Last Sunday (05.15) marked the 54th anniversary of the infamous EF5 tornado that devastated Charles City on May 15th,(1968), plus a separate EF5 that struck...
That was the headline this week that set my memory in motion. My thoughts went back to that day 54 years ago. I was a high school senior that year. And on that day, I was not thinking of storms. As with most high school seniors, my thoughts were on finishing tests and projects, saying goodbye to friends, graduation day and a speech that I had to prepare to make during graduation, a gown and a new dress that my mother and I were making for that special day, guests that were invited, the new living room furniture in our home for the special day and most important, on that day, May 15, we were practicing for graduation night by practice marching in pairs to our assigned seats, etc. While my memory of the actual timeline has dimmed, I remember an announcement of a storm coming and to go home. At home, as the day progressed, the sky turned the oddest shade of green that I had ever seen or can ever remember since. I hope to never see that color again. One of the main things that stands out in my memory were the hailstones. These were hailstones such as I had never seen before or since, or in pictures. To describe them does not even begin to give a picture of what came down and bounced on our lawn. These stones were kind of like thick dinner plates with a baseball in the center. The "plates" had rays and streaks radiating from the center. I have, since that time, wondered how our roof shingles survived. Maybe they didn't but I also don't remember repairs. Not surprising for a senior in high school I suppose. At least the ground wasn't white--the stones were possibly 6-7 feet apart. Afterwards, several stones were gathered and handled and wondered/admired over. And some were put in the freezer.
1968 was long before there was anything like a cell phone, emergency notifications, etc. We did not have a TV or a landline phone in our home. When we received news, it was by radio that was plugged into an outlet in our dining room and that sat on a bureau that now lives in my own home. And it didn't give us news if the electricity was out. So it was sometime later that we received word of the tragedies that happened that day because of the tornado outbreak in northeast Iowa. I think perhaps 5 people lost their lives in Oelwein and 13 in the town of Charles City. This line of storms also did damage in the town of Maynard. So much devastation was caused by these storms. And towns were forever changed. Later, several in our family spent time helping clean up fields that were being planted. Necessary work that had to be done as tornadoes almost always leave farm fields covered in debris. Neighbors helping neighbors!
One interesting thing came about because of cleaning up the mess left behind. A storm-tossed TV was discovered and came home with one of the cleaner upper helpers to a home that had never allowed/permitted such a thing. I think it must have been hard for our parents to accept. I can still see my younger brothers sitting on the basement stairs, ready to run back up the stairs if they saw something too scary--which they often did. The scary of today would have made them stay under their beds for a month compared to what was scary back then.
For one person, when it--the TV-- worked, happiness ensued. Not for the entertainment of shows but for the entertainment of discovering how it worked and what made it work and what were all those parts! He had many dreams and this TV fit into his dreams, until one day, God directed - and those dreams came true 11 years ago when he began the process of starting a radio station. I am so thankful and proud to call our station manager and his assistant my brothers. I invite you to listen to KRJE 89.9 on the radio here in Northeast Iowa or find it streaming on KRJE's website. This radio station has many "only by God'' stories that allowed it to begin and to keep going. And I know that it will need God's help to continue! I invite your prayers for our radio and the content that many people are listening to. Let the programming be the message they need to hear right now--today!
Why do bad stormy things happen? It’s a question I can’t answer, but I know God has a purpose for everything. When we’re in the middle of a trial, it’s hard to not cry out, “God, why is this happening?” Nothing happens by accident. We always have His promise that He will cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). Seeing in advance how God will work all things for our benefit can be very difficult, almost impossible. Our limited perspective almost always doesn’t allow us to see or even imagine His greater plan. Our God's handiwork is in everything—even our pain, hardships, and losses. He turns grief into gladness and provides so many blessings and benefits after our darkest hours. It is hard to accept that things won’t always make sense to us. God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher than our own could ever be. (Isa. 55:9). I am so thankful that God is in control, no matter how totally out of kilter our world seems to be.
It’s easy to get bogged down with daily life—jobs, family and social commitments, homes, to-do lists, storms, and even time-consuming distractions. We go from one thing to the next, focused on life's demands and pleasures. I had a “To do” list this week that seemed impossible to get done. But somehow, I was able to cross most of the items on the list off!! To me, it can feel like a difficult tug of war sometimes, to get through each day with attention on Godly priorities.
We need to remember Jesus reminds us of precisely that: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). I want my treasure to be one that cannot be found along the side of a road, leftover from a storm. I want my treasure to be found only in heaven, along streets of transparent gold. I want my treasure to be my family joining me in a place that can never be destroyed by the storms of life; where we can live forever with no worries, no “To do” lists, no job that must be done whether we like it or not, no distractions that take my attention away from - sitting at the feet of Jesus.