Monday, February 29, 2016

Hospitality (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

“Hospitality is one of the richest biblical terms that can deepen and broaden our insight in our relationships with our fellow human beings.  Old and New Testament stories not only show how serious our obligation is to welcome the stranger in our home, but they also tell us that guests are carrying precious gifts with them, which they are eager to reveal to a receptive host.  When Abraham received three strangers at Mamre and offered them water, bread and a fine tender calf, the revealed themselves to him as messengers of God announcing that Sarah his wife would give birth to a son (Genesis 18:1-15).  When the wide of Zarephath offered food and shelter to Elijah, he revealed himself as a man of God offering her an abundance of oil and meal and raising her son from the dead (I Kings 17:9-24).  When the two travelers to Emma's invited the stranger, who had joined them on the road to stay with them for the night, he made himself known through the breaking of the bread as their Lord (Luke 24:13-35).
When hostility is converted into hospitality then fearful strangers can become guests revealing to their hosts the promise they are carrying with them.  Then, in fact, the distinction between host and guest proves to be artificial and evaporated in the recognition of the new found unity.

Thus the biblical stories help us to realize not just that hospitality is an important virtue, but even more that in the context of hospitality guest and host can reveal their most precious gifts and bring new life to each other.”

[Reaching Out, Henri J.M. Nouwen]

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Straight from the Bible

Have you ever met up with an old friend and shared stories from the past?  Whenever I have done so, I’ve been amazed by the fact that I can’t remember their stories the way they tell them, and they can’t remember mine.  What was for me an unforgettable moment that we shared together, is often a moment they cannot even recall and if they do, they tell it differently from the way I remember it!  We see, we read, and we experience things differently.  I’m baffled, for example, by what some people read in the Bible and what I read in the Bible.  

Why is it that I see/read and hold on to a biblical passage like  “When strangers from foreign lands come to reside with you, do them no wrong..they shall be treated as your citizens; you shall love them as yourselves,” while my brother or sister see/read and hold on to something like  “O Babylon,…Happy is he who shall seize your children and dash them against the rock?” The two passages are contradictory—but both occur in the Bible.  Why do I fasten on one passage and someone else fastens his/her attention on a contradictory one?

What do you see in this picture?  

Saturday, February 27, 2016

My Way or The Highway

Elie Wiesel wrote after the Holocaust, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

We are in a pickle as a nation at the present moment.  Have we been too silent?  Have we been afraid to take sides?  Have we brought this calamity upon ourselves?  I think we have.  The penalty for this silence and neutrality will culminate in that old phrase, “My Way or the Highway.”  I still hear the echo of that slogan used in the Vietnam era, when we as America said to those who differed from the predominant view:  “Love it or leave it!”  Do you remember?  Any time any person or group decides that there is no longer any room for a difference of opinion, the phrase is re-coined in some way or another.  Love it or leave it.  My Way or The Highway!

Sunset on the Mississippi
History repeats itself.  Hitler had a charismatic style that mesmerized a disenchanted Germany just a few years ago.  He blamed outsiders for creating the problems the nation was encountering.      He humiliated them by falsehood and bullying.  He played upon the insecurity and fear of the people.  If all those who were pure Aryans (Germans) were to gain control of the government, Germany would return to greatness.  He incited the crowds who heard him to bash all those opposed to him and to do so with violence.  Anyone who opposed Hitler or disagreed with him “was an idiot, a moron or a loser.” 

Newspapers around the world reported the “new Nationalism” in Germany with a flair, overlooked Hitler’s rhetoric of “My Way or The Highway,” and by their acquiescence encouraged and fueled the “malignant narcissism” of Germany’s new leader.  Churches joined the crusade with enthusiasm.  (Only a few within the Church, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, could see what was happening and he was eventually imprisoned and hung for his dissent).  In the beginning, Hitler blamed the problems of Germany on the Jews.  But then, a bit later, he began to blame other groups of people who differed from his point of view.   Eventually all other political parties were outlawed.  No one was allowed to oppose his way.   My Way or The Highway!  By the way, Hitler’s Highway gave birth to the concentration camps.

