Sunday, March 26, 2017

Broken Hearts and Wounded Spirits

There is a lot of sadness and heartbreak in our personal lives and in our world.  A friend dies of cancer; a marriage breaks up; another friend becomes victim to Lou Gehrig’s disease; a mother struggles with her teenage son hooked on drugs; a husband and father of three can’t overcome his addiction to alcohol; a father or mother dies.  These are the personal, close-to-home tragedies of life not just in the lives of our friends, but in our own lives, that wound us deeply and bring us sadness and pain.  Most of us live with a broken heart.

I know I am not alone in what I experience.  All of us have our own sadness, all of us know the broken heart, and if you haven’t experienced it yet, you will!  There are two types of people in this world:  those who have experienced pain, hurt, sadness and loss, and those who will experience these things.  We just cannot escape these happenings that jolt us out of our familiar life patterns and force us into becoming members of the fellowship of the wounded.  Loss, sadness, grief, disappointment, personal mistakes and failures, all of these are universal experiences.

How does our faith fit in?  The Christian faith teaches that we have one another for support in difficult times (we are called to love one another) and that there is One who can bring light out of darkness and enable us to live with a broken heart  and wounded spirit.  This One is the God the Apostle Paul called, “The God of comfort.”  God does not protect us from the wounds of life, but in such times our faith says that God is with us in it (whatever it is).  Faith in God does not make life easy, rather it makes us great enough for life.  Faith does not give us an escape from life’s suffering and heartbreaks, but rather the strength for meeting it and living with it when it comes.  

The Passion of Christ makes plain two facts:  first, in this world even the innocent are not exempt from suffering, and secondly, there is a God of comfort who can help us rise above our sadness, our grief, and our wounds.  Broken hearts and wounded spirits are not so much healed as they are resurrected into a new understanding of life.
Monterey, California

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Sermon Excerpt: 2006

The following was written  on  October 5,  2006, three days after the school shooting at an Amish School in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, very close to our neighborhood. 

“I find it increasingly difficult to identify with the Christian faith as it is being expressed in our American culture today.  I am embarrassed by what many so-called Christian leaders say, think, and do.  I cringe at their moral absolutism, their self-righteousness and their judgments.  I think we are living in a time that is very confused about Christianity.  We live in a time when the Bible, the teachings of Jesus, and the nature of God have been distorted to the point where the gospel has little chance of squeaking through.  Granted, I thought things were distorted forty years ago—but now that distortion has become so great that it is nearly intolerable for me.”

I am called a fool when I say that torture in any form, exercised upon any human being by any person, society, or government, is contradictory to the teachings of Jesus.  I am seen as unpatriotic when I say that vengeance, whether it is by war or by the building of legal and concrete walls to keep unwanted people out, is a violation of the Christian faith.  To refuse to talk to those whom we judge to be wrong, or who differ from us, whether persons or nations, and thereby isolate them and make them feel inferior is contrary to the teachings of Christianity.  The Amish elder, who, after the tragedy at the schoolhouse, said, ‘We must forgive, forget, and move on’ baffled the media and the nation with that notion.  The majority of Americans, including so-called Christian spokespersons, had already judged, bashed, and consigned the shooter to Hell.  And while we were glued to the tragedy in Lancaster County, we totally ignored the reality that the same thing (the loss of little, innocent human lives) happens in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Sudan, and other places around the world every day and we don’t seem to notice that or to care.”

These words were written and spoken over a decade ago.  

I don't know where I found this--but it speaks...

Friday, March 24, 2017

It’s a Package Deal

“A man may, indeed, be able to figure out what is good, or bad, for him or for his family,”  writes William Stringfellow. “But that which is good for him, is bad for some one else, and, in principle, for everyone else in the world.”  Why? Because we are motivated in every sphere of life by our own self-interest, and as nations, by our national interest.  The religion many of us know is a religion that promises a personal reward—that is, something that is in our self-interest.  The prayers that we utter in our crises moments are prayers (most often) motivated by our own self-interest.  We have even gone so far as to make “salvation” a wholly personal thing:  “Christ died for me!”  

