Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Power Up!

  - By Tony Harriman

From watching the prices in the electronics stores we gather that before long we'll be able to affordably include the use of solar panels to power some of the appliances around our home.  Our home is well insulated and we have plenty of windows letting in the daytime light, so our energy bill for the month is usually less than what one might expect to pay for power if they were living in a 16x80 mobile home.  Nevertheless, we would like to use more of the free amps falling from the sky.  We've more-or-less convinced ourselves that we'd like to at least experiment with solar power; it's just a matter of wading into that unknown realm and making a start.  If we were building a home right now, solar panels would definitely make up part of the roofing material.

Electricity is such a readily-available energy to the average Western home, that we really don't think much about it; we get home, flick the lights on, drop the air, fire up the oven, open the fridge.  We hardly give a thought to what it takes to get those things working, so there's a real desire to leave well-enough alone; just pay the bill at the end of the month and get on with your life.  But what if it were more affordable to install solar?  That would change the game, don't you think?

For my last birthday one of my daughters bought me a solar-powered tiki lamp; I love it.  We set it up so we can see it from the back of the house.  It gets enough sun through the day to charge it, then when the sun goes down, it shines out … for most of the night.  But occasionally I've looked out at it in the wee hours and it's not burning quite so brightly.  It's not a problem with the bulb; it's that the battery won't store energy for long enough to keep the bulb burning till its next rendezvous with the sun.  There's a lesson for us there, and I'd like to explore it for a minute or two.

All of the usable energy on the planet comes from our sun.  The vegetation of planet earth is so designed that it converts the light from the sun into energy that can be eaten by some form of life or other.  The vegetation takes that light and clothes it with material taken from the soil and quite cleverly camouflages it so that it will appeal to a wide variety of plant-eating creatures.  When you take a moment to think about how brilliantly this plan has been worked out, the mind spins.  It's not that we're actually eating light; we're eating what the light is carrying — energy.

The plants take some of that energy and somehow compress it into the atoms that form the building blocks of matter; but I reckon we'll talk about that some other time.

Vegetation on the planet is a storehouse for light.  When we eat the vegetation, we are actually providing ourselves the purest form of energy that we can assimilate.  Some of the energy is stored in our bodies for a very short time, but most of it is used pretty quickly.  Unlike plants (which more closely resemble what we know as batteries), our bodies are designed to be more like living machines, and have to be energized on a fairly regular basis.  And because we are more like machines, we work best when we are kept in motion.  kept in motion, that is, until we need maintenance, which appears to be carried out while we sleep.

The miracle of digestion is one of the better-kept secrets on the planet, and remains so all the while people who understand its functions continue to clothe this grand orchestral symphony with fancy, uncommon language.  I'm reminded of some elaborate and expensive recipes I've seen for making compost.  Seriously?  Compost happens — regularly.  The same is true with digestion.  The digestive system is designed to extract light/energy/power from what we eat.  The food is designed to release that energy when mixed with a variety of chemicals produced in the body and introduced throughout the process of digestion.

Let's face it, most of what is advertised (at great cost, we might add) on the TV and billboards is engineered mainly to appeal to the taste buds, not the digestive system as a whole.  On an atomic level, a box of crackers contains a lot of energy, but contains no power that the body can break down and use; we aren't designed as nuclear reactors … right now, anyway.

Is it any wonder that we feel run-down all the time when our bodies aren't being energized with anything useful?  I suppose a similarity might be gained in concept if we considered the idea of trying to charge your car battery with cables connected to a Double-A.

So what's a person to do?  On one side of the food isle we hear voices telling us that animal (flesh) food is the best for us; on the other is a choir singing the praises of the fresh fruits and veggies.  And somewhere above the entire procession is the religion that tells us that planet earth is wearing out, that it's not possible to get everything we need from food grown in the ground, so we have to spend a small fortune on multivitamins.  Forget the conversation about pesticides, hormone use and GMOs.

Yes, we need more than just canned light to keep us alive; we need minerals, acids, live enzymes and the like.  But without that light we will be dead while we're still on our feet walking around.  And the light is best given to us by vegetation.

Right here I feel I'm sounding like what some people might call a tree-hugging "Greenie."  I'm not on a quest to save the planet, but without the planet we won't have a place to call home.  What I really feel like is taking another look at what I use to power up my engines.  I'd like more affordable choices for what I put on my plate.  I don't want to pay $3 for an organic avocado, when a regular one costs less than a dollar.  It seems to me the only people who can afford to eat organic-only have no children, no mortgage, and no vehicles to feed — either that or they have no life other than the one which involves the preparation of food for their tables.

Life shouldn't be all about eating, but eating should satisfy more than just a growling belly.  As human machines we have needs.  This matters, and someone who understands the physiological mechanisms ought to step up to the plate and put the science into a language that can be understood by the single mom who's trying to keep her kids fed and well and happy, all the while she's running two jobs with no time to go back to school and learn about the miracles of physiology.  We don't care about your degrees in medicine, public health or nutritional sciences — come down out of the clouds, get your head out of your nose and help us get our lives back.

And that's just my take on it ….


Friday, August 30, 2013

"The Right to Bear Weapons is a God-given Right"



"The Right to Bear Weapons Is a God-given Right"

  •  By Tony Harriman

Click Here and watch a thirty-two minute presentation including thoughts on "God's Wish for Our Lives," "the God-given Right to Bear Weapons," and a brief window into Tony's history.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Breakfast Links"

  •  By Tony Harriman

Living here in a world apparently designed to teach us about its Maker, I've never been able to find a happy place in my reckoning for the Food Chain.  "That's just the way it is," we explain to ourselves, "It's always been like this."  I don't honestly believe for a moment that the food chain was in the original plan for the universe.  I think the food chain is a symptom of something that's gone horribly wrong with the design.

With the exception of plants (which feed mostly on inanimate material) every organism on the planet feeds on some other organism — from the very small to the very large.  The very small being the microscopic life which eats other microscopic life.  And the very large being, say, a whale.  In between these two extremes are many creatures which rely on the death of others to keep themselves alive.  Not all animals take the life of others; some are vegetarians whose systems are not suited to the consumption of animal flesh.  Some animals are totally carnivorous, such as lions and tigers (not bears—necessarily), dogs and cats, and many water-dwelling creatures; these creatures must survive by consuming the flesh of other creatures.  You've probably seen what happens when a dog or a cat eats grass.  Some creatures in the animal kingdom are omnivores, most notably those of the primates on the planet.  Human beings dwell in this realm; we can survive on zucchini or zebras — the choice is ours.

Those of the miniature variety, like flies and roaches, usually feed on the filth and rottenness left over from the meals of larger critters.  In turn these flies and roaches are eaten by bigger critters which are also eaten by bigger bodies, until they eventually reach the dining table of the average couch potato anywhere in the world.  Chickens and water-fowl, especially, have diets that are fully laden with bugs of every kind; those of us who've spent time around chickens will have noticed what they eat — yuck!