You may be saying--if you read this--that Hal has lost his marbles!  He is taking our present dilemma far too seriously.  I do not think so and I pray that this nation "of the people, for the people, and by the people" (all of us) will be alert enough to see that My Way or the Highway just won't cut it for our beloved nation.  We either move forward or fall backward.  Do not be silent.  Do not claim neutrality.  There is far too much at stake for that! 

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Swirling, Churning Mind

This morning my mind swirls and churns.  I think of my firstborn son, born a half-century ago on this day.  He is now in middle life, a time I remember in my own journey with a chilly shiver or two.  My son is now midway between the cradle and the grave.  Naturally, I think of where that puts me on the scale of things.  Does he experience that pensive autumn feeling that I knew at fifty when he looks back upon his journey?  Does he now have to deal with that unwelcome truth that he is no longer going up the hill, but down?  Does he realize that there are more years behind him now than the years yet to be?  I want to shout out to him today on his birthday those famous words of Browning’s, “Paul, ‘the best is yet to be!’  I’ve found it so and I know you will too.”

My mind swirls and churns and then settles for a moment on the thought of my yet unseen (but I will see her soon) great-granddaughter, Addison Elizabeth.  What will her world be like?  Will she wear a breathing apparatus to avoid poisonous air?  Will she be able to drink water free from lead? Will she enjoy the grandeur of Big Bend National Park overlooking the Rio Grande (as I have done), or will her view be blocked by a giant wall?  Will she be free, free to speak her mind and protest against all forms of bigotry and prejudice, free to roam the world, free to get a sound education?  What does the future hold for her, I wonder?  I pray for my great-granddaughter and for all of her generation and with faith say:  “The best is yet to be!”

Still my mind won’t stop the swirling and the churning, bounding from one thing to another without rhyme or reason.  I’m thankful for this mental meandering at three-score ten plus three!  At least I know my mind is still functioning (in spite of what those of you who are reading this may think).  Euripides wrote, “Our own mind is something of God in every one of us.”  If so, ought we not to use it and let it instruct us? 

It is important, I think, for us to sit still and push all activity aside and let our minds swirl and churn and lead us to wherever or whatever it will.  If our mind “is something of God” in us, who knows what may happen when we begin to let that mind swirl and churn?

Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern you’ve been following—so busy that you have no time to think, feeling what you feel without thinking it through.  Let your minds swirl and churn.  Let your minds be remade in this process and your whole nature will thus be transformed.  Then you will be able to discern more clearly and to know what is good and acceptable. (A paraphrase of Romans 12:2).

Thursday, February 25, 2016

People of the Lie

“We begin, I think, when we set out to lie and deceive, by having an increased sense of power.  When I am lying, if I am at all good at the art [and most of us are very good at the art] I am conscious of occupying a superior position.  I know the truth, but to get my own way I impose delusions on others, thus triumphing over them double—by having a monopoly of truth on the matter in question and by altering the world in accordance with my will….” (W. R. Matthews)

Many people are very conscious of their statements of falsehood.  They exhibit a “malignant narcissism,” described by M. Scott Peck in his book, “People of the Lie.”  Others, in order to support their particular way of seeing things, impose their own delusions (formed usually from the lies promulgated by their leaders) on others as truth.  This is commonly expressed these days in the various “conspiracy theories” and in “religious absolutism.”

Just because a statement is made by the networks or in the social media does not make it true.  Facts are facts.  Truth is truth.  However, when I research various political statements via “fact-check” agencies available through the Internet,  I have found that the facts are seen as truth by one group, and false by another.  How can this be if facts are facts and truth is truth?  Pinocchios seem to rule the day.  Delusions abound and the proboscis (nose) of those who express them continues to grow to monstrous lengths.  Sometimes I wonder if any of us have a normal proboscis!  We can alter the world, or so it seems, with our delusions.

"All that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure,
all that is lovable and gracious, whatever is excellent and
adorable--fill all your thoughts with these things."
Dr. Samuel Johnson paid strict attention to truth, even in the most minute particulars.  “Accustom your children, (said he) constantly to this; if a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation from truth will end.”