This is totally contrary to what we see in the ministry of Christ.  His was a ministry of “great extravagance—of a reckless, scandalous expenditure of His life for the sake of the world’s life.”  There is no self-interest!  Christ gives away His life.  “The world finds new life in His life and in His gift of His life to the world.”  The ministry of Christians in the world is the same as the ministry of Christ:  to be servants in the world and for the world—servants of the world in the name of God.

Jesus never comes to us alone.  He can’t!  He tells us so.  “I have other sheep…”  Jesus has a family!  And when Jesus comes to us, he always brings his family with him.  When Jesus comes to us personally, he immediately says, “Now, let me introduce you to my family.”

We might say, and we often do say, “No, Jesus, I just want you.  What I’ve heard about you sounds good but what I’ve heard about your family is not so good.  I really just want to be with you and forget the rest of those people (for God so loved the world—everybody) who are with you.”

And Jesus will say, “Sorry, we all come together.  It is a package deal.  There is no way I can come to you alone.”

What's good for me may not be good for everybody!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

“For God So Loved the World…”

The Christian faith, by its very nature, can never be an individual thing!  The very idea contradicts the essence of both the Old and New Testaments.  “For God so loved the world” (not just me or you).   God still answers the question of the Old Testament, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” with a resounding “Yes,” and the question of the New Testament, “Who is my neighbor?” with “Everyone!”  It may be possible to practice some religions alone, but this is not possible for one who claims to be a Christian.  “For God so loved the world,” not just my puny soul.  The world God loves includes every person, believer and unbeliever, committed and uncommitted, church member and non-church member.

The characteristic number of the Christian faith is plural rather than singular.  The Lord’s Prayer begins, not my Father, but our Father.  In this same prayer there appears the pronoun us four times.  “Give us this day,” “Forgive us our trespasses,” lead us not into temptation,” Deliver us from evil.”  This emphasis on the plural is often forgotten or ignored.  Whenever or wherever this plural emphasis is forgotten or ignored, then the assertion that one is a “Christian” is a false claim.

God loves the world and calls us to do the same:  “Love one another.”  There can be no unilateral, private, insulated, or eccentric Christian life. William Stringfellow put it this way, “There is, in the biblical witness, no way to act humanly (the biblical ethic) in isolation from the whole of humanity, no possibility for a person to act humanly without becoming implicated with all other human beings.”

Whenever, however, wherever walls are erected between peoples of different cultures, races, parties, religions, classes, and nations, those walls are actually suppressing the biblical message.  The message of the Bible is “essentially political,” having to do with the fulfillment of humanity in society—all of us, not just some of us.  The current emphasis on "America First" is a suppression of the Christian gospel.
A New Dawn in Westover, MA--2016

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

“You Haven’t Changed a Bit”

The snow is receding.  The sun is shining.  The sky is blue. The temperature is rising.  The grass is growing and showing hints of green.  Spring has sprung.  Soon there will be “picking up winter debris, weed-pulling, edging, mowing, and trimming chores” to be done.  Meanwhile, here I sit in my comfortable study, pondering what was, what is, and what is yet to come.  This “ruminating,” as a friend calls it, is one of the great privileges (or burdens) of being liberated (retired).

There is a tendency to “look back” in these early morning hours, to sort through the “filing cabinets of memories.”  To know my own history and to examine it with care is just as important as knowing “history” in the political, social and economic spheres.  “The unexamined life,” as Socrates wrote centuries ago, “is not worth living.”  

“Life is tedious,” (synonyms: boring, dull, monotonous, repetitive, unrelieved and unvaried) someone once told me and indeed it would be, if all one did was to look back and live in memories.  Life moves on and there is no standing still.  The past is important only when it is used as an instructive guide for the present moment, both in our personal life and our national life.  

