Leaning back in my chair, the sky fills three quarters of the window.
Today, it is crowded with billowing cumulus clouds, those puffy wads of white cotton gliding on a flat-bottomed base.
Pushed along by the low prevailing wind, they form a giant tapestry, slowly passing before my eyes.
Out of habit, I scour the clouds for images. There is the swaddled infant in her plush cushioned crib; a cartoon monster chasing its wispy prey; and a devil’s face heaving smoke from a blue-holed mouth.
I don’t know what it is about clouds that so captures the imagination, but anyone who has ever been a child has probably done something similar.
An old “Peanuts” cartoon has Lucy, Linus and Charlie Brown staring at the sky. Lucy says she can see many things in the cloud formations. Linus sees a map of British Honduras, a famous painter, and a picture of the stoning of Stephen.
When asked what he saw, Charlie Brown confessed, “I was going to say a ducky and a horsey, but I changed my mind.”
Maybe, as we get older, our atmospheric imagination fails us. Perhaps we take less time to ponder the nebula.
Whatever, we still use idioms that take us back to those misty metaphors.
We can be “under a cloud” or “on” one.
We can be happy “on cloud nine” or worry about “gathering clouds.”
We say “every cloud has a silver lining,” but we fear every silver lining has a cloud. We talk about computing “in the cloud,” as if, instead of droplets, each vaporous mass contains little bytes of confidential files and viral videos.
Nothing new here. Scripture writers, perhaps with their “head in the clouds,” found them a powerful image.
After the flood, God tells Noah, “I set My bow in the clouds as a sign of the covenant... .”
God led the Israelites out of Egypt under “a pillar of cloud.”
When John baptized Jesus, the voice of God comes “from a cloud.”
At the Ascension, Jesus is taken up in a cloud, and Revelation promises a return in like manner, “coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him.”
All that may be a bit much for someone looking for poodles and pussycats in the wool pack.
But if we pull back a little and allow ourselves to take in all that is revealed in the clouded heavens, we just may see the presence of God.