To the Giver of the River

9 08 2019

Thanks for the mayflies who only live a day

Snakes along the river banks–thanks!

Leaves of green, infused with sunbeam.

The water’s constant flow–where does it go?

Ultimately?

Morning sun dances on the ripples

Rooted trees stay put.

Myriad grasses grace the space,

Wildflowers proclaim, “It is good!”

Birdsong bright, troutfish splash,

Water brown, sky of blue

Searing yellow sun wraps all,

In light and life and comfort, too.

Thank you, Giver of the River.

What has been given to you today,

Recipient of the Magnificent?

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Advent is Over–Or is It?

3 01 2019

The 4 Advent candles are lit, burning steadily after the bustle of the celebrations of Love Come to Earth, called by Christians and many others Christmas, literally the Christ Mass. There’s a lull in the action between Christmas and New Year’s, and I sit, and wonder and ponder the meaning, all the meanings. It is a holy moment. I speak to Love.

You have come to Bethlehem, to live with us. And with us your spirit remains. Our Advent–waiting is but 4 weeks each year. Your people waited, trusted, yearned for centuries. They knew your promises were true. They told of your protection and your redemption down through the generations: from war, famine, oppression, finally deliverance from the Egyptians by the blood of the lambs. For thousands of years, even after you came, there was terror, war, oppression, fear. What has changed? With the Word of your disciples spread, blanketed across the world, preserved, misrepresented, used well in its power for healing and goodness and love. Today there is war, greed, famine, terror, demagoguery, power in the wrong hands. There are still people who are poor when resources exist; in jail, not receiving true justice. So much darkness.  But Your light shines in the darkness. We must.





Have an Awe-Full Day*

17 09 2018

*Awe-full, not awful.

I keep running into those spider webs I wrote about (literally).  And the idea of mites living among my eyelashes–I can’t un-remember that!  (Not yet, anyway.)  And yet, they amaze me.  I want to see more and learn more about the world around me.  But today, I’m just thinking about some other things that give me pause, and briefly mentioning them to you. My intention is to help you create just a tiny space of awe and wonder in your day.  I recommend closing your eyes every now and then, and/or pausing where there are spaces…

I am enthralled by the human and the hummingbird.  Alpaca, llama, camel.  Oak, birch, maple.  Moss and redwood, molehill and mountain, puddle and ocean.

Snowflake, icicle, iceberg.  Ice, water, vapor.

The call of the loon, the roar of the lion, the opera singer’s aria.

The belly of the snake, the legs of the centipede, the wings of the eagle.  The mosquito’s bite, scorpion’s sting, boa constrictor’s constriction.

Deer antlers and peacock feathers.

The “beautiful, spacious sky, purple mountains’ majesty and amber waves of grain…” (How many writers have  expressed eloquently their own wonder of nature?!)

Rainbows and velvet nights.  Twinkling stars, blazing sun.

Our multi-faceted, multi-functional, intricate bodies–hair and nails, bones and flesh, miles of blood vessels and intestines, miles we are capable of walking.  Brains, eyes, smiles, hearts.  Senses.  Personalities.  Souls.

We could go on and on, page after page, after page, but I won’t because I REALLY want you to join me in considering the natural world around you.  Here is some space for you and the natural things that uniquely impress unique you.  Use the space for a few seconds, or minutes.  Close your eyes.  Perhaps remember a scene you have enjoyed.  Or look around you or out your window and see what is within your line of sight.  Let us know what came to mind.  Pressed for time?  Set your timer for as little as 20 or 30 seconds and try it:

…a little space, an open door for personal thoughts, a moment to let in and become aware of things which are around you, things present in YOUR world…

Thank you.  I hope considering an iota of the infinite creation all around us gave you a full-of-awe moment.  Now take a deep breath, exhale, stretch, and may this be one of many awe-full moments ahead!

 





More Than Meets the Eye

4 08 2018

“There is a spider within 10 feet of you all the time…” says the new ad for Brookfield Zoo’s “Amazing Arachnids” exhibit.  I can believe that.  Sitting outdoors writing, I have seen tiny little red ones scramble across my notebook, as well as seeing and walking into their webs.  I have loved “daddy long legs” since I was a kid, and generally don’t fear spiders, so it doesn’t trouble me to ponder the statement.  There is a yuck, or eew-factor, however.  We try to keep our surroundings so pristeen–house-cleaning, showers every day, clean clothes, etc., etc.  Picturing bugs hanging around me or crawling on me–definitely eew!