Do not be deceived.  Do not let it pass.  Check it out.  Deviations abound!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I am a Protestant, a Baptist in the line of Roger Williams, a Methodist in the line of John Wesley, a Christian attempting, however feebly, to follow my Master, and it is my duty to protest against that which my conscience and my faith cannot tolerate.  As a citizen in a democracy, “…of the people, by the people, for the people,” I have a right to protest and to speak my mind and my conscience.  As a human being I protest when the right to protest is denied anyone.    Do you want to punch me in the face? Do you want me to be “carried out” on a stretcher? Can you tolerate me?  Do you see me being “nasty as hell,” because I protest against your political stance?

"This land is my land,
this land is your land.."
meant to be shared.
And who are you, you, who would punch me in the face?  You are protestors too. 
You protest the present status of our government.  I have no objection.  You have the right to protest, just as I have that right.  You protest the present leadership in our country, which, by the way, was elected “by the people” just three years ago and for a second time.  You have every right to state your case and I promise you I will not “punch you in the face,” even if I do not and cannot stand with you.  I honor your right to protest—will you honor my right to protest? You have every right “to push back…” and I claim that same right for myself.  That is how a democracy works.

Our protests and varying opinions can be made and stated freely without violence, malice, or nastiness.  It can happen in a civil way, without degrading one another or punching one another in the face.  It can be done without scapegoating, without projecting hate and bigotry on one another.  It can be done without one group or the other being carried out on stretchers. If we cannot do our protesting in this way, we will undermine the very fabric of our democracy, the very nation, we hold dear.

I protest—and will not tolerate anyone punching you in the face or carrying you out on stretchers because of your stand.  I hope you will grant me the same courtesy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What Is The Religious Spirit?

I am surrounded each morning by many friends.  Most of these friends I have never met, but I feel that I have met them through the books they have written.  Through the years, the writers of the Psalms in the Old Testament have shared my predicaments with me.   It is always good to know that one has company.  They seemed to know, and to feel, way back in their time, the very feelings  I, and all of us, have experienced on the trail of life.  Here are just a few examples:  “…I am weak; my very bones are shaken; my soul quivers in dismay.”  “…How long must I suffer anguish in my soul, grief in my heart, day and night?”  “…My strength drains away like water and all my bones are loose.  My heart has turned to wax and melts within me.”  “…I am lonely and oppressed.  Relieve the sorrows of my heart and bring me out of my distress.”  Have you ever been there with the Psalmists?  

These writers also use violent and unpleasant words, words of vengeance and anger, words of hatred and arrogance against their enemies.  Do we not do the same?  The Psalmists reach into the wellspring of the human heart and give expression to all that they discover there.  They also reach out to the Beyond and express in the language of their day what they experience—“Thou, Lord, dost make my lamp burn bright, and my God will lighten my darkness.”
"They cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he rescued them from their distress."

The writers of the Psalms describe, in their own unique way, the essential character of the religious spirit.  Alfred North Whitehead, another friend of the written word, expresses this religious spirit of the Psalmists far better than I can.

“Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final good, and yet is beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.”

How grateful I am for these friends of mine!

Monday, February 22, 2016


It stirs me deeply when I look back and realize that so many people gave me something or were something to me without knowing it.  Some of these people I never met.  Some I merely heard or read things about.    Still others were very close and known intimately.  So many of them had a decisive influence on me.  They came into my life and became “powers” within me.  Much of who I am and what I’ve attempted to do and to live is rooted in the rich soil and the sway of these “Star Persons.”  

My Grandad never knew....
I’ve come to believe that we all live, spiritually, by what other people have given us in the significant moments of our life.  These significant times are unannounced; they often come quietly and unexpectedly.  Sometimes we do not even perceive them until we look back upon the trail of life.  Many of the qualities that may be credited to us, we owe to people in whom we first saw or experienced those qualities being exercised.

