Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Apple and a Flag

Don't you wish that people did not have to stand beside a flag in a cemetery and weep? The flag represents what the person died for and why they died. Our word for it is "war."

I suppose it all started with an apple. Two people were told that they could have most everything but that there was something they were not supposed to possess. But a tempting voice told them that limits were something made up by those who were different from them so they stepped over the line and took it because they could.

We fight wars over land, causes, and maybe because "we can." Wars used to have a kind of strange nobility to them...if you can call killing someone who breathes the same air you do, noble. People would face each other wearing the garb of their nation. Flags would fly representing the "cause" and then it would start...the killing.

People looked at each other while they took life. A soldier would fall and another would step up and take the place of their comrade. The arrows would fly or later in history the smoke would clear and "time out" was called so that the dead could be buried.

Now we are "smarter" so we have smart bombs and drones that kill from a distance. They say our technology saves lives. It's tempting to believe this but then the apple was tempting too.

It would be nice if we could go back to that "garden" and try a "do over." Maybe this time there would be a debate as to whether or not the cause or new freedom was worth it.

But we live east of Eden. I wish we could be more careful with war though. It seems that all of our weapons these days are ones of "mass destruction" because they kill in powerful ways and even from great distances so that we no longer look at the breathing of the breath we take.

As the poet/song writer once said, "they may say I'm a dreamer...but I'm not the only one...someday I hope you'll join me...and the world will be as one."

For now I offer a prayer for those who stand beside flags and I remember those who could not wait for the dream to come true but who stepped into the cause because they felt they had to...

Bless you

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stock Markets and Stray Dogs

That' it. It's official. The stock market is like a stray dog at a whistler's convention. Someone whistles in China and off goes the dog. Then someone whistles down at the Gulf Coast about a leaky well and the dog's head jerks in the other direction and it runs toward what must surely be the beckoning of yet another "master."

Then for a while "man's best friend" sits obediently at the feet of the latest one to call, but then there comes yet another whistle from some far corner and since the poor thing does not really have an owner off it goes on another chase. It is no way to live life.

I went to the Y the other day to "work out" and there on the screen were the talking heads and the ticker running at the bottom of the screen with those little colored "arrowheads" pointing both up and down. To look at the screen was to counteract any effort I was putting forth to "stay healthy." From the corner of the room I think I heard someone whistle because some of the arrows changed direction and color.

The word "faith" has more to do with trust than it does belief. Faith is not really opinions about something but rather reliance on something. It is hard to trust a stray dog who does not know who its master is.

A wise man once said, "No one can serve two will end up loving the one and hating the other." It is not that the stock market and all it represents is bad but I'll tell you it makes a "hell-of-a-master." But then according to the old wisdom it is not supposed to be a master.

So I have to again decide in what do I "trust?" Trust has to do with what you lean on. My mother used to love the old hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." I'm learning why she liked it. In our high-tech world of instant communications where whistles can be heard from far too many places in rapid fire succession maybe we need these old words from some music that should be sung and not whistled:

"What have I to dread, what have I to fear
Leaning on the everlasting arms
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near
Leaning on the everlasting arms
...O what peace is mine....leaning on the everlasting arms."

Bless you

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dog Days

I think "dog days" are supposed to be in the sultry month of August, but I almost had one recently. It seems our aging dog needs "hormones" so we have these small pink pills that must taste like bubble gum because she swipes them off my hand without a thought.

With sleep still playing with my eyes I pressed down on the cap of what I thought was my blood pressure medicine the other morning and started to toss the medical wonder down the hatch only to discover that alas the small blue pill that was meant to keep a lid on my bodily temperament was pink. I almost took the dog's hormones.

I wonder what would have happened? I suppose one thing for sure, my blood pressure would have been up that day. Would my voice have a slight high pitch to it? At mid-afternoon would I suddenly be compelled to scratch behind my ear? I might find myself wanting to get under my desk rather than sitting at it.

Upon returning home would Betsy comment about how sad my eyes looked and was it that hard a day? But would all be OK after she rubbed my head and tossed a treat my way? I suppose I would have had a "dog day."

I remember years ago when I discovered that I had high blood pressure. I barked come to think of it. I could not believe it. I ran every day, I was not overweight, I ate little red meat....I was supposed to be healthy. I growled at the doctor who asked me if anybody in my family had high blood pressure? "Well, my mother did before she died of a sudden heart attack...and yes my dad had" He looked at me and then asked, "And from your chart I see what you do for a living."

That ended the conversation. I was given my little blue pills. It was a dog day but I've been panting along ever since so perhaps taking one of the dog's pills would have been fine.

As I write this she is snoring beneath my feet...under the desk. It's her favorite place to spend the day. She likes quiet dark places. Her days of chasing squirrels and running beside me are over. Now she simply looks up at me with those eyes and more or less says, "Give my my pills, scratch my head a bit, and move your feet so I can get under the desk."

