The Wind Is Blowing

Dear Will:

I was awakened this morning by the wind. It was rushing through the hills buffeting everything in its path. When I got up, I went to the window to see for myself: The trees were shaking and swaying. Many leaves were scattered about while their more-stalwart brethren clung to the writhing branches for dear life. In the distance you could hear our wind chimes going nuts, as if there was some kid in the bell tower signaling to the townspeople that the war had ended.

Because we live in Southern California, I immediately thought: Santa Anas—the dry winds that blow down from the Great Basin  and Upper Mojave and take every ounce of humidity with them. I’m not smart enough to really understand the phenomenon—if Wikipedia has it right it has something to do with adiabatic heating and orographic lift and whatnot. All I know is that when these winds blow, usually the temperature rises and we start to worry about wildfires. I have witnessed that cause-and-effect enough to know about the correlation even if I don’t know the first thing about meteorology.

In such circumstances you can see why the wind has always been the go-to metaphor for God: You may not be able to see it, exactly, but you can see its power and impact on everything around it. For a believer like me, it’s an analogy that is easy to understand. I suppose you could lump me in with Alma, who famously said: “[All] things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).

Apparently Alma and I are not alone—at least in a general sense. A 2012 study published by the University of Chicago reported that even in our increasingly secular society, over two-thirds of people in the United States still believe in a personal God. Nevertheless, if you look across the world (in Europe, in particular) you find that percentage drops rather sharply. More troubling, in most countries only a minority of people are prepared to say that they know God exists and they have no doubts about it.

Those numbers are not altogether surprising, but I wonder how people can see the same things I see and come to the opposite conclusion. It’s as if they were saying, The wind is not blowing. No doubt they make well-reasoned arguments, perhaps with charts and graphs and a fair amount of science—what has sometimes been referred to as “the philosophies of men.” Even so, I can’t help but think of a favorite story from the New Testament:

A forty-something man, crippled since birth, was carried each day to the gates of the temple where he asked alms. One day Peter and James came to the temple. “Silver and gold have I none,” said Peter, “but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). We’re told the man leapt to his feet and walked, to the astonishment of people throughout Jerusalem.

The miracle filled the local authorities with consternation, for they couldn’t deny what had been done in the name of Jesus, whom they had crucified. So they called Peter and John to them, threatened them and ordered them “not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). To which Peter gave this classic response: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

I guess I sort of feel the same way. I do not pretend to understand the philosophies of men which enable others to talk themselves out of the existence of God. I can only speak to what I see and hear. And if you ask me, the wind is definitely blowing.


Someone to Tuggle Wiff

Dear Will:

We live just off of Cannon Street, about a block south of Linda Vista School.  If you have ever walked along Cannon on the Linda Vista side of the hill, you know that the wind whistles down the street at a pretty good clip, even on a relatively calm evening.  On a blustery night like this one, however, the wind comes rushing over the pass and through our backyard like it’s about to miss the last train out of town.  Whenever that happens, the wind chimes push and shove each other to try to get out of the way, the fichus gets trampled and dry leaves start to huddle together beside the shrubs like accident victims looking for moral support.  The sound can be impressive, and with very little imagination you can start to feel a little like Dorothy Gale just before she took her unscheduled trip to Oz.

Of course, usually the source of such turbulence is the Santa Anas, which warm the air and make you feel as if spring has come early.  Tonight, however, it’s a cold wind, sent with love from Canada, and I’m having trouble reconciling the sights and sounds with the temperature.  We don’t get cold winds around here, so it’s creating some mental dissonance for me that is intriguing.  (Can you tell I’m not outside writing this?  I’m sure if I were out rescuing the fichus like I’m supposed to be, dissonance is not the word that would come to mind.)

I stop typing and head upstairs to tend to a fussing two-year-old.  “I think I’m sad,” Seth tells me.  When I ask why he explains that he needs somebody to snuggle with, or as he puts it, “someone to tuggle wiff.”  I indulge him ever so briefly (he and I have already had our goodnight tuggle for the night) and suggest he cozy up with his stuffed elephant instead.  I sneak out.

While I may be a little annoyed by the interruption, I have to admit he’s pretty cute.  I also have to admit that his instincts are absolutely correct.  When the world goes strangely cold and everything about us is thrown into disarray, it’s good to have something familiar to reach for.  (You had to wonder how I was going to turn this into a “message,” didn’t you?)  In such moments, I often find myself on my knees in prayer or reaching for the scriptures.  One verse in particular is a comforting reminder of where strength can best be found when the storms of life strike hard:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you , it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.   (Helaman 5:12)

At last, Seth goes quiet, and with reluctance I face the task of moving the fichus to the side of the house.  As I venture out into the windstorm, I shall do my best not to get blown into the neighbor’s swimming pool.  Before I sign off, let me remind you of my sincere offer to help you if I can should the wind ever prove too strong for you.  I would welcome a phone call or an e-mail any time.