Outside a convenience store, a man and woman argue, fingers pointing, leaning beligerently toward each other, faces flushed.
Stung by one comment, the man reels back and slaps the woman across the face and smiles briefly at sharp report. Then his expression becomes consternation as the momentum of the delivered blow, combined with the two six-packs of beer he had consumed, conspire to spin him into a comical pirouette.
He catches himself, none too gracefully, and staggers back to his target. She has recovered enough from the blow (which she hardly felt in her own alcoholic haze) to begin a new stream of abuse.
He strikes her again.
Inside the store, the clerk has seen enough. He calls the police.
Soon the man is on his way to jail.
The woman has secured a bottle of wine which she lovingly places in a backpack for the walk to her camp in the woods. There she pulls the shroud of drink about her like a cloak and sinks into oblivion.
Where is God's blessing in this?
Proud parents learn their son has suffered complications at birth. Cerebral palsy. Developmental delays. Autism. The labels keep on coming.
By age 9 he still isn't talking and has trouble feeding himself. Yet his parents resist suggestions he be institutionalized or isolated from others.
Where is God's blessing?
The Episcopal Church is torn from within by disputes over Biblical truth. Words are said in anger. Christians battle Christians. Many stalk off in bewilderment. Others stay in bitterness.
Where, again, is God?
God is with the drunken, homeless man, who has been sent from jail to an alchohol treatment center. There, for 30 days, God patiently peels off his addiction like the saturated label from a beer bottle.
He is with the battered woman who awakens, hungover, and surprises herself and her friends by saying, "No more drinking." He is with her when she celebrates her fourth straight day of sobriety.
God is with the 9-year-old boy, in his uncanny ability to show love to total strangers. He is there when the boy's hug turns a Hispanic man's life around. He is there when a letter inspired by the boy touches a prison inmate, who turns to Jesus.
God rips the label of "autism" from that boy like the skin of a grape and replaces it, lovingly, with one that says "blessed."
And when God's Holy Spirit blasts through the Episcopal church like a Nor'Easter off the New England coast, it has a purpose.
Some cling to the old and find themselves tested, their faith refined.
Those who let go find themselves uprooted.
Yet each comes to rest, like a spirit-sown seed in Matthew 13:8, "... on good soil, where it produced a crop -- a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
They resume their ministries, weave new relationships and soon the tapestry is beginning to wrap around the church wounds like miles of snow-white gauze.
The blessings were always there, waiting for us to live into them.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts." -- Isaiah 55:8-9
And isn't that the greatest blessings of all?