If these “Star Persons” who have meant so much to us could stand before us now, and we could tell them how much they influenced us, I think they would be amazed to learn what they passed over from their life into ours.  

[My high school Latin teacher, Mr. Sim, was stunned when his “smart-aleck” student of years ago wrote of how much his patience influenced my life.  His response at 85 years of age:  “I didn’t know.  You made my day!”]

I realize in these quiet moments of a new day the great number of individuals to whom I am indebted.  In the eyes of the world few of these significant others in my life were eminent (though some were), most of them were inconspicuous, but not so for me.  They were “stars,” each one, for they lighted my candle enabling me to see through the darkness. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Road Not Taken

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”  What if?  We all ask the question from time to time.  With Robert Frost, we pause occasionally to remember the roads that opened before us over the course of the years and wonder what might have been had we trod the ones not taken.  The choice of roads make all the difference.  I am grateful for the roads I chose, but I also know those others I did not choose to take would have made “all the difference” too.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear, 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way 
I doubted if I should ever come back. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.

Two roads lay open to the Christian Church in its infancy:  The way of Rome and the way of Greece.  What if the Christian Church had chosen to take the way of Greece? 

Jesus said, “Seek and ye shall find,” and “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  The Greeks found this easy to understand, but it was very hard for a Roman.  The Romans were organizers, and an organization is not a place where people are encouraged to seek or to be free.

“Like a mighty army moves the Church of God.”  That is a Roman, not a Greek idea.  Greeks could not tolerate unquestioning obedience or for doing and saying and thinking what everyone else does.  Greeks wanted to think for themselves.  Romans distrusted anyone who was different.  They wanted their people to be unthinking people—a people who would do what they were told.

Romans thought human nature tolerable only under strong control.  Humanity was evil.  This was far from the Greek way which saw in every person a spark of the divine.  The Greeks said with Jesus,  “The truth shall make you free,” but neither Jesus nor the Greeks said, “This is the truth.”  Both talked about God, but they did not attempt to define God.  The Romans, on the other hand, made authoritative declarations about the things unseen and demanded that it be received without question.

Ah! it is true, the road we choose makes all the difference.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Menander Speaks to Our Time

Jesus of Nazareth said, “Out of the heart of  man proceed evil thoughts.  These are what defile a man.”  The people of Palestine in the first century A.D. considered Jesus’ saying as new.  Some now say his words were God’s.  The people of Jesus’ time did not know, as most of us do not know, that something very similar was said four hundred years earlier in Athens by Menander.  He said, “All that defiles a man comes from within.”  Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s (sister’s) eye, with never a thought for the great plank in your own?”  Menander wrote four hundred years earlier, “When you would say some evil of your neighbor, first think of all the evil in yourself.”  When Paul, the apostle, wrote, “Evil communications corrupt good manners,” he was, though he probably did not know it, directly quoting Menander.   

Bridges and Walls--Bridges connect, walls separate.
Menander was a comedian of sorts, a playwright, in ancient Greece.  He was able to speak the truth of life (of human nature) in a way only a few have done since.   He was, perhaps, the Athenian Shakespeare.  Unlike Shakespeare, however, Menander has mostly been forgotten and ignored.  To forget and ignore history and the persons who played a part in it is a tragic thing—and when we do it, as we are doing now in our society—we suffer severe consequences.  History, if unknown or unacknowledged, repeats itself!

Athens, the first democracy, was fading away in Menander’s time.  The people had lost the inner flame of free thought, of openness, of the genius that had spawned that democratic experiment.  In Menander’s time, they were a selfish people, concerned only for their own security, affluence and comfort.  The Athenians became small and absorbed in small personal matters.  There was no anger at what was taking place around them, no fire of conviction, no speaking out for truth.  Only that which touched them personally mattered and the wall they built around themselves  eventually destroyed the greatness that once was theirs.

Menander tried, but failed. The fire was gone. No longer could the Athenians grasp, just as we seem to be failing to grasp Menander’s truths:

“If a man can change a god to that which he desires, 
Then he himself is greater than the god.”

“No man is alien to me.  In us all 
There is one nature.” 

