Friday, July 29, 2011

Hair-Drenching Memories Made at Mineral

Anyone that knows we Flanagans, knows we love all things outdoors.  Our sons & daughter have inherited this bent, and most weeks you can find one or all of us connecting to some sort of outdoor adventure.  It's one of the primary reasons we returned to WA State.  And, as of yesterday, Terry and I set an all-time record for adventure quotients!

Known as the "Gem of the Northwest", Mineral Lake is about as beautiful a place as can be found.  It is also known for incredible trout fishing, so it's become a favorite destination of Terry and the boys.  Here's what their Homepage has to say about the place:

Hidden away in a little known and seldom explored corner of the Cascade Mountain Range is the historic hamlet of Mineral, Washington. Here the wildlife is bountiful and the landscape breathtaking.  

I can certainly testify to the truth of that!

Yesterday, being a particularly beautiful, lazy day, Terry asked me to join him for a quick trip to collect Trout at Mineral.  As much as I treasure the outdoors here, I'm not terribly fond of row-boating beyond an hour. Knowing it could well be a three hour event, I hemmed and hawed a bit before agreeing to go along.

As expected, the views from the lake were captivating.  I sat in mesmerized awe as Terry paddled us to his favorite spot and then dropped anchor; two actually - one at the bow, and one at the stern.  Within seconds he had his first hit and pulled up a beautiful, but too small fish.  His (or her) life was spared.  Then began the long, unfruitful dangling of line in a seemingly troutless void. 

Growing bored & weary, Terry decided to move the boat to a better position.  While I trained my eye on a soaring Osprey, he cautiously pulled up the front anchor, then made his way to pull up the back anchor, which was not far from where I was sitting.  He stepped around me, and just as he gripped the anchor line, in a flash, the back end of the boat pitched, tipped and dipped itself into the water, dumping Terry and me into lake.  There had been no time to assess & correct; only time to acknowledge the power of pitch, and of gravity!  Quickly the boat began to take on more-and-more water as we coughed & sputtered.

The first words from my mouth?  I don't think you'll catch any fish this way either.

To say we were stunned is to put it in much too simple terms.  We looked at each other with incredulity before swimming back to the now-sinking boat.  As Terry grabbed the flotation devices, I scrambled to salvage what I could from my purse (which normally I wouldn't bring along, but wanted somewhere to tuck my phone & camera).  Even in this troubled condition, I didn't want to lose my wallet and have to replace it's contents.  Ever so practical ...

Soon we heard young children from the shore hollering to see if we needed help.  "Paleeeeeeze" came my immediate response.  They took off running, and soon showed up with their mother.  She and one of the teen boys jumped into the lake and swam out to us.  Thank God for her level head, because she instructed me to make my way to her dock while she instructed Terry in the art of flipping a boat so it wouldn't actually sink.  This they did while I labored to make my way ... fully clothed & shoe'd, clutching my purse, kicking for all I'm worth and using but one arm to steer.  

Eventually a boat with four older people - Fishermen from Norway, they said (you just gotta love those Norwegians and their humor, huh Sonja & Debbie?) - show up in their motorized raft to help tow the awkward boat to the dock.  With teamwork and level heads, the boat was finally set upright once again.  Our rescuing angel managed to salvage one oar.  Lost at sea was Terry's favorite fishing pole & hat, some tackle, and my cell phone and camera.  And somewhere was floating one missing oar.

Once we determined that we were all safe and able-though wet-bodied, we bid our rescuers farewell, got into the boat and began making our way back to the boathouse; then onto home.  We were delighted to see our Norwegian friends grab the missing, floating oar and deliver it to us.  It sure made the return much easier.

On the ride home we laughed a little, but mostly we traveled in quiet - wet, cold, relieved.  I confessed I'd been scared.  Terry too.  We talked about how different the outcome might have been were we farther out onto the lake, or at it's unpopulated far end.   We calculated the numerable known Providences, like his having accidentally left his cell phone at home, or our positioning to that quick-thinking, strong swimming young mother, or to having tossed the two flotation devices into the boat at the last minute.  

