Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Bell Tower, London, England
Glorious Sunrise, Wrightsville Beach, NC
Clearly the Easter bells ring out,
Calmly the steeple towers
Where reverent people kneel to pray
Among the Easter flowers.
Gently the April sun spills down,
Softly the warm wind blows
And hope, long given up for dead,
A resurrection knows.
--Ruth Johnston Hulse
A bright shining star announced the birth of Christ, and the world grew dark on Black Friday, but the glorious rising Easter sun proclaims that the light of the world has dispelled the darkness and is the true Risen Son!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Springtime Harbinger, Jamestown, NC
Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. But all creation that is composed of matter is constantly being created and destroyed as we go through life. Day is created with each sunrise and destroyed with each glorious golden sunset. Spring arrives with the hope of new birth everywhere in nature to be followed with falling leaves and fallow winter fields. Human Beings are born to the great joy of new parents and then they are mourned with their inevitable passing. There is a delicate balance in the universe with equal parts of positive and negative energy moving throughout everything. All of human existence as we know it has been created and scripture tells us that it will all be destroyed on the Last Day. But even that catastrophic event will be heralded by a final creation of a new order and a restored spiritual existence void of the negatives that once prevailed. Both creation and destruction will apparently cease and that which exists will be sufficient for a timeless eternity.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Receiving Grace, Jamestown, NC
Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more…And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less…God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are. God's grace is priceless.
“AMAZING GRACE,” was written by a converted slave trafficking Englishman, John Newton. He realized his helplessness during a tempest while he replaced his crewman who had just been swept overboard. This incident and reading, “Imitation of Christ,” led him to conclude that only the grace of God could save him. He married in 1750, suffered a stroke three years later, was ordained into ministry in 1764 and wrote Amazing Grace around Christmas, 1772. The piece with bagpipes reached #1 in the UK in 1972.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Potter's Kiln, Seagrove NC
The Holy Spirit is Christ or God , a part of the holy trinity, dwelling within me. Our God who placed the sun, moon and stars in the sky also placed his Spirit within each one of us. This Spirit of God is not actually part of me, but influences me on my spiritual journey to develop my character as a response to life’s tests and trials and experiences.. The Holy Spirit mysteriously occupies the body like the soul, as both are spiritual entities, and help to shape the soul for its eternal destiny. Paul defined this Spirit the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) and he writes that his Spirit guides and comforts us through this life to a wonderful and eternal life. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
In John 14:16-17, Jesus promises, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
Adam Hamilton writes, “The Holy Spirit is God’s presence dwelling in our hearts. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be our counselor, our comforter, our guide. The Spirit would fill us with rivers of living water. The Spirit would convict us of sin, would give us power to be Christ’s witnesses, and would help us know that we are the children of God…We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in our lives at the time of our baptism…then it is up to us to accept it by inviting the Spirit to work in us.” God always allows us free will to choose our destiny.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul lists many gifts the Holy Spirit gives to us. In 1 Peter 4, Peter notes that we should use our gifts to serve others by speaking and serving to help them and glorify God. The Holy Spirit is like a prairie fire within us that illuminates our dark hours of the night (comforter) and helps to spread God’s word to others and follow in the paths of God’s mind and will (guide).
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 18-19, “I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.” God will speak through our conscience (counselor) to let us know what is right and what is wrong as we move through life. Ignoring reminders of wrong doing hardens our hearts, while trying to always do the right thing will enable us to maintain a clear conscience and a pure heart.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Light of the World, Jamestown, NC
I found a March 9, 2010, article in USA Today extraordinarily intriguing. It contains an interview with author Rebecca Skloot who has written, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." Henrietta was a poor African-American who moved to Baltimore during World War II so that her husband could get work in the steel plants. They had five children and opened their house to anyone needing shelter, with Henrietta sometimes cooking meals for 12 people sleeping in the halls. She was the ultimate caretaker for others. Then she discovered a cervical cancer tumor in 1951 and passed away at Johns Hopkins Hospital eight months later at age 31.
