Friday, May 30, 2008

The Amazing Visitor

Long ago (in a land far away) ... my family was sitting in the front yard of our Trout Lake retreat just as the sun was setting when suddenly something crashed into the side of the house. It fell to the ground. On closer inspection we discovered a baby bird; a rather ugly baby bird at that.

My daughter Molly, about nine at the time, was quick to gather it up, deeply disturbed that one (in her view, it had immediately taken on human characteristics) so little would be out alone at night - perhaps even injured. It was stunned, to say the least; a bit dizzy and befuddled. Mostly it was a ball of disheveled feathers, and not at all adept at the business of flight.

Molly grabbed a shoe box and begged to be allowed to mother the baby bird overnight, at least until there was enough daylight so it could see where it was and where it needed to go (so goes the reasoning of a bird-smitten child). So, having reached an agreement to let the bird go at dawn's early light the shoebox nest became it's overnight roost.

Before the children were out of bed the next morning I was off to work, not having given much thought to the feather-ball tucked away by its human mother. Later that morning Molly called me at my office to ask: "Do birds eat peanut butter?" Huh?

Brilliant bird-aficionado that I am, I explained how birds - especially baby birds like the one we'd adopted (seems dawn's early light came-and-went but baby bird stayed) - ate very specific things ... and peanut butter was not on their menu.

Well, Molly took great exception to my rationale, informing me that THIS baby bird ate peanut butter. Furthermore, it liked it's birdcage. Huh? Seems Molly had gone to the neighbor's house, explained about the bird orphan, and borrowed an unused cage from them. I thought to myself: This is not going to have a good ending.

So she and I talked about the likelihood of the little bird not living long given the fact that it couldn't fly (Molly had reported tossing it into the air to release it, only to have it come thudding to the ground again), and that it needed its own mother to feed & nurture it. She understood completely, but promised to care tenderly for the baby until it could master flight. Though skepticism settled into my rational parent bones, I agreed.

Days passed, and with each new dawn a flying lesson was attempted. The feather-ball had taken a liking to peanut butter, which Molly fed to it on the end of a toothpick (go figure). She added the berries from the Oregon Grape bush that grew wild in abundance on our property. Little-by-little the bird gained in size and strength, but it was still rather pathetic when it came to flight; it had yet to become airborne.

One night Molly forgot to bring the birdcage in from out-of-doors. She had left it on our deck overnight. The next morning, to our complete and utter amazement we saw a larger, adult bird clinging tenaciously to the side of the birdcage. Here, after all these days, was a bird feeding that baby through the cage rungs. Both seemed delighted, content.

With the adult bird in view we rushed to locate the Audubon Bird Watching Guide in order to identify her (we were guessing at the "her" part). We didn't recognize her. She wasn't a robin or sparrow or finch, but looked a little like a cardinal. At last we discovered that she was a Cedar Waxwing - a bird we'd never even heard of much less seen before. We further surmised she must be the baby bird's mother. Seems that mother had not lost track of her little one in spite of our human intervention.

From that day forward, the adult bird came-and-went to care for the little caged fledgling. She got quite accustomed to us, undeterred from her mission. Daily flying missions continued too as Molly coaxed and prodded the baby to take to its wings, but that lump of feathers just couldn't master lift-off.

Then we left for a week's vacation, hoping and praying the mother bird would continue her daily ministrations. We needn't have worried. Upon our return, where once perched a feathery blob was now a somewhat sleek and lovely creature. The baby had matured and began to look an awful lot like that adult bird. We laughed to see the huge pile of bird doo-doo mounding beneath the perch.

At once Molly took the cage to a grassy area and attempted again to launch the little one. Though a bit faltering, it at last took to the air. Just seconds later the adult bird - Mother - came swooping down to join it in flight. Off they went to wherever Cedar Waxwings go whenever they aren't detained. It would seem that it did have a good ending after all

W
e lived in that house many more years. Each Spring a sleek & beautiful adult Waxwing came to visit our deck and stayed several days before leaving once again.