I'm going to leave out lots of paragraphs right here — the reading of which would only turn our stomachs — and jump right into a spiritual explanation that I think I can see hanging from a low-lying branch.  I'm still desperately trying to work this out, so here goes:

Most of the people I know who will read this are personal acquaintances; some of you have known me most of my life.  Many of you remember me as a bratty teenager who had not a care for the world in which he lived, and not much more of a care for the rest of the people in that world.  As a young man in my mid-twenties I was introduced to a much bigger picture of this thing we call life.  I was introduced to a Creator who I believe actually knows my name and GPS coordinates.  I became acquainted with the Christian concept of a sacrifice being made on my behalf so that I might enjoy eternal life.  And here I am still struggling to get my reasonable thoughts together, because many spiritual things still don't make sense to me, even though I've taken a lot of time to learn many of the reflex-reaction Scripture verses.

In a simple statement (which I'm trying to keep a grip on) is that perhaps the picture — horrible though it is — being painted by the food chain, is that many of us creatures owe our physical survival to the taking of life of something else.  Most of us realize that we will die if we don't eat something that has a little bit of life in it.  But that's just physical.  The other half of us, the spiritual side, does not owe its existence to meat and three veg.  In the Christian arena, the sacrifice of the life of Christ gives the possibility to many others a chance at life — eternal life — beyond a physical existence.  And though the Sacrifice was made for all, not everyone will take advantage of it.  How does that work?  How does a person remove his or her self from the nourishment of the sacrifice?  How does a person consume the life of Christ so that they may live?  You might remember the crowd going home when Jesus spoke to them of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  Strange thing to say.  Still trying to work that out.  What's that?  His words are spirit and life?  Yes, I get that; but He said "flesh and blood."  I don't want to sound pedantic; just trying to figure it out.

Well, right up front I'm going to tell you I don't currently believe you have to eat something physical in order to live forever spiritually.  I'm not sure the food chain is intended to illustrate for us a ladder to Heaven.  What I do believe is that there's nothing going on down here that isn't illustrating something that has a much bigger counterpart, a counterpart that we don't have eyes for, a counterpart that is only comprehended once we've installed in our minds the software designed to awaken our spiritual microscopes — and, dare I say, telescopes.  The grand cycles of life on the planet appear to me to be offering a peek behind the drapes that are filtering out the marvelous intellectual and spiritual light reaching our minds.

I read somewhere once that the botanist and biologist may have a profound appreciation for the workings of the natural world on the planet, but that it is the person who sees the fingerprints and handwriting of the Creator of the natural world who receives the greater blessing.  I think this observation still has a lot of mileage left.

Hold on, though.  Let's back up to that part about installing the software designed to awaken our spiritual microscopes.  How does that happen?  My belief on that point is found in the teachings of Jesus, and His continual use of the workings of the natural world to illustrate the parallel workings of the unseen Kingdom of Heaven.  Had there been access to microscopes and telescopes two thousand years ago, I dare say the teachings of Jesus would have been even broader and deeper than they already were; but we'll have to speculate on that for now.  If, when we make an observation in the natural world, we allow our minds to think of a larger, spiritual reality, then I think we will have begun the process of installing the right software that will make our minds work properly.

So what about that food chain? Do I think it's going to work this same way on the other side, throughout eternity?  No, I really don't.  My belief is that, on the other side, when the birds stop to feed, they won't have to worry about predators.  The squirrels won't be continually looking over their shoulders as they forage.  The baby seals won't be concerned about the killer whales.  And on and on and on.  What place will there be for the carnivore?  I really don't know, because the dog cannot currently feed on the same food as the rabbit.  The dog would have to have most of its digestive system replaced, as would the lion and the rest of the big cats.  Right now the digestive system of, dare I say, ALL the creatures on the planet, is sadly inefficient; so it would seem that all of us are going to have to be changed, right?  Some of the buzzards and bacteria that feed on dead bodies are going to be out of a job, just like the doctor, the fireman, the police officer and the preacher — oh, and the attorney (thank heaven).

And that's just my take on it ....








Friday, July 19, 2013

"Hidden from Sight"

  •  By Tony Harriman

Right now in the news across the USA are stories of fires, HUGE fires, burning up thousands of acres of forests throughout almost half the country.  Due to arid conditions in some areas the flames have gone through rural neighborhoods within hours and left nothing but the foundations of hundreds of homes.  The landscape looks a lot like the Midwest a month or so ago after the tornadoes went through, except all that remains of the family homestead is charred.  It's curious to me that these enormous blazes have, in many cases, been started by dry lightning; others have been kindled by the carelessness of campers, and sometimes smokers.  There's a real lesson there somewhere in the fact that carnage can often be caused with the greatest of ease.  And, as the Wise Man pointed out, the fire never says, "It's enough!"  The fire runs till it runs out of things to eat.

Here in the Southeastern USA the story has been very different.  Many southern states have already received more than their entire year's worth of rain, and the end is not yet in sight.  Conspiracy theories abound, as do the doomsayers; but all we actually know for sure is that it's wet out there.  With that thought in mind, I'd like to share an observation or two.

In my opinion the Southeast has more than its fair share of fire ants.  From time to time small mounds appear almost anywhere on the lawn or somewhere in the yard.  A small fortune may be made from selling ant granules which "guarantee" to eliminate the whole colony, including the queen.    A variety of Old-wives cocktails exist which also "guarantee" to wipe out these miniature neighborhoods, but good luck finding one that "agrees" with the alkalinity of your particular yard. Most of the time the ants remain out of sight, only to be discovered when you move things around in your yard, drop food, or when you kick back on the grass for a nap.  But when the ground becomes sodden from continual rain, the ants move their front yard to your front yard, and the mounds rise up almost all over the place.  If you've lived in the Southeast for a season or two, you likely will have seen the granular dirt appear abundantly after a couple of days of wet weather.  If not … you will.

It's this revelation of a species which has dwelt almost invisibly under our noses that is of particular interest to me.  Unless the circumstances were to change from time to time, we'd hardly know some of the creatures with whom we share our world even existed.  We've talked about the ants; now consider the creatures which appear when the sun goes down.  Think about the bats which come out to play as darkness approaches.  Having no need of the light because of their incredible ability to interpret sound, bats feed on another creature which stirs mainly in the evening: the mosquito.  Mosquitoes are around most of the time, but they seem to feed best in the evening.  And consider the many species of owls that inhabit the night stalking their prey.

Many years ago when I took my first vacation to Florida, a handful of us took the trip up the Turnpike to visit Disney World.  The driver (a native of Florida) took us on the road after a last-minute decision; we headed out in the evening.  A long while after dark, he pulled to the side of the road once the traffic had died down, and invited us to step out and look into the bushes across the ditch.  I stood spellbound.  I had grown up in England where we have the regular varieties of insects and animals, and was not prepared for the sight before me.  This was my first introduction to fireflies.  A swarm of lowly lightning bugs, as they are known by many, was performing a dance of light which I had never seen before, or have ever since.  I have lived in the southeastern USA for many years now, but have never tired of walking through the long grass during the spring and summer months while the fireflies hover.  Chiggers?  Yeah … small price to pay, though.  These flashing, luminescent creatures are always there in the grass and bushes of lands with a tropical climate, but are never seen until the conditions are right, i.e. nighttime.

