The Jet Stream Effect

The atmosphere of the earth has a layered structure made of 5 distinct zones. The layer we live in is called the “troposphere” and it contains the oxygen we need to stay alive and the heat and water vapor needed to drive our weather patterns. The cold, calm layer directly above this is called the “stratosphere”. In between these two layers is a boundary line called the “tropopause”. Why is that important to know? Well, for one thing, this is the only place that jet streams exist.

Jet streams are four rivers of air that circle the earth at speeds of 80 to 270 miles per hour. There are two in the northern hemisphere and two that circle the earth in the southern hemisphere. These are called the subtropical and the polar-front jet streams because of where they are located. Interestingly enough they move faster over the hemisphere that is having winter because they are driven by temperature differences. Naturally, in winter the temperature difference is greater between the poles and the tropics. It is this big difference that ramps up jet stream speed and this in turn can make winter weather so brutally tumultuous.

The top of Mount Everest pushes up onto the tropopause and as a result it is battered by one of these jet streams as it passes over that region during seasonal change. Climbers that experience this when it slips by the peak are force to stay in their tents for days on end. This bitterly cold, hurricane force wind would literally blow them off the mountain. More than that, it would freeze them to death in a matter of minutes if they were caught in it. Yet the same jet stream is a blessing to those pilots who use it to make record time in trans-Atlantic flights. Pilots who fly against it on the other hand, cost their airline money by wasting jet fuel and by delaying arrival times.

These rivers of air are major weather makers over the whole earth and we have certainly experienced their effect here in the United States. Unfortunately for us the polar-front jet stream that crosses the U.S. decided to form a plunging loop over our southern states. This in turn has continued to funnel arctic air down from Canada and into our lower 48 states. Thus, because of the position of the jet stream I awoke today, not to the sound of robins happily soaking in the morning sun, as in previous years. No…. I was blasted from sleep by the sound of my neighbor cranking up his snow blower. Once again we had snow and sub freezing temperatures just because of how the jet stream positioned itself…. Amazing!

It astounds me that something so small, which I cannot see, has such a profound impact on my life. Its actions deeply influence not just me, but it touches the lives of so many other people. As I thought about the above reality, something hit me. Like it or not, we are all jet streams. Our movements, in and out of the lives of others, have profound implications. Like the jet stream, how we position ourselves can make a huge difference. Position your self correctly and you help others on their way, or you bring a warm spring breeze that gives joy. Position yourself incorrectly and you hinder people on their life journey, or bring another winter storm that is unwelcomed and unwanted.

My question is, “Why would you want to position yourself incorrectly?” If you can do good and really help others, then do it! Take the time to be a blessing. Speak words that bring life and are a support to those in need. The day will come when you need the same thing, and what you gave out is what will come back to you. The choice is yours to make every single day. I hope you choose well, because your future, and the future of so many others, depends on it!

Enjoying The Wrong Direction

While traveling with my wife on frequent ministry trips, I often use Google maps or Waze. Both of these are great for getting us where we need to go. The voice commands begin to direct us, but at times I become concerned because it proceeds to send us in exactly the opposite direction from where we need to go. When I first noticed this happening it bothered me a lot and I would refuse to follow the route that was being planned out for me. We would soon hit construction, traffic or some other delay that messed up our planned arrival and I would get pretty frustrated.

Why did this stupid device do this? How was I to trust something that clearly was going the wrong way? Then it hit me one day, perhaps it was sending me around those traffic delays and that’s why it sent me in what looked like the wrong direction. So contrary to my standard response I actually followed the directions that seemed so wrong. I had to actually fight the urge to turn around and go the way I knew would get me where I wanted to go. It was a running battle but I finally stuck with it.

Sure enough, after a short detour in the wrong direction, we passed around a huge traffic jam, then turned and headed for our destination.To my great relief we arrived at the right location and were actually on time. In that moment it hit me how significant this was when it relates to the things of life. Has it ever seemed as if things are leading you away from where you know you need to go? In that moment you have to decide what you will do. Will you trust God to do what is best, or will you take matters into your own hands and do what seems right to you?

A detour in the wrong direction at the right time can save us time and frustration in so many ways. When we trust God to see what lies ahead it puts us in the best possible position to benefit from that unplanned, but very important decision.  However, when we grab hold of things and just have to maintain control at all cost, we often don’t see the traffic jam a mile up the road. This ends up causing more problems than we possibly could have imagined.

