Friday, January 02, 2009

Tornado Trust

Are you glad the holidays are done? Ready to re-enter a normal routine? Or like so many, are you experiencing the post-party blues?

Well, perhaps we can help each other.

Today we begin a shorter count down of the Top 5 Under-Appreciated LifeNotes of 2008. And if you'll actually read them, you'll make me ever-so happy. Think of it: Ralph's happiness in your power. Perhaps that will make you feel better and help you get going into 2009. See how we can work together?

So, from the month of July, I give you the #5 Under-Appreciated LifeNote of 2008, "Tornado Trust." It's about how to get your bearings when life spins-up a nasty storm. I hope it helps you.


One of my favorite films has to be The Wizard of Oz. It seemed like every character one could ever meet was found in the movie. When I was about, oh, six or eight years old, I saw it for the first time and began to receive training for the relationships I was to encounter for years to come.

The hallways of my elementary school teamed with Munchkins, and there were always groups of us boys who, because we liked similar things, would gang up together forming our own version of the Lollipop Guild. Glinda, the Good Witch, was my Kindergarten teacher, and I didn’t want to do anything wrong around her. For years to come, any woman who treated me like Glinda owned me. I’m certain the Cowardly Lion taught High School Spanish class, the Wicked Witch of the West threatened us in English class, and the Tin Man led us courageously through economics and typing. And all the while we were harassed and harangued by those terrible flying monkeys, the egomaniacal power brokers of the schoolyard.

Mom and dad were, well, mom and dad. Solid and stable as the earth in Kansas.

Such was the education of my life.

But what I’ve never known is the spin Dorothy took in the tornado. Remember the scene? Not only was her home drawn up into the whirling danger, but, after catching a two by four with her head, she dreamed about it, too. Double whammy. Not fair.

That part of the movie is really relevant to me now. It’s pretty close to how I would describe my days in the last month or so—tornado alert. I don’t mean to say that things are awful and so am I—it’s really not that way. It’s just that life was pretty much a familiar Kansas afternoon easy, when all of sudden the wind came up. With nowhere to escape, up I flew into the spin. How do you get your bearings when you’re inside a cyclone? With lots and lots of both good things and junk flying past, how do you know when to open your arms and receive, and when to throw up your arms and shield your face?

And what’s it like to trust God when you’re spinning about?

While, like Dorothy, I’m still the same, there’s a lot that’s different after the tornado of my mom’s passing. The Spirit has led me to be very involved in how my dad’s life will look and be from this point on. So, while I’m speaking at a camp, at churches and to groups this summer, knowing God and trusting God after the storm feels new, different.

Most likely, that’s the point.

It’s comparatively easy to trust God when life is relatively simple and well laid out. When I can grab a calm and restful moment here and a confidence inspiring time with God there, trust comes naturally—easily. I expect Him to meet me with peace and assurance. But when days are dizzy and all that’s in the spin has my attention, what then? Just this: trust is a white-knuckler. Trust seems like a crazy hot air balloon ride with The Wizard, while the Wicked Witch of the West is shrieking and streaking across the sky on her broom. And I’m not as good at trusting God as I once thought I was.

Maybe it’s that my stable life in Colorado hasn’t required of me nor provided what the days ahead will, and God, who considers me His workmanship, is bringing me back to essentials as the landscape changes. Trusting Him has always been the fruit of knowing Him, and I suspect that God is assisting me toward more of the deepest joy and delight of my life.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

In any case, writing this has helped me remember that my Father is faithful—faithful to me. And that I’m better off than I think.


"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)


  1. Anonymous8:49 AM

    Hi Ralph,
    What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I still have tears in my eyes. You did a great job on the slideshow. She was so beautiful! And what a beautiful family that she and your dad created...

  2. Anonymous8:50 AM


    I am praying for you and can I relate to this post. I feel like it has been this way for the last 32 months.


  3. Anonymous8:51 AM

    The main reason for this note is to say... wow... your mother was such a woman of natural beauty, but I sense that her greater beauty resided deep within her.

    I also sensed that she lived big... big in the sense that she lived beyond herself and for others yet tended to who she was and why she was who she was. You and your brothers were so blessed to have had such a model of a woman in your life.

    I thank you for sharing her life... the pictures speak volumes!

  4. Thanks very much.

    God does so much and is very evident in pain and sorrow. For sure, He is made obvious and strong in my weakness. And that's not so bad after all.


  5. Anonymous11:53 AM

    I just wanted to let you know that you, Sarah and the girls are always in my prayers. Life is tough, isn't it - as evidenced by this "Tornado Trust" writing. Thank you for sharing from your heart andd sharing what God wants you to with all of us. Please know that God, and God speaking through you through your writings - that has been my only hope and strength lately. Between the thoughts of suicide and the beyond hell of what I have been going through lately (med changes, major drug withdrawals, depression worse than anything you can imagine, etc), I find hope and encouragement in what God speaks through you (not alot of hope and at least a little glimmer of light). Thank you once again for taking the time to encourge all of us. It is deeply appreciated.