Jon de Vos – What was God thinking?
Grand County, Colorado
Amber is fossilized tree sap. It can be more than 300 million years old while still looking as good as the day it ran out of the tree. Ancient Greek scientists dwelt upon its unusual property of being rubbed with a cloth and attracting hair and feathers.
After dwelling on it for 10 centuries, we know that the attraction is caused by the fight for neutrality between positive and negative ions. Further, we’ve learned to control this energy to wash our clothes and light our homes. Here in Fraser, living closer to God than 98 percent of the world’s population, we know that it also runs wild and free as a bolt of lightning. Three-dimensional lightning imaging is a fairly new technology but so far the longest bolt on record is 118 miles long. The good news is that 80 percent of all the lightning strikes stay in the clouds, never hitting the ground at all.
Back to early Greece. The Cyclops were three mythical brothers, one-eyed giants who forged lightning bolts deep in the bowels of a fiery volcano. They pounded them into shape with thunderous hammer blows for the Greek God, Zeus, who tossed them at the neighbors in a silly squabble over Helen of Troy, the beauty behind the face that launched a thousand ships at the onset of the Trojan War. Despite the divine help, Troy got sacked and pillaged anyway.
Up into the 1750s people believed that lightning was merely a form of airborne fire, leaving scorch marks where it struck. They also noticed that lightning started a lot of churches on fire. Reverent folks were stymied by the fact that it seemed as if lightning selectively sought out churches. What kind of God burns down his own house? It was thought for centuries that ringing church bells during a thunderstorm protected the church and its occupants from lightning.
Many bells cast during Medieval times carried the Latin inscription, “Fulgura Frango” which translated as, “I break the lightning”. Didn’t work. European records indicate 133 bell-ringers were killed by lightning in the early 1400s. Despite this fact, churches were believed to be safe places to store munitions. In 1769, the steeple of the church of Saint Nazaire in Brescia, Italy, was used to store 100 tons of gunpowder. It was struck by lightning and the resulting explosion killed 3,00 people and leveled one-sixth of the city.
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It took no less than the nimble American mind of Benjamin Franklin to figure out that God didn’t hate churches; steeples were the tallest structure in the village, a natural attractant to lightning. His lightning rod was no more than a tall metal spike mounted high atop the steeple, fastened by a wire to another spike buried in the ground but it created a safe pathway for the electricity in its desperate attempt at neutrality. So equipped, churches stopped burning down from lightning strikes. Well, they still burned but now it was with fervor, not fire.
Back to modern times in the USA, 44 people die from lightning strikes every year. For the last 10 years Colorado has been second in the nation in lightning-related deaths but ranked only 31st in ground strikes. The disparity is attributed to the high levels of outdoor enthusiasts. Just last month Colorado Governor Bill Ritter proclaimed the last week in June as Colorado Lightning Safety and Wildfire Awareness Week in an effort to teach us when to come in out of the rain.
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