“You haven’t changed or aged a bit,” we often say to those we haven’t seen in a while. In some ways this statement is true—for there is something “enduring” in our personalities.  It was there the moment we were born and all our growth, experiences, and development, in education or social standing, do not change it.  (Attending a high school reunion after 50 years will convince you).  Yes, I’ve changed and I’ve grown, but the basic “me” is still there.  While my thinking has changed, the foundation for what I think now can be found “back there” in the person I have been.  When people tell you that you haven’t aged a bit—they are telling a fib (and they know it) but when they say ,“You haven’t changed a bit” there is a sliver of truth!  

Nope!  Haven't changed a bit!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Budding Herpetologist

Yesterday I mentioned how I once, as a young boy, searched out “signs of new life” in the early days of spring by turning over rocks to find garter snakes, salamanders, and other such things.  It was for me the “Thrills of a Naturalist’s Quest,” (Raymond L. Ditmar book, 1934) that prompted this love of wildlife.  From early childhood I was fascinated, according to my mother’s reports, in living things of all kinds.  She often told me how at a very young age I would sit with awe and watch the ants move about on the doorstep of our home.  This fascination grew in those early years and every summer there were frogs, toads, turtles, squirrels, chipmunks, baby woodchucks and rabbits and other such varmints brought home for observation.  Neighbors and friends would often bring some of these specimens to me.  Once my father even brought home a baby black snake for me to observe. I will always be grateful to my parents for allowing the naturalist in me to live.

As the years went by, influenced by Raymond L. Ditmars' book and others, my interest became focused on reptiles, namely snakes.  For several summers I erected a “snake pit” in the backyard and filled it with various types of snakes—water snakes, garter snakes, black snakes, ribbon snakes, rat snakes, hognose snakes, etc.  Some of the snakes looked rather threatening, particularly the large water snakes, leading one neighbor to suggest that I was collecting poisonous water moccasins.  (Water moccasins did not make their home in our area).  At some point, someone called the chief of police about my collection.  He came to check things out.  I will always remember my Dad telling him that I “knew my snakes” and there were no poisonous snakes among those in my collection.  “Thanks, Dad, for backing me up way back then!”

Later, I worked a couple of summers in the Nature Department at a Boy Scout Camp.  My  assignment was to catch snakes for exhibit and to educate scouts on the various types, etc.  This was “right down my alley” and probably the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had.  At the camp I captured my first poisonous snakes—Copperheads—along with many non-poisonous types.  It was at the camp that I met Tim Brown, a herpetologist at the Bronx Zoo in New York City.  Tim helped me develop the proper habitat for “hatching” several black snake eggs and invited me to the famous Reptile House of the New York Zoological Park.  He was an encourager!  

Then suddenly, just as with Jackie Paper and Puff, the Magic Dragon,  the “Thrills of the Naturalist’s Quest” ceased to dominate, though strains of it still linger to this day.   There was another work to do.

Thrills of a Naturalist's Quest in Costa Rica, 2016

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Fever

Spring has come, as it has always come, with the occurrence of the astronomical “Vernal equinox,” when the sun’s most direct rays cross over from the southern hemisphere into the northern hemisphere.  It happened at 6:29 a.m. (eastern standard time) this morning.  

Spring to me used to mean doing things.  I remember those springs of long ago, when as a boy I could not wait for the school day to end so that I could get on to more important things.  I was eager to slush through the left-over snow of winter to the brook behind our house and turn over rocks to see what new life might appear underneath.  Usually a garter snake could be found or a salamander beneath those stones. They were “early birds,”  braving the still brisk wintry air, to come out of winter hibernation.  I remember being eager to see if the brook had been stocked with trout for the fishing season that began in late March.  I would go to the “spring house,” sit on the old log there, and check out the watercress which I would later collect and share with family and neighbors.  I always looked for frog eggs, too, a sure sign that spring had arrived. I hiked along the stream searching for signs of new life and it seemed to be happening everywhere, in the yellowish-green leaves of the willow trees and the little tufts of green grass poking up through the slush and snow.   It was a springtime ritual of those days long ago to look for new signs of life.