We heard from our children last evening.  Certainly they expressed their care & concern, but mostly had a tremendously raucous laugh over the entire matter.   We joined them.  The only thing this family seems to love more than adventure is humor; and there's plenty of it to go around!

As I ponder our adventure this morning, I am mindful that the story is only half-told.  There are life-lessons here ... but THOSE for another day.

Today I'm off to replace my cell phone, and will request the new number:  1-800-ribitt

Monday, July 25, 2011

We Older Types

There's Sarah & Hannah & Naomi & even Rahab, not to mention the Marys, and Dorcus or .  They pop up on our Popularity Charts as being women of noble character (most of the time).  Then there's the quintessential cynic, Mrs. Job; and we simply must not forget the powerful Jezebel, or manipulating Sapphira ... a few ladies from the other extreme; the one lacking in character. 

When I collect all the scriptures pertaining to women, I'm intrigued.  It's stuff many of us learned from youth, though probably not in the sense God had in mind.  Many a bully, control freak well-intentioned soul would have we ladies relegated to some quiet corner.  Not that quiet corners are bad unless - of course - they are meant to deaden one's impact.

Here I am, one full year into retirement following a lifetime of energized living, brain strain and teamwork.  What I'm experiencing is nothing at all like those things.  As you might guess, it's far less energized and strained.  That's good ... on some level.   Certainly I have time for other pursuits; pursuits long abandoned given my oft-rugged work schedules of yesteryear.

All that said to tell you I am inspired anew by the scriptures pertaining to we older types.  Not the heretofore mentioned interpretation, but the real, rich, robust and regal estate that's synonymous with them.  I'm not done musing upon them, so I'm not yet ready to elaborate. 

I just know that nothing compares to gray hair quite like the living of life.   I'd hate to think I came by these strands as a result of worry, or mean-spiritedness, or as some faux evidence of piety. 

No, today I'm wondering how I can employ all that gray hair so neatly coiffed beneath a mantle of blonde highlights.  I don't mean in the money-earning sense, though that would certainly be OK with me.  Rather, I am wondering if at long last there aren't a plethora of new dreams to be dreamed; new lessons to be learned; new heights to be scaled; new students to teach; new avenues to travel? 

I'm further wondering if I haven't somehow qualified as the Older Woman in Titus 2 and elsewhere?  Afterall, those credentials don't come via academia or brief life-spans.  One has to have been on a fairly lengthy walk-about to gather such credentials.

This I know:  What I thought was important and worthy in my youth makes me cry or pull my hair out chuckle today.  With 20/20 hindsight as my vantage point, I am astounded at how long it took the Lord to get me here.  What else don't I know?

The years teach much which the days never knew. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The great thing about getting older is that you
don't lose all the other ages you've been.
~Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Proliferation of DNA

 Deoxyribonucleic Acid

A few short years ago it was an unknown domain.  But in 1953, scientific advances by Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins of Britain brought DNA into the world of Biotechnology.  Little did they - or we - know then how vital that finding would be some 45-50 years hence.

Known as the "secret to life", everything & everyone has DNA.  It differs from one person to another like a fingerprint, setting each of us apart in the truly unique sense of our being.  The intricate strands that comprise DNA's structure are like a woven tapestry, and equally beautiful to behold under the microscope.

It has now become the stuff of detectives, the key to riddles, and the means by which criminals are either convicted or set free.  No intelligent crime show can sustain itself without it's use. 

Moreover, wherever you and I go, we leave a little, or a lot of ourselves - our own, personal DNA - there.  Skin cells and hair shafts are continually sloughing; and even body fluids remain long after we've exited.  That glass of ice tea we just sipped contains our personal signature.  Thus we leave a trail that is, or could be easily tracked.

Fascinating stuff here.  Star Trek stuff.

