But God works in all of us

1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 24-27 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. … So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

My brother-in-law Pete Johnson (http/www.hanoverdale.church) sent me this story. “God works in different ways”—indeed!! He doesn’t say so, but he’s the one who performed the wedding ceremony.

But God is mighty to save, by Peter Johnson

Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Friday afternoon, April 30 was a windy day. Excitement was mounting for the upcoming outdoor wedding of Maggie and Cooper the next day. As some family and members of the wedding party decorated under the party tent, little did they realize that danger was brewing just outside.

A few round tables had been set up, but the 100 wooden folding chairs delivered by the event company were lying flat, stacked under the tent. Flowers were being arranged as people discussed where things should go. Suddenly the 10-15 mph wind gusted to a 60-mph burst. An eighty-foot oak tree with a four-foot circumference just outside the tent twisted, tore and snapped in half, falling on the tent right where the wedding party stood.

By all accounts, there should have been multiple crushing injuries and fatalities. BUT GOD…! The tree trunk collapsed the tent and landed on the stacked folding chairs, splintering them into kindling. It crushed the tables into a twisted, broken mass of metal and plastic. Then it bounced left, missing the house by just a few feet.

Cooper and Maggie could never have imagined their wedding like this!

Hearing bark and wood tear, someone yelled “Run!” But there wasn’t time; in a split second the trunk and limbs of the tree flattened the tent, and the canvas in turn flattened the people under it. Cooper tackled his soon to be father-in-law to protect him from the massive tree. They lay stunned in the space between the tent canvas and the ground provided by the stacked chairs. The trunk landed one inch away from where one person stood. Another had a two-foot limb land on one side of him and another two-foot limb land on the other side of him as he lay in the V of where the limbs connected to the trunk.

The best man, Mike, stood with his eleven-month-old daughter, my granddaughter Florence on his shoulders. When he saw the tree ripping apart, he ran. A branch of the tree hit him in the back, knocking Flo out of his arms, scraping her forehead, and fracturing her wrist. Mid-stride he was able to grab her by the leg before she hit the ground, then kept running to the other side of the yard.

Baby Flo and her mom the day before Flo started wearing a cast on her arm. Flo is the last-born of five baby girls God added to our extended family within five months–our Talita and Liliana are two of the five.

People were sore from being knocked over, and one person had a tiny scratch. Amazingly, Flo’s wrist was the worst injury of the day.

The next day, a tree company cleaned up the broken tree and the party event company delivered 100 new chairs, set up on the other side of the yard. The weather was perfect, and minus one tent, Maggie and Cooper were married in a wonderful ceremony. A potential tragedy was eclipsed by miracle, wonder and the powerful hand of God. 

The happy couple

The Bible says God is our protector in the storms of life. Isaiah 32:2 teaches that when God’s Kingdom is present “Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.”

We praise God for His protection. God is good, even in the wind. He is mighty to save!

But Jesus was angry

Grief. It can skewer you, swamp you, sabotage your self-control. It can be hot or cold. It can leave you bubbling over with the desperate need to talk, share, let others know how you feel. Or it can empty you, dry you out, isolate you. It can fade softly into the background yet knock you down with no warning. I once at the grocery store threw myself sobbing into the arms of a woman I barely knew. No, not typical behavior for me.

As I walked early this morning, the wind blowing my hair because in spring angst I left my hat at home, I thought, “Grief is like the wind.” On the car radio I heard we may have gusts up to 60 miles per hour today. We may lose power; branches may crack off our trees.

Have I felt grief that powerful, draining all my energy, stripping me, changing me permanently? Yes.

The news announcer went on to tell me eight tornadoes ravaged Alabama yesterday. Have I felt grief as devastating as a tornado? No. But I know some people have.

On still days, we don’t think about the wind. On hot days, we relish a breeze. It’s something we share with everyone in our neighborhood, whether we know them or talk with them or not. It’s part of our shared experience. Grief has become like that over the past year, not just locally or nationally, but worldwide. We all have something or someone (or many somethings or someones) to mourn. Can we let it unite us, strengthen our empathy, soften our reactivity?  

Some of us have loving, understanding people around us. Some of us suffer alone. As hard as things have been in our country, the resources we have are abundant compared to many parts of the world. I’ve talked with several people this week who told me, “Vaccines? We have no idea when they will reach our country. And once they do, it will be months or years before they are available for people like me. Meanwhile, our health care system is totally overwhelmed. Our recourse is prayer. And doing what we can to care for each other.”

I’m glad Jesus knew grief; I’m glad he wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. In 1551, when Robert Estienne defined a verse structure within the chapters of the Bible, he decided “Jesus wept” deserved its own verse. I’m intrigued that Jesus’ weeping was apparently fueled by anger at his friends’ suffering. Could some of his emotion have been linked to his own impending death or, closer to hand, the Jewish leaders’ reactions to this high-profile event (From that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death (v. 53)? What do you think about Jesus’ anger?

As I finished my walk, an image of wind turbines marching across Pennsylvania hills flashed into my mind. Lord, I offer you, once again, my grief. Please harness it for your own purposes, beginning within my own soul. Make it a resource. A gift. Another miracle, Lord. Thank you.

Image from cancerhealth.com