In the dark recesses of the planet's oceans dwell many other kinds of creatures that produce their own light, just like the firefly, but are seldom seen by human beings.  TV channels like Discovery, Learning and National Geographic have done wonders to help us realize that human beings are a pitiful addition to the population of the planet, at least as far as numbers are concerned.

On a more creepy level (pardon the pun), darkness also brings out another creature, a disgusting one: the cockroach.  Many's the time I've walked into a darkened room of some ag├Ęd food establishment, flicked on the light, only to watch the floors and walls come to life with scurrying cockroaches running from the brightness.  Yuck!  Makes my stomach turn to think of it even now.  Cockroaches thrive in the darkness, as do rats and mice.  Unlike some other creatures which we would actually like to see more of, we're happy when these carriers of disease remain confined to their dens.

My personal belief is that we share the planet with another species, one that we cannot see with the eyes — namely: devils.  If Murphy had a father, he would come from this disgusting breed of creature.  If irony had a mother, that mother would originate in the darkness the devils live among.  I'm not sure how much control these devils have over the weather systems of the planet, but I have a sense that if they can do harm without drawing the blame, that's what they'd do.  Science scurries around looking for natural explanations for trouble and destruction on the planet, and it's decided that all the woes of the earth spring from sunspots or global warming or Freon or plastic manufacturing or oil wells, and on and on and on.  I'm sure some of those play a role, but I don't think we should rule out the possibility that unseen creatures are busy plotting mayhem, and will use anything available to them.  Hollywood classifies these creatures as those that dwell in the "supernatural;"  I feel we should classify this species as one of those that dwell in darkness — spiritual darkness.  Just like the lightning, concocted when the conditions are right, these creatures come out to play when given even the slightest opportunity.  And, just as with the breeze, you may not see anything, but you definitely see the effects.

A surefire way to bring these creatures to the surface is to make any attempt to change your lifestyle for the good — quit smoking, drinking or doing drugs; eat or drink more healthfully; get more exercise; stop exercising a judgmental spirit, or criticizing others.  In other words, just plan to take better care of yourself and the welfare of others, and you'll quickly become acquainted with the influence of creatures bent on your discomfort.

Another way to crack some light on these beings is to show an interest in Biblical things.  Don't just go through a ritual of fast-paced Bible study, read and think about what you're reading; try to apply some of the new-found principles to your life, such as "Do unto others as you would like them to do to you," or "Love your neighbor as yourself."  If a portion of Scripture doesn't add up for you, question it; maybe an old interpretation is just plain-old wrong.  On the other hand maybe the old interpretation is correct, you just haven't looked at it like this before.

Until the earth is made new we are going to have to put up with these creatures of darkness; but watch for the beams of light that peep through the tears.

So what protection is there right now?  

Well, first I think you should acknowledge the fact that we are not alone, and that the visitants to our planet are not from a galaxy far, far away.  It appears that these creatures originally broke upon our reality the very first day they were given the opportunity in the Garden of Eden — Paradise, no less.  How the serpent, who was under the dominion of Adam, got overcome by the devil is not clear, but do recognize that this was the first earthly creature to paint a cruel picture of doubt upon the words of the Creator of heaven and earth.

The next thing I think you should acknowledge is that the only person who remained unaffected during His earthly life was Jesus Christ alone.  Not unafflicted, but definitely unaffected, was the Person of Jesus.  So I conclude that in the counsel of Jesus we may find a place to rest our souls from the constant breeze of darkness that has enshrouded our earthly home.  "Come out of him!" were words oft repeated by Jesus as He encountered those possessed with devils.  Today modern medicine would say that the blind, the deaf and the mute are stricken with a manageable condition, and perhaps they are right; perhaps what was once considered a demonic possession was nothing more than an anatomical abnormality, or a chemical or hormonal imbalance.  Whatever it is or was, Jesus chased it away — frequently.  And this Jesus Who changes not, can do similar things for you today, given the opportunity.  The power of Jesus is not lessened by the passing of time, I'm sure you'll agree.  Raised to life four days after death is a concept which still remains medically mythical in the minds of many in the establishment, have no doubt.  But how Jesus pulled it off was not a concern of those who received the blessing of life.

Oh, by the way, there is another Being who is always there — not in the spiritual darkness — but hidden in plain sight, in the light, as well as in the physical darkness: our Heavenly Father, Who has not forgotten us.  Though we cannot see Him, you may be confirmed of His presence … through the application of prayer.  Ask for things you know He would like you to have.  Surely He would be happy to help us help others in ways that He would if He were right now here in Person.  You might be surprised at how useful you can be.  You likely will not become rich … or poor; but you will be satisfied.  To be satisfied means you will dwell somewhere between "comfortable" and "content."  You might not have all you "want," but that fault might be yours alone.  Private prayer for public signs seems to me to be an excellent way to become acquainted with our Father Whom we cannot see — for now.

As a closing thought: doesn't it seem sometimes that the issue is being forced so that all these invisible beings may be clearly brought to the surface?  Is it just my imagination, or does the world seem to be teetering on the edge of some awful calamity that will cause humanity to make a choice as to which spirit they will allow to guide them?  The Religious and political unrest on the planet seem to me to be causing an absolute rift between those who would be free and those who would rather dictate.

And that's just my take on it ….








Monday, June 17, 2013

"Power Outage"

  •  By Tony Harriman

Earlier today the power went out at my place of work.  I was blamed immediately, and was playfully accused of having paid some innocent squirrel to commit suicide by jumping on to the electrical transformer outside our office.  The reason for this playfulness is because it's commonly known among people closest to me that I prefer being outside rather than in, and that I will take any opportunity (power outages included) to breathe real, outdoor air.  So any time the lights flicker even for a moment, eyes are cast my way as a possible cause.

When the power goes off, life as we know it changes.  If it goes out during work hours a mad scramble ensues to make sure computer files are saved, backed up and closed properly so as not to suffer corruption before the backup power gives out.  Since we usually don't know how long the outage will last, we must be sure not to open the fridge unnecessarily.  Doors must stay closed to keep the heat out … or in, depending on the time of year.  Are there candles or a flashlight handy?  Is the phone still working?  You probably have an appropriate list of dos and don'ts at your house or place of work.

The natural world doesn't have this interruption as humans do.  Unless they live in the city, where they are kept awake constantly by the bright lights, the birds awaken and retire by the sunrise and sunset alone; they aren't thrown from their branches by the clanging of an alarm clock, or the jangling music wailing from their cellphones or iPods.  For reasons of safety they learn to rise and be alert when the light comes on, because light is revealing, both of the prey … and the predator.

The worldwide power grid is a human invention.  Electricity flows abundantly in the natural world, but not by the use of wires; it is simply carried along by electrons in what is known as a current, much like water in a river or stream.  Once man discovered how electricity worked he set about producing his own, since it was quickly realized that taming the lightning was a futile endeavor, at least as far as could be seen.

The rest of the story is history — an ongoing history.  Electricity goes just about everywhere and fires up myriad forms of appliances in any First World country.  I suppose that ought to be scary on some kind of political level; if one day a maniac got his hand on the control switch, that could be a serious inconvenience.  But that's a story for another time.