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Thrill of a Naturalist's Quest

From the time I was just a little guy I apparently had the heart of a naturalist.  My mother told stories of how as a youngster I would sit quietly for hours and watch ants do their work.  During the early summers of my youth there were turtles, frogs, or some other form of wildlife in the old wash tub on the back porch.  Once I found a cocoon that held my interest.  I put the mysterious cocoon in a Mason jar, punched nail holes in the lid, and placed it in the house in an out of the way place.  A while later, thousands of tiny Praying Mantis, small enough to escape through the holes in the lid,  invaded our home.  In spite of such episodes (and there were many), my parents did not discourage the naturalist tendency within me.  Indeed, my father, our neighbors and friends encouraged it.  My father even brought home a little black snake for me to observe once.  Neighbors brought baby groundhogs, squirrels, birds, and turtles for my summer menageries. 

When I was in the sixth or seventh grade I found a book, “The Thrills of a Naturalist’s Quest,” by Raymond L. Ditmars in the school library.  Written in 1934, the book described the author’s experience as a naturalist.  Reading the book flamed my interest and over the next several years I became an avid herpetologist (dealing with reptiles and amphibians).  I spent several summers as a counselor in the Nature Department at a Boy Scout Camp primarily catching snakes of all kinds.

Other interests took over as I entered high school, but the thrill of the naturalist’s quest never left me completely.  That thrill was re-awakened recently as I walked through the rainforest of Costa Rica where the Fer-De-Lance snake makes its home.  I remembered Ditmars describing his experience with this very aggressive reptile.  I looked for one all along the pathways we trod through the  jungle.  Unfortunately, I did not spy one.  However, we did see the poisonous brown viper.  What a thrill!  The guide became quite uncomfortable as I tried to get in close to the snake for a photo.   He did not know that within me still, there was “The Thrill of a Naturalist’s Quest.”

Thursday, February 18, 2016

More Fortunate Than Aristotle

My thoughts wander this morning to my Teacher, Encourager, and Friend, D. Elton Trueblood.  Our relationship began when he was 70 and I was 27 years of age.  It ended twenty-four years later with his death at the age of 94.  I am more fortunate that Aristotle!  Aristotle had Plato as his teacher for only twenty years!

While I knew about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle before meeting Elton, he made these ancient philosophers and teachers come alive for me.  Elton took me on as his student and as he often said, became my “unofficial” Bishop.  He taught me many things and introduced me to some of the greatest minds and the greatest books the world has ever known.  How grateful I am!

Plato (c. 428-348 B.C) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle.  Plato founded the Academy in Athens, one of the first institutions of higher learning in the Western world.  Centuries before John wrote in his gospel, “The true light that lightens every man that cometh into the world,” Plato was already teaching it.  Plato believed there was in every person a spark of good, of the divine, which could be kindled into a flame.  To make the spark blaze up in the souls of men was the object of Plato’s work, which he called the service of God.  “One must turn the eye,” Plato said, “from the perishing world to what is real and eternal…turn the eye of the soul to the light.”
As Socrates fanned the spark in Plato so Plato did in Aristotle.  The flame in Aristotle, however, gave forth a different light.  Aristotle was a scientist.  Through Plato Aristotle came to believe in God, but Plato never attempted to prove God’s reality.  Aristotle had to do so.  Plato contemplated God.  Aristotle produced arguments to demonstrate God.  Plato never defined God, but Aristotle tried.  Both Plato and Aristotle were ardent seekers of truth, but they sought and found it by different paths.  (Aristotle later became Alexander the Great’s teacher).

I am so grateful to Elton, for through him, I became friends with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Visions and Dreams

The ancient prophet recorded God as saying:  “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov 29:18, KJV).  And later, in the New Testament, God is recorded as saying:  “This will happen in the last days….your young men (and women) shall see visions and your old men (and women) shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17-18).

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

The seeing of visions and the dreaming of dreams sounds so otherworldly, so redundant in our world today.  Yet, we will perish without visionaries and dreamers who have the capacity to see new possibilities, new combinations of what is and what can be, and to see now, in imagination, that which is not yet but which ought to be.