W
e still like to think it's that baby feather-bundle - mature enough now to not only fly, but to come calling on its own. I think it missed the peanut butter, and Molly.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

When Spring Comes


Growing up in WA State where fall is often foggy & frosty, and winter grey and damp, spring was always the harbinger of all good things to come. It's not that the fog ended or the rains ceased, but intermittantly the sun would boldly announce its victory. Though seen rarely, it shined none-the-less (sometimes behind a cloud) - a reminder that something good was always just beyond view.

With spring, new life bullies its way to a grand debut. Little hints of color argue with drab greys and browns; the landscape dotted with the likes of tulips, crocus, & daffodils. Each displays their rebellion by way of tight, tiny buds - so full of promise. Rhododendron, azalea and flowering cherry trees cast off the blight of winter to don cloaks & trusses of indescrible color and array. In the high mountains lupine and moss, gooseberry and lilies can almost be heard singing. Theirs is such a mighty chorus.

Thus the term "when Spring comes" personifies all that is good and new. It's a term we use here in Arizona, too, but it doesn't contain such a vivid connotation. Here we say "when fall arrives" because that's when the oppressive heat of summer diminishes. We can again breath deeply, open the doors and windows at night, and sip tea outdoors without the threat of heat stroke.

Whether spring in WA State, or fall in AZ ... something new and good is always about to unfold, to bloom. It may be out of view today, but it's coming along nicely none-the-less - often tucked behind a cloud; buried beneath the frozen sod or scorched sand; laying dorment along the byway. But it's coming along.

With its arrival, death is consumed by life; darkness bows in submission to the light. Hope rushes in to silence dismay. Laughter chases tears. The oppressive - be it from heat or mist - surrenders to the hopeful. Faith is buoyed; what has been desired though unseen has now come into full view. We are always surprised by spring; by it's beauty, by its lavish demonstrations; by its faithful returning ... year after year. It never fails to arrive. Our expectation is sure.

When spring comes, all begins again ... anew. Could it be that spring is today - no matter what season we enter? Indeed, we learn and we do sing the song of the meadows all the day long, and our hearts find such ease.

SPRING CAROL
by
Robert Louis Stevenson (1918)

When loud by landside streamlets gush,
And clear in the greenwood quires the thrush,
With sun on the meadows
And songs in the shadows
Comes again to me
The gift of the tongues of the lea,
The gift of the tongues of meadows.
Straightway my olden heart returns
And dances with the dancing burns;
It sings with the sparrows;
To the rain and the (grimy) barrows
Sings my heart aloud—
To the silver-bellied cloud,
To the silver rainy arrows.
It bears the song of the skylark down,
And it hears the singing of the town;
And youth on the highways
And lovers in byways
Follows and sees:
And hearkens the song of the leas
And sings the songs of the highways.
So when the earth is alive with gods,
And the lusty ploughman breaks the sod,
And the grass sings in the meadows,
And the flowers smile in the shadows,
Sits my heart at ease,
Hearing the song of the leas,
Singing the songs of the meadows.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Anchor of My Soul

Music has often been as real a retreat for me as a restful day beside the sea, or a hike along a well-worn path in the high mountains of the Olympic or Cascade ranges of WA State.

I have favorite songs from nearly every genre. One song in particular has often been the source of both joy and tears - a reminder that neither height nor depth has any power over my soul. That song is The Anchor Holds, by Ray Boltz. It's a powerful sonnet (or should I say anthem) - an inspiring summons to recognize the beauty in life's challenges & storms, even if those storms are little more than a squall. It's an equally powerful reminder of God's faithfulness as Master & Commander!

Some days it plays like white-noise behind my thought-life, especially when I have the sense that the "sassy" is leaking from my Granny like a tire slowing losing it's stability, or when some of my dreams seem to slip through my hands, like grains of sand.