I can still feel the joy I knew then in those springtime adventures.  I can still hear the peepers that announced “spring” in the evenings, and still see the sun that proclaimed it each morning—just as it did this morning.  Spring to me used to be doing these things, but I doubt that I’ll be turning over any rocks today, or checking to see if the streams have been stocked with trout.  I’ll not be out looking for watercress, garter snakes or salamanders.  Now, in this stage of life, spring has become not a “doing,” but more like the fulfillment of a divine promise, a kind of just “being” cognizant of the fact that hidden beneath the snow, the rocks, and everything else in life (problems, disappointments, disease and illness, yes, and even old age) there lies hope and resurrection possibilities.  As Mark Twain so aptly puts it, “It’s spring fever…when you’ve got it, you want, oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so.”

Fair Haven (Home) on the First Day of Spring 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Life Lessons From George, by George!

This morning, rummaging through “Filing Cabinets of Memories,” I come up with, and open the folder,  marked “George.”  George Prettyman, that is.  Mitch Albom’s book, Tuesdays with Morrie, tells of the relationship between an old man, a younger man, and how, together, they wrestled with the various aspects of life.  George was my “Morrie.”  It wasn’t just on Tuesdays for us, however, for we shared almost every day through e-mail over a period of many years, and in weekly visits prior to George leaving his home and going to an assisted living facility.  Even then, we continued to write one another nearly every day and I visited him every two weeks or so.  Our relationship began in 1968 and ended with George’s death at age 94 in 2007.  

I have just re-read some excerpts from his messages to me in his later years.  I thought you might enjoy reading them as well.  I’m still learning from George, “by George!”

“Yes, time is precious.  I have been blessed by being given some extra time.  [George was 92 years old at the time].  I hope I have used and am using it wisely and what little I do has some worthwhile effect on the people around me.”

“Sometimes I feel as though I am living behind closed doors. [George was 93 and living in the assisted-living facility].  I feel as though I have expelled the Spirit by my tendency to be impatient and grouchy—like the waiters [in the dining room].  I have so many times thanked them for their service, yet when they fall short of my expectation, I flare up and sound like a firecracker.  Then I feel so bad inside.  I have bruised someone.”

“Please help me to keep from being negative.  I don’t appreciate a whiner and I don’t want to become one.”

“I came close to being knocked down by an electric-driven wheel chair today.  Art [a fellow resident] had no idea I was behind him as he backed away from the table.  He still doesn’t know how close I came to falling.  I don’t want to worry him.  Betty [another resident in an electric-driven wheel chair at the home] has bumped my chair at the table several times but not enough to hurt the table or me.  You see, they have no rear-view mirror and they just don’t think.  I try to stay alert to that possible avenue for a tumble, which I don’t need.”

“I have been thinking about buying some shorts to wear this summer but when I look at my underpinning, I have decided people do not need to see my knobby knees nor my skinny-one-day and fat-the-next legs depending upon how much fluid my body has retained.  Vanity.  Anyway, I like neatly creased long trousers!  Isn’t life comical?”

You, too, can learn from George, by George!
George B. Prettyman 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

“And Still I Rise”

Five million women gathered around the world on January 21, 2017—the day after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States—from Washington, DC to Singapore, Athens, Sidney, Helsinki, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and hundreds of other cities.  They gathered in solidarity to “march, speak and make our voices heard.”  Regardless of what you think about the marches, the speeches, or the myriad voices raised on that day, no matter your political persuasion or social values, these gatherings were significant.  Women will no longer be relegated to second-class citizenry.

The women who “march, speak and make our voices heard” are not radical revolutionaries.  Their demands for equality are not outlandish.  They want to be treated as human beings!

History records other such marches by women.  The day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration (March 3, 1913) a women’s Suffrage Parade of 5,000 to 8,000 suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, demanding the right to vote.  They got it!