All by itself, DNA and it's implications are amazing.  But when you marry it to the spiritual context it becomes more amazing still.  Not only do our physical bodies have this incredible capacity for cell-signatures, but so do our spiritual selves.  Whether we are to be born, or born-again, there's a knitting & weaving that takes place.  It's a design crafted long before 1953 when Franklin & Wilkins figured it out.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb...
 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place ...
Psalm 139:13, 15

Think of it, this leaving behind of DNA in the spiritual sense.  What might it say about us?  What would those strands communicate about our parentage and health; about where we've journeyed in life?   

But thanks be to God, who always ...
uses us to spread the aroma
of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 
For we are to God
the pleasing aroma of Christ
among those who are being saved
and those who are perishing.
2 Corinthians 2:14-15

Even our words factor into the equation.  They are part & parcel of our spiritual DNA, with everlasting implications.

A good man brings good things out
of the good stored up in him,
and an evil man brings evil things out of
the evil stored up in him.
But I tell you that everyone will have
to give account on the day of judgment
for every empty word they have spoken.
For by your words you will be acquitted,
and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:35-37

The mysteries of the universe are beyond measure.  Men continue to discover what God has made plainly known long ago, unraveling this secret and that. Yet somehow, evidence of His DNA is the one discovery that is often missed by the scientific eye.  It is found new & fresh by just plain folks - one person at a time.

Hey, how about a new show:  Creation Scene Investigation?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dirty Ole' Shoe

This was sent to me by a friend.  It's simply too rich to NOT pass along ...

I showered and shaved; I adjusted my tie.

I got there and sat in a pew just in time.

Bowing my head in prayer, as I closed my eyes.

I saw the shoe of the man next to me,
touching my own. I sighed.

With plenty of room on either side, I thought,
'Why must our soles touch?'

It bothered me, his shoe touching mine...
But it didn't bother him much.

A prayer began: 'Our Father' I thought, '
This man with the shoes,  has no pride.

They're dusty, worn, and scratched. Even worse,
there are holes on the side!'

'Thank You for blessings,' the prayer went on.

The shoe man said a quiet 'Amen.'

I tried to focus on the prayer, but my
thoughts were on his shoes again.

Aren't we supposed to look our best.
When walking through that door?

'Well, this certainly isn't it,' I thought,
glancing toward the floor.

Then the prayer was ended,
and the  songs of praise began.

The shoe man was certainly loud,
sounding proud as he sang.

His voice lifted the rafters, his hands were raised high.

The Lord could surely hear the
shoe man's voice from the sky.

It was time for the offering;
and what I threw in was steep.

I watched as the shoe man reached
into his pockets so deep.

I saw what was pulled out; what the shoe man put in.

Then I heard a soft 'clink' ... as when silver hits tin.

The sermon really bored me to tears, and that's no lie.

It was the same for the shoe man,
for tears fell from his eyes.

At the end of the service, as is the custom here...

We must greet new visitors,
And show them all good cheer.

But I felt moved somehow,
and wanted to meet the shoe man.

So after the closing prayer,
I reached over and shook his hand.

He was old and his skin was dark,
and his hair was truly a mess.

But I thanked him for coming, for being our guest..

He said, 'My names' Charlie,
I'm glad to meet you, my friend.'

There were tears in his eyes, but he had a large, wide grin.

'Let me explain,' he said, wiping tears from his eyes.

'I've been coming here for months,
and you're the first to say 'Hi.''

'I know that my appearance is not like all the rest.

'But I really do try to always look my best.'

'I always clean and polish my
shoes before my very long walk.

'But by the time I get here,
they're dirty and dusty, like chalk.'

My heart filled with pain,
and I swallowed to hide my tears.

As he continued to apologize, for daring to sit so near

He said, 'When I get here, I know I must look a sight.

'But I thought if I could touch you,
'Then maybe our souls might unite.'

I was silent for a moment, knowing whatever was said

Would pale in comparison;
I spoke from my heart, not my head.

'Oh, you've touched me,' I said, 'And taught me, in part;

'That the best of any man
'Is what is found in his heart.'

The rest, I thought, This shoe-man will never know -

Like just how thankful I really am,
that his dirty old shoe touched my soul.