Leaving even more of an impression on me is learning about the microscopic beings living on and in our bodies.  The May 2013 Smithsonian Magazine article, ” Microbes:  The Trillions of Creatures Governing Your Health,” describes the extent to which we are inhabited (colonized, taken over, ruled?) by yes, trillions of organisms.  “We tend to think that we are exclusively a product of our own cells, upwards of ten trillion of them. But the microbes we harbor add another 100 trillion cells into the mix. The creature we admire in the mirror every morning is thus about 10 percent human by cell count. By weight, the picture looks prettier (for once): Altogether an average adult’s commensal microbes weigh about three pounds, roughly as much as the human brain.”  WOW!
(Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/microbes-the-trillions-of-creatures-governing-your-health-37413457/#tzbjuHhSHSk1rgz6.99)

[Small warning:  I looked up several articles, as I wanted to learn a bit more about the human microbiome.  Some , especially some photos, had me saying ‘gross’ to myself.  The great part about this article (reducing the yuck factor for me) is that it is based upon research that is being done for human health, and it is tremendously fascinating to learn about the influence these organisms have upon us.  In case you decide to study further.]

“It’s not just that there are more than 1,000 possible microbial species in your mouth. The census, as it currently stands, also counts 150 behind your ear, 440 on the insides of your forearm and any of several thousand in your intestines. In fact, microbes inhabit almost every corner of the body, from belly button to birth canal, all told more than 10,000 species. Looked at in terms of the microbes they host, your mouth and your gut are more different than a hot spring and an ice cap, according to Rob Knight, a microbial ecologist at the University of Colorado. Even your left and right hands may have only 17 percent of their bacterial species in common, according to a 2010 study.

But the real news is that the microbial community makes a significant difference in how we live and even how we think and feel…”  Again, WOW!

In high school we scraped the inside of our cheeks and looked at the cells under a microscope.  Boring, nondescript saliva–who knew?  It was in the late 1990’s when David Relman, an infectious disease physician at Stanford University, decided to get a sample of that same nondescript saliva–microbes in his own mouth—and analyze the DNA contained there. Learning about the DNA revealed the presence of the aforementioned critters, and opened the world to their study.  As in high school under the microscope, or for anyone who spits, these samples typically look like nothing at all. “You have to have a lot of faith in the invisible,” one dentistry professor advises.

It is the dentistry professor’s quote that gives me pause.

When I am told spiders, microbes, electric currents, auras, gravity and oxygen are around and within me, unseen, I realize that there is so much I don’t know about what influences me, much less my world.  What holds me together, keeps me healthy, makes me sneeze, love, appreciate a sunset.  More is mystery than known.  But having learned even this bit, I don’t find it so big a leap to at least be open to thinking about biblical passages speaking of a Spirit within; invisible Creator;  a God who is love.

As science discovers more about things that were once invisible and are still mysterious, I wonder if you have things you wonder about, or have previously dismissed, that may hold some possibilities for amazing, life-changing knowledge for you.  Hopefully without a yuck factor!

[I apologize if you are annoyed that you can’t “un-know” or “unsee” what I have shared.  It got me thinking about unseen things, and I hope it gets you thinking as well.  Blessings!]





The Creator is Like…

23 06 2018

…What the Creator creates.

I was attending an event at a small, private art gallery.  Works were displayed from floor to ceiling, beautifully framed and lit.  There were walls at various angles within the space, also with paintings arrayed on both sides.  I was enamored by a large Suerat-like scene of Oak Street Beach on a sunny day, crowded with people and activities as varied as the shades of blue in the water and sky, with the Chicago skyline in the background.

My friend loved, and in fact purchased, two city streetscapes of busy Chicago intersections on a winter night, created with bold sweeping strokes evocative of wind and traffic and excitement.

There were also:  minimalist abstracts; lush landscapes; pastels of flowers; cubist-style depictions of objects and settings; a gentle pink and purple-swirled piece to my right; a straight-stroked black and red work on a far wall.  When I peeked into one of the tiny back rooms, there were hundreds more of this artist’s works stacked against the wall, waiting for their turn in the spotlight.

“This man is amazing!”  I thought.  Even in extensive collections of great artists in fine museums I had never seen one so active in so  many styles.  He is prodigious–an overwhelming number of paintings are collected there, likely not the whole of his work.  He is bold.  Curious and willing to experiment.  Interested and interesting.  Full of energy.  Hard-working.  Discerning with the presentation of the work, complementing the pieces with unique and detailed framing.  Gentle and loving of beauty-none of his works were dark, jarring or upsetting.  I looked for the artist, Minas.  He was surrounded by people, talking animatedly, wrapping a picture to travel to a new home.  I didn’t get to meet him last night.  But I did get to know him pretty well.