Listen to it here ... and rest awhile with me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdT-ubPspGM&feature=related

Paul, the author of the Book of Hebrews has something to say about this anchor too. It is God's firm and irrevocable promise, rooted firmly in Jesus.
.
"Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever ... " Hebrews 6:16-20

Merriam chimes in with this:

1 : a device usually of metal attached to a ship or boat by a cable and cast overboard to hold it in a particular place by means of a fluke that digs into the bottom 2 : a reliable or principal support: mainstay.

Boy am I grateful that such an anchor exists, digging itself deep into the bottomless beauty of God's eternal word; secured there, and secure there. My mainstay. I needn't lash myself to the mast or fear capsizing. The anchor holds.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Days

In 1861, while Julia W. Howe was visiting the Union Army on the Potomac River she wrote a song that stirs in me today a virulent form of patriotism, though a patriotism itself born of worship. Whether it be the Civil War, the World Wars, the Vietnam War, or even the Iraq War ... our God is marching on.

So, too, the many men and women that understand only too well that freedom isn't free - among them my own son, a Marine.

I would love to have known Julia to know of the inspiration that gave birth to these words. She tethers to war the beauty of God's eternal purposes - - and this in spite of the actual hideousness of war itself. Her words are as profound today as then, and mark "Memorial Day" like no other.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;His truth is marching on.Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
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I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps;They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;His day is marching on.Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.
.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,Since God is marching on.Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.
.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;Our God is marching on.Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.
.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;While God is marching on.Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.
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He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,Our God is marching on.Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.
.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Climbing, Searching, Finding

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I heard a wonderful story on the radio that will probably stick with me for a long, long time. It's a true story, but it has all the earmarks of a fable.
A young lady was invited on a rock climbing adventure. Afraid of heights, she initially declined. But giving it more thought she decided to summon her courage and tackle the rock wall. Afterall, she'd be in the company of seasoned climbers. It could actually be a fun.
Geared up and progressing bravely, she neared the summit. All of a sudden, as one of the climbing ropes brushed past her eyelid, her contact lens was knocked from her eye. Progress halted as she looked in vain for her missing contact. With blurred vision and a racing heart she began to pray. Lord, You know how difficult this is for me already. Please help me find my contact. Heaven was silent, so she cautiously felt her way up the remaining rock face to reach the summit.
Sitting on the edge of the rock wall, she and her climbing companions looked down upon the steep descent she'd have to navigate without the benefit of clear sight. At once the young lady shivered as she began praying again: Lord, nothing escapes your notice and I know You can see where my contact is. Please show me.
About that time she and her climbing entourage noticed another climbing party making their way up the rock face. Suddenly, someone from that other party yelled out: Hey, has anyone lost a contact? With glee the young lady and her friends hollered in response. What was lost had been found!
The best part of this story is yet to be told. It seems the second climbing party noticed the contact because an ant, heavy-laden and making his way precariously along a rock ledge, was actually toting the contact. It caught their notice because of the movement.
To the young lady seeking sight, it was cause for rejoicing; for praising God.
To the onlookers it was proof-postive that God answers prayer.
To the secondary climbing party is was an amazing "coincidence".
To the ant, it was a huge mystery. We hear him as he proclaims: Lord, I don't know why You've got me carrying this thing. I can't eat it, it won't fit into the ant hill, and it's darn heavy. But You said to carry it, so carry it I will.
There are too many life lessons here to focus on any one of them. But I can't help but wonder how many burdens we carry without realizing just how God will use them to bless us or another.
I also can't help but think about how this story relates to the thoughts I posted earlier. Could it be that our significance is often intertwined in the bearing of a burden we scarcely understand?

Significance

It's taken me a long, long time to make the distinction between the significant and the prominent. For way too many years I had those two confused, thinking I had to be prominent to be significant. In my own life journey it was, and is a dangerous pathway to vainglory and people-pleasing.

