Sunday, February 28, 2010

THE ULTIMATE BOARD GAME


Go To Jail--Jamestown, NC

Sometimes, life seems like the ultimate board game. However, I do know that I wouldn't like the alternative of never having my soul created and I view death as the last great earthly adventure as we pass through "the thin veil" to the spiritual plane we coexist with all of our lives. The negatives we experience in life are generally offset by many positive experiences as well--part of the balance in the universe. The possibiities in our DNA to create unique human beings far exceeds the actual number that have been created, including you and me. But, have you ever wondered if an all powerful God didn’t actually create all this for his amusement--like a colossal board game? If we play by all the rules we are rewarded and if not, well there’s Hell to pay. There has to be some subliminal wiring in our brains that attracts us to board games like Monopoly. The game has a specific set of rules to play by and rewards us for following the rules and being the best competitor who outwits the other opponents in the game. If you don’t fully understand all the rules and how to manage them to your best advantage, you lose. Rolling the dice adds to the random chance occurrences as life unfolds, sometimes sending us directly to jail. If we pass “Go”, we DO NOT collect a reward. The basic tenants of the game are pure self-interest and absolute materialism. Taking your fellow players money and possessions to obtain a monopoly wins the game! He who finishes with the most toys wins! We do our best to follow all the rules because we do not want to be out of the game. Our motivation in life can also be based on legalism, authority, guilt and the avoidance of bad consequences.
Jesus taught that the best template for life is to love God and to love others. I think he wants us to understand that we were created along with everything else and we in fact are not our own master of the house. If we order our life on that basic premise, we will naturally live a life of respect for others and generally avoid all those dead end streets that lead to the destruction of a quality of life that embodies the “kingdom of heaven” he repeatedly tells us that we can achieve in the here and now. Life can be very “dicey”. Temporal happiness is achieved through life circumstances, while ultimate joy is achieved by the continuous presence of God in our life. It’s tough to go it alone. The creator of this universe and you and me, doesn’t want us to do that. He created our souls not for His amusement, although there must be times when we certainly do amuse Him, but to be part of his spiritual family. However, if that’s a problem, He's given us the free will to choose. Ultimately, when life is on the line, it’s good to be able to place your trust in Him to be with you in that spiritual plane that our basic senses were not wired to perceive, but our hearts and minds are equipped to understand with faith.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

COLOR



Red Rose Light--Jamestown, NC
Abstract Coke Dispenser--Carolina Beach, NC.


"Color helps to express light,

not only the physical phenomenon,

but the only light that really exists,

that in the artist's brain."

--Henri Matisse

JACKSON POLLOCK ON FRANKLIN STREET


Carolina Blue Action Painting--Chapel Hill, NC

Paul Jackson Pollock was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. Pollock's technique of pouring and dripping paint is thought to be one of the origins of the term action painting. With this technique, he was able to achieve a more immediate means of creating art, the paint now literally flowing from his chosen tool onto the canvas. By defying the convention of painting on an upright surface, he added a new dimension, literally, by being able to view and apply paint to his canvases from all directions.

This photo was literally taken on the streets of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, while stuck in traffic on fabled Franklin Street the morning after the UNC North Carolina Tar Heels had won the 2009 NCAA mens basketball national championship title. The splashed Carolina blue paint was next to a dark black burned area where the requisite bon fires had burned just hours before. Now the bright light of day was revealing traces of the evenings revelry and most who had danced to the Jackson Pollock style of art form were sleeping it off with five NCAA trophies dancing in their heads.

Friday, February 26, 2010

IS GOD IN CONTROL?


Day Lily & Bee--Jamestown, NC

When you think about it, isn’t everything we confront in life some kind of miracle? The blooming of a flower, the extraordinary way all the major systems of our body function for us, the birth of a child, the self healing of a razor cut, the creation of a new day, the infinite variety of snowflakes, etc. All that transpires can only be the creation of a divine mind from where I sit. But is God in constant control of every moment, every event, and every action? It’s been said that God is love. We only have to look to the cross to see how that was revealed to us. And it is very obvious to us all that we have been given the free will to choose how we will react to a myriad of turns in life’s pathways each and every day of our lives.