People say we can’t know God the Creator (or Supreme Being, Divine Intelligence)–the force that generated the grand universe and its inhabitants.  But, just as some aspects of an artist can be known by visiting their gallery and seeing their artwork, so also can a world-maker, THE world-maker, if you will, begin to be known by visiting the gallery-world around us and considering what they have made.  The Christian psalmist said, “Taste, and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8).  Given my fondness for the flavor mangoes, and the abundance and variety of food seen at a farmer’s market, I would concur with the psalmist.  What else might we deduce about our artist-creator, based on  just a thimbleful of all we see in our field of vision, our spot in the gallery at any given moment?

Varieties of leaves and grasses.  Oaks growing from acorns. Sunshine through the trees.  Birds singing and music playing.  Animals small and large, from bacteria to whales.  Snakes and birds that travel without using legs; centipedes that coordinate 100 legs to walk.  People of all shapes and sizes, families and tribes and nations.  Plants that protect, nourish, heal.  Flowers with no apparent purpose other than beauty.   Rain, puddles, streams, rivers, lakes, oceans.  Consider with me just this last-mentioned creation:  water.  Amazing, ubiquitous, essential water.

We can clearly see clouds, water in vapor form.  Water vapor can be enveloping even, as fog, but is  nearly intangible–we move through it as if it’s not there.  In liquid form, it’s infinitely flexible.  Cleansing and comforting like a warm bath.  Offering relief like a cooling mist on a hot day.  Refreshingly quenching thirst.  Constant and steady as the tides.  As gentle as a raindrop and as powerful as a flood.  Displaying a few “special effects”–the colors of the rainbow; the bright sunlight sparkling on a rippling lake; the reflection of my face on the calmest surface.  As ice, water is solid, massive, usable even for shelters and roads.  Essential for and sustaining all life.  Everywhere.

What is the creator of this multi-faceted work like?  I am thinking this artist-creator of water may be incredibly vastly beyond my comprehension, yet is as approachable as a raindrop.  A lover of beauty and a nurturing soul.  Strong and gentle.  As common as a glass of water, yet as stunning as a glacier.  Generous with me.  Sustaining, nurturing, life-giving.  Close to me…and yes, good.

Too far-fetched?  See what you think, with your own place in this world-gallery, possessing your own history, perspective, and beliefs.  Whether thinking of the Creator in a Christian context, Native American tradition, or any other perspective, as you take time to linger in the gallery, to even consider one of the works displayed here, you may catch a glimpse of who the Artist is, become acquainted with their nature, get to know them a bit.  Sort of like I got to know Minas.





Woman, Behold Your Son – Part 2

11 04 2018

[Dear Readers, This is the second post about bringing an awareness of Jesus’ mother Mary’s presence into the Christian observation of Lent, to augment her centrality to Advent and the Christmas story. The Bible leaves much untold, and I love to imagine scenes that might have happened, which is what these posts do.  Please read the first post before this, if you haven’t. Imagine with me!  Knowing how much I love to be with and look up to my adult son, it was easy for me to picture this scene…]

It is said that the hardest thing in life for a parent is to have a child die before them.  Mary, as any mom would be, was present, observing—no, sharing—her son’s suffering, over hours.  And hours. Not in a sickbed, but at a crucifixion, publicly humiliated, tortured and bleeding and in pain, excruciatingly dying.  And yet he was still actively caring:  forgiving his murderers—and his fearful friends; making sure she had John to go to after Jesus had died, saying, “Woman, behold thy son,” referring to his disciple and friend.  I have used this sentence as my title here, to ponder Mary looking upon her first son as well.

When did she first get to see him alive?

He may have appeared in the room where she sat in grief, surrounded by her friends and relatives sitting shiva, gathered for a week of mourning and accompanying the bereft.

An audible gasp from the mourners—in unison—then silence.  Someone whispers, “Mary, look!”  She lifts her eyes and sees her son, standing before her.  There was no small reaction!  A scream of joy.  Tears.  Disbelief, belief, jumping up, hugging, bowing down, touching him from head to toe, taking his hands, solid but different.  Looking into his eyes, crinkled in a smile of joy and gratitude.  “Isha, mother, it’s me.”  Her knees give way.   “Here.  Sit by me.”