Monday, July 18, 2011

First Things First

OK, so that's logical:  first things first!  Why, then, is it so darned easy to put 2nd, or 10th, or 29th things first? 

How is it that we believing mortals get so far afield of the very basics of God's commands?

I'm talking to myself here, but I'm wondering if you, too, have had this conversation with yourself at any time?  

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:31-33

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.   Matthew 7:4-5

... whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   Matthew 20:26-28

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  Matthew 22:37-38

On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.  Mark 13:9-10

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  John 1:41

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first."  John 15:18

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”  Romans 1:17

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ... 1 Corinthians 15:3

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  1 Timothy 2:1-4

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17

We love because he first loved us.  John 4:19

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.  Revelation 2:4-5

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness ...
Matthew 6:33

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Corner Grocery

Just down the way from my childhood home one could easily duck into a local, corner grocery.  In one direction was A&K; in the other, Ward's (later to become Mac's) - mother's preferred site.

As a youngster I have no recollection of my mother ever going to a super market, much less a Costco or Sam's Club.  Such mega shopping venues simply did not exist at that time.  No doubt she did make trips to larger grocery stores, though in truth you couldn't prove it by me.  So far as I knew, the entire world of edibles came from Ward's store.  It also marked the southern boundary of my world as a child; a world that stretched but one block in any direction.

It was not uncommon for Dad to lavish upon me a nickle or dime on Saturday afternoon so I could make my own choice(s) at the store.  Oh what a gleeful event was that!  For minutes on end I'd ponder the assortment contained in the ice cream cooler or soda rack; or I'd stand in awe before the shelves of penny candy.  Nothing was quite so satisfying as walking away with an itty-bitty brown bag filled with choice morsels, or to saunter home sipping from a bottle of Orange Crush.   

Only one thing deterred or daunted me on my shopping escapades:  the dogs that gathered outside the store.  Some I recognized & trusted.  Others were unfamiliar, and sometimes mean-spirited.  Though my home was but four doors from the store, it seemed a terrible distance when a dog nipped at my heals.  I learned to flee like the wind to escape them (even as family cautioned me to never run).  With no leash laws, nothing prohibited their torments.  To this day, I hesitate whenever I encounter a strange dog.

On other occasions mother would dispatch me with a note that I was to present at the store counter.   On it she would list her needs:  butter, flour, eggs, coffee, etc.  I would wait patiently (or eyeballing the penny candy in preparation for my own, next purchase) while the owner or a clerk pulled the requisite items from the shelves.  As each item was set on the counter, they'd enter it onto their charge ledger.  Then, using a machine the size of a Volkswagen (or so it seemed to my wee eyes), they'd calculate the cost and give me a receipt.  Little did I know that these stock items weren't free; and that my Dad would pay the grocery bill at the end of every month.  

I cannot think of simpler times without Ward's Grocery coming to mind.  It is reminiscent of the vitality that was associated with a neighborhood, or equated to the original context of community.  As far as I knew then, the whole world existed but a few houses, or churches, or parks, or grocery stores from my own home.  On some level, it still does. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

So What?

What a thin, nearly invisible line exists between self-serving and others-serving initiatives.  It's a line often in the company of people-pleasing, though the flipside can be equally true - people-offending.  I know:  I've walked that tightrope on many occasions.

Thoroughly baby-boomerish, I was raised with Beaver Clever in the 50s, and also with the myriad flower-children of the 60s.  I never quite lived up to the aspirations of either, though I favored the flower children.  You can be sure I wrestled with the restraints of the age. 

However, even in my selfish bent, I simultaneously cared about what people thought of me, and didn't care what they thought of me.  What an insidious form of schizophrenia!  But when at last the Lord got ahold of me, my rebellious bent took a sharp nosedive.  It rears it's ugly head still, but it no longer harbors the enchantment or power it once did. 

Along the course of my journey as a believer, I have often encountered that same thin line between self-serving and others-serving.  It blurs in places; and I find that I can justify just about anything - - and this in the name of God; and with scripture to back me up.  Is there any mystery to why the world-at-large has a field-day with Christian notions?  Is it any wonder that I can, at times, survey the lump on my skull as administered by a thoroughly confounded other, and consider it persecution when, in fact, I had it coming?