I have often likened the worldwide power grid to the universal Spirit of God working in our world — whether we know it or not.  Surely it's the Spirit of God that keeps our hearts beating and the orbs in their orbits.  Would it not be a safe assumption to say that the energy within an atom is kept safely confined by the Spirit of God?  I suppose one day we'll figure out why so much power has to be contained in such a small package — maybe not, have to wait and see.

No matter the names we give to natural phenomena, such as gravity, velocity and electricity, these forces have a Parent, without Whom they would not exist.  I believe it safe to say that the Spirit of God would be happy to burst out from any one of us, just as though released from the walls of an atom.  Unfortunately, though, most of us do a pretty good job of keeping the power safely confined. Just like in the natural world, our brightness or heat is dependent upon our resistance (or lack of), and nothing flows more than we allow.

As a young boy I learned to box, and was taught how to "work the bag" — the punching bag.  I always felt the description should have been flipped a bit, because to this day I have never found a physical workout that demanded so much of you and whose object of attention suffered so very little change.  Letting "the bag work you" seemed a much more appropriate description of the event, since the bag always appeared to come off the better.  Nevertheless, working the bag is a work of art, and demands the coordinated use of many parts of the body, most notably the muscles.  Properly approached, the bag will help you develop balance, hand-eye coordination and anticipation.  Most things in life demand patience, so the bag will help you learn how to pace yourself, in the sense of not using yourself up in one grand display of Fourth of July fireworks.  Perhaps most importantly, the bag will help you learn how to keep going, and as you do, you will get stronger.  Your muscles will get stronger; your bones will get stronger; your will becomes stronger.  In short, your body learns and practices economy: your fuel goes farther; as does your breath.  You become physically efficient.  I'm not suggesting you go out and buy a punching bag, just that you gain a spiritual insight from the physical metaphor.

A power plant (where electricity is produced for consumer use) works best when it is working efficiently.  By that we mean that there is no waste of what is being produced.  Every component of the plant may be so finely tuned that nothing is wasted by the plant.  It may be a different story when the power reaches our homes; the appliances at work may not be as efficient as they could or should be, so there is likely more waste than there ought to be.  But, often, we're doing the best we can, so don't bother me about my fifty-year-old refrigerator.

A sterile definition for the word "efficient" is: "Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense."  And that about sums it up, or least, that about sums up the meaning of the word.  I imagine that human beings and God have two very different ideas about what might and might not be "efficient."  Man's efficiency, to a great degree, is measured by how many figures are on the monthly paycheck.  The efficiency of Heaven declares that "When it dies, it lives;" "When you cast it away, it will return with more than you can count;" "If I be lifted up, many will live."  The thought and theme echoes throughout Scripture.  The idea was continued when one of the early Reformers wrote, "Even our blood is seed; the more of us you kill, the more of us will spring up from our ashes."

I personally believe that there is more power available to us than we will ever need.  The power appears to have no beginning and no end — both in the natural world and in the Spirit realm.  There is no place where God cannot be; and since He is the source of all power, it follows that there is no place where there is no power.  We could really muddy the page here and talk about how time works in all of this, but for now let's keep the paper tidy.

There's a passage in the Bible (Hebrews 6:4-6) that suggests it is impossible to reinstate a person who has been a keen receptacle for the Spirit of God, if they should ever turn away to walk with the Lord no more.  Personally, I can't imagine what insanity would cause a person to turn their back on a being Who is everything we will ever — EVER — need.  But let's walk that trail for a moment or two ….  There was once a being with the title "Lightbearer" whom we call Lucifer.  The record is that this being turned away from God and all the light that infused him, and became what Jesus called the Prince of Darkness.  How would you like to have a title like that?  Darkness doesn't strike me as being a pleasant state to be in.  Very few pretty things live in the darkness of the natural world; what attractive thing could possibly live in the darkness of the spiritual world?  Seems like before we will buy into anything remotely dark, we have to paint it with brightness and sparklies.  But underneath … it's still dark.  But, for whatever reason, this glorious light-bearing being did indeed walk away … never to return.

A sad reality for most of us on the planet is that we remain totally unaware that the power is going out in our lives — I mean the Spirit power, the one that is keeping us alive more so than the next bag of potato chips.  Sitting at home we can see when the lights go out, or when the TV goes off.  But when the Spirit leaves us — even in a small measure — we appear to have not a clue nor a care.

I imagine a clear Spiritual barometer (for want of a better expression) might be the one that indicates how much we are willing to give for others; and I mean "intelligent" giving, more than just handing over a tithe check at the end of the month.  If the barometer is showing "High," I imagine the life in question will be a reflection of how you might picture the earthly life of Jesus to have been.  I'm not talking about you walking around like you're the embodiment of God, but I do feel like your interests will reflect a much higher economy than that of the earthly banking system.  I imagine you might wish to better fill your mind with the Word of God, rather than with the sports statistics of the year.  I feel we might be more inclined to study the Scriptures looking for instruction, rather than for the purpose of proving how right we are.

I heard someone once say that a clear indication of your spiritual condition may be found in how interested you are in the lost souls of those around us.  It wasn't worded quite that way, but I definitely got the point.  If my study of the Scriptures does nothing more than keep me hunkered down over my Bible and concordance, then I think, in the economy of heaven … my time will have been wasted.

All of that sounds so very judgmental, and may not reflect your experience at all.  But then, it wasn't written for you; it was written for me and my reflection.  After all, my observation of the natural world is inclined, I believe, for my own admonition first; if you get something worthwhile out of it, then I say, "Praise the Lord!"

And that's just my take on it ….







Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Irony"

  •  By Tony Harriman  •  

Life sometimes has more irony than we can deal with, or for which we have a word.

Right now a couple of guys sub-contracted by Sears are installing a dishwasher in our kitchen.  This will be the third dishwasher we've enjoyed from Sears; one we had for fifteen years, the other for two weeks.  The second one died after four days on the job and is being replaced by this third machine.

Because we had such a trouble-free experience with the first Kenmore (Sears brand) dishwasher, we felt it would be a safe bet to replace the old Kenmore with a new one.  The ironic part of this short story is, of course, that the new machine didn't even reach its first birthday.  We'll see how the replacement fares.

Some of the irony of life can be found in brief witticisms, such as: "The more birthdays you have, the longer you live," or "It's only my craziness that keeps me sane."

Some of life's irony can take a very dark turn, such as: "We go to war so that we can live in peace."  That statement is one of the saddest testimonies the human family has to offer.  Estimates (from the people who study such things) are that more money is spent on producing materials that kill than is spent on helping keep people alive.  The money spent on just the technology used to keep tabs on our international enemies could feed the entire globe for a year, with twelve baskets left over.

It's ironic that religion, which is supposed to draw us all closer to God, serves more often only to separate us from each other — THAT just doesn't add up for me.

Irony scuppers an "unsinkable" Titanic on its maiden voyage, before any real rust has a chance to set in, and before the rats are given any opportunity to set up home.  Some of the crockery and silverware had never been used.  Now, THAT is surely the epitome of irony.

