Pinwheels or Windmills

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Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:11-12

I was sitting in my backyard the other day and I noticed, inserted into one of my wife’s many flower pot arrangements, a child’s pinwheel. The pinwheel alternated between frenetic activity and stillness as it responded to the movement of the air around it. As I watched it there spinning I found myself mildly entertained by the colorful spinning wheel. In fact to some degree it was mesmerizing as it spun. I’m glad my wife put it there because since I seem to need constant stimulation to stay alert. I also realized that though the pinwheel provided distraction and spun with ever increasing speed, it never really seemed to get anywhere or do anything. Though it does manifest the movement of the wind, and is responsive to the influence of the breeze, it never seems to accomplish a great deal.

In various parts of the world there are windmills. The very name suggests something more robust than a pinwheel. Windmills are constructed to harness the power of the wind to accomplish something more. Windmills seem to have been an invention of the Persians around 500 AD and were used to grind and process the grain they harvested. They are used in the present day to grind grain, pump water and generate electricity. As I drive the roads along the interstate in California I often see windmills used to generate power dotting the landscape. Grouped together with their long, propeller like arms spinning rapidly, they are an impressive sight. But they are not there to create a visual distraction or as pieces of some artistic expression. These windmills have a purpose that transcends their visually captivating movement. It is always encouraging to see things that not only are somewhat eye-catching, but also serve a greater purpose.

I find in the spiritual life I can at times be more like a pinwheel than a windmill. Too often my experience of salvation creates more surface activity, but does not translate into the transformation of the interior mechanisms of my life. When God is at work and the Holy Spirit is truly empowering my life, there is both form and function manifested. I was created to be more than a pinwheel, just spinning randomly, disconnected from meaningful change and transformation. I was created to be more like the windmill, harnessing the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of transformation and the fruit of goodness and love manifested as a result.

The apostle Paul says we are to work out what God is working within us. When the Lord’s saving work is applied to my life through the wind of the Spirit, it is to be harnessed for the sake of change in my life, like the windmill harnesses the power of the wind to produce something of value. My role is not just to engage in greater activity, like a pinwheel, but to stay connected to the power of the Holy Spirit, milling, grinding and transforming the raw material of my life into something pleasing to God and of blessing to the world.

When you are tempted to settle for greater religious activity without being truly transformed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out, you may end up experiencing life more like a pinwheel than a windmill. The interesting thing is that both the pinwheel and windmill can look outwardly similar, but one spins with purpose, while the other just spins. I am praying for a heart that stays harnessed to the wind of God’s Spirit that something blessed and beautiful might be manifested in and through my life. May you as well discover in the wind of the Holy Spirit the power of transformation and the resulting manifestations of goodness, love and grace.


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