Some symptoms of significance-seeking include bragging (often tied up neatly with the ruse of giving God glory for some thing or other He's done through me), taking hostages, hyping an experience, and down-playing an other's success. It's a slippery slope, to say the least.

I listened yesterday to a message containing a portion of thought on this same subject. I was struck anew by how easy it is to get caught up in the need for recognition and glory. I returned again to thoughts of vanity as reported by Solomon in Ecclesiastes. I reflected on how wicked is the heart; how deceptive it is even to my own scrutiny at times.

There was an analogy given in the referenced message that I thought particularly striking:

The nose may be prominent but not very
significant. It could be disfigured or cut off
altogether and I could go on living.

The heart or liver, however, are not prominent
but are so very significant. They cannot be seen
but were I to lose either, I would forfeit
my very life.

A few years ago, after a long and exciting career in business management I found myself looking for work to little avail. We had left our home state for the move to Arizona, and the folks in Arizona just didn't seem to realize how valuable an asset was I. But finally I wrested a job that sounded like it had my name all over it. It seemed like a step down, but that didn't bother me too much at the time. Not, anyway, until I realized that I'd captured myself a minnow of a job that would have me working in the smallest office, at the farthest end of the building, in one of the smallest cities in the State -- with little or no prominence. What was I thinking? What were they thinking? Didn't these people realize how important I was?

For days on end I cried my way home, wondering what on earth I'd been thinking to even accept such a lowly position.

On one such day I was struck by a thought; a lightning bolt actually. As if a Passenger in my car cleared His throat and said to me: "So, about this significance thing ... let's talk about it. Explain to me Who you're working for. Explain to me why you think you're so much more deserving than I. Remember, I left the glory of heaven to take on the form of man, and with it a comparative insignificance." Silence.

I pulled over to the side of the road, and then I really wailed. I felt as undone as Job at God's questioning of him (in essence, "who do you think you are, anyway ...?). My tears had gone from self-pity to confession. A paradigm shift was taking place in my heart.

I'd like to say it was the last time I ever sought vainglory. It wasn't; it isn't. But something in me changed that day. Every single time I begin to bask in the light of my own 5-star ratings I am quick to recognize the vanity of it. What's more, it's just not important anymore. I like applause as much as anyone, but my audience of One is sufficient today. Fact is, the more obscure my life in Him, the more significance AND prominence I feel.

Yep, He must increase even as I decrease. I like that. It's just so ... so significant!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Obsolescence? Not so Fast ...

Back in the day ...

If I were to begin that way I would put myself in that notable class of people moving decidedly into old age. My mother found her way there when back in the day she rode a pony to school, or didn't have a T.V. or derived her livelihood from working on a farm.

Back in the day of my own life divorce was uncommon, and who knew the microwave generation was on my heals? In those days television came onto the scene, and drugs were those things prescribed for infection ("ecstasy" was a sublime state of mediation). American Idols were the likes of Roy Rogers and Teddy Roosevelt. There was little, if any disconnect between the sciences and God's existence.

In recent years we have Christopher Hitchens and and Michael Newdow to help us better understand how God is simply another of our myths, uncorroborated by science and even proven to be a downright dangerous belief. Back in the day they'd have been boo'd out of the public square.

I don't often drag out my soapbox, but on this subject I'm pretty passionate. I'd rather not swallow the anti-God rhetoric offered by these, His verbose nemeses, as proofs-positive that He couldn't possibly exist given what we now know about science (this is not a new premise). Seems the scientists themselves have something to say on that subject too:

Scientists, Theologians Debate Whether God Exists
Friday , May 16, 2008
By Robin Lloyd (FoxNews.com)

Scientists hate God. Or find God very disturbing. In fact, modern science has found no evidence of God, and so it's stupid to think God exists.

The above statements are often presented as conventional wisdom, but are they true?