There is a strange Biblical principle that gets a mention in the Book of Proverbs; in the old King James Version it reads like this: "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, yet tendeth to poverty." (Proverbs 11:24).  The idea that plays out is so expected on an everyday scale that we don't view it as irony.  We take a single potato, cut it up and bury it; what happens is so regular, yet so unreasonable.  That single potato brings forth other plants which themselves bear many more potatoes.  An ear of corn has the potential for producing hundreds more ears just like itself.  All that's required with these and countless other examples is that we be willing to scatter what the plants give us so that they may be allowed to increase.  But notice that there is a flip side to the principle; If we keep back everything that the plants produce, and don't take the risk of casting some seed back into the soil, we end up with nothing, even though it looked like we were being so judicious with our economy.

Picture these statements, and read them with a view to irony:

• We are committed to setting the inmates free.

• Your determination to keep the Concentration Camps open is distracting.

• The day after winning the multi-million dollar lottery, the winner, as he crossed the road to the bank, was accidentally struck and killed by a vehicle owned by an employee of the lottery organization.

• In an attempt to better his health, Mr. Smith adopted a vegetarian diet, only to discover, too late, that he was allergic to nuts, soy and wheat.  Smith choked to death as his throat constricted after eating a lunch which included peanut butter on wheat toast and a glass of soy milk.

If Murphy had a cousin, surely his name would be Irony.  Murphy's Law says if it CAN go wrong it WILL go wrong; Irony makes it go wrong in the WORST possible way.  There's an expression which says if something has a 50-50 chance of going wrong, 90 percent of the time it will.  Think about that the next time you go to plug the charger into your mobile phone; most connectors fit only one of two ways, but notice how often you get it wrong.

I'm not sure if we could call it irony that the red blood of Jesus will make the wrongdoer's sins as white as snow, but it's certainly right up there with paradoxes, wouldn't you say?  The paradox of death giving life is, in my opinion, a theme that will get much attention from glorified human beings on the other side of the veil, especially when you consider the unworthiness of the subjects.

Some paradoxes are man-made, such as our description of light; we call it a particle and a wave.  How can it be both; surely that's a contradiction?  Well, light is what it is.  If our description of it is paradoxical, then so be it.  A better use of the word "paradox" might be as a description for a jumbo shrimp.  You do the math.

Some paradoxes are better known than others, such as: "Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind," or "This is the beginning of the end," and "You must speculate if you wish to accumulate."

As a spectator of American opinions I have watched with interest the continual defense of the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  With equal interest I have listened to recordings of speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., and his discourses regarding inequality in America which came to a head in the 1960s. His argument for equality was based on one of the founding pillars of the United States of America, which asserts that all men are created equal — not alike … but equal.  Of course, once a reasonable person allows the mind to grasp the logic, it's just a matter of time before things change in society.  And that's exactly what has happened.  America, in my opinion, has a long way to go, but at least the tracks are tending in the right direction.

Let's take the reasoning a little further.  Suppose we COULD make just a tiny tweak to the Foundation of the Constitution.  Would we not agree that all men AND WOMEN are created of equal value?  Could we not agree that the Declaration of Independence was framed by men during a time when patriarchal tendencies reigned and the term "he" referred to everybody — man, woman, son and daughter?  Would we not agree that attitudes and expectations have changed since the mid-eighteenth century, and that often the sole breadwinner for the home is the mother?  The reality is that the mother is often the only parent anywhere in the picture.

I suppose you could say it's ironic that the change that SHOULD be made to the Constitution is the change that CANNOT be made, because to change one single thought in the Pillars is to leave the rest open to further interpretation.  I imagine we would be surprised at how strong that thought-process is in the considerations of church doctrine — ANY church doctrine.  Consider how fragile must be the rope holding up the idea that all the Commandments were nailed to the cross of Jesus.  ALL the Commandments?  Well … maybe not all … maybe just that one.  Which one?  The one that forbids stealing?  The one that denies us the right to infidelity?  No, just the one that God said to remember — the fourth one, relating to the seventh-day Sabbath rest, forget about that one.  What kind of reasoning is that?  It's the kind of reasoning that causes trouble to the human family the world over, double standards that make one thing right for you and another right for me.  What's good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander in society the world over.

Part of the human problem lies with our tendency to get comfortable, to settle in to what anchors we want to use for our lives.  In my short Christian walk on the planet I have spent time around people who hold differing opinions on what it means to serve and worship God.  Something that jumps right off the page for me is how we each have a relatively small handful of Bible verses that we find meaningful and which control the rudder of our spiritual boat.  If you spend enough time listening to people, you quickly realize that the Bible for most of us is a very small Book with only a few ideas that are worded in many different ways.  The fact that we find ourselves rehearsing the same verses over and over seems to me to be a testimony to how unable we are to grow larger than our fishbowl will allow.  In order to make a change in our spiritual thinking, we need to have a reason to change, and most of us have little time to fathom what we already know and believe, since a lot of our time is spent repeating and rehearsing familiar verses in the hope of better understanding those few verses — now THAT's ironic.

So where to from here?  What chance have we for growth?  What TIME have we for growth?  I'm talking about spiritual growth … emotional growth … growth that helps me realize that I am indeed my brother's keeper, if circumstances should so arrange themselves.  The technological world springs forward with leaps and bounds, offering human beings new toys every year; new gadgets to fill our Christmas stockings; yet another contraption to keep the kids entertained.  The trouble is, we're so busy learning our way around the constantly-updating electrical wizardry, that we really don't have time to think about anything important.  Our homes are so full of labor-saving devices which eventually need repair and replacement, that we spend more time working to keep them … than enjoying them.

It is a strange irony that the papers often carry stories of people who escape disaster by a hair's breadth.  You know the stories: the 18-wheeler truck that plows across the freeway into oncoming traffic and misses my car by inches; the brickwork falling off an old building lands on the ground a few feet in front of me.  The plane I should have been on left without me while I tried to find a place to park, then went on to crash, leaving no survivors.  The ironic part of the story is that many of the people who survive … never start to live until they are brought to the brink of death.  That is often the ironic truth of the matter.  The time for living is now … while we have a chance, not when we have nothing left but lamentation.

And that's just my take on it ….






Monday, April 22, 2013

"The Ultimate Communicator"

  •  By Tony Harriman  •

Those of you who know a little about communication skills will be aware that there are effective ways of getting a point across that leave no room for doubt in the mind of the hearer.  An argument can be so constructed that the natural, logical conclusion is for the honest hearer to agree with the assertion.  If we lived in a perfect world, this kind of verbal communication tool would be extremely useful, since no one would use it for evil.  But we don't live in a perfect world, and are often left at the mercy of our own discernment … and ignorance.

Convincing rhetoric was originally mastered by those in ancient Greek courts, but today is practiced and applied by much broader groups of people: lawyers, politicians, preachers, and advertisers on every inhabited continent.  If it adds up, we buy into it — usually.  But we don't always do the smart thing.  Buying this or that product might make sense, but we can't always afford to buy a car that will offer trouble-free service for ten or fifteen years, so we settle for something cheaper, something we can afford to fix as necessary.  Thirty-year roof shingles obviously last longer, but twenty-year shingles cost less.  You know how it goes.