Why is it so vitally important what people make of us?  Are we people-pleasing to even seek it?  What is the linkage between what we say or do with our character?  The answer (from Titus 2) lies in the so ...

... teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine
... Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
... teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
... urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands

so that no one will malign the word of God.

... encourage the young men to be self-controlled.
... set them an example by doing what is good.
... show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned

so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us

...Teach slaves (indentured servants/employees) to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted

so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

So, it's why we do what we do.  Never has there been a day in history when it - so - matters so very much!

It takes courage to grow up and
become who you really are. 
~e.e. cummings

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Moment of Beauty

Pure serendipity, that's what her well-timed phone call happened to be.  It's a rare thing for the two of us to speak; rare in the sense of not often, but also precious ... like baby's breath.  

So for many long minutes we chatted of this and of that, mostly of family and all about the Lord's goodness.  Then about her incredible battle with cancer.  She called it a "gift", and again I was struck by how powerful such gifts can be as evidenced in this solitary life (and so many like it).

We pray them away, these battles.  We seek miracles to be rid of them.  We confess they are not of God, and certainly not for us.  We deem them to be the work of our arch enemy.  We rail against them; and sometimes we rail against God. 

But there it was, her confession that this hideous battle has been and has become a gift.  How does one account for that? 

This evening I read the following piece from my Streams in the Desert Devotional.  It frames perfectly what she described, and I will forever envision her now with wings.

You wear them elegantly, Elaine I saw you in them today, and your soaring is simply amazing.

“They shall mount up with wings as eagles” (Isa.40:31).

There is a fable about the way the birds got
their wings at the beginning.
They were first made without wings.
Then God made the wings and put them down
before the wingless birds and said to them,
“Come, take up these burdens and bear them.”

The birds had lovely plumage and sweet voices;
they could sing, and their feathers gleamed in the sunshine,
but they could not soar in the air.
They hesitated at first when bidden to take up
the burdens that lay at their feet, but soon they obeyed,
and taking up the wings in their beaks,
laid them on their shoulders to carry them.

For a little while the load seemed heavy and hard to bear,
but presently, as they went on carrying the burdens,
folding them over their hearts,
the wings grew fast to their little bodies,
 and soon they discovered how to use them,
and were lifted by them up into the air–
the weights became wings.

It is a parable. We are the wingless birds, and our duties
and tasks are the pinions God has made to lift us up
 and carry us heavenward.
We look at our burdens and heavy loads,
and shrink from them;
but as we lift them and bind them about our hearts,
they become wings,
and on them we rise and soar toward God.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Now as Then

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand

Who saith "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"

Not that, amassing flowers,
Youth sighed "Which rose make ours,
Which lily leave and then as best recall?"
Not that, admiring stars,
It yearned "Nor Jove, nor Mars;
Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!"

Not for such hopes and fears
Annulling youth's brief years,
Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark!
Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without,
Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.

Poor vaunt of life indeed,
Were man but formed to feed
On joy, to solely seek and find and feast:
Such feasting ended, then
As sure an end to men;
Irks care the crop-full bird? 
Frets doubt the maw-crammed beast?

Rejoice we are allied
To That which doth provide
And not partake, effect and not receive!
A spark disturbs our clod;
Nearer we hold of God
Who gives, than of His tribes that take, I must believe.

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth's smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

For thence,--a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks,--
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink in' the scale.

What is he but a brute
Whose flesh has soul to suit,
Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play?
To man, propose this test--
Thy body at its best,
How far can that project thy soul on its lone way?

Yet gifts should prove their use:
I own the Past profuse
Of power each side, perfection every turn:
Eyes, ears took in their dole,
Brain treasured up the whole;
Should not the heart beat once "How good to live and learn?"