It's a simple life but she seems quite content. She has trouble getting up steps these days and when I clap my hands to see if she wants a dog biscuit her old dance is rather subdued. I suppose the pills help. Where is that bottle? I wonder if it does taste like bubble gum?

Bless you

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Butterflies are Back

I was lost in thought I suppose. I get that way a lot. Sometimes I end up somewhere way down in a kind of valley where "thinking" covers me like a heavy fog on a cold morning. So the yellow creature of the air almost ran into me.

In the midst of the fog there was a butterfly. He or she had been in their own dark valley. How much "thinking" did it take to risk spinning that cocoon that would lead it to a surrounding pattern of thought that rendered it incapable of seeing any light?

Ah the purpose of that spinning is beyond what I do when I get too heavy in thought. The butterfly anticipates something more. Its pondering points toward a new beginning where old thoughts become simply bricks that will be used to build a temple to the sky.

I need some butterflies. This past season the world again turned toward that needed dark so that seeds could ponder growth in their graves of anticipation, trees could do their waiting as their empty branches reached toward the cold sky, and grasses could turn brown knowing that colors of Spring would not be rushed. So it was with the season of my soul. There was a lot of death and part of my ongoing "job" is to plant those seeds of lives lived and speak words beside graves that give grieving people the hope that a Spring will indeed come. But the job has its "side effects." I find myself, if not careful, becoming heavy with thought.

So I welcome the season of butterflies. This bouncing yellow angel of creation seemed to whisper in the breeze, "Hey wake up. I did....the time of pondering is over for a life now."

Perhaps the skeptic will say, "Ah but butterflies do not talk." But they do if we listen. An old prophet who was lost in thought long ago found this truth the day the creator of butterflies asked him why he was so down on himself. The heavy with the task prophet responded from his dark cave of hiding that the "work" was just too much. So the story unfolds and earthquake, wind, and fire appeared...I suppose to get the old boys attention. But the truth he needed came in the form of a "still small voice." One translation says, "the sound of gentle stillness."

It's time to listen to the butterflies. It's the season of resurrection and that's worth pondering with ones eyes open and an ear to the breeze.


Friday, May 7, 2010

A Final Goodbye

It took a while to get there. They wanted to make sure we could view her favorite place when we said our final goodbye. Her favorite place was "Nippers."

Nippers is a multi-colored outdoor bar overlooking the Sea of Abaco. Caroline learned to swim in one of its two small pools. So she got to do two of her favorite things while visiting Nippers: dance and swim.

The boat's motor ceased its gentle roar. I reached into a small gray box and pulled from its darkness the wrapped ashes of Caroline. Her tired eight-year old body was now reduced to this small package. The stain of the cancer that she fought so bravely all her earthly life I suppose was still contained in those ashes. But as the sun came through the clouds and the boat slowly rocked back and forth the wind whispered to me, "Ah but she is not in the ashes or trapped by some disease."

But still there was the need to say some kind of goodbye at the foot of Nippers. So along with a few friends and her beloved parents I took Caroline's ashes and scattered them into the vast sea. I spoke some words but now I almost do not remember what I said. The words were also tossed into that waiting motion of the same waters that God used to create all that is.

I think I said something like, "O Caroline we give you back to the Creation from which we all come. This is what remains of what we remember of your small body but as we give it back to the sea we know that you are not here, but we are. Your body we commit to the oceans but the real you, no longer trapped and held down by disease, is dancing with God."

I then turned to Caroline's parents, Kirk and Mary, and placed my hand on Mary's bowed head and prayed, "O God, hold Kirk and Mary who love her so. We know you loved her even more. Give them healing one day at a time...gently...and we shall know that dear Caroline is completely healed in the wonder of your love."

Then.... after some tossing of flower petals her way and some healing tears the boats engine cranked and we went to Nippers. I discovered why she loved it so. From its open air dance floor you could see a breathtaking view of the ocean...and there was music...loud music...and people from all over the world, literally, were dancing. We toasted Caroline with some of the local beverages, we ate some really good food...gosh did that girl love to eat....and yes, we danced...O did we dance...we danced with people we did not know and who did not know Caroline...because that is what she would have done.

We bought caps and shirts consisting of loud colors...some of them pink because she loved that in the future on days when the sun may not shine as bright as we need we shall put on the bright colors and have people view what we wear as they ask, "What is Nippers?" And we'll get to tell Caroline's story. We'll get to tell of her love for life. We'll help her live again as best we can...but the truth is our story will only be at best a tale told from the side of a "glass darkly" but she....sweet Caroline lives just the other side of that dark glass. She dances with the God of sea and sky.

It was a final goodbye...but not really. We will never be the same because of her. Her ashes may now be part of God's big Creation but her spirited life is now more alive than ever. I'm going to stop now and go put on my Nippers shirt.... We love you Caroline....we always will.

Bless you,