Has life taken a detour for you lately? Does it seem as if your plans have been upended and you are going in the wrong direction? It might be that this is exactly what you need and just don’t know it! Why not relax, allow things to unfold naturally and just see what happens. Going in the wrong direction for no explainable reason during a specific season could be just the thing to keep you on track.

Be open to the possibility that there might be something you need to learn or discover on your current journey. We all have to learn how to enjoy the ride and then take in the view along the way.They might be the very things we need to make us ready for what was the goal all along. There is a much bigger picture to life then just our narrow view. Take the time to embrace life fully, no matter where it goes, and you’ll be a much better person for it. Best of all you will be better prepared to get the most from all life has to offer. Life is a journey in progress … so don’t live it like it’s an event!

Defying The Season

robin in the snow

I looked out my window yesterday in total disgust. It’s March and there is still 3 feet of snow holding my entire yard hostage, but to my great surprise there it was, a robin sitting on a branch, looking in at me. Ironically, as I watched the bird bracing itself against the Arctic blast, I was planting my garden. Yes, in all the nasty freezing weather that has gripped the northeast, I, like the bird, defied the obvious and decided to plant my garden. “How?”, you might be asking. Well my Yankee ingenuity got the best of me during this extended winter and while eating a roasted chicken one night I got a revelation. I realized I could use the container my chicken came in as a mini greenhouse. It had a clear plastic dome that snaps onto a two-inch high black bottom. It was absolutely perfect to plant seeds in, and best of all it was free!

I cleaned it out, put some moist potting soil in the base and did a trial run with sweet red pepper seeds. Honestly I forgot about them for the next two weeks. Then one day I happened to look down and was shocked to see 12 beautiful pepper plants thriving under that plastic dome. A week later they had grown enough to just touch the lid. So I went to the dollar store and bought 12 plastic pots for a $1.08, drilled holes in them and put coffee filters in the bottom so the soil could drain, and I transplanted my pepper plants. Thus my garden was started with a bang and all for under $1.10. I was a happy camper!

So, yesterday I was sitting in the sun, in my south facing windows, putting in the rest of my seeds. I do this every late winter just to give my mind and senses a spring warm up. The smell of that rich, moist soil and the feel of dirt on my hands is quite therapeutic. For that moment I can close my eyes, enjoy the sun and smell the soil. Almost immediately winter just fades into the distance. It’s a fantastic way to get the frost out of my bones, put peace in my heart and a smile on my face.

Anyway, there I was surrounded in that sunny spot with my empty chicken container planters and dozens of Ziplock baggies of seeds. Some seeds were bought but most were collected and harvested from my own garden. Each is marked with the year and name of it’s precious dried cargo. There are tomato seeds I got from Italy that come from very old strains of purebred plants. These are Genovese Pomodoro, Genovese Cordova and San Marzano tomatoes. All are amazingly hearty and abundantly productive plants. Last summer I had tomato plants 7 feet tall and harvested over a hundred and fifty pounds of big, ribbed juicy tomatoes from 12 plants. I was the gardening superhero of Johnstown, NY and people came from all over to look and ask me questions.

Most of my seeds are now 4th or 5th generation. That is it’s the fourth year I am using the seeds that grew from the original plants I started in 2010. I do this for several reasons. First of all these came from plants that thrived well in my garden soil, and that’s good to know. Secondly, they were hearty and resistant to the local fungus and blights. Next they are still purebred strains, and that is something I insist on. Finally, they cost me nothing since they came from my own garden, and that’s a huge plus in my eyes, because free is good!

I estimate this garden produces about $2500 in fresh vegetables for my wife and I between mid June and early December. I don’t know about you, but that savings is a big boost to our income. I even sell the extra produce on a little stand outside my house. More importantly, we have fresh vegetables at our table during all that time. The harvest includes lettuce, spinach, kale, yellow bush beans, basil and cilantro, sweet red, yellow and banana peppers, tomatoes, beats, swiss chard, butternut and acorn squash, garlic, onions and potatoes. I also have two apple trees, wild rhubarb and blueberry bushes growing in my yard as well and we enjoy all of these as they come in during their season. If you want to eat healthy and save money this is definitely the way to go.

