Brush the Snow off the Roses

23 06 2016

Remember when we had snow in April here in the Midwest? I thought I’d post this now and give you a smile…

Brrr! April 2 and huge swirling flakes are piling up on the spring flowers and turning the coldest ground white. What a shock/challenge/disappointment/surprise for the happy daffodils and crocuses and snowdrops and even roses  already primed for their spring show! Geeez! Will warm weather ever come?

However, I kind of enjoy the (near) April Fool’s day snow. God’s April Fools joke, I say. When it snows in early spring, I get all smug, mentally put my hands on my hips and say to the snow, ‘Nyah, nyah—you’re not going to last long—it’s spring and you’ll melt away—VERY soon!’ And it makes me happy. Encouraged even.

Like my grandsons looking for a chase, ‘na, na na na, na, you can’t get me’. Daring whomever—to prove them wrong. Challenging me to overcome, to win the race.

When the soft petals of my life are startled by chill snow, I want to remember I can just brush it off. The hard white ground will give way to green, and already has started to yield. I want to remember the strength of attitude, the confidence of knowing the freezing, swirling snowy challenge  threatening me at a tender, vulnerable time won’t last.          Can’t last.

Nyah, nyah, you can’t get me! My sun will melt you with its power and warmth! In the grand scheme of things, you will pass, and I will grow and thrive and live in colorful, passionate joy!

[As you walk outside today in your shorts and sunglasses, say to yourself, “See? Proof!”]



Raindrops of Revelation

17 12 2015

I’ve been asking God lots of questions lately with Hanukkah, the Christmas season, the strife in the world and all.

While decorating my Christmas tree, I was trying to explain to my sweet and inquiring non-Christian houseguest the history of my Christmas traditions.  The evergreen Christmas tree, symbolizing new life.  Candles in the dark of winter for hope of light to come.  By the time I finished and answered a few “Why?” questions as best I could, I felt I  hadsucceeded in describing a new religion which  borrowed pagan rituals and adapted them to this new experience and belief. We changed old practices, rituals and celebrations, and adapted them to fit this new revelation.   But I was not pleased with my answer.

What light?  What hope?  What new life?

I imagine we all wonder about different elements of the amazing, mysterious Christmas story!  Virgin birth in a stable, angels appearing to shepherds; learned, wealthy sky-watchers following a new star.  Wonder-full facts worthy of awe, wondrous mysteries for pondering.

“Heaven and Nature Sing!” the Christmas carol, “Joy to the World,” declares.  Creation shows the character of its Creator.  It is a concrete ever-present fact and sustainer of our lives, one we can taste and see.  I walk outside and feel the raindrops.  I smell the freshness after the showers.  They eventually make up oceans of water!  Making sense of it all–putting words and coherent thoughts to the contents of an ocean of mystery–is impossible to me.  Yet, we are blessed with raindrops of understanding.  What we can handle, what we can grasp.  We react differently, but we all see and receive the rain.  We all drink water for life.  There are facts we can grasp, oceans of mystery we can ponder and explore.

Jesus, whose amazing birth is celebrated on Christmas, walked this earth.  He lived and taught in Israel.  Josephus, the Jewish historian records this fact, as does the Christian Bible.  The Bible book of John, referring to Jesus says:  “Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.”  John 1:3-5, The Message.

Are you both, Creator?  Angel-announced?  Mary-borne? Poor and born in a stable?  Human, like me?  Angels, shepherds, Magi.  So many mysteries!  It would take an eternity to discover and grasp them all!   I will focus for this Christmas, with joy and gratitude, wonder and awe, on the raindrops.

 Perhaps you don’t celebrate Christmas as I do, with evergreen trees and candles and gifts, time with family, love and feasting: or as people around the world do, each with their own traditions.  For you I wish that you see the spirit of love and welcome, gratitude and generosity, and the wonder of awe at great mysteries, and that they touch you with hope and peace.

Merry Christmas to you, dear Reader, to All! 

The Spider and Reckless Self-Abandon-Part 2

28 01 2015

I know it’s midwinter, but I’m still thinking about that spider and her web. I wondered if hanging by a single microscopic fiber still was as precarious and frankly, foolish as it sounded.  Then I read more about her and her surprising feats.

