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SILENT WHEN NEEDED


In the late 1990’s, our family lived in a split level apartment in Union Township, just north of Cincinnati, OH. It was a great location in many ways: it was close to a major freeway, but not so close that we had to listen to its traffic; it was just five minutes from the downtown area with a mall and lots of restaurants, but really not on a busy street; and to top it off, we lived across the street from the church we attended. But there was at least one thing that wasn’t pleasant about our location: we lived right under some powerful air sirens. Frequently our conversation would be interrupted to test "Tornado Readiness." Those horns produced sounds that were intrusive, belligerent and irritating.


One evening in 1999, Janine and I were awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call her sister, Sandy. "Did we know there was a tornado coming our way?" We shocked ourselves awake and turned on our small bedroom television set to witness a rather excited weatherman making marks on an area map indicating the path of said tornado. It was inching closer and closer to the little niche we liked to call home in the upper west corridor of the intersection of I275 and I75. We waited and waited, breathlessly. Nothing ever happened. We would find out the next morning that 20 miles from our apartment, the Tornado had ripped through the neighboring town of Blue Ash killing four people.


I didn’t think about it till later that day, but it suddenly dawned on me. The tornado alarm never went off. That grating, ear piercing, annoying shriek was silent when it was needed the most.

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