A new collection of short essays, discussed here Thursday at an event at the American Enterprise Institute, responds to that question with a more diverse set of voices than is usually offered.

Edited by Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer and backed by the John Templeton Foundation, the booklet features replies by 13 scholars and thinkers to the question "Does science make belief in God obsolete?"

The practical answer is, "Of course not." Many people worldwide believe.
In the United States, the percentage of the population without a religious affiliation is increasing, but the majority still have one, according to American Religious Identification Survey 2001.

The faithful aren't going away despite a golden age of scientific descriptions of the mysteries of life and the secularizing, culture-draining force of consumerism.

The answers offered by the booklet's two theologians, eight scientists, two cultural commentators and one philosopher are more creative and sophisticated than the mind-numbing "culture wars" portrayed on television.

Some of the thinkers even found ways to synthesize or reconcile God and science without throwing up their hands.

The standard line

The standard scientific line on God is well-represented in the booklet by several of the writers:
— Science has failed to find natural evidence of God. Natural evidence is all there is. No God. Case closed.
— Slightly softer is this line of reasoning: Science erases the "need" for God as an explanation of our experiences, and God either doesn't exist or is at best a hypothesis (to the agnostic).
— And then there's the view expressed in the title of University of Hawaii physicist and astronomer Victor Stenger's new book, "God: The Failed Hypothesis — How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist." Stenger also contributed to the new booklet.

These arguments are old news.

Shermer, who describes himself as spiritual and agnostic, adds a cosmic twist, casting doubt on our ability to recognize God.

He claims that any encounter with extraterrestrial intelligence, should we go looking, is statistically likely to turn up civilizations that are far more medically advanced than ours and would have the ability to create life, so they will be indistinguishable from God.

"Science does not make belief in God obsolete, but it may make obsolete the reality of God, depending on how far we are able to push the science," Shermer writes in the booklet.

Yet many scientists40 percent according to a 1997 poll cited by Shermerbelieve in God. This isn't big news to scientists, but might surprise people who rely on mainstream views of science.

A handful of those folks — including Jerome Groopman, a professor of medicine at Harvard, and William D. Phillips, Nobel laureate in physics and a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute of the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology — are also represented in the booklet, arguing that the natural world and the world of faith are relatively separate, yet personally reconcilable domains.

"I think that we are all comfortable with the idea there are plenty of things in our lives that we will deal with outside of the scientific paradigm," Phillips told about 70 members of the public who attended the discussion of these issues between himself, Shermer and AEI theologian Michael Novak. "And while I think faith is a particularly important part of our lives that we should deal with outside of the scientific paradigm, it is certainly not the only one."

Reconciling God and science

Phillips, a Methodist, also drew from science to make his argument in favor of God's relevance, saying physicists know there are things that are "really, really improbable, but they are not really impossible according to the laws of physics ... From what I know about physics, it's not impossible to imagine a world in which God acts but we never can prove it."

In the booklet, philosopher Mary Midgley, who was not at the AEI event, states that science is just one worldview that has come to prevail. Science and religion need not be at odds.

"What is now seen as a universal cold war between science and religion is, I think, really a more local clash between a particular scientistic worldview, much favored recently in the West, and most other people's worldviews at most other times," she writes.

"Scientism ... by contrast, cuts [the setting of human life in] context off altogether and looks for the meaning of life in Science itself. It is this claim to a monopoly of meaning ... that makes science and religion look like competitors today."

Worldviews that transcend that competition or dichotomy are offered in the booklet by Kenneth Miller, Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy and Stuart Kauffman.

Miller, the lead witness for the plaintiffs in the Dover trial of 2005 (in which Judge John E. Jones III barred intelligent design from being taught in a Pennsylvania public school district's science classes), takes the classic Darwinian "grandeur in this view of life" approach. God is behind it all.