The thing is, I do all this vegetable gardening in a 30 foot long 3 feet wide strip of land. My Adirondack ancestors called this a “straddle garden”. That’s because it’s just wide enough to straddle so that no growing space is lost where people walk. You don’t need a huge plot of land, expensive tools or commercial fertilizer to do this. All you need is a 3 foot strip of land, a shovel, some seeds and a little work. Best of all the fertilizer for my garden comes from the vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grinds, tea bags and mulched up leaves that are a part of life. I just chop these up and throw them into the garden. Worms and bacteria make all this into the perfect food for what will be growing.

Why do I tell you all this today? It’s because even in the dead of winter, when the snow is piled high and it looks like things will never change, there is always that one robin sitting on a branch to remind me that Spring is coming. When the frost runs deep and the lakes are frozen I am that one nutty gardener who defies everything and plants seeds while others are cranking up the snow blower. The point is, I choose to be different and see life for what it can be rather than what it is.

I am not saying we should deny reality. That would be ignorant, pointless and foolish. What I am saying is anyone can think differently in their reality. We can see beyond what is and look with anticipation to what is yet to come. I decided long ago that I would make a difference, but to do that I also knew I had to be different. I had to be the one planting seed when others were shoveling snow. I had to be that robin out on the limb in the dead of winter, and it has not always been easy.

Most do not  understand why I plant when the season is wrong, but I know. In the winter season of delay, struggle and fear I will not give in. I will find a  branch to sit on or a sunny window to sit in, and I will defy the obvious. I will look to what is coming and not be blinded by what is already here. Trust me when I say that you will be amazed at the difference it makes .

What about you, will you continue to be a spectator in your own life? Will you be like most people who struggle through the difficult seasons and barely hold on until things get better? Or, will you be like that robin on the branch and the winter gardener? My hope is that you will choose to live your life in such a way that your very presence brings hope, and reminds everyone that good things are going to come. Few may join you out on the limb, but for those who look in your direction you will make a difference!

Now, lets go sing our robin song and plant a few seeds of hope in the winter season of others. No matter what, just keep declaring that Spring must surely come!

Undiscovered Treasure

seagulsEvery Friday evening, old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. He walked out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. Before long, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier.

Before long, dozens of seagulls enveloped Ed, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly. He stood there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he did, you could hear him say with a smile, “Thank you. Thank you”. In a few short minutes the bucket is empty, but Ed doesn’t leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place.

When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on to his home . To onlookers, he’s just another old codger, lost in his own weird world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp. To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They can seem altogether unimportant and maybe even a lot of nonsense.

Old folks often do strange things, At least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters. Most of them would probably write old Ed off, down there in Florida. That’s too bad because His full name is Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero in World War I, and then he was famous again in WWII. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived the water landing by crawled out of their plane, and into a life raft.

Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun and they fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger and thirst. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were or even if they were alive. Every day across America millions wondered and prayed that Eddie Rickenbacker might somehow be found alive.

The men adrift needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged on. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft. Then suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull! Ed sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal of it – a very slight meal for eight men. Then they used the intestines for bait. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait.

With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued after baking in the scorching sun for 24 days. Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that life-saving seagull. And, he never stopped saying, ‘Thank you.’ either. I wonder, if you had seen old Ed what would you have thought of him? More importantly, would you have taken the time to learn the rest of his story?

There are people all around you that have amazing stories. Some endured unimaginable hardship, sacrifice, loss, heartbreak and agony. Others have had astounding success and lived to see generations of their family happy and productive. Others did the best they could with the little they had and were good to all they met. The stories of so many are filled with the things that movies are made of yet we don’t realize it. Why? Because we just don’t take the time.

I want to present a challenge to all who read this. This week, this month, take the time to talk to someone beyond your age group. Get to know them and start to hear their story. Who are they? What have they done in life and how have they made a difference in the lives of others? What was life like when they were a kid? Were they heroic in anything they did? Where did they live and what did their parents do? Did they have a career, a family, a life different from what they have now?

You will be amazed at what you find out. The lives of those around you are filled with adventure, mystery and sadness. People are like treasured books waiting to be opened and enjoyed with a good cup of coffee. Take the time to learn about someone and it might just surprise you. There are magnificent experiences waiting to be told that are just beneath the surface. All you need to do is ask! Now go discover the adventures that are there for the asking and while you are at it, have a great adventure of your own!