Tuesday, April 30, 2013


  •  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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