He rejects claims that the God hypothesis makes no sense, stating that "... to reject God because of the admitted self-contradictions and logical failings of organized religion would be like rejecting physics because of the inherent contradictions of quantum theory and general relativity."

Healing the schism

Kauffman, director of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics at the University of Calgary, takes a slightly New Age tack, saying we must "heal" the schism between science and religion by "reinventing the sacred" and evolving from a supernatural God to a "new sense of a fully natural God as our chosen symbol for the ceaseless creativity in the natural universe."

In other words, he suggests that we can get around the divide between science and God if we come up with a new concept for God that focuses on the wonders of nature, among other things.

This new concept is a global cultural imperative, Kauffman writes, if we are to overcome fundamentalist fears and reunite reason with humanity and the mysteries of life.

A middle ground that incorporates science more than the other God-friendly writers is offered by Hoodbhoy, a physicist at Quaid-e-Azam University in Pakistan.

Science hasn't necessarily made belief obsolete, "but you must find a science-friendly, science-compatible God," he writes. And that is possible, he claims, calling this entity a "scientific Creator."

Hoodbhoy thinks that God can be seen as operating within the laws of physics, tweaking outcomes in small ways that have big impacts by relying on phenomena we have observed already in the universe, such as the butterfly effect (in which the flapping of a butterfly's wings alters the atmosphere in a way that ultimately alters the path of a tornado).

In his own words, here are some things She (yes, Hoodbhoy uses the female pronoun) could do, Hoodbhoy writes:

"Extraordinary, but legitimate, interventions in the physical world permit quantum tunneling through cosmic wormholes or certain symmetries to snap spontaneously. It would be perfectly fair for a science-savvy God (how generous of them to ascribe this title to her) to use nonlinear dynamics so that tiny fluctuations quickly build up to earthshaking results — the famous 'butterfly effect' of deterministic chaos theory."

Hoodbhoy ends by saying that God is neither dead nor about to die. There is still plenty of "space for a science-friendly God as well as for 'deeply religious non-believers' like Einstein ... Unsure of why they happen to exist, humans are likely to scour the heavens forever in search of meaning."

A total of 5,000 copies of the booklet became available on May 2. Free copies can be obtained at http://www.templeton.org/belief/

Copyright © 2008 Imaginova Corp

Emphasis mine

Before I put away the soapbox, let me just quote another source on this same subject. Seems God Himself has something to say on the subject too. It's such a fit beginning, as well as a postscript to the debate. It may well be the postscript to my longest post ever ...

Romans 1:18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen...
32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Melodies of Morning

From the beginning I was a morning girl, often driving my parents batty with my early rising. I couldn't tell you then, and I cannot tell you now what, specifically, it is about the early morning hours that compels me. The list would be endless, though it would undoubtedly contain these:

  • Morning, like new fallen snow arrives without slushy footprints to mess it up. It's new; pristine.
  • Bird song is best heard in the morning, as often their melodic trill is drowned out by the day's cacophony of sound.
  • My energy is at its peak when first I rise; so too my appetite - be it for breakfast or the day's tasks or devotional time.
Even as I write there's a dove cooing someplace just outside my window. The cactus wren have been here too, to collect nesting material. Soon the woodpecker that lives nearby will be summoning his girlfriend with rapid taps upon the metal chimney cover (a bit annoying, I might add).

The quietness of morning begs a quietness of spirit. I'm inclined to set my heart and thoughts in order. The concept of reverence is best displayed in morning's glory; so too the concept of grace ... new each and every day. I just hear better in the morning; perhaps I listen better too.

And similar to the snow I've likened it to, I feel as though I need to get going in order to make my snow angel before the movement of mortals or the warmth of the day slushes up the now-pristine landscape of my soul.

I'm never much fun at day's end. For many long years I have delighted in getting to sleep early, sometimes as early as 7:30 PM. That wasn't possible when children resided in the home (except when they got old enough to be heading to bed as I was preparing to rise ...), but today it's the norm. I'm spared the ad naseum T.V. programming at night, and reminded that morning is but a few short hours away. Sleep has become the gateway for a new dawn, and with it the anticipation of waking to the melodies of morning. They're built in.