Not once beat "Praise be Thine!
I see the whole design,
I, who saw power, see now love perfect too:
Perfect I call Thy plan:
Thanks that I was a man!
Maker, remake, complete,--I trust what Thou shalt do!"

For pleasant is this flesh;
Our soul, in its rose-mesh
Pulled ever to the earth, still yearns for rest;
Would we some prize might hold
To match those manifold
Possessions of the brute,--gain most, as we did best!

Let us not always say,
"Spite of this flesh to-day
I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole!"
As the bird wings and sings,
Let us cry "All good things
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!"

Therefore I summon age
To grant youth's heritage,
Life's struggle having so far reached its term:
Thence shall I pass, approved
A man, for aye removed
From the developed brute; a god though in the germ.

And I shall thereupon
Take rest, ere I be gone
Once more on my adventure brave and new:
Fearless and un-perplexed,
When I wage battle next,
What weapons to select, what armour to indue.

Youth ended, I shall try
My gain or loss thereby;
Leave the fire ashes, what survives is gold:
And I shall weigh the same,
Give life its praise or blame:
Young, all lay in dispute; I shall know, being old.

For note, when evening shuts,
A certain moment cuts
The deed off, calls the glory from the grey:
A whisper from the west
Shoots--"Add this to the rest,
Take it and try its worth: here dies another day."

So, still within this life,
Though lifted o'er its strife,
Let me discern, compare, pronounce at last,
This rage was right in' the main,
That acquiescence vain:
The Future I may face now I have proved the Past."

For more is not reserved
To man, with soul just nerved
To act to-morrow what he learns to-day:
Here, work enough to watch
The Master work, and catch
Hints of the proper craft, tricks of the tool's true play.

As it was better, youth
Should strive, through acts uncouth,
Toward making, than repose on aught found made:
So, better, age, exempt
From strife, should know, than tempt
Further. Thou waitedst age: wait death nor be afraid!
Enough now, if the Right
And Good and Infinite
Be named here, as thou callest thy hand thine own
With knowledge absolute,
Subject to no dispute
From fools that crowded youth, nor let thee feel alone.

Be there, for once and all,
Severed great minds from small,
Announced to each his station in the Past!
Was I, the world arraigned,
Were they, my soul disdained,
Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!

Now, who shall arbitrate?
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
Ten, who in ears and eyes
Match me: we all surmise,
They this thing, and I that: whom shall my soul believe?

Not on the vulgar mass
Called "work," must sentence pass,
Things done, that took the eye and had the price;
O'er which, from level stand,
The low world laid its hand,
Found straightway to its mind, could value in a trice:

But all, the world's coarse thumb
And finger failed to plumb,
So passed in making up the main account;
All instincts immature,
All purposes unsure,
That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:

Thoughts hardly to be packed
Into a narrow act,
Fancies that broke through language and escaped;
All I could never be,
All, men ignored in me,
This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.

Ay, note that Potter's wheel,
That metaphor! and feel
Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay,--
Thou, to whom fools propound,
When the wine makes its round,
"Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!"

Fool! All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee,
That was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.

He fixed thee mid this dance
Of plastic circumstance,
This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest:
Machinery just meant
To give thy soul its bent,
Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed.

What though the earlier grooves,
Which ran the laughing loves
Around thy base, no longer pause and press?
What though, about thy rim,
Skull-things in order grim
Grow out, in graver mood, obey the sterner stress?

Look not thou down but up!
To uses of a cup,
The festal board, lamp's flash and trumpet's peal,
The new wine's foaming flow,
The Master's lips a-glow!
Thou, heaven's consummate cup, what need'st thou with earth's wheel?

But I need, now as then,
Thee, God, who mouldest men;

And since, not even while the whirl was worst,
Did I,--to the wheel of life
With shapes and colours rife,
Bound dizzily,--mistake my end, to slake Thy thirst:

So, take and use Thy work:
Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in Thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!

Robert Browning (1812-1889)
Footnote:  At times it seems best - even wise - to let the elders among we elders speak to us from their hearts.  Today I'm listening to Robert, who employs words as if they were vivid oils applied to canvass.