On this day, March 18, 1863, one hundred fifty-four years ago, fifty women, wives and mothers of Confederate soldiers, marched (some called it a “riot”) on the streets of Salisbury, North Carolina.  The local merchants were profiteering from the war by raising prices on food.  The women demanded that the merchants sell at government prices.  The merchants refused.  The women broke down one shop door and threatened others.  A local newspaper described the mayhem as the “Female Raid.”  The women netted “twenty-three barrels of flour as well as molasses, salt, and even twenty dollars in cash.”  The Salisbury “Bread Riot,” and the “food riot” in Richmond, Virginia that same year, illustrate the power of women to bring about change.  The local newspaper reporting the incident in Salisbury, criticized not the women, but the county commissioners who failed to provide adequate aid for soldiers’ families and who should “go, all blushing with shame for the scene enacted in our streets on Wednesday last.”  “And Still I Rise,” writes Maya Angelou, giving us notice that women will continue to “march, speak and make our voices heard.”  

(Photo from Reuters)

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick’s Day & Evacuation Day

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which began as a religious feast day remembering Ireland’s patron saint in the 17th century, and has since evolved into a variety of festivals all around the world celebrating Irish culture.  St. Patrick Day celebrations began here in the United States in the late 18th century.  I can remember as a child trying to find something “green” to wear to school and cutting out shamrocks from green construction paper in the classroom.  It is a wonderful celebration because it affirms America as a land of immigrants, a place where cultures blend together into what I call the American Dream.  Every year since 1991, the month of March has been proclaimed Irish-American Heritage Month by the US Congress or the President.  Now why can’t we do the same for Iranian-Americans, Afghan-Americans, Indian-Americans, Greek-Americans (and so many others)? 

St. Patrick’s Day is not a designated national holiday, but it is a Massachusetts State holiday, because St. Patrick’s Day and “Evacuation Day” happen to occur on the same date.  Evacuation Day remembers not St. Patrick, but the first major American military victory in the Revolutionary War.  British troops evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776, and never returned.  It was a great psychological victory for the colonists and since 1901 has been recognized as a Massachusetts holiday.  

Isn’t it strange to you that as a nation we are celebrating our Irish-American culture and at the same time attempting to “evacuate” other cultures and religious persuasions?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Our Only Time Is Now

The blustery winds of yesterday, from North Carolina to Maryland, blew us back home to snow and frigid weather.  But our home was warm and our driveway plowed, thanks to our friends.

Today is the 75th day of 2017 and I think of Isaac Watt’s lyrics in the hymn, O God, Our Help in Ages Past: “A thousand ages, in thy sight, are like an evening gone,” and “Time, like an ever rolling stream…”  Time waits for nothing and is continually “ticking” away.  Time is like a stream, always flowing, always moving forward.   “Back to the Future” makes for a fascinating movie, but it is an impossibility.  Time will not allow it.  You cannot go back to another time, whether it is to  “Make America Great Again” or to remove some mistake or misfortune of the past.  The past is past, the future is unknown, the only time we have now is the present—this moment in time.  We can better deal with this present time if we know something about past time (history).

Just two years ago we were with our granddaughter Katie in Wales and visited a number of towns and cities in the UK, including the beautiful city of York.  It was there that I encountered a piece of history that had apparently been left out of the history books I had read.  In 2006 the Jewish Community celebrated the 350th anniversary of its re-admission to England in 1656.  I never knew Jews had been expelled from England!  On March 16, 1190, the Jews of York gathered at Clifford’s Tower in fear (after being falsely blamed for having set fire to the city).  Here, at Clifford’s Tower, they were massacred.  I never knew that!  Did you?  The stains of yesterday (and they are many) should remind us that in “our time” we must be exceedingly careful not to repeat the sins of the past.  Did you know that on this date in 1995 the Mississippi House of Representatives formally abolished slavery and ratified the 13th Amendment?  The stained laundry of the past cannot be cleaned up—but we must not let it soil today!  We can do better and we must!

