescent, I had seen our garage blown over in Michigan from a cyclonic wind gust, but I had never seen the utter devastation of a large tornado--¾ of a mile wide and on the ground for 9 ½ miles.

I don’t need a second warning to take cover; I’ve seen funnels! I’ve experienced the loss of life, limb, and property that result. Yet today, I see multitudes driving straight into the storm; life is dark and stormy, but like I once was, they see no funnel--consequently no real danger.

“Sin” is like that, creating storms of broken relationships, immoral behavior, failed corporations, even failing nations. Our recent depression has experienced the deceptiveness of anything goes in business, corporate profitability, and Executive greed gone overboard, corrupt politicians. We have all watched the roiling clouds of deception, fraud, white-collar crime, ad infinitum, but no one saw any funnel, so “drive on” we did. Now, we pay the piper for their “sins” and our national greed.

The Old Testament prophet chided Israel for depending upon their religious celebrations, rituals, and fasts. If they wanted their nation healed and peace restored to their land, they must turn back to God: practice social justice for everyone, share with the hungry, shelter the poor homeless, satisfy the needs of the afflicted . . . (Isaiah 58). Jesus saw the funnel in the storm when he said when you do it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me (Matthew 25).

From Warner’s World,

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