'To Live Is to Praise'

Now we are in the season of storms. Supercells tower above the urban architecture. They vault and layer, striate and swirl. Below, neighbors cuddle beneath Speedy Liquor's faded green awning, laughing. Others stand silently in the clear box of the bus stop shelter studying the sky. From my second floor office window, I see both the upper and lower worlds.

I've always been excited by storms. In California's central valley where I grew up, thunderstorms were rare. Instead, we got the slow, steady, soaking rains that performed a reverse alchemy by turning our golden hills to fertile green.

I learned about real storms in south Arkansas, where I spent many summers. I learned to watch for the perilous violet-jade clouds with v-shaped mammatus; how to lie in a ditch if I saw a funnel cloud; how to barricade myself in the interior bathroom in the event of a full-on lightning storm, hurricane, or tornado.

One night in the summer of 1985, I found myself stretched out in a beat-up rowboat tied to a dilapidated pier on the Sea of Galilee. Just past midnight the stars began to disappear and I was caught in a full-fledged squall. Lightning shot directly to the ground. The storm's outburst turned the lake surface into liquid insurrection. Its speed and ferocity are something I will never forget.

I love the truth of lightning. I love the beauty of rain clouds and thunder. I love how their nearness makes my heart pound. Leben ist loben, say the Germans; to live is to praise.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2007
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