Raindrops and Grass Roots

28 09 2016

Raindrops and Grass Roots

It was misty and off-and-on sprinkly, but thankfully warm the day I’d planned to finish my landscaping project. The day prior was hot and sunny and I lasted an hour before I hosed off the sandy soil and sweat and moved on to cooler, cleaner activities.

Counting on the shower passing, I sat in the open doorway of the garage. Nothing—no crosswords or technology—was occupying my brain and fingers as is usually the case. Just sitting, listening to the rain. Noticing which leaves moved to the dances of the raindrops on their surfaces. Hearing the plop of drops off the eaves—some into a puddle, some onto drier pavement. Different sounds. Different amounts of water gathering. Breathing in moist freshness.

My tension over the condition of our world and the pain of loss I had been feeling abated as I prayed and soaked in nature’s comfort. With one large cleansing breath, my shoulders dropped and relaxed, grateful for my natural, pure, gentle surroundings.

I looked out at the wet scene again. Why rain drops? Why not a gentle one-time sheet-blanket of water that drifts down to earth and gives us fauna and flora a drink (and is done in an hour)? At what point does a droplet become a drop? A mist become a shower, become rain? Or, for that matter, a downpour?

The rain stopped and it was time to get busy, my sharp shovel attempting to cut through grass to create a flower bed. It was a tough layer, strongly interconnected into a single, cushy , seemingly impenetrable carpet. I pulled a chunk from its soil moorings—heavy! I shake the extra soil off and the grass itself was quite light. It had held that ground. A single blade of grass can be tossed by wind or torn by a fingernail. Its roots are no more than hairs. But joined together, they required a great effort to pull and were a force to be reckoned with—and respected.

Which brought me back to the rain. It looks like raindrops need to come together in great numbers to serve rain’s purposes. It looks like when blades of grass come close and intertwine, they are a strong powerful force. Snowflakes. Grains of sand. Leaves. Clouds. Seeds. Voices in song. Orchestras.

People.  Prayers.

E-Votions by efb–September 28, 2016




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! 


6 10 2015

I am sitting outside at my little table, the cast aluminum one with the scrollwork. I pause my writing, and stare at the pen in my hand. As my body stops, my wondering (wandering?) mind takes off…

What is the force that connects atoms? Divides them from other atoms?

Hand rests on table. Head hovers above hand, breathing the air between and around table, hand and head. Book connects to paper, to pen, to ink inside pen. Ink is pressed onto paper, perceived by eyes and retina and brain. Because of reflected light. Sending messages to muscles and hands resting on the table, holding the pen.

Eyes look up. To clouds, “blue” sky, trees. Breeze pushes leaves connected to twigs and limbs, which also wave and flex with the touching. The limbs connect to the tree’s trunk, which is immovable, because of the roots and rootlets grasping the ground, taking nourishment and stability from the soil that surrounds them. The tree’s bark delivers that nourishment and water upward (against gravity’s pull) to the leaves using light to create energy the tree uses to grow. Released from the leaves’ pores is oxygen, which floats between my hands and my head, and I breathe it in.

And as I try to think about it, I’m “blown” away!

I think of the saying, “If a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon, a hurricane can occur in Japan,” which has countless iterations of specific locations and outcomes, depending upon what source is quoted. The original “butterfly effect” was named by Edward Lorenz, a meteorologist, whose weather prediction models drastically changed when a seemingly inconsequential change occurred in his original data, something as small as the flap of a butterfly wing.

Chaos theory describes the unpredictability (of weather, rolls of dice, other seemingly random happenings) of nature, based upon the fact that there are always minute differences in the original conditions that begin a series of events, or “sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” (from Wikipedia—en.m.wikipedia.org) Then the math gets really complex and I again return to looking at the clouds. And wondering-wandering.

autumn leaves on bench 2014Chaotic or very ordered? Cyclical and predictable, or random? All of the above? Obviously, if I want air to breathe, and skin and bones to hold me together, I need the cycles and laws of nature—from the force that holds atoms together, to that which causes breezes to blow and planets to stay in their orbits. Yet, predicting the weather, or which autumn leaves will fall first, what I will eat tomorrow or who will start the next war or peace effort—impossible!

Does the stroke of my pen make a difference? Can your prayer set in motion a chain of events like a hurricane of healing? Will our use of resources affect the trees’ gifts of oxygen and shade to us? Does a baby’s cry elicit a response? Am I important?

What is the force that holds atoms together, and keeps them separated?

E-votions by efb, 10-5-2015

Fasting for Lent–I’m a Total Failure!

2 04 2015

I tried to give up daily crossword puzzles and sweets—and failed miserably! And the closer it gets to Easter, the worse I get in my self-discipline. Today, I’m beginning with new resolve—after all, it’s Holy Week! But even in failing to adhere to my fast, it has been a good fast.

I don’t think we are supposed to beat ourselves up over our failures, or our sins. As I see it, a Lenten fast, lasting 40 days, is not to test my resolve but to make me aware of how easily I can forget, or push out, true peace and hope in my life and seek it in unfruitful ways.

One benefit of this teeny-tiny fast came in the times I succeeded in replacing the crosswords habit and sweets craving with a prayer habit and “Jesus craving”. Sweet times of quiet and pondering the love and forgiveness without which I would not, could not live.

And lo and behold, the times I struggled with my choices yielded fruit as well! Picture the angel on my right shoulder and the devil on the left, arguing:
“Oh, you’re not at home, you don’t want to be impolite to your hostess—have dessert.” (I did.)
“You’re at the restaurant—it’s a celebratory time—you can abstain at home.” (I had a glass of wine.) I can rationalize with the best of ‘em! Put conditions on my obedience. Make excuses—lame ones.

“God is so forgiving, and this is so minor, you can just go ahead—well, God did give us all freedom to choose…It doesn’t really matter…” And the angel pops up, as Paul did, “Just because we are forgiven, does that mean we should keep sinning? NO!” Once in a while, the angel wins the arguments. But often, I have found myself presuming upon God’s forgiveness and mercy, while choosing sin or disobedience. Forgive me for taking You for granted, Lord!

I could choose to listen to that still-lingering devil saying, “You failure! Look at Jesus’ suffering! Geez, this is Holy Week—sure doesn’t describe you—not for a moment!” And I could walk away thinking certainly I am not “washed in the blood,” or worthy of forgiveness. Instead, the gentle angel whispers, “This is JUST why He died—he loves you, fallible though you are. ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…’ Learn from these failures.”

And so I learn. I become aware of the mind games I play in making decisions. How I use my time, my talents. My attitude toward my Creator, Savior, Redeemer. How I care for my body, the Spirit’s temple. This time of fasting for Lent, whether in success or failure, God has used for good. The hours I did take from doing crosswords were spent considering the wonderful Wangerin writings that helped me walk with Christ and his disciples as he approached his death; moving me to awe at the willing suffering for all of us, because of Love; and to grief that I, like the disciples, deserved what Christ endured. The times I craved sugar, or a glass of wine, I prayed that I would indeed yearn for a drink of living water so much the more.

We are beloved. Undeserving, fallible, yet fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, forgiven and redeemed. Seems like a pretty big realization for giving up doing a crossword!

Efb 4-19-11

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.                                        http://www.wired.com/2009/09/spider-silk/

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…