" ... where morning dawns and evening fades
you call forth songs of joy."
Psalm 65:8

Monday, May 12, 2008

Treadmill Theology

Go, go, go! Hurry up! You're late! Run! Get it done! Don't sit down! What more can you do?

Phew ... don't you just get exhausted sometimes? Too many things to do; too few hours in a day to do them. No doubt you've also had your strength tapped by those who, through gasps for air, recite their own litany of "to do"s. Lots of us are running faster to get more-and-more accomplished.

I'm as guilty as anybody when it comes to being over-commited. I've been known to fall into bed at night too weary to sleep, or too mindful of those things yet undone in my life to permit sleep to overtake the worry. Worse are those times when perfectionism comes a-callin' to remind me of all the things I didn't do right.

From my grab-bag of terminologies, I like to call this "Treadmill Theology" - that works-oriented grind that takes most of the luster out of life. Oh, it has it's advantages ... sometimes. It's kind of like that old adage about "the one with the most toys wins", only it goes more like "the one with the busiest schedule must be the holiest." Dumb theology!

Perhaps that's why I love the Bible stories that feature Jesus' life. If ever there was a man on a mission, this one Man would be that man. Yet He is depicted as calm, possessing an almost discernable cadence to His every step that speaks to us even today: steady & sure; unhurried & unharried - places to go; people to see; appointments to keep - never early; never late; right on time - never out of breath. I scratch my head, yet simulataneously I know in my Knower that such is my heritage. All that rattle-clapping and the huffin' and puffin' associated with it is of my own doing!

So, now that I'm advancing in age I'm getting used to saying "no thanks" without apology. I start my day a little slower too, and sometimes I actually ignore the laundry room (it has a door so I can literally shut it out of my consciousness), or I don't make my bed. I've been known to sit and ponder things - sometimes deep things, sometimes trite things - for long periods.

Whenever I find myself gasping for air I am quick to assess whether or not Treadmill Theology has crept in again. It's like a bad virus at times, not easily cured. Fact is, there is no cure, only surrender. It's guilty, in my case anyway, for missed opportunities with my children when they were small, or for foolish choices that appeared all-too-good at the time. It's affectations have pitted my loyalties between quiet moments with my spouse against the need (or, should I say compulsion?) for clean floors.

Oh what freedom is there when the treadmill is tossed like a flea infested blanket (dare I compare this to "filthy rags"?). The ancient texts speak of the hallmarks of the life of the believer, and they don't include anything even close to a doctrine of scurried, frantic works that often resemble the "dithers". Martha was infected with it. A gentle and quiet spirit was hers for the taking, but she just couldn't get off that darn treadmill to embrace the promised peace.

Plans are a good thing. Being responsible is a good thing. Getting one's chores done is a good thing. Serving God, family & country are good things. But something tells me the winded worship of the DayTimer isn't such a good thing.

Postscript:

Caution, the opposite of Treadmill Theology is not apathy, or laziness. For a more indepth pondering, consider Charles Hummel's work, "Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent".

Friday, May 9, 2008

From Rocky Point

Terry and I are nestled at the Penasco Del Sol, a resort located on the the northernmost tip of the Sea of Cortez. This property rightly boasts of well appointed rooms decorated with lovely tile work and Mayan art. The restaurant is remarkable (anything containing Cilantro has my 5 Star rating!). The pool and beach areas are pristine; both give new meaning to the word Azur.

We are treated as royalty here. The hotel staff have gone out of their way to meet our every need. It would be so very easy to set roots here for weeks at a time. That is, on THIS side of the street.