Scientists had routinely taken Pap smears from everyone without their permission or knowledge since the 1940's. The cells then died. Henrietta Lack's cells were labeled HeLa and cultured as a matter of procedure. But, Henrietta's cells NEVER died and they are still living some 60 years later. No one knows why! A lab in Alabama has been mass producing her cells at a rate of 3 trillion HeLa cells a week and selling them for $250 a vial. They have been used for everything such as creating the first polio vaccine, cancer medications, Parkinson's drugs, space flight analysis and the first cloned cells.
Henrietta's family did not know that her cells had lived on for 25 years and they currently have no legal rights to them. Henrietta's daughter, Deborah Lacks, believes that her mother was chosen to continue her loving caretaker role. And in this exploding age of scientific discovery where conventional boundaries are forever being challenged, one has to also wonder if this woman has ever died. Her cells and DNA live on, literally all over the world today. No other human being has ever experienced this phenomenom. And what of her soul? I've always thought that even though a person might lose a limb, their character and soul remain with their living organism. God is a conscious spiritual being and we are conscious earthly beings. We were created in his image, so we can expect parallels in our existence. His being occupies the universe like our soul occupies our body. Therefore, our soul doesn't occupy any one region of our body, but the entire living organism. Our soul is released once the organism dies, but Henrietta's cells remain alive and scattered over the entire world. Perhaps her soul does indeed live on and continues to care for her fellow man as long as there is a need for her HeLa cells to live on. Or perhaps, the soul departs on the last breath of life.
Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Light Dragoons, Revolutionaries, Greensboro, NC
"On 15 March 1781, the armies of Nathanael Greene and Lord Charles Cornwallis fought one of the bloodiest and most intense engagements of the American Revolution at Guilford Courthouse in piedmont North Carolina. Although victorious, Cornwallis's army was so badly damaged that he was forced to retreat to Wilmington to resupply and refit. Declaring the conquest of the Carolinas to be impossible, Cornwallis made the fateful decision to march into Virginia, eventually leading his army to surrender at Yorktown, clearing the way for American independence."
--Lawrence E. Babits & Joshua B. Howard,
"Long, Obstinate , and Bloody, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse"
Our lives as Americans are unprecedented in human history--from these early beginnings to our post 911 era. May we never take our freedoms or life styles for granted, as many patriots and ancestors have paid a heavy price on our behalf.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Rise & Shine!, Wrightsville Beach, NC
White Dogwood, Bicentennial Park, Greensboro, NC
Sacramental Cup, Greensboro, NC
The Romans of Jesus’ time are known to have crucified an extraordinary number of human beings and displayed them in public as a means of maintaining their ruling power. The Romans crucified Spartacus and his army of 6,000 after a slave revolt in 73 BC, lining the Appian Way with their remains to make their cruel point.
Have you ever wondered how Christianity would have evolved on the world stage if Jesus’ crucifixion had stopped there with no subsequent resurrection? We could still have the assurance of forgiveness, but the validation of this crucified man among the many as the son of God would have been lost. And with it, the validation of power over death and the promise of eternal life. The resurrection is the basis for the church’s witness to the world. It's been proposed that if there had been no resurrection on that first Easter morning, Christianity would have quietly slipped into the sands of time. Jesus asserted many times that he was speaking truth from God. In John 2:18-19, His critics asked him for a sign. He answered that He would give them one—his resurrection. And He did rise from the dead.
Mary Magdalene was the first one to arrive at the tomb in the garden where they had laid Jesus’ dead body. She saw that the large stone covering the entrance was rolled away. This was not necessary for Jesus to leave the tomb, but so that others could see that he was risen! Mary ran to get Peter and John and they entered the tomb to find the grave clothes were left in the shape of a cocoon, as if Jesus had passed right through them. The headpiece was still rolled up in the shape of a head. This was no act of a grave robber.