Clifford's Tower, York 2015

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Going Home

In spite of Winter Storm Stella’s aftermath in the mid-Atlantic, whatever that may be, we will head for home tomorrow—a 440 mile trek up I-95.  We anticipate strong and blustery winds, perhaps even a few left-over snowflakes, and even some icy conditions in spots.  We will drive carefully and hope that others on the road with us will do the same.  The time has come.  Maya Angelou wrote, “The ache of home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”  In this sense I’ve been “home” all along.  But I read or heard somewhere that you really can’t travel without having a home some place, some where.  If there is no home to leave and return to, then traveling in and of itself is simply wandering, a state of being lost.  It is only when one returns home and settles in that one can reflect on the growth and experiences that occurred away from home.  Madeleine L’Engle says it in another way, “Maybe that’s the best part of going away for a vacation—coming home again.”

I do know that it is almost impossible to gather up the experiences of this present journey (or any other) while still on the journey.  Day follows day on the road or off the road, mile follows mile on the Interstate or the country road, wonder after wonder is seen here, there, and everywhere.  How can anyone hold it together or bring it together while doing it?  It cannot be assimilated, it cannot be gathered up and pondered while on the road.  I think this is true of our human journey as well.  We have to find “home” within ourselves every once in a while  in order to really reflect on what has and is happening in our own lives.

One of the prime reasons for writing this daily blog while traveling is to help us reflect upon the journey when we are able, once again “to be at home.”  We are going home tomorrow and I hope those of you who have traveled with us (by following the blog travelogue) have enjoyed the journey as much as we have enjoyed it!

I will reflect and ponder the journey on the deck--at home!

Stubborn “Stella”

We traveled from Dublin, Georgia to Lumberton, North Carolina yesterday.  We are inching our way home as we wait for this late winter storm that the Weather Channel has dubbed “Stella” to do her work.  My maternal grandmother’s name was Stella and from all accounts she could be quite stubborn at times—so this winter storm is aptly named.  We first heard that the storm Stella would arrive in Maryland last Saturday, so we hunkered down in Georgia for the weekend.  Then we heard that Stella would commence on Monday night, dumping anywhere from 8 to 12 inches of snow, so we drove here to Lumberton to wait it out another night.  This morning, according to my limited sources, Stella has just now started in the Washington DC area and will continue into tomorrow, producing wind gusts as high as 40 mph.  I think we’ll stay in Lumberton again tonight!


* LOCATIONS...The Interstate 95 Corridor in northeastern Maryland, northern Delaware, southeastern Pennsylvania and southwestern New Jersey.

* HAZARD TYPES...Heavy snow...sleet...freezing rain and strong winds.

* ACCUMULATIONS...Snow and sleet accumulations of 5 to 10 inches.

* ICE ACCUMULATION...A light glaze of ice is possible.

* TIMING...Snow will continue this morning and into the early afternoon and it will be heavy at times. The snow will mix with sleet and freezing rain. The precipitation should come to an end during the afternoon.

* IMPACTS...The heavy snow will make many roads impassable and may produce widespread power outages due to the weight of the snow on tree limbs and power lines. Strong winds will lead to blowing snow, reduced visibility and additional power outages.

* WINDS...Northeast 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. TEMPERATURES...Mainly around 30 degrees.”

Yes, I think we’ll stay put for a little while longer until Stella does her thing!  Next week it will be Spring!

Stubborn "Stella" and my Grandad

Monday, March 13, 2017

Homeward Bound

It snowed yesterday in Tennessee.  It rained in Georgia—a cold, cold rain! I’m sure the catfish in the pond missed their lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, but I had no desire to get wet!  The Great Blue Heron, however, was not daunted by the rain and was out early at the pond looking for his breakfast. The RV is winterized now, and we will get on the road again this morning pointing north and homeward, hopefully with only a one night stay (could be two, I suppose) somewhere in North Carolina.  The weather issues in the mid-Atlantic only add to our February-March adventure on the road!  It snowed the day we left home over a month ago.  We’ve traveled some 7500 miles of America’s highways and byways through thunderstorms, tornado warnings, sleet, hail, wind, heat, cold, snow in Arizona, and rain in California.  We’ve donned “shorts” in some places—and needed “long johns” (which we didn’t have) in others. This is to be expected at this time of the year.

