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Tornado & Providence, Union University & William Cowper

Today is the fifth anniversary of the tornado that devastated so much of the campus of Union University. You can see a nice news story from a Tennessee TV station here.

Five years ago tonight my family sat down to dinner with Bob Cali, a Union student and a fellow church member. Dinner was interrupted as the sirens went off, and we gathered into our laundry room. We sang hymns as we waited, and occasionally Bob & I slipped out to get another taste of the dessert which was interrupted (that pie has now been dubbed by my kids as “storm pie”). Then, my wife and I heard the sound we had often heard described but had never before experienced- a sound like a train, which we realized meant a tornado was just then passing very near our home. We huddled with our crew and waited, not knowing we were entering a defining moment in our lives and the life of our community.

The story has been told in full elsewhere, most notably in Tim Ellsworth’s book, God in the Whirlwind: Stories of Grace from the Tornado at Union University. To reflect back on that time, the fact that everyone survived, that the university survived, the amazing leadership of the university administration, and the various fruit which came from it all is a lesson in providence.

Reflecting on that today, my mind returned to this poem by William Cowper, which captures our experience quite well. The biblical truths expressed here are a great comfort and a spur to move ahead boldly with great confidence in a great God.

Light Shining Out of Darkness

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the LORD by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
GOD is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

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