That thread she’s anchored to? It has some pretty amazing qualities: Elasticity. Steel can be stretched 8% and nylon 20%. Spider silk can be stretched 140%. (That somewhat explains my ability to feel the tension of it as I walked into the fiber stretched across my path.) . Although the thread is about 3% as thick as a human hair, it can stop a bee flying at full speed. Tensile strength—the greatest stress a material will tolerate before failure. Silk is stronger than most natural materials and about half as strong as steel. Unlike other materials, including steel, it remains flexible in extreme cold. Strength per weight. Spider silk is considered to be 10 times stronger than Kevlar—the material used to make bullet-proof vests! It is so light that one pound of fiber would stretch around the equator. It so thin the human eye cannot see it. (We can see an object with a diameter of 25 mm. at a distance of 10 cm.). The only way we can see it is when sunlight reflects off of it. Hmmm…

The silk comes out of 4-6 organs in the spider’s body called spinnerets. Each of these “spigots” is a few thousandths of a millimeter thick. These several strands are twisted together, producing a thread 1/30 of the diameter of a human hair—and 5 times stronger than piano wire! Moreover, spiders have 7 different glands that produce silk, which is made up of proteins, for different purposes. Some produce sticky material for the thread; some produce walking thread; attaching thread; thread for encapsulating prey; thread for cocoons.

As you might imagine, scientists have studied the spider’s web, yearning to harvest or re-create its fiber’s capabilities for human use—better bullet-proof vests; lightweight support cables for bridges and other construction; surgical procedures, and many other possibilities. Alas, it is proving difficult.

Yet–there is a fascinating piece of textile that went on exhibit in 2009 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was made from the silk of more than a million spiders, and is the only one of its kind in existence in the world! The process as described in an article on the science website WIRED is staggering. Seventy people in Madagascar collected golden orb spiders for 4 years, while dozens of “spider wranglers” extracted about 80 feet of silk from each spider. It was then spun together into thicker threads and woven into a lovely golden textile piece.

Another remarkable part of the history of the study of spider silk is that the means of “milking” the spiders was first developed by Father Combue` and his associate, M. Nogue, in the late 1890’s. They had deduced how to safely extract the silk from the wild spiders and even return them to their habitat to “donate” more silk several weeks later. From the silk they had produced “a complete set of bed hangings”* which were exhibited at the Paris Exposition of 1898. Though the hangings have since been lost, their work nevertheless has continued to facilitate study and fascinate scholars a century later!

I now take back one thing I said about the spider in my previous article. She is not reckless at all! She may set out with TOTAL self-abandon, but not RECKLESS self-abandon. She has every reason to be secure in her daily “leap of faith.” I still desire to be like that spider, now more than ever. Not only does she have a sure anchor upon which she “hangs” (sorry for the pun) her entire life. The fiber she depends upon to hold her has qualities endowed by Nature which are mysteriously superior to human-made materials and so far unable to be reproduced in spite of a century of human inquiry and research. I want to be able to depend upon a Lifeline superior and more dependable than what we can explain or re-create.

I think the Creator of this marvelous creature and her amazing fiber must pretty superior and dependable. I wonder if there’s a Lifeline there for me.                                                                                                E-votions 1-28-2015

*I used several sources from the Internet to compile the previous facts about spiders and their webs. The website listed below details the story of the history and production of the textile on display in New York.                              

Reckless Self Abandon–Lessons from a Spider

23 09 2014

Amazing spiders! The first thing that grabs me (Ha!) is the web. I encounter, in many places and various sizes, that ornate wagon wheel web, having a center, straight spokes radiating outward and parallel strings of webbing circling evenly from the hub to the outer border.

Walking down the path to the lake in the morning, I often feel myself break through a single fiber of web, like a runner breaking through a tape at the finish line. I feel more than see it, at least at first, because it is unexpected and undetected. Then, through the glint of sun and my awareness, I see a couple more strands that I easily pass through as I walk on. The woven webs I see are inches wide, with structure and the ability to snare prey as well as stay attached in the wind. But these single fibers that go across the path are several feel long! What happened here? I imagine the spider starts out and attaches to her first point. She manufactures her filament (issuing from her body!) that is strong enough to hold her weight. (Where does she store all her materials?) Gravity guides her initial path, down, down, until she hangs suspended in mid-air. I wonder if she stops after a certain distance, regroups, rests, resets her machinery and gathers her materials for the next run. I think her next guide must be a breeze, which she must ride like a trapeze until she contacts (bangs into?) another (relatively) solid place on which to anchor the rope of her latest snare.

But in this case the snare did not materialize. As I investigate, I see there is only this single thread, which I, a much larger part of this same creation, stroll right through. This spider’s marvelous work is strong enough to stretch and hold me a moment before my effortless break of her filament.

What happened here? All that work and no food to come of it? Why? How?

IMG_1395I like to imagine that she eventually succeeded in catching her food and enjoying her hard-earned meal. I know she found at least one more solid anchor-spot, because that filament had stretched tautly across the path I walked. The web-snares I see all about give me hope maybe her third attachment was a little closer than the second and that she succeeded in her web-building from that point on. I’ll never know. But there is much I did observe, and do know, which is one reason why I call her ‘marvelous’. (I’ll share another reason soon…)

This creature set out from a single anchor point, doing what she was created to do, spinning that fiber. No GPS, no measuring out the area, calculating supplies, seeing her second anchor-point. That’s not her way. She attaches to one point, then spins, and spins, literally hanging by a thread, awaiting the unseen forces that will empower and guide the next steps in her journey. I imagine she is buffeted by the breeze, or even the wind. Does she hope I won’t come along and, well, do what I just did before? Can she and her web withstand the rain? Does she drop down to an anchor point below? How far does she have to spin and dangle before that happens?