Yesterday, “time” sprang forward as we added an extra hour of daylight on our watches and clocks.  Cell phones do that for us automatically now and so does life. Time sprang forward for me in February when another year was added to my life’s journey.  “Time,” wrote William Penn, “is what we want most, but what we use worst.”  And Dr. Seuss adds his own quip about time when he writes, “How did it get so late so soon?”  

Salad is on the table--now for the pasta!
“I sit beside the fire and think (J.R.R. Toikien wrote for me)
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall never see.

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green…”

Dubln, GA--Honeysuckle Farm RV Park

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fishing—A Sense of Wonder

We decided yesterday morning, due to weather developments in the mid-Atlantic, to stay put in Dublin, Georgia for another day or so.  It appears that temperatures at home will be below freezing whenever we get there this week, so this evening I’ll re-winterize Odysseus (add antifreeze to the plumbing system) to prevent any complications.  (Yes, of course, I brought antifreeze along.  Three years ago we encountered 16° in Mississippi and I couldn’t find any RV antifreeze anywhere in the southland!)

I’m beginning to wonder if they even have earthworms here in the South, for after turning over rocks, logs and pulling up bogs, I could not find a single worm to use as bait for those catfish awaiting my hook at the pond.  I was not to be defeated, however, and came up with the clever idea of using bread and peanut butter as bait.  I caught three catfish—and fed a hundred.  The bread would not stay on the hook very well—sometimes it would fall off the hook as I cast the line, at other times the bread would become soft and just fall off the hook as I reeled the line in.  But three catfish are better than none—and why not feed all the fish at the same time?  It was great fun.

Fishing is much more than catching fish for me (though catching a fish every once in a while helps).  It is an experience of wonder.  To watch the painted turtle swim from bank to bank, to see the dragonflies dart above the surface of the water on their gossamer wings, to see the water ripple as a fish swims out from under the algae along the shoreline, all this fills me with a sense of wonder—it always has—and I suppose it always will.  

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand (writes William Blake)
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Michael’s Heart Music

It was 77° here in Dublin, GA yesterday with bright sunshine.  The Great Blue Heron visited the pond in the early morning hours and I enjoyed watching him (her?) strut around the edges of the pond like a monarch.  Later I tried my luck at fishing in the pond, first using artificial bait and then lures in the afternoon.  Not a nibble, not a bite, not a strike! If we stay here today (an unknown at the moment) I will try to find some “real” worms!  

While fishing at the pond in the afternoon, Michael and his dog, Baxter, visited with me.  Michael (68 years old) seemed to have a need to talk and told me (unsolicited) his life story.  What a journey!  I’m sure it was a bit exaggerated at points, but Michael told me about his two tours in Viet Nam, his four ex-wives, his estranged children from those marriages, his only granddaughter (whom he has never seen) his various adventures on the road of life and his unsuccessful musical career as a guitarist.  Once he was a dog trainer, he told me,  and tried to demonstrate his skill at that work by urging his dog “Baxter” to follow some commands—and Baxter did!  Michael said he suffered from PTS (Vietnam—Purple Heart recipient) and had also been diagnosed as having the beginning signs of Parkinson disease.  Michael’s dream has long been to write, “Country Music” songs, he told me—and as our conversation (perhaps the better word is “monologue”) came to a close, I encouraged him to get at it.  For in listening to Michael’s story (exaggerated or not) I could hear the music of his heart—the sad, woeful, hurt sounds deep in his soul—the very songs he needs (for both his sake and ours) to write and sing.  Michael’s story is a story we all need to hear, for there is nothing more sacred than being able to hear the music in another person’s heart.  This morning I wonder how many of us are so very much like Michael—having songs to write and sing—but never getting around to it.  