What’s the use of dreaming or envisioning something new and different?  Most of us see what is—the status quo—the way it really is, we say.  But is it?  Is it what really is?  This morning I ask myself, “What is the real future?”  Does what is happening now in the present contain within it the possibility of a new world totally different from the one we now know?  I think so.  But it will take dreamers and visionaries to make it happen.

I believe that the vision I see (“a friendly world of friendly folk beneath a friendly sky”)—so different from what is—is real.  I see that which ought to be but is not yet.  And because it ought to be, I believe, by faith, that it will be.  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Being Human

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died yesterday at the age of 79.  As a public figure, his death immediately became a part of the national news and the social media.   I confess that I was not a fan of Justice Scalia’s opinions and that upon hearing the news of his passing I initially  was not as compassionate as I should have been.  I deeply regret that this morning.  I allowed myself to focus on his court decisions and opinions (and my own opinions) rather than upon the fact that Justice Scalia was and is my brother, a fellow human being.  

John Donne wrote in his 1624 “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions:
The tree of Life has many branches...

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away be the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Every man, every woman, every child is my brother, my sister, my kin.  Why?  Because there is that of God in each one.  Each man, woman and child’s death diminishes me.  My initial reaction to Justice Scalia’s death was a monstrous thing and says something about how crude, unloving, and crass I/we have become in our politics.  I cannot point my finger of judgment or condemnation at the speck of sawdust in my brother’s or sister’s  eye, for I have a plank protruding from my own.

I am reminded and chastised by the words of Nicolas Berdyaev in The Destiny of Man, “We do not know the innermost depths of the human heart; it is revealed only to love.  But those who condemn have generally little love, and therefore the mystery of the heart which they judge is closed to them….”

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bound Together

Persons, groups, races, societies and nations are not separate entities, like grains of sand in a bag.  Rather they are, as Paul says, “members, one of another.”  To ignore this fact, especially in today’s global community can only spell disaster.  Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote, “The ganglia of a nervous system are hardly more intimately related and more interdependent than are the people in this world of ours.  As Professor Everett once put it, We ask the leaf, ‘Are you complete in yourself?’ And the leaf replies, ‘No, my life is in the branch.’  And so we ask the branch, ‘Are you complete in yourself?” And the branch replies, “No, my life is in the trunk.’  And we ask the trunk, and the trunk says, ‘No, my life is in the roots.’  And we ask the roots, and the roots say, ‘No, my life is in the trunk and the branches and the leaves.  Keep the branches stripped of leaves and I shall die’.”

We (persons, groups, races, societies and nations) are so bound together in this closely reticulated system of interdependence that what we think, or what we fail to think, profoundly affects other people.  The work that we do or the work that we fail to do profoundly affects other people.  The words that we speak, or the words we fail to speak, affects other people, nations, etc. 

When we use the word “alien” (even with “illegal” placed before it)  it is evident that we have not connected the dots on the page of life or accepted the reality of life on this planet.  The same is true with the label “refugee.” When we fear and treat other people as though they are somehow less than we are, we have (from my perspective) lost our marbles.  Whenever we relegate other nations as somehow less than we are as a nation, we are losing our sanity.  When we talk of building walls to separate one people from another, we have missed the boat.  We are bound together—we are rooted in the same earth—we are “members, one of another.”  Whether we like it or not isn’t the issue.  The issue is that we go against the grain of what is, and what must be, if we are to survive the twenty-first century.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Costa Rica Adventure

Our adventure in Costa Rica came to a close yesterday and it ended on a positive note.  All our homeward bound flights had pilots, all our flights were on schedule, all our luggage arrived with us in Philadelphia, and although the return trip made for a very long day (5  a.m. to 2:30 a.m.) we made it home all safe and sound without complete exhaustion!  It was a great experience—“Pune Vide.”  That is a favorite Costa Rican phrase meaning “really, really good,” or  similar to Lawrence Welk’s saying (for those of you who remember),  “a’wonderful, a’wonderful.”