Convincing the masses is the main object of those who rule, or who wish to rule.  Those desiring to be in charge generally find ways to get into the heads of their potential subjects and plant seeds consistent with their ideology.  In some parts of the world, prospective leaders, unable to convince with logic, often resort to terrifying with fear, ie:  North Korea, Nazi Germany, or any of the European nations during the Dark Ages.

Let's dive right into this interesting observation: the Author and Creator of everything that exists is well aware that human beings can be influenced by words, yet He chooses to remain silent when it would be a simple thing for Him to convince us of the right way to go about things.  But He hasn't always been silent.  There was a time when Jesus, the Son of God, walked a small corner of the planet and shared with a favored generation that the Kingdom of Heaven was "Like unto … ," and if we wanted to be wise and build our home on the rock, all we would have to do is listen to and apply His words to our lives.  That seems simple enough, doesn't it?  We don't need a degree in physics, or oceanology, or ecology to help us walk in the light of Heaven, even though I personally believe that knowing something about those fields can lead us to a deeper appreciation of the things God has made and the plans he has for us.

Let's back up a little.  God is a Being who speaks worlds into existence out of nothing.  If He wants to make a sun with nine planets (or eight, if you don't care much for Pluto), it is a simple thing for Him to get the math right first time.  If He wants to compose water molecules, he gets it spot on at the first shot.  "Oops!" is not a word in the dictionary of Heaven.

If God wanted to convince you and me about the realities of the unseen world, he could use words, rhetoric and structure that would leave us in no doubt as to what was what.  He knows us, and knows how to reach us.  There is nothing mysterious to God about the human mind and heart.  Had there been any partition in the human mind which could not be fathomed by God, surely the gap was bridged when the Son of God took on our humanity.  Perhaps God remains as silent as He does because to do otherwise would give Him an unfair advantage over us.  Maybe this is often why He doesn't tell us which color car to buy, or which brand of toothpaste would be better.

We get a look behind the scenes of persuasive skills when we consider the Romans who returned from listening to Jesus and gave the report, "Never man spake like this."  The Middle East has seen culture come and go; they have been ruled by Greek, Roman and more.  Before the Caesars, Rome had a reasonable court of law in place, where the educated convinced the educated with sound argument.  Hebrew doctors of the Mosaic Law, using some of these tools of reasoning, were well able to convince their hearers of the validity of their claims.  But when they came in contact with Jesus, all they did was trip over themselves trying to prove that they were correct, because often their logic simply didn't make sense.  It wasn't necessary for Jesus to spend a whole lot of time pointing out erroneous ideas; when He told the people what was truth, there was a reasonable, logical soundness in His assertions that convinced the hearers of unseen realities.

I imagine Jesus had to be careful regarding His use of spoken language, lest an unwilling heart should follow His bidding based on argument and reason alone.  Convincing the head is not the same as convincing the heart.  An unwilling heart may follow the rules based on a desire to live, rather than a desire to do the right thing.  Whatever the term "holistic" means to you, God appears to be interested in the whole person, not just the part of us clinging to the idea of self preservation.

Consider the speech Jesus used when trying to enlighten the people.  He referred often to the Old Testament writers, and even spoke of current events as being fulfillments of prophecy in His day.  But don't miss this — Jesus taught His hearers about the Kingdom of Heaven by using parables, and His illustrations were taken from the Book of Nature.  The lessons seem so simple, when we look back on the Bible record.  Teachers had been using parables as a teaching tool for centuries, so this was not a new thing.  What's interesting to me, though, is that Jesus should use created things to teach us about things we cannot see or handle.  And in order for Jesus to get the illustration right, He must have had an accurate account of the original idea.  The Bible teaches that Jesus, in a Godly form before the Creation, made everything that exists, so teaching others about His creation would not have been difficult … had His hearers possessed ears to hear and eyes to see.  The proud and self-assertive had no need for this peasant from Nazareth to teach them anything, so probably walked away scratching their heads.

Metaphors, similes, illustrations and parables leave room for darkened minds to misunderstand.  Yet Jesus chose continually to plant pictures using this method.  It seems more important that the "idea" of the Kingdom should be grasped rather than having a description of the materials used to compose the place or the clothes worn there.

The experts tell us that the oldest language on the planet still in use today is Hebrew.  Going through very few changes since the oldest written form of it was found to be from around 1,000 years BC, Hebrew is spoken today throughout Israel, having been revived in the 19th century and re-introduced in Israel as a spoken and literary language.  It had been continually used in Jewish liturgy and rabbinical literature, but is today part of modern speech.  Imagine a re-introduction of Shakespearean discourse and you'll have an idea of what happened in the Middle East a couple of hundred years ago.

No matter how we look at language on the planet, whether spoken, written or drawn, we have to accept the fact that changes have taken place in the way human beings communicate with each other.  The English language, for instance, appears to have undergone its most significant changes when it adopted German words which were brought into the country by Saxon rulers.  When the Saxons gave the throne to the Normans, well, we simply added French words to the dictionary (although there really was no dictionary as we know it today).  When the French left the country, what remained was a mix of German and French which evolved into Middle English.  Many dialects of English are today still spoken across England, and occasional confusion results from using old words or expressions unfamiliar to all English people throughout the country.

Now consider the task Jesus embarked upon to make known the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.  He used the modern vernacular, everyday language, to paint pictures using illustrations from a book which has undergone no changes in spelling, meaning or mathematical summation: The Book of Nature.  The natural world was here before human beings.  Our first introduction to life was conveyed through an observation of the world around us.  One of the first jobs on the planet was naming the animals.  Even though the natural world has suffered under a barrage of sin and exploitation, yet the math that makes it all work is still very much intact.  The Laws of Physics are well established.

Jesus drew heavily from the lessons illustrated by the works of His own hands, perhaps knowing that this book would never change its story.  An interesting observation regarding the natural world is of how alike things are globally.  What I mean by that is that a sparrow is a sparrow is a sparrow, no matter where on the face of the earth it may live.  A sparrow speaks the language of the sparrow.  It's only man who appears to be installed with language software that is continually requiring an upgrade.  In the natural world, there may be slightly different species of plant and animal which sound or look or smell a little different from each other, but that's because they ARE different from each other.  That plant is a "variety" of rose; that bird is a "species" of seagull; not all woodpeckers are the same, and they don't all speak the same language; but if they ARE of the same kind then they DO make the same sound.  No matter how you look at it, the Book of Nature is the oldest book on the planet.  No, the Book of Nature is the oldest book in the universe, so is it any wonder that Jesus used an original -- and first -- translation of the Kingdom of Heaven.

When God speaks, things happen.  He utters, and worlds come into being, teeming with life.  Jesus says, "Be healed," and they are healed.  The words are spoken, "Lazarus, come forth," and Lazarus lives again.  As simple as it would be for God to "cause" thinking beings to do things "His" way, He chooses not to subject us to the same rules He applies to the vegetation.  But that doesn't mean we can't learn lessons from the abundance of non-thinking life all around us.  Something is being told to us regarding the character and person of the Artist whose works we so clearly see and hear; the lessons are being told BY THOSE WORKS.  And if it was good enough for Jesus, the Ultimate Communicator, to use lowly things, such as seeds and ants and lilies, to teach us things that will make us better people, then who are we to think we should disregard these lessons.