Hold fast to dreams (wrote Langston Hughes)
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.
Let your light (the story of your life) speak.
A lighthouse without light is not a real lighthouse.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Springtime in Georgia

We were all set yesterday morning to drive from Opelika, AL to Sumter, SC and then I changed my mind!  With the threat of snow and/or wintry mix to the North, I decided to drive south and east toward Savannah, GA .  We found a nice little park with a fishing pond near Dublin, GA.  We’ll nestle here until Saturday morning and then make yet another decision depending on the weather.  Meanwhile, that little pond is calling me to dig out my fishing pole.  Last night, while walking around the pond I was visited by a Great Blue Heron.  I remember the first time I saw one of these magnificent birds.  I was probably about 6 or 7 years old—what an impressive sight it was for me then—and what an impressive sight it is still.

Yesterday we drove through Peach County, GA (a place we have never been before).  The peach trees are now in blossom and the other trees have that shimmer of green about them.  Spring has come to Georgia!  Now, if only Spring would burst forth in Rising Sun, MD, we might just head for home!  But, meanwhile, I’m going to attempt to live out Robert Frost’s “A Prayer in Spring:”

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,

But which it only needs that we fulfil.
The hyacinths in our backyard--Spring 2016

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Morning Thoughts in Opelika

We drove in sunshine and warmth across the state of Mississippi yesterday, and then through LA (Lower Alabama) on Route 80, passing through Demopolis (“The People’s City”) Selma, and Montgomery.  Along that route some years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., and now-congressman John Lewis, along with many others walked from Selma to Montgomery demanding the equal rights of all people in our American society.  Historic markers have been placed where these courageous souls camped each night on that long walk.  The “Marches” still go on!  Thank God!  America is a  place where the people can stand up and make their voices heard!  Take those First Amendment rights away from any (people, press, religion) and you take it away from all!

Demopolis, Alabama was founded after the fall of Napoleon’s Empire and named by a group of French expatriates, a mix of exiled Bonapartists and other French migrants who had settled in the United States.  The name was chosen to honor democratic ideals—and chosen by immigrants.  Now, isn’t that interesting?  And, it happened in Alabama!

From Montgomery we turned northeast on Interstate 20 toward Atlanta, Georgia.  We spent the night in Opelika, Alabama.  Years ago we visited our friend, Chap, here in Opelika for a few days.  He was a professor at Auburn University at the time.  Once again I am reminded that a place becomes more sacred when we connect it with a person.

Today we are off for South Carolina.  The weather reports continue to call for snow in the mid-Atlantic states over the weekend.  We will play it by ear as we travel along.
The Texas Blue Bonnets--I didn't see!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Praying for Others

The sun is shining today in Vicksburg after the torrential rain and thunder storms of yesterday.  I’m glad we decided to sit out the storms and take a day off the road.  The Weather Channel is predicting that the mid-Atlantic states may be in for some wintry weather over the weekend—just about the time we thought we might return home.  We’ll keep a close eye on those reports and if necessary dilly-dally around in the South for a few extra days.

As we drove through the Fort Worth/Dallas area the other day, I blew a kiss to Jay and offered up a prayer for her and her family as I do everyday.  Jay was involved in a serious auto accident a few months ago resulting in severe concussion and other injuries.  Does it do any good for me to pray for Jay?  I think so.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus prayed for others.  He prayed for children.  He prayed for the sick.  He prayed for his disciples.  He prayed for his enemies.  He prayed for the world.  This is one thing we know about Jesus—his was a life filled with intercessory prayer.  If I am a follower of Jesus, then my life, too, should be a life filled with intercessory prayer.

God desires a deep personal relationship with all his children.  God wants us to open our hearts to him without fear or scruples, just as a father wants his son to share what goes on in his young life.  Prayer is not telling God what to do.  That would be presumptuous.  Prayer is telling God what we think we or someone else needs, always adding, “if it be thy will.” Elton Trueblood wrote, “Most of the problems relating to God’s will are already solved when we see prayer not as an effort to change it, but as loving communion which may help in the promotion of that will, whereas without the prayer it might be frustrated….Whatever God’s power may be, we are needed, and never more so than when we pray.”

So this morning I pray for Jay and for so many others I know personally—and for those I do not know and will never know—like those starving in Somalia today.   As I do so, I wonder if there  is anything more important in the world than praying for it and for those who live in it.

"Jay"--You are in my bundle!