They all speak and move at once.  Shouting, hugging, touching.  Touching.  As so many people did before…that.  Bring him food!  Of course.

He sits next to her and she holds his arm and won’t let go.  He pats her hand, and lets her.  For a bit.  She can look at nothing else.  She sees nothing else.  He whispers, “Mother, I can’t stay long.  There is much I need to do.”  He is not only referring to this reunion visit.

After a time, he gets up to go.  “I have much to do,” he announces to the now-animated group.  “But remember me here.  It’s really me.  Alive–not a ghost.  Prophecies fulfilled.  You all did not have an apparition together,” he grinned.  “May I take some of that bread to the brothers in Emmaus?”  And like that, he is gone again.

Mary gets up in the middle of the chatter—you can imagine the questions!  How?  Why?  Mary, all this time you said he was special.  Dead.  Alive.  The buzz will echo centuries later.

Mary pulls off the black veil of mourning and replaces it with her best, brightest shawl.  “This will tell everybody!”





Woman, Behold Your Son

31 03 2018

At Christmastime, we see Mary, the mother of Jesus, front and center.  Beautiful depictions of the Annunciation; the birth of the baby swaddled in the manger; mama’s joy as the shepherds bow and wise men worship.  At the Christian observance of Lent, we are aware that yes, she is still very much with Jesus during his last days, but she is mentioned only briefly in the gospel stories:  Jesus from the cross giving her into the care of John as he nears death.

But I think, who better than Mary could help us put all the pieces together, in the hours and days before and after Jesus’ crucifixion?  Imagine with me, if you will, a mother’s heart as she now walks with her adult son during his last week of life, wondering, reflecting on the  troubling, strange, wonderful, ominous happenings, day by day…

The angel Gabriel had said, “He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

The shepherds shared what the angel had said to them, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people….a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord…” and hosts of angels praised God with these words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Simeon said, “…For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the gentiles and for glory to your people Israel…This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of may in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Bethlehem.  Egypt.  Wise Men.  Herod.  At age 12, Jesus lingered in the temple instead of staying with the family, sparking his mother’s worry and rebuke.  He went with her to a wedding, where she appealed to him to be of assistance—did she know he would procure the wine from the water jars?

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

He healed people.  He spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth and was run out of his hometown.  He preached Good News.  He healed Peter’s mother in law and raised Lazarus from the dead.  He accused church leaders of hypocrisy and disregarded the religious practices of the day.

Mary pondered…

She was probably there when he rode the donkey into Jerusalem, people scattering palms and giving him the respect she knew in her heart he deserved.  I imagine her heart swelled with pride and she remembered the words about the king, the kingdom, the references to Savior as she heard the hosannas—“Save us!”  And surely the other things she had held in her heart, the moments shared, conversations, miracles, antagonism, close calls, all welled up.  Did she think, “Maybe the sword Simeon mentioned was figurative.  Things here—my son, the king—are as they were foretold…”

Then came Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Rumors of opposition.  The disciples, men and women, choosing their paths through the city carefully.  The crush of crowds.  Tension.  The holy celebration of the Passover.  Her son was no longer mixing with the people, publicly and joyously accepting their attention.  He was encircling himself with his closest friends, his brothers and sisters, his disciples.  He washed their feet.  He spoke of wine and blood and flesh, suffering and death.

The ponderings must have welled up.  What was it they said?  He said?  CRUCIFIXION?  Never!  That was never in the mix!  How is this possible?

In that moment, those hours of his torture, as she watched him, humiliated, bleeding, dying, she and his other followers and friends, totally helpless, I can’t imagine anything but pain and devastation filling Mary’s heart, mind, soul, no matter the treasured moments, prophecies, memories, miracles.  She pondered, all day that Sabbath, that Saturday, her heart black as night, and heavy.  Her women friends clung to her, to each other.  The men, devastated, each with their own thoughts of what they might have done.  Possibly sharing a memory or two.  Or not.  Perhaps brooding in silence, having seen the end and given up all of what they thought they knew, what they had staked their own lives upon.

Gone.

And yet…There was the promise.  Perhaps at that empty moment Mary unpacked that treasure in her heart.  Held them all together, Peter, John, Magdalene, alive, barely, with Gabriel’s words:  “Do not be afraid.  With God, nothing is impossible.”  “Savior.”  “Kingdom forever.”  Clung to the treasure, to a shred of hope, to each other, even as they wept, until…

Easter.

[quotes from NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, ©1985]