I very much like what I read in James Howell’s book on The Will of God that God is in control “long term, eventually; big picture, yes. But day in and day out, no, God does not control things that happen, or you and me. At times I do God’s will, but often I do not, and you don’t either. God chooses not to determine everything: Love does not insist on its own way”. We live in a broken world that won’t be restored like our spiritual bodies until the creation of a new earth and a new heaven.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A ROUND OF GOLF


Vintage Tom Watson and Larry Davis, Kansas City, MO

“A round of golf partakes of the journey, and the journey is one of the central myths and signs of Western Man. It is built into his thoughts and dreams, into his genetic code. The Exodus, the Ascension, the Odyssey, the Crusades, the pilgrimages of Europe and Voyage of Columbus, Magellan’s Circumnavigation of the Globe, the Discovery of Evolution and the March of Time, getting ahead and the ladder of perfection, the exploration of space and the Inner Trips: from the beginning our Western World has been on the move. We tend to see everything as part of the journey…

So…enjoy what is while seeking our treasure of tomorrow. And—you might have guessed it—a round of golf is good for that, because if it is a journey, it is also a round: it always leads back to the place you started from…golf is always a trip back to the first tee, the more you play the more you realize you are staying where you are. By playing golf, you reenact that secret of the journey. You may even get to enjoy it.”
--Michael Murphy, Golf in the Kingdom

The dance would seem to be an eternal round, with all creation joined in a circular dance of life. These circle or round dances have endured through the ages as spontaneous or choreographed joyful social activities. Once we begin to learn the rhythms of life, the steps in our spiritual journey begin to fit each measure of music and understanding of God’s word. Our lives revolve around circles and even though we live in a broken world, the circles never break. Many of our circles seem to be spinning faster and faster, like a marathon merry-go-round ride with only one rule; nobody gets off as long as you’re in the dance. The days progress from sunrise to sunset to moonrise to moonset, as we spin around on our planet. And we add one more candle to our birthday cake as the planet circles the sun one more time.

THE UNIVERSAL COMMUNITY


Chineese Dancers in Cloudgate Reflections--Chicago

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is’, or ‘There it is’, because the kingdom of God is within you.” --Luke 17:20-21

The lands occupied and ruled by men in biblical times were referred to as “kingdoms.” Jesus didn’t concern himself with man-made geographical boundaries, but he did understand the space around people’s lives, relationships, and hearts. A central theme of Jesus’ teaching was establishing a “kingdom of heaven” on earth as opposed to a planet of competitors and enemies. His approach was not to found a new religion but a new way of being human and living a life founded on love, healing, forgiveness and a profound respect for one another.

We now understand that there are no boundaries at the basic subatomic level of the universe. Everything around and within us consists of atoms and molecules vibrating in mostly space. Subatomic particles consist of a set of relationships that reach out and interconnect with other interconnections. These energy particles are woven together into a fluid universal tapestry in a continuous blending of matter and energy. This interconnectedness enables us to feel a part of the larger whole in present moment states of awareness with the uniting force that creates and permeates everything. William Law wrote in the eighteenth century, “Though God be present everywhere, yet he is present to thee in the deepest and most central part of the soul.”

Jesus asked us to be a healing presence wherever we are and to change profoundly. Then, both a philosophy of living our earthly lives to the fullest and developing a guiding spiritual vision determine how our lives unfold. This vision is rooted in love which naturally leads to the instinct to heal wherever we encounter human suffering. Hospice workers understand that terminally ill people can be healed but not necessarily cured. By taking risks and making mistakes, we better understand the courage and forgiveness needed to be citizens of the universal community. We can open the eyes of our hearts and rise above the unconsciousness of a culture based on materialism and self centeredness. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:45, we are born as human beings with a soul and pass on as spiritual beings--- retaining that soul which was tempered in the fire of human existence and nurtured in our attempts to follow how Jesus modeled human life while drawing upon the kingdom within us.

Love is the cornerstone the kingdom is built upon within our hearts. Jesus left no material evidence of his existence and evidence of the kingdom won't be found within the walls of grand institutions. Look instead for the work of God's spirit within people's lives and relationships. Is fierce competition and rampant materialism relenting in our culture or is hatred and consumerism consuming us?

REFLECTIONS


Gull Flight Reflecting over Cloudgate--Chicago, IL

It has been noted that there are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. Jesus is the light of the world who showed us the truth and The Way and we are able to reflect His light back into the world through our lives and our actions--the language of our lives. He teaches in Matthew 7:14 that “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his home on the rock”. And He said in John 13:17, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Proverbs 27:19 says, “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person”.