Across the street and throughout the city of Puerto Penasco (aka Rocky Point) are third world hovels that the locals call home. Parking lots and side streets are little more than hard packed dirt, much of it tinged in red from the clay soils beneath. It's a world vastly different from the one I'm enjoying at the resort.

How like my life. It's so neat and well-ordered on my side of the street. And as long as I look West and don't go poking around on the other side of the street I can maintain my somewhat myopic view of life.

This afternoon I'm going to venture out onto the highways and byways here in Mexico. I'm going East, so-to-speak. It's as good a time as any to ponder the plight of others, and to dig deeper my own well of gratitude.

Funny thing is ... these are such a happy people. I can but wonder who has the better deal: those living West or East.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bridges

There are people that travel all over the world to view bridges, sort of like bird-watching.

Bridges and their architecture speak to something deep within us that is lovely. Perhaps they even help us to harken back to days less complex than these. Railroads do that. So do front porches.

Merriam says this about the word bridge:

1 a: a structure carrying a pathway or roadway
over a depression or obstacle
b: a time, place, or means
of connection or transition
2: something resembling a bridge in form
or function: as a: the upper bony part
of the nose that rests upon it

From worlds literary, musical and dramatic we have been given much to consider on the subject of bridges. The Bridges of Toki Ri, A Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Bridge to Terebithia, The Bridges of Madision County, A Bridge Too Far, Broken Bridges, Bridge on the River Kwai, London Bridges Falling Down, Burning Bridges, and so on.

And speaking of bridges, what about those whimsical, flimsy little rope things you see on National Geographic ... the ones spanning a deep, dangerous gorge, fit for few other than Tarzan?

If you're going to ponder a bridge, then why not include that amazing bridge between life and death - the one provided by Jesus. Now that's a bridge! It's sturdy, stable and sure - the only way across from this side to that, from wandering to found, from danger to safety, from death to life.

I never much cared for the journey across a bridge, especially the high ones. That is until I found the one Jesus built.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Endings

Another day of memory-making beginning with a zoo excursion, followed by a trek to Barnes & Noble.


What is it about little girls that makes them seek out B&N as if it were a magical kingdom? Well, maybe not ALL girls, but Princess Laffsalot and Princesss Mermalaid, being granddaughters of the word-keeper, are showing prodigious signs of becoming tomorrow's bloggers. Did I say how much I enjoy these girls? If not, let the record so note!

Today also included more pool time, although the mermaids are showing signs of wearing out (I never thought I'd see the day!).
This evening everyone picked their favorite food for dinner: Rylie wanted quesadillas; Allie chose broccoli with cheese sauce (huh?); Grandpa wanted leftover spaghetti. I've actually come to enjoy my new role as short-order cook.

Since tonight is the girls' last evening in Arizona, all of us are dreading tomorrow's good-byes. Even so, we're planning our next time together, knowing it'll be as good or better than the days that are passing all too quickly.

Forever etched in my mind are these daring, devoted, delightful, delicious, determined damsels I will forever treasure.


Princesses Mermalaid and Laffsalot, I love you.



Darlings Plus Some


The only thing better than the two princesses, is the two princesses plus good friends (Amanda and Michael).

Saturday's marathon included swimming, playing Scattergories, sundae making, "Flubber" watching ... topped off by some hysterical laughter in the kitchen with Grandpa (Barak Obama did NOT assassinate John F. Kennedy). I'm still attempting to unravel all the tales (untrue) he whipped up for them.

Grandma's girls, for sure!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Damsel Diaries



The mermaids have expanded their experience to include golf cart rides, pizza in the park, and some great fun on the big toys.


Have I said yet that these two are the world's best and finest? They are!






Gone Mermaiding

My fishing expedition has morphed into a grand-mothering experience extraordinaire. Cousins, Princess Mermalaid/Allie, and Princess Laffsalot/Rylie, have taken over the Flanagan household, pool, neighborhood - - every square inch of the ground they touch. I can't stop grinning!



(Allie on left, Rylie on right in both pics)