11 Oct It’s Coming Right Us!
Typically, a tornado touches ground for just a few minutes or a few miles with devastating results. Occasionally, a funnel becomes a tornado and sets down, and then remains on the ground for an extended period of time and covers many miles. These twisters are known as long- track tornadoes and occur once or twice every storm season. The impact of these monstrous twisters is exponentially more devastating in magnitude. One of the longest tracked tornadoes in the history of the mid-south occurred on December 23, 2015. Our team was just outside the town of Clarksdale, Mississippi, where the tornado began its destructive route.
Our mission to warn communities is a great responsibility. We felt the full weight of this responsibility heavy on our chests as we reported information that was broadcast simultaneously to both CNN and The Weather Channel. We were keeping thousands of viewers up-to-date with the latest and most accurate information and possibly saving the lives of all who heeded our warnings.
As the afternoon conditions worsened, the chances for severe storms were imminent. While studying the radar images, we noticed an indication of a rotating storm in one of the isolated cells to our southwest. Immediately, we raced to what we thought was a safe location a couple of miles in front of the traveling storm. The trees were thick in our area and prevented us from seeing much of what was happening. Nevertheless, we knew enough to expect a severe and possibly deadly storm was on the way. We considered our escape route then ventured forward to find a better view.
We eventually found a clearing in a field and were able to see the base of the storm as a menacing wall cloud appeared. A wall cloud is a lowering from the base of the storm from which tornadoes are developed. That is exactly what happened. About 500 yards in front of us, this mesocyclone, or rotating storm, formed a wall cloud right before our eyes that produced an EF3 tornado. For a moment, we were all mesmerized by its power and speed. We stood there outside our truck for several minutes witnessing the violent cloud grow with the debris that was being engulfed by its appetite for destruction. Our training, as well as a good dose of adrenaline, shook us out of the trance, and we jumped into action.
While we were warning the residents in this area and helping them understand the urgency of getting to shelter quickly, we were also diverting traffic away from the tornadoes’ deadly path. Because our passion is to ensure the safety of others, we lost track of the tornado’s movement for a moment. After we were again able to focus on the tornado’s track, we all realized the immediate danger. One of us gasped, “Which way is that thing moving?” Then we all yelled, “It’s coming right at us!” “It’s coming right at us!” “It’s coming right at us!”
We piled into the truck and headed for safety without any time to spare. We were so intent on helping others stay safe that we almost lost track of the importance of making sure our team was safe. One of our goals is to not put ourselves in a situation where we are the ones needing rescued, as this would only divert needed manpower away from other families.
Much like this EF3 tornado that was heading towards us, there is another storm that is coming right at us. Its devastation can be seen in the state of families in our modern culture. This storm is very intentional in its efforts to attack and tear apart the family. It’s not just the family that is in the crosshairs, but everything family stands for—its values, purpose, and foundational beliefs. Many of the families in the path of the tornado that tore through Mississippi and Tennessee had enough warning and were able to get out of the way. Others, who may have not taken the warning seriously or got caught off guard, were injured or killed. Families who don’t take the warning seriously about the intentional attack on their family may see devastation of a different sort. That is because this storm, much like a long-track tornado, begins somewhere out of sight and has been heading their way for generations. Its power and speed is intensifying and it is heading right at them.
What has mesmerized so many of us is what many dads and moms have been chasing and have allowed to consume them. We call it the American Dream. Loosely defined, the American Dream is touted as the equal opportunity for every man, woman, and child to achieve prosperity and success. The American Dream also promises upward social mobility for the family and children. This can be achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers that allow everyone to live a better, richer, and fuller life, regardless of social class, race, and origin.
At first glance, who can oppose the American Dream? No one. It captures our faith in progress, opportunity, and striving. It reflects hope for the multitudes that pursue it. It gives purpose to our work, careers, and toiling to achieve even more. For many, it defines us, motivates us and enchants us. The American Dream suggests that all of our children can go to college, become homeowners, and be rich and famous. It also suggests that each generation will be better off than the last. Sounds great, right?
This is our story and the story of many families whose only goal was to achieve the American Dream of success, which usually means big houses, expensive cars, and more stuff. For Danielle and I, the storm that was coming right at us was the belief that all of this was going to fulfill us and make us happy. Both, as it turns out, were lies from the very beginning. Many families who have chosen this path have also created children who feel entitled, lack personal responsibility, and believe the world should revolve around them. We address this struggle in our book, The Power of Family Vision:
Please don’t misunderstand us—there is nothing wrong with success and having things. In fact, it’s the heart and character of God to give and bless with abundance, but when the focus is on the stuff and not on the destiny God has for us, we end up with a whole bunch of things and not enough of what can truly satisfy us. Many of us, as we get older, feel like we have missed something. In fact, there is a palpable sense that something was meant to happen, but didn’t.
