[forthright] The Forces of Nature

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 13:45:39 -0300
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

More good writing and serious faith at
Forthright Press. http://ForthrightPress.com

COLUMN: Final Phase

The Forces of Nature
by J. Randal Matheny

Driving east on U.S. Highway 412, I'd hoped to
scoot across the Missouri Bootheel and cross into
Tennessee ahead of the storm. But well before I
reached Hayti and I-55, I saw the winds coming up
the Mississippi Valley from the south. It was hard
to tell what were clouds and what was dust whipped
up from the flat, open fields. I would not have
been surprised to see a tornado dip down out of
the darkness to my right. Whirls of topsoil danced
and twisted as high straight-line winds swept
northward across the highway, downing road signs
and threatening to rip the the wipers from the

The northern edge of the storm had reached me. To
my left, blue skies pretended the calm reined
forever. I decided to keep going, thinking that in
another five minutes I'd be in the clear.

As 412 skirted south of Hayti, about a quarter
mile ahead of me a tractor-trailer truck started
up the overpass over the railroad tracks. Just
beyond, the highway ended underneath I-55 and ran
seamlessly into I-155 and on to the Mississippi
River bridge.

I was driving about 45 mile per hour, but I
couldn't gauge the truck's speed. As he got almost
to the top of the overpass, the strong wind coming
from the right hit him broadside and lifted him up
on his left wheels. For a moment the 16-wheeler
seemed suspended in its tilt. Whether by the
driver's maneuver or a drop in the wind, suddenly
the truck came back down to settle on all its

Reaching the underpass under I-55 a half-mile
ahead, the driver pulled over, no doubt to recover
from the shock of his near accident. I decided to
keep driving, since there seemed to be no
protected place to pull over.

But I would not cross the Mississippi River bridge
if the winds were still blowing.

By the time I reached the bridge the winds had
abated, though leaves and limbs scattered the
interstate. But lightning was falling on every
side of me. Now I was in the middle of an
electrical storm. Every few seconds a streak of
intense light would fall within my field of
vision, always within a few miles of me.

I inched up the bridge's western incline, barely
glancing at the river before descending to the
Tennessee banks. The electrical storm commanded
both sides of the river. From the built-up
interstate above the river plain, I watched vast
shards of bluish white stab through the roiling

Then, about a mile away, one of those tongues of
fire struck the ground before my eyes. A huge
white dome formed at the point of contact. As a
child, I had seen black circles in the cotton and
bean fields where lightning had hit, but never had
I seen it lick the ground. The white dome seemed
unworldly, the concentrated energy resisting
dissipation into the earth.

People call wind and lightning "forces of Nature."
I prefer to take them as tokens of God's power,
signs of the Creator who spoke nothingness into
being by a word. Those images of invisible winds
setting a heavy truck on its edge, of a rain of
rays, of lightning pouring its voltage into a
field will remain with me no short time. And they
will remind me of the God who gives life,
transforms darkness into light, brings joy out of
suffering, and changes hearts of stone into
throbbing instruments of praise.

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