Help. Hope. Healing.

Shafts in the Whirlwind

By Rex Goode


I remember seeing a documentary on one of those cable channels about what a tornado can do with just a few sticks. The force of the wind is so strong that it can force a small piece of wood through a wall. A larger projectile does all the more damage, impaled in solid structures with irresistible force.

I was never around tornadoes much as a youth. When people say, “I grew up in…” I feel a little left out. I grew up all over. Let’s see if I can do it from memory. Here are the places I lived before I turned eighteen.

  1. Safford, Arizona (birthplace)
  2. Union, Oregon
  3. Downey, California
  4. Norwalk, California
  5. Santa Fe Springs, California
  6. Flagstaff, Arizona
  7. Missoula, Montana
  8. Phoenix, Arizona
  9. Grand Junction, Colorado
  10. Salem, Oregon
  11. Portland, Oregon

Since then, I’ve stayed pretty much in the Portland, Oregon area except for a four-year jaunt in Columbus, Ohio. Before Ohio, I was a tornado novice. Tornadoes do happen on very rare occasions in the Portland area. I remember one when I was a teenager that hit Vancouver, Washington, just across the river from Portland. I wasn’t anywhere near it.

Then there was the time that I was travelling in Iowa for business. I was pretty excited driving around the Iowa countryside in my rented car. I was on my way back from a visit to Nauvoo, Illinois when I heard on the radio that there was a tornado warning in effect in certain counties in Iowa. It didn’t mean much to me, because I didn’t know which counties were which.

It was very windy out and I was toodling down some back road when I looked to my left and saw a bunch of cars off to the side of the road about twenty feet. People were in a ditch kneeling. Some of them were looking at me with horrified expressions on their face. Others were pointing at me.

I thought, “There must be a torndao nearby.” I looked around and then suddenly went through a small patch of windy blackness for just a second and came out the other side. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw nothing but the countryside. I just kept driving.

I’ve always wondered if I went through a small tornado and didn’t know it. I can be oblivious to just about anything, I suppose.

When I moved to Ohio, we were pretty concerned about tornados. I always wanted to see one. I’m a storm-chaser at heart. On the other hand, while I don’t mind a little personal danger, I’m terrified at the thought of my children in danger.

One evening, when the kids were at Mutual at the church, we heard the sirens sound. We turned on the television and saw that there was indeed a tornado warning for our area. We called the church building. Everything was fine, but the people we talked to thought it was terribly funny how concerned we were. They hear those sirens all the time and I think they’ve become almost immune to them.

We loved our time in Ohio, but I admit that I’m not sorry to have left those sirens behind. The people were wonderful. Tornado warnings, not so much.

I’ve always been fascinated by extreme weather. It’s hard for me to think of danger when I’m so awestruck by the power of nature. I’m afraid that I don’t have the healthy respect for it that maybe I ought to have.

Back in the early 1990’s, we had a very tall Douglas fir in our backyard that was knocked over by hurricane-force wind. We don’t get a lot of tornados here, but the wind can sure blow.

The tree fell on our neighbor’s house. It ended up being their insurance that paid for the damage. The insurance company called it an “act of God.”

Reading the scriptures, I’m not so sure. Helaman told his sons:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall (Helaman 5:12).

Of course, this is just figuratively speaking, but I think we often lay the blame on God for some of the bad things that happen in our lives. I am often tempted to blame God for the shafts in the whirlwind that threaten me. I too often look at things as if I’m somehow being punished because I have done things that have lost favor.

I prefer, with some work at it, to think that God is more like the shelter than the storm. In times of trouble, the Savior has been that for me. I strive to not be confused by who stirs up the elements and who calms to storm. It is hard for me, mere mortal that I am, to know the difference, but my faith tells me that I should build my foundation on the rock and not toss the building materials into the whirlwind and hope they land in the form of a house.

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