Jesus later appeared to his disciples who were gathered in a locked room and also shared a meal of fish and bread.
Mary initially thought the risen Son of God was the gardner, but when he said, “Mary,” she turned and cried out, “Rabboni!” which means Teacher. If you’ve never made the connection, this account of Mary and Jesus “In the Garden” relates to the timeless hymn of the same name written by a Philadelphia pharmacist turned hymn writer. Millions have subsequently been transported to that faraway garden and have been enveloped in the awesome joy and wonder of that first Easter experience. Sin entered the world in a garden and resulted in humans being expelled into a broken world. It seems only fitting that sin should be defeated in a garden resulting in the promise of eternal life in a restored world.
Although our path may lead through the sorrows of Gethsemane, the pain of Calvary and the shadow of the grave, the resurrection proclaims that we shall overcome in the joy of eternal life. Frederick Buechner may have phrased it best when he wrote, “Resurrection means the worst thing is never the last thing.” No matter how bad our personal life or world events become, they won’t be the last recorded entry in our history. The resurrection will be the final victory! Let us live each day with a grateful heart and in the spirit of new life.
A bright shining star announced the birth of Christ, and the world grew dark on Black Friday, but the rising glorious Easter sun proclaims that the light of the world has dispelled the darkness and is the true Risen One!
Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas writes in “24 Hours that Changed the World”, "the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus are God’s response to the sin, evil, injustice, tragedy, and pain in this world…The power of Easter can be summarized in one word: hope…It is something we cannot live without." He has closed his annual Easter message for the last twenty years with the same words, “People ask me, ‘Do you really believe this story of the Resurrection?’ And my answer is always the same. I not only believe it, I am counting on it.”
Dallas, Chicago, IL
I took this photo from a distance with my telephoto lens after placing a few bucks in the cup which Dallas had placed at his feet. I had noticed the hand written sign he displayed to solicit my money. "I'm not a bad guy, but I will be honest, I've made a lot of bad decisions." I appreciated his candor. At least he wasn't cursing the world in general and blaming everyone but himself for his present life circumstance. Every day, in every way, we face endless decision paths on our journey that allow us to turn right or left, choose good or not so good. At least Dallas seems to be honest with himself. He seems to be aware that his current situation that has resulted in begging for money on the streets of downtown Chicago is due in part to choosing some wrong forks in the road. It would be easy to condemn Dallas, but yet we all stumble off the path of life on occasion, and there but for the grace of God go I.............Thank God for His priceless grace and the sacrifice of his Son that enabled forgiveness of anything we genuinely repent. Mainly, those free will decisions that don't end well. He isn't looking for a relationship with a gaggle of bobble heads, but one in which we human beings have the free will to choose our path.
Chinese Dancer, Millenium Park, Chicago, IL
Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance....
“We clasp the hands of those that go before us,
and the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other’s arms
and the larger circle of lovers,
whose hands are joined in a dance,
and the larger circle of all creatures,
passing in and out of life,
who move also in a dance,
to music so subtle and vast
that no one hears it except in fragments.”
--“The Larger Circle”, by Wendell Berry
Seeing God and our world with the “eyes of our heart” recognizes the sacred and interconnected creation that lies beyond the thin veil between the material and spiritual cosmic dance. While we move about in our daily routines, spirits rise and their dance is all around us. The entire cosmos circles in a vibrantly delicate balance at both the micro and macro levels.
The biblical heart of scripture is not the vital organ which helps sustain our bodies. It would seem to be part of the overall mystery of those indistinguishable attributes of mind, heart, soul and spirit which somehow reside within us and define us, more so than the external, visual, temporal body they occupy until our dance of life here on earth has run its course. We are all participants in the larger circle of the dance of life, and most of our movements seem to be unconsciously played out like Shakespeare’s poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. Our earthly dance cards are not stamped with a “Guaranteed Tomorrow” rain check while we move about in the dance. And faith is an attitude of the heart to trust in the mystery of the dance and our creator God.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Clock of Life, London, England
"The clock of life is wound but once
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
One of my earliest childhood memories occurred on an early evening in Kansas when my great grandmother died. I didn’t know her very well as she was bed ridden by the time I came to know her. My grandmother who lived next door had transitioned into her primary care giver at their home during the final years of her life. I remember family members arriving and becoming uncharacteristically solemn as they slowly gathered around the fireplace at our home. At first I wasn't aware of why they were there, but then it became apparent what had happened as they began discussing her long life and their memories of the special times they had shared in her life’s journey.
