Saturday, September 20, 2008


I've become a weather junkie. I'm always checking out, the National Hurricane Center, and, most lately, Yahoo Weather. I particularly like Yahoo Weather, because you can personalize it. I have it set up to show me the weather in cities around the world. This is going to be even more fun when North American winter really sets in and I can feel smug about how much warmer I am than any of my friends and family members who live there.

Another great thing about Yahoo Weather is that I get a list of articles having to do with weather. (Some of them don't have much to do with weather really - if there's been a storm of protest in some scandal, the storm reference sends the article into my list.) There is always flooding somewhere - and the poor suffer disproportionately from this, as from everything else. In countries around the world, people with no homeowner's insurance and no FEMA are drying out their few possessions that survived one flood or another and mourning those who were washed away.

It was on Yahoo Weather that I found this article, too. It seems that some people in Ohio have been without power for five days and have taken to the streets to protest. (People do that here, too, but it takes them a lot longer than five days to reach that point. Sometimes after five months or so they might go out and burn a few tires and block the roads.) I sympathize with these people, honestly I do. The article notes that some of them are on oxygen and depend on the elevators in their building working. It's not easy to be without power, as I know better than many!

Weather obsesses us because there's not much we can do about it. People can forecast it, with varying degrees of accuracy, but we can't make it go away. And it affects what we want to do, irritatingly enough. On my Yahoo Weather page I notice a link to Fisherman's Weather, which I imagined was for fleets of fishermen going out to earn their living, but which turns out to be for recreational fishermen and to have more to do with whether the fish are biting than with the calmness of the ocean. There's also a Honeymoon Planner, because as the site says, "Your dream destination wedding or honeymoon can quickly turn into a nightmare if you're not prepared for the weather."

It all reminds me that we are very much at the mercy of things beyond our control, even though we like to convince ourselves that we can plan our future and run our own lives. The Bible is clear on this, in the book of James, saying: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that'"(James 4:13-15). In this country Christians always add "if God wills" whenever they use the word "tomorrow." For years I've resisted doing it because it seems so formulaic. "If God wills" is just part of the word "tomorrow" in the whole mumbled phrase, "See-you-tomorrow-if-God-wills." Sometimes it strikes me as a bit fatalistic and a way of avoiding responsibility for one's own actions. But lately, in the midst of yet another round of crisis for this sad little country where I live, I find myself adding the phrase to my speech, not in a formulaic way but remembering every time I say it that our life is a vapor, a mist, not lasting, subject to any number of unexpected disasters and yet also full of countless joys. We had a pastor once who remarked after a huge snowstorm that shut down activity and canceled church that God likes to do that every once in a while to remind us who's in charge.

Am I saying God sent the storms that caused so much damage and loss of life? I am struggling with that question. I believe God could have prevented them hitting this country, already in the throes of so many problems. Why didn't He? I don't know why He allows suffering in this world, though I have read many books on the subject and have my answers all formulated in a philosophical sense - but those pat answers fall apart sometimes in the face of misery and grief. It's easier for me to explain away problems caused by human beings - God allows for our free will, etc. etc. - than the so-called "Acts of God." (And yes, there's the whole global warming factor, with human activity affecting severity of weather, but let's face it - there were catastrophic events well before the internal combustion engine and people have always wrestled with these questions.)

This isn't the time for agonizing over philosophical and theological questions, though, it's a time for neighbors helping each other and outsiders coming with aid and comfort. It's a time for me to look at unfathomable, overwhelming need, and say, "I can't do much, but I can clean out my closet and pass on clothes, I can play with some displaced orphans, I can donate money, I can keep life normal for the children of others who are out helping more directly, I can pray."

I didn't intend to become so impassioned in this post. It was just going to be a lighthearted note on the features of Yahoo Weather. But life is overshadowed now with grief. "In the midst of life we are in death," says the Book of Common Prayer. That's always the case, but in times like these we are more aware of the fact. And as Lewis reminds me in his "Learning in Wartime" (which I blogged about here), it's a good thing for us to be aware of mortality.

Incidentally, I smiled when I noticed at, where I'd gone to look up the verses from James, that today's verse of the day is “Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.”- Joel 2:23


Anonymous said...

My father is a weather junkie, too. With him it's on television. There's something hypnotic about the music they play during the forecast on the 8's of every hour... And my husband needs to know weather for his work, and is extremely literate in

I sympathize with you -- though from a distance, and in my comfortable, dry home. My daughters and I prayed for "the people in the hurricane." Now every time my 4-year-old prays, she thanks God for "taking care of the people in the hurricane." And every time, it starts some of the lines of thought you mention here.

Jessica Stock said...

wondering the same things a lot. I just can't make sense of it, can't reconcile all of the horrible evil and suffering in the world with how God can see it and allow it . . . my only comfort somedays is that life is a vapor. And the beatitudes. Maybe to God this suffering really is momentary, and there is an eternal reward. I want to think so.

T and T Livesay said...

this is weird. today I prayed that out loud in front of Haitian ladies that we would not get any more rain -- then I went upstairs and saw a map showing rain coming -- and i wished i had not prayed so that no one would blame god --- it is so confusing!!!!