We know this all too well. We found ourselves living the American Dream. We had a nice home and nice cars, and we took nice trips mostly because we thought we deserved it. That was the story of our lives. We went to church and gave to the needy, but outside of that our lives didn’t produce much fruit, not the fruit that mattered, anyway—the fruit meant to fulfill our very souls. The purpose we were created to fulfill and the mission to make our hearts come fully alive had been lost somewhere along the way. But perhaps it had not really been lost. Perhaps we had just believed a lie, and had not realized that God had so much more for our family and for us. Perhaps it was not too late.
The lie we bought into was that our life was all about us. We were trying to fill a worldly definition of significance. We wanted to prove to the world that we were successful by its standards, and this was never part of the dream. As we look back now, there was nothing world changing or significant in what we were chasing. God’s purpose and vision for our family was so much bigger.
One potential tragedy of our story was what we were teaching our children: they saw our worldly success and the things we accumulated. We had coveted the lifestyle we achieved, and we wanted others to covet it as well. It was a trap and a lie. But isn’t that what we are taught? To build a career, have children, make money, and save for retirement? The truth is, we were lost, and we were teaching our children, by our example, to strive for the same life of spiritual insignificance. We lived in the desert of irrelevance. If we had put a match to every material and superficial thing in our lives, there would not have been much left.
For years I (Bill) worked with affluent families who had successful businesses. There was a pattern that was revealed through the generations of these families. It was the first generation that successfully created the wealth through hard work and sacrifice. As they got older, many created exit strategies that included passing the business to the next generation. Statistics tell us that only about 30% of these businesses survive into the second generation and less than 12% are still viable in the third.
Many times the wealth is not the only thing lost. Due to a lack of a Godly vision, which gives the family purpose and intentional values, the family also gets torn apart. Why? Because all families- rich, middle class, or poor- have storms, and when the only pursuit is worldly success, many families have no foundation on which to rebuild and return even better and stronger. Worldly success as a goal is not a sustainable foundation. It is much like building your house on sand.
“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” Matthew 7:24-27 (MSG)
The only thing that will truly fulfill us is living out our greater purpose. God wants to give us all a dream and a destiny that will lead to true significance. Worldly success alone will always fall short. God did not create us to be happy; He created us to live according to His ways. When we do, we receive supernatural peace and joy, a far better reward than worldly success or mere happiness.
It’s not that God does not want you to dream and to be successful, but His blessing works differently than the world’s system. The Bible promises that if you “delight yourself in the Lord, he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Wealth, power, and romance don’t bring a person fulfillment or significance; a relationship with God does. When He blesses you, it’s the result of being connected to Him.
We experience great gifts from God, but He never promised life would be easy. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The fact is that only 2% of the world’s population will ever achieve fame and fortune. That means that 98% of us won’t. However, that does not mean that we have failed if we have set our families on the right foundation. It’s a matter of how we define success. The way to experience the greatest blessing and overcome the hardest circumstances is by complete dependence on God. Following Jesus allows for no selfishness or self-sufficiency. If we are to sincerely love God and love others, we have to let go of worldly wisdom and human hierarchy. The quickest way to the top is not crushing everybody else, but to accept Christ’s words when He says, “the greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23-11-12).
The American Dream may be tempting, but God’s blessings are far more valuable in our present and for our future. His promises never fail. If outcomes do not match the right destiny, then those who do not achieve success are deemed to feel and live as unworthy in the current culture. Don’t fall for the lies of the world and build your house on the sand of materialism and popularity. Build your house on the very foundation of success as defined by God. This promise is for all of our families.
Our storm team became distracted by warning the community of the danger headed their way and didn’t realize the tornado was coming right at us. Likewise, parents and grandparents must not lose site of the attack headed for our families, which, by design, is intent on destroying our foundational values and beliefs. Worldly success will not be enough for us to endure this devastating storm. History tells us that only the right foundation, one built on God’s truth, will stand. Your willingness to pass these values to your children and grandchildren will be worth more than any amount you have or don’t have in the bank.
—-this is an excerpt from our recently released book, Updraft: A warrior’s guide to navigating the storms of life. You can get your copy here Updraft Hardcover. It is full of storm stories and parallels to the storms of life and includes a message of hope in every chapter.