It's Coming Right at Us

October 7, 2016 - Category: life
It's Coming Right at Us
            A deadly storm was brewing.  We could feel the fifty-mile an hour winds feeding into the hungry clouds that were forming an updraft of rotating chaos.  We knew it was there, but the towering pines lining the Mississippi roads kept the danger just out of sight. We needed to find a clearing, and we needed to find it quickly. The radar indicated this storm may be coming right at us, and we needed to verify the conditions and confirm the direction of this storm. As StormWarriors™, our mission to warn communities of dangerous weather is a great responsibility.  We felt the full weight of this responsibility heavy on our chests on this particular afternoon. We had studied the forecast models and were positioned to provide the “ground truth” to the National Weather Service and other networks on this unusually turbulent day.
           In a typical severe weather season, supercells or mesocyclones can produce tornados that stay on the ground for just a few minutes or a few miles. Occasionally, a funnel becomes a tornado when it reaches the ground and 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 year. The impact of these monstrous twisters can be exponentially more devastating in magnitude. As it turned out, this EF-3 tornado we were following would become one of the longest tracked tornadoes in the history of the mid-south, and we were there as the tornado began its destructive 63-mile route.
 
            As the afternoon conditions worsened on December 23rd, 2015, the chances for severe storms were imminent. While carefully watching the different radar image scans being displayed in our truck, we noticed 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. Unfortunately, the trees were extremely thick in our area and prevented us from seeing much of the storms development. Nevertheless, we knew enough to expect a severe and possibly deadly storm was on the way. We began to consider our escape routes, then ventured forward to find a better view.
            We eventually found a clearing in a field where we 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 mesocyclone from which tornadoes can develop. That is exactly what happened. About 500 yards in front of us, this rotating storm formed a wall cloud right before our eyes that produced a large wedge-shaped tornado. For a moment, we were all mesmerized by its power, size, and speed. We stood there outside our truck for several minutes witnessing the violent condensation funnel 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 tornado’s deadly path. Because our mission is to first 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 shouted, “Which way is that thing moving?” Then we all yelled almost simultaneously, “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 who are impacted by severe storms such as the one we were warning. We never want to be in a situation where we suddenly realize that a deadly storm is coming right at us.
 
            Much like this Mississippi tornado, there is another storm that is coming right at us that is already devastating many of our families. The warning signs are here, but they are being ignored, and, now, the values we once held as fundamentally good have been reduced to antiquated nonsense in today’s culture. Like the long track EF-3 tornado, this storm didn’t just come out of nowhere; its destructive path has been felt for generations. This storm is also very intentional in its efforts to attack and tear apart our families and everything our families stand for—our 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.  In the same way, families who don’t take this current warning seriously and change what they are pursuing may see devastation of a different sort. Many feel this storm around them and have seen the impact in their homes where chaos is the norm.  Until we are honest with ourselves about what is happening and begin to take action, this storm will continue its destructive path.
            What started out as the American Dream has been twisted and has consumed many of our families with the lie of materialism, power, and fame.  For many, the pursuit of the American Dream has become an American Disaster. This pursuit has overtaken many families and has become the priority over something much more meaningful, our family’s greater purpose, which is to love God and love people.  Many will tell you that they just want their fair share of what they are entitled to or what they feel the political system has promised.  When they don’t get what they deserve, they begin to feel disenfranchised and offended, and they begin attacking the very thing that the American Dream was based upon—strong, hard working, and vibrant Godly families.  
            At one time, the American Dream was the equal opportunity for every man, woman, and child to achieve prosperity and success through the value of hard work.  This meant that each family would have the freedom to raise their children with Godly values, harvest the fruit of the land that they tilled, freely build businesses, and be able to provide food and protection for their families. It was in these efforts that family values and stewardship principles were taught and passed to the next generation.  It was the value of hard work, honesty, valuing others, honor, hospitality, and so on that was the prize that came from intentional families.  Now, the prize we have come to pursue is something much different, and our children are the ones who will suffer the most. The pursuit of this twisted American Dream will only lead to more families feeling unfulfilled and unhappy and parents raising entitled children in homes with more chaos.
 
            Once upon time, we chased this twisted American Dream of success and had a big house, expensive cars, and, as a result, more debt.  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 each one of us, we end up with a whole bunch of things and not enough of what can truly satisfy us. Many of us, who have pursued only worldly success, 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 Disaster. We had a nice home and nice cars, and we took nice trips mostly because we thought we deserved it. We went to church and gave to the needy, but outside of that our lives didn’t produce much fruit, at least 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 success and significance. We wanted to prove to the world that we were successful by its standards, and this was never part of the very purpose for which we were created. As we look back now, there was nothing world changing or significant in what we were chasing. Although there was nothing wrong with the material things we had, God’s purpose and vision for our family was so much bigger, and we almost missed it.
          One potential tragedy of our story was what we were teaching our children, who 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.” 1
 
            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 that worked together.  It was the first generation, a matriarch or a patriarch, 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 of family. Now, statistics tell us that only about 30% of these businesses and the family wealth 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 ESV). Wealth, power, and fame do not 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 NIV). 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 NIV).
 
            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 what is really valuable to our families. 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.