KIAWAH SUNRISE SPIRIT


Waking White Egret--Kiawah Island

One of my great joys of the Kiawah Island experience is photographing the spectacular sunrises and sunsets around the island. On many occasions, I watched at a distance as graceful white egrets were highlighted by the longer sun light rays on the low country breezes or in the shallow island waters. Work days normally require an assist from my trusty clock radio to arise in the morning, but the days first light on Kiawah is the only requisite to stir pilgrims of the sunrise from their nights slumber. As I reverently strolled across the beach access bridge next to a dewy golf fairway, I noticed a shadowy white form at the waters edge of an emerald green lagoon. The still figure was frozen against a dark bank that had sheltered this ethereal spirit through the night. Now, the early morning light created a mirrored reflection in the placid waters. I was presented with a decision to miss the mystical few minutes of a glowing sunrise over the beach or slowly move close enough to the waking egret to capture this serendipitous image. When something as magical as this happens between man and God's creation, Native Americans say, "We have walked together in the shadow of a rainbow". Every sunrise over Kiawah is a unique creation fusing magical light, sky, ocean and shoreline. However, this bonding connection between our kindred spirits was a rare Nirvana moment of the present and so I stayed and was rewarded and renewed.

THREE SUNRISE WISHES


Sunrise Gull Flight--Wrightsville Beach, NC

This ‘lucky moment” was frozen in time at Wrightsville Beach on a chilly morning in late October. Every sunrise is a unique new creation that validates God’s continuous presence in our existence which then defines joy. This joy is lasting compared to temporal happiness which is based on fleeting life circumstances. The light that arrives on the wings of heavenly spirits symbolizes the light of hope that entered our lives on that first Christmas day.
May He shine His light on you and those you love and may your spirit soar with every new sunrise!
Luke tells us that an angel of the Lord appeared to lowly shepherds and announced the birth of the Lamb of God while the glory of the Lord shone around them. These shepherds may have supplied the lambs that were sacrificed in the temple for the forgiveness of sin. And the promised Messiah had finally arrived who would forever remain a substitute for those sacrifices.
May the good news of great joy the jubilant choir of angels sang that day bring you equal joy!
A central theme of Jesus’ teachings was establishing a “kingdom of heaven” on earth. His approach was a new way of living founded on love and a profound respect for one another. His teaching of the beatitudes informs us that being blessed implies living the experience of hope and joy in this kingdom. And Jesus brought the message into this world that this kingdom resides within each of us!
May this inner peace enable us to live a life of both success & significance.

SAGUARO PSALMS


Saguaro Cactus--Sonoran Desert, Phoenix, AZ

I reach out to the heavens to praise my creator, receive sustenance and blessings, and touch the finger of God.


"Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies." --Psalm 36:5
"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations."--Psalm 100

DESERT SPIRIT


Saguaro Cactus, Sonoran Desert, AZ
Saguaro Skeleton, Sonoran Desert, AZ


THE GRASS WITHERS AND THE FLOWERS FALL
BUT THE WORD OF OUR GOD STANDS FOREVER

---Isaiah 40:8

Every movement of the hands on a clock represent the last second of time that has passed and the first second of the time which is to come…and that time in between is the sacred moment of the present where life is to be lived to the fullest.
This is the intent of the God who created all of us in His own image and gave us this temporary life on earth and the promise of an eternal life hereafter, where we will enjoy the possibility of meeting again. He promised to never leave us in our temporal earthly life or our eternal spiritual life.

STRENGTH OF CHARACTER


Windmill & Superstition Mountains--Sonoran Desert, AZ

DO NOT PRAY FOR AN EASY LIFE.
PRAY FOR A STRONG CHARACTER
.
The resolve of that windmill standing firm and facing the storms of life in concert with the strong land surrounding it immediately brought to mind one of my favorite wisdom thoughts and also good advice on prayer attitude. No loving Creator is going to zap us with an easy life, but revels in helping us to develop our strength of character as we weather the storms. Then, we don't develop rust and aging wrinkles like exposed iron and old barn wood, but a healthy tan and unique character lines as a tribute to successfully emerging on the other side!