He helpfully suggested that clouds be classified into three groups.
Layered clouds he called stratus. Fluffy clouds he named cumulus. And the high feathery ones he labeled cirrus.
More than 200 years later, meteorologists and schoolchildren alike still use Howard’s terminology.
In 1896, the International Cloud Atlas (there really is such a thing) determined that there ought to be ten classifications.
The atlas has never threatened to kick Howard to the curb. But it quite likely introduced a common English phrase.
The ninth entry on the ICA’s list of cloud categories is the plump, pillowy “cotton ball” clouds that dot the typical summer sky – a picture that elicits such a feeling of well-being or elation that someone can be said to “be on Cloud Nine.”
Clouds may look substantive. But there’s really not much to them.
Stanford professor James Trefil points out that an ordinary cloud, which may have the dimensions of several football fields, contains only about 25-30 gallons of water. That’s “about enough to fill a bathtub,” he reports.
Every time you stroll through a bank of fog, you’re in the midst of a cloud that for one reason or another hasn’t taken flight.
Trefil observes, “If you walk 100 yards through a typical fog, you will come into contact with only about half a cubic inch of water – not enough to give you a decent drink.”
But think of the power of those few water droplets.
They have the capacity to blind our vision, ground our air traffic, and even momentarily separate us from each other.
Spiritual fog is equally daunting.
When we can’t see God, or what God is up to, we can feel paralyzed. Everything stops. Such uncertainty definitely doesn’t feel like being on Cloud Nine.
But whenever you find yourself blanketed by a fogbank, literally or metaphorically, you can have this important assurance: You will get through this.
Fog lifts. No earthbound cloud is a match for the sun.
And our deepest uncertainties about God’s direction for our lives won’t last forever, either – if we are willing to wait and trust.
That’s because no spiritual cloud is a match for the Lord of heaven and earth.
— Authored by Glenn McDonald
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