Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 15

1 Kings 19/Psalm 18;12/Luke 17; 23-24/Revelations 11;19.

When Lightning Strikes

One thing with the recent warm weather is the dramatic thunder and lightning storms that herald the end of the hot spell. When warm humid air meets colder air in the atmosphere the result is often heavy rain and a fireworks display across the sky.

I have to admit that as a six or seven year boy I was not happy with thunder storms, I don’t think my mum helped as she was terrified of thunder. The family used to reassure me by telling me it was not really thunder; it was God moving his furniture round in heaven. However, I wasn’t convinced of the accuracy of this theory.

Just round the corner from our house was an industrial laundry called, ‘Allied Industrial Services’ (AIS), that had a fleet of large vans that bumped and banged down the road. Every time it thundered my mum would say to me, ‘Don’t worry it’s not thunder it’s just the AIS vans. She was hiding under the kitchen table at the time so again I was not convinced.

The time to really get worried was when mum opened the back door. Always when it thundered mum would open the back door. This was to allow any lightning bolt that came down the chimney, (we had coal fires), to escape across the back room and out of the back door and we would be all safe. I never understood how the lightning bolt would know where the back door was situated as the lightning bolt had never been in our house before. It could have chosen the door to the cellar, or the door to the front room, which would have been a disaster because we were not allowed in the front room and mum never opened the front door. She only opened the back door. I decided at one time that I would stand at the bottom of the stairs and if I was brave enough, I would point in the direction of the back door to help the lightning bolt go in the right direction. We never actually had a lightning bolt come down the chimney so my services were never called upon.

I can recall one occasion when Jean and I were first married; we enjoyed driving a few miles down the road from our house into the village of Bingley, (famous for the Bingley Building Society which became the Halifax). Just outside the village was the Leeds/Liverpool Canal which had five locks in a line. This was called the Five Rise and we would park the van in the car park at the first lock and walk along the canal path. It was all very pleasant except on one occasion when half way through our walk it started to rain extremely heavy thunder rain.  There are no shelters at Five Rise so we sought some shelter under a large tree which gave some respite from the deluge. It was when the thunder and  lightning started that I realised that our tree under which we were sheltering, was the only tree at Five Rise and it was by far the highest point in that vicinity. I had a dilemma, should I share this discovery with my new wife or should I just keep quiet and hope for the best?

My predicament was resoled almost immediately when a flash of lightning illuminated the entire canal and simultaneously the heavens above us exploded with thunder that shook the centre of the earth. I’m not sure who reached the car park first, Jean or me, but I’m sure we both qualified for the next Olympic Games.

In those days we did not have the luxury of a motor car, but we did have an elderly Renault van. It was bright yellow and was a funny looking vehicle but very practical, the roof having a detachable section that allowed long items to be carried by protruding them through the roof. We used to remove the detachable section and pretend it was an open topped sports car. It needed a great deal of imagination but it was fun. On one occasion we took our ‘open top sports car’ for a day out in Knaresborough, but I left the detachable roof section in the garage at home.

On the return journey we ran into heavy rain and a thunder storm.  If I explain that the open section of the roof was directly over the drivers and passenger’s head, the significance of my error in leaving the detached section at home becomes apparent.

I tried to lift our spirits by pointing out that we had a panoramic view of the lightning through the open roof, but alas I fear that my enthusiasm was not shared by my passenger who was sitting with a raincoat over her head and shivering. We did laugh about it later, much, much later.

In the Bible thunder and lightning are used to describe the power and authority of God. The almighty power to control the most fearful of the elements, manifested in wind, rain, thunder and earthquakes, but also in the soft calm voice (1 Kings 19)

Psalm 97;3, describes God as, ‘His lightning lights up the world, the earth sees and trembles’. Whereas Psalm 18;12, describes God’s power as, ‘Out of brightness of his presence clouds advanced with hailstones and bolts of lightning. This uses lightning as being symbolic of heralding God’s presence.

Luke 17;23 describes Christ’s second advent as being unmistakable as the lightning which streaks from one part of the sky to another heralding Christ’s coming, and in Revelation 11;19, John uses all the great natural powers of creation to reveal his vision of the presence of God; – ‘There are lightning’s, noises, thundering’s, an earthquakes and great hail’.

All things considered I think my mum was right, – best keep the door open.

Derek T.