Upward Sparks

Most people know that lightning is a massive discharge of electrical energy from the heavens to earth. It's power is so intense that it momentarily heats the air in the path of the surge hotter that the surface of the sun! This causes the brilliant flash we see as lightning and the shock-wave through the air we hear as thunder. In actual fact they are one and the same event but because light travels so much faster we see it essentially instantaneously, whereas the sound takes a while to catch up. Roughly four and a half seconds for each mile travelled.

But not many people know that a lightning discharge also, almost always, involves a small discharge upwards from the earth before the main strike occurs. These upward sparks are known as "positive streamers".

What happens in a lightning storm is that the base of the thundercloud accumulates a massive negative charge as electrons are knocked off the rapidly ascending ice particles in its core. The earth underneath the cloud is thus positively charged with respect to the cloud-base. The earth and the cloud-base become like the two terminals of a giant battery, super-charged with energy.

As the energy in the cloud seeks to find a way down to the ground, the energy in the ground is also seeking to find a way up to the cloud. Think of them like the jump-leads attached to the two ends of the battery. When the leads touch, that's when the sparks fly!

The interesting thing is, that whilst it is the heavens that holds all the energy, it is released in response to an "upwards spark" from the earth.

I was thinking of this yesterday in connection with prayer. These "upward sparks" are a wonderful illustration of how God uses our prayers. All the power is his, but he chooses to release the awesome power of heaven in response to these little "upward sparks" of prayer send up from the earth!

Our prayers may not seem like much, but all the power of heaven is waiting to be discharged in response in a way that will connect heaven to earth, and make an impact that will be felt for miles.

[If you would like to see a picture of one of these upward sparks, have a look at this picture, and look carefully at the telegraph-pole on the left-hand side of the main lightning strike]


Mark H said...

Great illustration Chris. I have a prophetic worship CD by Jason Upton called Open Up The Earth because:

"Christians often pray for an ‘open heaven’. In connection with our ministry in the US and in Holland, Jason sensed the Lord saying that the prayer that’s needed today isn’t “open up the heavens”…....but rather, “open up the earth”. (God has always been available to us; it is we who have not been open to Him.)"

Matthew said...

Good post Chris, thanks

Cas Gleich said...

That's an awesome picture, Chris, I really love it! Quite randomly, God has ben prompting a few things on my heart recently through scientific illustrations. I suspect that it is in response to some difficult questions that I faced recently from a non-Christian regarding science vs bible, and evolution vs creation and stuff like that. God has just been re-emphasising to me that things work BECAUSE that's he way he created them!! I refuse to accept this guys words that we are merely a 'virus with shoes'!!

All that said, I must be a little careful...I set about sharing one of this musings at a ladies this weekend with some of the fabulous women of Community Church, Huddersfield, and got in a bit of a pickle trying to remember a particular piece of GCSE Physics, which has laid dormant in my brain for too many years! It almost tempts me to go back to the books...emphasis on the 'almost'!!!!

Chris HH said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Cas. I think its great when we can redeem Science for its ultimate purpose - to declare the wonders and glory of God. Too often we can be intimidated by clever scientists and their atheistic foolishness. But you are right, it is God who has ordered the heavens and the earth according to his own perfect will. Though nothing in all creation is like God, everything in creation is there to tell us something about God. As you say, they work that way because that is how God ordained it!

My physics is pretty rusty too, but if you know the right words to type into Google, it all comes flooding back! ;-)

Kev C said...

That's a wonderful analogy Chris, I like the way your mind works! Fantastic photo too. Such a small release of energy here from earth releases such awesome power from above! Just think of the potential within our reach.

Kev C

Matthew said...

It doesn't all come flooding back for me Chris - I found some old university exam papers the other day, not only did I know remember how to answer them, I could have sworn that I had never known most of the words in the questions meant!

Chris HH said...

I had a similar experience looking at some Quantum Mechanics past papers... and that was in the same year as my finals!

Marcos said...

Good post Chris. Boy-this also reminds me of how smart you are :)