And that's just my take on it ….








Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Cement & Clay"

  •  By Tony Harriman  •  

In the past ten years or so I've developed a liking for working with bricks and mortar.  Just small jobs, mind you, nothing too grand.  I prefer the decorative projects rather than buildings, and since I get involved with  most of these projects in my spare time, I really need to have the flexibility to walk away from the project for a while, if necessary.

After I had mixed by hand more cement and mortar than I care to remember, I bought a small mixer, one that will handle about 240lbs at a time.  What a difference this made to my recovery time.  Anyone who's ever had to mix a ton of cement with a shovel will know what I mean, especially if you're a weekend warrior like I am.

It doesn't take long to get the recipe right for a good mix you can work with, and once you do get it right, each project is made so much easier and quicker.  A post or two ago I mentioned that I have been setting brick in the front of our home, and that I enjoy the lessons that working with cement seems to teach me about life.  So I thought, while some of these parallels are fresh in my mind, I would make an attempt at jotting them down.  Here goes. …

There are lots of recipes for making concrete.  Some recipes are very simple: three shovelfuls of gravel, two of sand, one of cement, and water to mix.  This is about as basic as cement-mixing gets.  When it comes to mortar (the compound that goes between the bricks), there are many different levels to choose from depending upon how much weight is expected to be carried by the base bricks.  There are mortars that can support many, many tons of bricks.

Getting the foundation right can be critical, especially if you're putting up a building.  It's helpful if the foundation is level, square and sufficient.

Once you start laying brick, there is a certain amount of flexibility regarding filling and shaping the mortar, and if you need to fudge things into being a little more square, early on is the time to do it.

Several hours into the project there comes a time when you have to "strike" the mortar.  Striking can take on various forms, and really doesn't do much more than make the wall look pretty or robust.  There comes a time in the process of fashioning bricks and mortar when no adjustment can be made at all — no smoothing, no shaping, no striking.  Once the mortar has set and cured, the only way to change anything is to tear the project up and begin again.  "Set in concrete" is an expression that really lives up to its name.

I remember a time when my neighbors poured a cement driveway, a pretty driveway, shaped and sculpted; it was gorgeous.  A couple of hours after fashioning the surface a random rainstorm came through and completely washed the top off.  The next day the entire driveway was power-tooled out of there and another truckload of cement had to be poured.  There was no way to redeem what had been marred.

Unless you happen to be one of those highly-skilled masons who have an eye and a hand for getting the job done quickly, bricklaying is something which shouldn't be rushed.  Once the bricks are in place, you are going to have to look at them for a long time, so the job is really worth doing well, or at least as well as you are able.

Cement, of course, is a man-made invention.  And as simple as cement may look, the process of making cement powder requires some serious mathematical skills and, nowadays, a good eye for what's going on under the microscope.

The closest thing in the natural world to cement is clay.  Let's talk about clay for a moment or two.

Clay, with various compositions, comes out of the ground.  Clay has been around for a long time.  Bible writers draw some clever illustrations from clay regarding how a man has been fashioned like clay from the dust of the earth by the hand of God.  Clay can be fashioned, but it doesn't set up all by itself, it needs an outside force — heat … lots of heat.

The school I attended as a child provided pottery classes, and I had many opportunities to make ashtrays, vases and coasters.  I lacked any sculpting skill whatsoever, so anything I produced looked simply pathetic compared to how the example looked in the books we had been given.  Most of what I fashioned got no further than the wheel.  In fact, most of the productions of the entire class were scraped up and put back in the bath to be wetted down and re-used.

Occasionally, though, a pupil produced a "lump" that gained the admiration of our teacher, the master potter.  This finely crafted ware was deemed worthy of preserving, and was set aside to be put in the kiln.  The kiln is a high-powered oven producing temperatures as high as 2,000 or 3,000 degrees F.  This is the heat necessary to "fire" the clay so that it can be preserved in the shape it has been given, in most instances in our class: a vase or a jug.

For many hours this worthy vessel sat in this intense heat undergoing a chemical and structural adjustment that would change it forever.  Never more could the clay be returned to the bath to be re-used.

Once the heat went off, the work, now called pottery, cooled slowly.  The student approached and announced to his eye-rolling classmates in his best Shakespearean voice, "My jug is finished!"  "Not so fast," came the response from the teacher, "There's more to be done."  The entire class grew silent as we were introduced to the concept of the rest of the process.

What looked to me like fine, wet crystals were brushed on the now cooled jug.  I don't remember how they were adhered, maybe just water.  Doesn't matter — they stuck.  This coating was called the glaze.  As well as making the jug look shiny, the glaze also stops the jug from being porous.  I suppose a jug that leaked its contents wouldn't be much good in the grand scheme of earthenware.  The glaze didn't work right away, the jug had to be put back into the red hot oven for many more hours, until the glaze melted and coated the jug.

Again the heat went off, the jug was removed and cooled, and its maker again announced that it was finished.  But again the response from the teacher was, "Not yet.  Now we give it a design and make it unique."  The pupil was given a paintbrush and what looked to me like ordinary paint.  After all these years the details are a little hazy, so I'm thinking it was probably more than just paint.  A pattern was painted on the jug and another coat of glaze was applied.  The jug was then returned to the oven.

At last the pupil made the final announcement, "My jug is finished!"  With a crafty look and carrying a container of water and a glass, the teacher approached the pupil admiring his jug.  The teacher poured some of the water into the jug and handed the jug to the pupil.  The teacher then stretched out his arm holding the glass, and the pupil filled the glass from his jug.  "Now," said the teacher, "Your jug is finished."  The lesson, of course, was simple, only when the jug fulfilled the "purpose" for which it had been created could it actually be said that it was "complete."

So what lessons do I get from these observations?

Regarding the bricks and mortar, I see the heart and mind of a man or woman as being in a pretty constant state of fluidity, or maybe stickiness.  There is a years-long moment of settling into ourselves while we decide how we "see things."  Sometimes the foundation we build upon is not always as square as we would like.  But that's one of the nicest things about working with bricks and mortar: there's a certain amount of tolerance available as we pull things around a little and chew things over.  Just because we might have started out on a base that wasn't entirely level or square doesn't mean we can't shift things as needed.  And honestly, did any of us start on a level footing?

But what about the clay?

Well, the lesson of the clay is even easier for me to see.  Here we are, just as basic as can be.  We are made from the dust of the ground.  We are shaped, not just by our Creator, but also by our ongoing circumstances.  The heat comes on … and on … and on, until we are fixed in the shape we have assumed or have been given.  We are given unique characteristics, both by God, and by our circumstances.  Marks are applied that make it obvious Who put them there.  More heat … and more heat … and yet more.  But then, and only then, are we filled with that for which we were prepared. It seems to me that God must have a method of sending heat our way at just the right times, and at just the right intensity — not too much and not too little.  There is a final "sealing" spoken of in the Bible that I'm not sure how to place in my metaphor, because if I have to put the sealing at the end, then it would mean that a person would not be entirely useful as a "giving" vessel until things on planet earth were just about over, and right now I'm not sure I subscribe to that thought.  I guess we'll get back to that some other time.