I don’t think she can see the entire web plan; she does not know where this web-string will take her, yet she spins and swings, soaring, yet anchored securely, until her next step is revealed.

Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in one God. Many say, “A higher power”. I have a Single Anchor in whom I trust. I wonder if I ever can aspire to launch forth from that single anchor, entrusting my life to its hold, with such reckless abandon. Even joy? I wonder if I can spin and spin and work and do what I’m here to do as best I know it, even if I’m swaying in the breeze or cut down, until the next step becomes apparent and I can look forward to sustenance in the near future. It might be more fun and less worrisome, just spinning away confidently with reckless abandon…


New Life in Springtime

20 04 2014

New Life! Like spring! How cliché. What an overused analogy…or is it?
act of burying—planting—every seed, bulb, rootling is to bring life, for the potential within to multiply and grow and transform. Even to the smallest parts of life we can see: the cell must divide to multiply; a “split” atom bursts with untold power and energy. Gold and silver are melted down in fire to refine and purify them and make them precious and useful. How relieved we are when the spring comes, the weather warms, and the chill and bleak and cold white starkness slink into the past. We see green blades emerging from the ground where last month there was frozen snow. We look for the first flowers to emerge, snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, first just green sprouts, then buds, then color returns to our world. Following them, the trees begin to bud.
Springtime (coincidentally?) is also the time Christians celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, and I am reading Walter Wangerin Jr.’s Lenten reflections entitled “Reliving the Passion”.
He speaks of the “Merciful Paradox.” “Where then, is our window into heaven, to see and know and believe the nature of God?” He answers: “In his crucifixion, his death, his separation from God. That is how we enter the door of Heaven…”
Not in the miracles, the healings, the prayers is God revealed, so much as in Jesus’ death. The ultimate sacrifice. Willing to be abandoned so that we would not be. Willing to die. Came to earth to die, according to his own description of himself. Ironically, paradoxically, when the world gets dark, the earth quakes and the Savior seems to have died, when the end seems to have arrived, is when life begins. He has left the tomb–alive! And in the separation, God comes closest. In Jesus’ death, God redeems. The centurion recognizes in Jesus, the man dying on the cross, the Son of God. The curtain in the temple, separating the Holy of Holies where God dwelled, tore from the top to the bottom, allowing full access to a no longer separate and unapproachable God.
Paradox: As God goes, God comes. Death, resurrection. Jesus returns to heaven—the Holy Spirit is given to us, dwelling within us. Tragedies in our lives often make us stronger. Tear down, rebuild. In disasters, there are helpers, always helpers.
If Jesus in God died and was buried to bring LIFE ,then surely  there must be hope in our dark times. Meanwhile, we are promised strength for the journey. Let your losses, all your little (and big) deaths be your life-givers. Let your time in a dark place be a seed underground, just waiting its time, its spring time to burst forth—or at least sprout bravely with potential to grow and thrive.
The dark soil is a safe place in which to  “germinate;” to wait; to prepare for the death of the acorn and the emergence of the oak; watch the mustard seed produce a plant that offers a home to many birds. The teeny crocus that gives to those who see it great joy that spring is finally near—there is warmth and new life coming soon.
And so again, nature mimics and declares heaven. Heaven we cannot see is reflected in the nature we can see. Even paradoxes and mysteries unravel before our eyes sometimes. Was there a profound, universe-redeeming, life-giving death and resurrection which holds the promise of life today?
The crocus seems to answer—YES!

Wind Chimes

6 09 2013

Well, I sure don’t feel very confident in producing this blog, as you handful who are reading it know :-). But I had an aha! moment recently sitting on my back deck overlooking the beautiful condo parking lot…

(It’s not that bad–we live next to a park. If I face to the left, I have trees, grass and the sound of kids playing. If I stand up to look at more of the park, I have a gigantic maple tree that gives shade to the benches below all spring and summer, and in the fall, the MOST blazing show of red in town!)

There are flower boxes perched on the railings, with deck 2happy geraniums and trailing vinca vines which sway with the breeze. I recently purchased a climbing black-eyed susan, which grows with gusto and really enhances onecorner of our little outdoor space. There are          also two tall plant hooks which I’ve attached to the corners of the deck. Some years they have held hanging baskets. This year a wind chime my dad made for me hangs on the right side, while the left side just stands in a silent swirl.

In our neck of the woods, er, city, there have been some mighty strong thunderstorms lately, as well as significant winds warning of their approaching forces. Since one must be considerate of one’s neighbors, I had hung the center ringer on the railing so it would not hit the chimes so forcefully and often, thereby creating what many would call noise as opposed to the lovelier…chimes.

