jas4-14The clouds rolled in earlier this week and brought rain, they are back and are threatening a wintry mix. But they provided a beautiful sunrise this morning. This summer, I looked at the beauty of the clouds. I watched in one Spring as clouds came with a force and violent storms came from the clouds.

I built a fire and watched the smoke rising up the chimney. There is a beauty in smoke. I love watching it build around the logs, just before the logs burst into flame.  I love watching smoke curl and bend as it rises. Sometimes, when you are watching smoke (or clouds) you can let your inner child see sculptures. – “That looks like a bear!” “Wow, that looks like a dragon!” “Did I just see a face in the smoke?”

There is a great line in the movie “Cool Runnings,” when  the Jamaican bobsled team first arrive in Canada for the Olympics.  One looks at the other and asks, “Sanka, whatcha smoking’?” Sanka answers, “I’m not smokin’, I’m breathin’!” This time of year in the northern hemisphere it is not unusual to walk outside and “see your breath.”

Clouds, smoke, vapor, or mist all have a similar effect. Although you can see them, and experience them in some way, you cannot hold them in your hand.  The smoke, cloud, or mist passes through your fingers. The image you see dissipates and you have nothing.

Solomon uses this idea throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. The word our English versions translate as vanity or meaningless is the Hebrew word “hebel.” That word is used of breath or vapor (mist). The truth he is sharing is that all in life whether he is talking about wealth, pleasure, foolishness, or wisdom is “hebel,” is vapor. You think it is there, you think you see something, but as soon as you try to acquire it, what you thought you wanted fails to make life what you thought it would be.  He ultimately concludes that since all of life is like vapor (smoke and clouds) then the best we can do is enjoy life and ultimately see that real life is fearing God and keeping His commandments (Ecc 12:13). That is the STANDARD of our life.

James, the brother of the Jesus, similarly writes, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (Jas 4:14). Outside of Christ, our life is meaningless. That is the STANDARD.

Life begins in Christ.


Bonus: Maybe Joni Mitchell was on to something.

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