For now it seems to me that a man or a woman is an ultimate vessel for the Spirit of God.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that people are each a temple for God to live in.  Paul doesn't say that God will "at some point" live in us, he says that God "already" lives in us (1 Cor. 3:16, 17).  And I don't hesitate to suggest that only when the Spirit of God is poured "out of us" for the benefit of the refreshment of others can we actually say that we are complete, or mature, or fulfilled, or perfectly finished.  A jug that provides none of its water is no better than a cloud drifting lazily across the desert giving no rain.  If Jesus was ever an example of what a person was made for, surely it is that we are made to give — vessels to be filled and channels for God to pour out of.

We could go a lot further with the analogy, but it may be that you don't share my enthusiasm for bricks, mortar and pottery, so here would be a good spot to settle and dry.  But I do hope I've caused you to look differently upon your mortal frame.

And that's just my take on it. …









Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"The Sound of the Breeze"


•  By Tony Harriman  •

This past week I've been occupied with laying bricks around the front of our house.  Nothing fancy, mind you, really just covering up blockwork which is a couple of feet tall below the vinyl siding.  There appear to me to be a whole lot of lessons which can be learned about life from working with cement and mortar, but we'll go there some other time.  What really struck me this week was how pleasant-sounding is the wind as it drifts lazily through the trees.

The sound of the wind is a curious phenomenon.  I'm going to tell you right up front that I don't believe it is any mistake that the Bible speaks about the Spirit of God in the same breath (pardon the pun) as it does the wind.

Those of you who know me or have ever read any of my observations from the world of nature will know that I believe God is trying to convey information to us about Himself and how He works, through the simple lessons of the Book of Nature.  And this short writing is intended to draw lessons from the wind regarding the way God works through us.

The movement of air is responsible for many things on the planet, from the tearing up of the landscape as the hurricane rolls across the beach, to the sound made by the throat of the newborn.  Those of us creatures that make sounds through the use of vocal cords would not be able to do so were it not for the movement of our breath over the cords.  Through the control of airflow across the vocal membranes we are able to produce sounds, which, with the additional use of other areas surrounding the air passageways, can be converted to speech.  Without the breath there would be no sound.

Perhaps one of the most pleasant sounds I know is that of a gentle breeze through the trees.  You hear the sound, you look up and see the branches swaying lazily with the wind.  At first impression we might think that the sound is being made just by the wind, but it's not; the sound is being made by the wind AND the trees; the breeze, as it courses over the leaves and branches, is turned this way and that and produces what is known as turbulence; it's this turbulence that causes what we know as wind noise.

Another pleasant sound to me is that caused by the wind whistling through windows that are open just a crack.  Of course, this sound is made that much more pleasant when I'm tucked up warmly inside.  But, speaking of whistling, that high shrill sound that we learn to make with our mouths is caused by wind turbulence around the tongue, teeth or any combination of fingers placed in the mouth.  Whistling may seem like a very simple operation once we master it, but there's a lot of clever math going on below the surface; check it out sometime.

If you live in a city and have very little opportunity to get out where wheat or corn grows, you likely have missed the incredible demonstration of wind "walking" through the fields of grain.  The sound of the husks brushing against each other, and the sight of the movement is incredibly relaxing to the senses, at least it is to mine.

I honestly believe it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to see a marvelous lesson being illustrated by God through nature regarding the wind.  It appears to me that the Spirit of God, to a greater or lesser degree, is ever present in the world.  This Spirit chooses to move through people to get marvelous things done across the land.  Sometimes the Spirit moves quietly, sometimes forcefully, depending on the need.  But do notice this: people make useful noise, or perform actions that matter, when moved by the Spirit of God.  You might remember that on the Day of Pentecost the record in the Book of Acts states that the Spirit came upon the disciples, and there was heard the "sound" of a mighty wind; there was no wind, but only the "sound."  Why this sound demonstration is not entirely clear, but I guarantee you this: it wasn't random.  God was trying to tell us something about the way He works.  You get a whole different picture of God when you think of Him bending down and breathing into Adam the breath of life, rather than picking Adam up and slapping him on the backside, right?  God adds a personal touch that clearly reveals that we need Him.

Trees don't make noise or move all by themselves.  Clouds don't drift across the sky under their own power.  Mouths don't speak in their own strength.  Without the movement of air there would be no wind noise.  I'm reminded of an illustration someone once gave regarding gravity, and how it's always working; nothing resists the effects of the Law of Gravity.  But the application of another law will offset the constant tending downward to the center of any mass — the Law of Aerodynamics.  The coursing of air under and over the wings of a bird or a plane will cause them to be lifted from the ground, provided, of course, that the air is present and the speed is somewhat constant.  Gravity is still working, but its effects are greatly affected.

As well as the bees and other insects, the wind is responsible for pollination across the land.  Right now is springtime in the northern hemisphere, and the pollen may be seen drifting through the air.  If you go outside at night and shine a flashlight right now, you can see a constant flow of powdery pollen passing through the beam.  That greenish yellow pollen dust covering anything and everything left out in the open was deposited there through the day and night by the breeze.

There's a thought that accompanies that of the wind and the noise it makes.  It goes like this:  The God of the Calvinist "does it all."  The God of the modern-day Christian does "most of it" through "you" with "your" permission.  If God should cause His Spirit to pass through you and do something great, just own it.  Give Him the glory for being able to do something wonderful through someone as pathetic as you.  He gets all the credit, and you … get to be honest.  I don't believe God does anything wonderful through you without your say-so.  No, I take that back; the thought that all things work together for good suggests that even my ridiculous behavior will be of some benefit somewhere.  God appears to me to be the ultimate Recycler, so somehow everything has a use and a demonstration for the glory of God.  But perhaps that's different from God working stupidity through me, which I don't believe He does.  I guess we can talk about that some other time.

There are those who believe that when they hear a breeze in the trees or in the grass, that this is God whispering to us.  That's not my conviction right now.  I'm more inclined to believe that all things we have a sense to behold reveal the "glory" of God, not the Person of God.  Besides, the opposite of a breeze is a tempest.  I am not presently of the conviction that God tears up the land with Katrinas and tornadoes.  Yes, I'm familiar with the idea that the judgments of God are revealed in calamities across the globe.  But bad stuff doesn't just happen to bad people; if you can't get your head around that, I invite you to read again the four Gospels.  Applying the Karma philosophy, that only good happens to good people, then Jesus should never have been treated the way He was when He was here.

Earth is a dangerous place to live.  Our lives eventually become filled with a string of hardships, sorrow and grief. It appears to me that God places tokens of peace, such as the breeze, throughout the land to show us not just how He works, but also to soothe our troubled hearts.  The gentle breeze, the chatter of the birds that return after the winter, the babbling of the brook, are not the voice of God, but they definitely speak to us of the peace of God and offer us hope of something better on the other side.

If you live in a city, large or small, I invite you to ask God that He would relocate you so that you might be able to better discern His medicine for your soul.  Yes, life in the city can be so much more convenient, especially if you don't drive.  But the benefits of having a small piece of ground around you from whence you were taken is beneficial on so many more levels … I believe.  And you are perhaps more likely to notice the things of God when you are placed among the things that God has made.

And that's just my take on it ….








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