One year ago

A year ago today about 40 of us huddled on the bottom level of our church building and anxiously listened to weather reports.

Earlier that day meteorologists had issued a particularly strong warning about how bad this storm system would be, and we waited to see if they were right.

They were.

The worst of the storms went west and north of us, but terrible thunderstorms exploded throughout the southeastern part of the U.S. that day, spawning almost 300 tornadoes (358 from April 25-28).

It was the costliest tornado outbreak and one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history, with total damages of nearly $11 billion.

More devastating, of course, was the loss of human life.

346 people died, including 235 in our home state of Alabama.

Towns such as Tuscaloosa and Hackleburg were devastated. Countless towns were hit hard: Phil Campbell, Cullman, Rainsville, Ohatchee.

It’s been a year, but when you visit these towns you still see the destructive path of the storm. In fact, you’ll likely see reminders 10 or 20 years from now, probably much longer than that.

Time tends to dull our senses to yesterday’s tragedy, though. Life goes on, and after the initial shock and outpouring of compassion, we return to our routine.

But pause for a few minutes today.

Take some time and pray again for those who are still picking up the pieces of their lives.

Pray for those who grieve for a mother or father, son or daughter, grandparent, sibling or friend.

Pray for those whose lives were irrevocably changed because of a rare combination of natural forces that made our world become very unsafe a year ago.

Pray for those who question God because he allows things like this to happen. Pray that they will feel his presence, and that they will see in his people compassion and kindness and love.

Those tornadoes, though widespread, affected only a small part of this planet, so pray also today for people throughout this big old world who are hurting.

Many are hungry. Many are grieving. Many are scared.

Millions woke up this morning to uncertainty and fear because they live in a place where evil reigns through terror, war, and corruption.

Sometimes it’s easy to think that because things are good with us, they’re good with everyone.

But that’s not true, of course.

So let’s take time today to pray for the hurting.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:1-10).

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