This morning, however, provided me a lovely gentle breeze by which to sip coffee and read and think and daydream. I noticed the chimes simply hanging, not chiming, because the ringer was off to the side,moored upon the deck railing. I released it and it played for me. Long chime, short chime, low note, high note, enhancing my morning with its music, lilting and swaying, rapid chords and single, varying notes, louder, softer as the breeze nudged the center line and its tone striker, a white plastic teardrop shaped oval, lovingly sawed from a template by daddy.

photoThe chiming enhanced my day. It inspired and motivated me. There may have been a few other people nearby within earshot, maybe fewer who noticed, maybe a couple who also savored the music. This music seemed a concert for one–ME! The chime itself is not a lovely shiny copper one with varnished cherry wood to suspend it–it is metal conduit, hardware store chain and the aforementioned plastic. BUT, dad had cut the 5 chime lengths to precisely to be harmonious together and to resonate with a pure clear sound. The plastic teardrop is the perfect striker. More importantly, I love it!

I am like the wind chime. This blog is subject to my discipline, setting aside the time, sitting down and writing, choosing photos, posting. The wind chime cannot make its music unless the center is free to be moved by the wind. As long as it hangs in the center where it is needed to swing freely, it will not play, and nobody will hear the music.

You are like the wind chime, cut specially to sing a certain song, hung in the place where your music is available to ennoble and inspire those who can hear and take notice of it. Provided your center has been released and is free to be moved by the breeze, you can allow yourself to make the never-to-be repeated unique-for-the-moment song sent out.

One by One

15 07 2013

IMG_0387 We picked 10 pounds of strawberries Friday.  The shiny-bright  red berries illuminated by the sun and contrasting with their umbrella-like leaves are the first to catch our eyes.  Then, if you know to lift a stem, you can often strike the treasure of 3 or more ripe berries at its tip.  I tasted several, I confess.  Their sun-warmed sweetness made me “mmmmm” with satisfaction.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

As the large flat filled and I stretched my shoulders, I kept reminding myself that part of the picking is the processing.  I planned to use some for my first attempt at jelly, some for freezing (save a package for Lois), some for fresh on our ice cream and cereal and to eat out of hand.  After we got home, I put off the processing job until I had rested from the labor of picking.

OK—paring knife, LARGE box of strawberries, BIG colander, begin.  One.  Two.  Three…one hundred.  A small mound occupied about a third of the colander.  Rinse well.  Pour onto cookie sheet.  Repeat.  One, two, three, two hundred.  Rinse.  Pour.  Repeat.  Cookie sheet filled.  Put in freezer.  Pan number two.  One, two, three…It wasn’t unpleasant or tiring—it felt rather rewarding, actually.  Another step closer to fresh, perfect berries, ready to eat.  Why was I counting?  At first I was curious.  I wanted to get a sense of how many berries were in 10 pounds.  It kept me focused.  I was encouraged by my progress.

I couldn’t trim the tops of even two berries at a time.  Each strawberry required singly picking it up, trimming off the green leafy stem and rinsingIMG_0939 off any dirt.  Some, large, some small, some already trimmed—yay!  One by one I continued, for over an hour, until they were all clean and trimmed.  I froze 12 cups.  What remained were red fingertips, a feeling of satisfaction, and anticipation of devouring the huge bowl of fresh strawberries in front of me!  Which I’d picked trimmed and washed—one by one.

We also had summer sweet corn for dinner.  Did you know that each one of those pesky silks we remove is attached to an individual kernel of corn?  (I sometimes study it on my plate to verify this, but usually I’m impatient to shuck the corn, or to begin eating it.)

The eagle, when she fishes, circles over the lake from above the trees, using her keen eyesight to locate her dinner.  She swoops and grabs one smallish fish (I doubt the larger ones come near the surface too often) and flies with it back to her nest to feed her young, pulling it apart piece by piece for their small beaks.  She flies off again to catch one fish.  Again.  Until all are fed.

Sometimes I imagine when the leaves falling in autumn the Creator taps them one by one—“Your turn.  Now you…”

I think we are cared for in this same way as well.  Uniquely.  According to our needs.  To grow and become (eventually) uniquely perfect—sweet and whole and complete.  I have a very hard time grasping that I could be that worthy of God’s attention!  Yet, here it is in the rhythms of nature.  One can also find affirmation of such attention in Biblical passages.  No cookie cutter human beings or spiritual relationships here—everyone has their own time, their own path.  You, dear friend, are a carefully nurtured one and only creation!

He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.  Ps. 147:4

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent ? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  Mt. 10:29

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Mt. 10:30

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life ; and man became a living being.  Gen. 2:7                                                                                                   E-votions 19