Our trip was arranged by Rose, our travel agent. She just started this work a year or so ago and I think she is doing a wonderful job.  If you are planning any travel adventure, go with “Travel Services by Rose”.

Our granddaughter, Katie, and her friend, Liam, arrived from the U.K. and looked after our home while we were away.  Liam had a new experience—shoveling snow.  We left the USA at just the right time (right after the blizzard) and they arrived in the USA at just the right time (to shovel the snow the blizzard left behind)!

Some of you are wondering if I really told the truth about that Zip-Lining experience in Costa Rica.  I am providing visual evidence to support my claim in this post.  We zipped across the rainforest canopy via seven different zip lines and lived!

When picked up at the hotel by our driver yesterday morning, he asked if we would mind if his wife and six-year old son, Santiago, went with us to San Jose.  We said we didn’t mind at all.  It was so enjoyable to be with this young Costa Rican family.  We learned much about Costa Rican life during that four-hour drive to San Jose.

Thank you for taking time to read the posts from our Costa Rican journey.  It was a great adventure!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Day Ten in Costa Rica

Day Ten in Costa Rica is our last full day in this wonderful country with its gentle and beautiful people and its awesome birds and other incredible critters.  Tomorrow we will be on the road and in the air most of the day on our way home.  Home?  An interesting word with a fascinating meaning for monkeys of every type.  "Home is where the heart is" or is it where one has built one's nest?  Where is home?  What is home?

We spent this morning on the beach watching the blue waters of the Pacific flow with peaceful surf into a little cove. A soft, cool breeze came off the water and some trees provided comfortable shade from the intense sunlight.  It was all very pleasurable.  I have seldom done that kind of thing before!  As I watched the Capuchin Monkeys  in the treetops and everywhere around us seeking treats from tourists (who by feeding them are often killing them) I tried to imagine what it must be like to see from their perspective.

This dry tropical forest has been their home for centuries, long before the strange two-legged creature invaded it.  They managed for all that time to survive very well without handouts (bananas, Fritos, Chips, and other junk)  from the hands of the strangers in their midst.  As I observed their inquisitive faces looking and wondering at the human horde gathered in their backyard, I imagined them this evening sitting around their dinner table high in the trees and conversing about the scene.  I can hear them now:  "What kind of monkeys are these?  They lay about all day and do nothing.  They strip off their skin coverings and sit in the hot sun until burned to a crisp!   Yet, they have all this food in backpacks that they just throw away in our direction.  All day long we watch their antics and it is great comedy.  These kinds of monkeys are not like us at all.  They all look different--different skin tones, different shapes, different languages, different head coverings (some have no head covering at all).  What strange monkeys these are?  They eat and drink all day long--and other monkeys in special skin coverings bring it to them.  They don't even get up off their backsides.  They don't have sense to climb a tree and stretch out like we do.   Instead they lay on hard benches without any leaves to protect them from the weather.  Why have them come to our yard?  Why do they spend a lot of time sauntering about and gawking at us as if we are some kind of freaks?  They are all confused.  Never have we seen a freak show like the one that is now going on in our backyard everyday.  Incredible"!   Thus spoke the monkeys....on the last Day and the Tenth Day in Costa Rica.

Day Nine in Costa Rica

Day Nine in Costa Rica included a long excursion to the Palo Verde National Park.  We left our hotel at 8 a.m.  We traveled the Pan American highway, passed through the city of Liberia and the town of Filladelfia (yes, Philadelphia is in Costa Rica).  We passed acres and acres of sugar cane and melon fields, and other farmland.  After several hours we arrived at the Park.  We boarded a small canopied motor boat (four of us, plus guide and driver) and spent several hours cruising the Tempisque River.  The day was hot, really hot, but the boat canopy and the light breeze on the river helped us survive.

It is estimated that over a quarter of a million wading birds and wildfowl, many from North America, spend the winter months at Palo Verde, as well as many resident species of some of Costa Rica's larger and more exotic birds.

Over 150 types of trees have been recorded in this amazing park, including the Palo Verde  meaning “Green Tree”, because it's leaves, branches and part of the trunk are light green in color.

Some of the most common mammals in the Park are the Howler, Capuchin, and sometimes Spider Monkeys, Porcupines, Coaties, White-tailed Deer, Collared Peccaries, Coyotes, Variegated Squirrels, and Pumas.  There are also along the banks of the Rio Tempisque, crocodiles, frogs, iguanas, and snakes such as the Boa Constrictor, Tropical rattlesnake and the Central American Coral Snake.  We were able to see on our adventure:  Howler, Capuchin and Spider monkeys, squirrels, crocodiles, many species of birds, a coyote, a coati, and a deer.  Our Guide was quite pleased with himself for being able to show us such a wide range of wildlife along the river.  All in all, an enjoyable, but full day--this Ninth Day in Costa Rica.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Day 8 in Costa Rica

Day 8 in Costa Rica began with a long 4 hour drive from Fortuna northwest to El Jobo (Salinas Bay) where we will spend the last several days of our Costa Rican vacation at the Dreams Las Mareas.  Would you believe there is a hot tub on the patio?  Dreams is a large resort along the Pacific coast and we have a great view of the ocean from our room.

This Guanacaste section of the country is quite different from the rainforest area. It is hot and dry. The grass along the roadways and on the hillsides is brown, reminding me of the brown hills in California. I think the temperature today must be 90° or more.  The climate and culture of this province are unique among the other provinces of the country. The area experiences little rain and has consistent heat from November to April, creating tropical dry forests and making irrigation of the land necessary.  Quite different from the rainforests around Arenal.

We spent the remainder of the day settling into our new lodging environment and thinking of our grandson, Matt, his wife, Emily, and their new daughter, Addison Elizabeth.  It is amazing how we have been able to see photos of Addison almost immediately via technology.

Matthew was only 23 years old the day his daughter was born!  "So young," I think to myself and then I realize that I, myself,  was only 23 years old when my eldest son was born!  Life is a fascinating journey and I'm grateful for my three score and ten plus almost 3 years! What will tomorrow bring?  I'll hang around to see....

Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 7 in Costa Rica

Day 7 brought more rain showers through the night and early morning hours here in Costa Rica.  What a pleasant sound raindrops make on a tiled roof and in the dense jungle foliage.  Today is our grandson Matthew's birthday.  Through the years, Matthew and I often celebrated our birthdays together, and how nice it was for me to focus on Matt's growing up rather than upon my own accumulation of years.  Matthew and Emily are very excited.  They await the birth of Addison, their first child, and our first great granddaughter.  We are a wee bit excited too!

After an early breakfast we were off for our final excursion in the Arenal region--and the most adventurous one of all--Zip-Lining!  We were transported from our hotel by a mini-bus to the Sky Adventure Center where we were harnessed up and given instructions.  We were with a group of 10 others and there was little doubt that we were the oldest in the group!  We boarded an open-air gondola (Sky tram) and were taken up 4100 feet through the rainforest and then given a few practice exercises. There were seven Zip Lines altogether.  The longest cable was 2393 feet, the highest cable was 656 feet.  The average speed on the Zip Lines is about 45 mph and the average wind speed is about 10 mph. Oh, what a hilarious sight we must have been soaring across the forest canopy, but we handled it well and enjoyed it immensely.

The afternoon of Day 7 was spent relaxing in Shangri-la (a special section of the Tabacon Hot Springs Spa Resort reserved for adult hotel guests.  I am now an avid fan of hot tubs, thermal pools, and hot springs and recommend them to all.  Of course, I must be honest and tell you that my experience in this area has been quite minimal.  I think I've only been in a hot tub, jacuzzi, thermal pool, or hot springs two or three times in my entire life!  But I sure want a hot tub for the back deck!!!!

But the REALLY BIG EVENT OF DAY 7 (far more exciting than zip-lining) was the birth of our first Great Granddaughter, Addison Elizabeth.  She was born on her father's birthday at 8 pm.  Congratulations Matt and Emily!  Addison weighed in at 8 lbs, 4 ozs.