The moment that made the most vivid impression on me that evening was the gasp that my mother suddenly uttered while everyone was still reverently celebrating this woman’s life in our dining room. She was pointing to the old black clock on the mantle which no one generally paid much attention to during our daily routine. But on this night, the hands were frozen in time at the precise hour and minute that my great grandmother’s spirit had passed on from this life and into the sanctuary of our ultimate home, as if in tribute to and respect for her long and most recently painful life.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Open Air Market, London, England
The fruit of silence is prayer. (Possibly in a garden)
The fruit of prayer is faith. (Faith that he is with us now)
The fruit of faith is love. (Loving God and others)
The fruit of love is service. (Making a difference)
The fruit of service is peace. (No burnout)
--Mother Teresa's creed
Jesus left us with a guide for living and coping in a broken world which was to love God to sustain yourself, and love others to help sustain them and foster peace in the world. One of our former ministers taught that being a committed Christian involves a commitment to daily prayer, active study, and dedicated service. These actions can all foster a lasting relationship with God.
It occurred to me that we can also spend six days a week “getting knots in our rope” and then expect to spend an hour or so on Sundays to straighten things out. But if we live each day in the presence of God, we can be fruitful and keep the ropes in our lives untangled.
Red Sashes & Violins, Millenium Park, Chicago, IL
Shared Love, Millenium Park, Chicago, IL
“THOUSANDS OF CANDLES CAN BE LIGHTED FROM A SINGLE CANDLE, AND THE LIFE OF THE CANDLE WILL NEVER BE SHORTENED. LOVE NEVER CEASES BY BEING SHARED.”
Jesus summed up all the rules we need to know about living when he was challenged by the learned, adult, religious high command to state which commandment was the greatest. He simply stated that we should love God and love others. When his disciples discouraged parents from bringing their little children to him he also rebuked them and said that the kingdom of God belongs to such as them. We simply need to bring the trusting nature we initially had as a child, before the world and the years hardened us. Then, we can freely share our talents with the world like the young Chinese violinists and our concern for others like the toddlers. Once a child understands that another person is loving and caring, they do not need complete intellectual understanding and a filtered bias to believe and trust in them. Security and trust are manifested in holding hands together and watching out for each other as they confront the world. I love the message this image communicates. The youngest "Princess", as identified on the backpacks, is being protected on either side by her trusted companions. They have a common bond that is visually seen by the rope and the holding of hands. But the unseen and most obvious bond of all is the presence of the shared love that brightly radiates from this little trio of buddies. Childhood innocence and trust and hope for the future may be one of the few reasons the world still exists.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Snowy Lenton Rose--Jamestown, NC
A smiling elderly man sporting a baseball hat over pure white hair entered the Cancer Center waiting room with his wife and sat across from us. He easily struck up a conversation with a couple of women awaiting treatments about the sudden April cold spell which was spitting intermittent spring rain and snow showers outside.
I was passing time engrossed in my book and couldn’t hear all of the conversation, but I did catch him saying, “We haven’t gotten much rain lately during this drought, but I’m sure we’ll get by. It’s the Lord’s land. I’m just looking after it. The Lord’s been good to me though. I’ve got some cancers, but I’ll get over it."
You could easily relate this wise man to someone who’s been very close to the earth and the reality of basic life truths. It was etched into each tanned character line of his face. He was in touch with the realities of the circle of life. He understood that the trials and tribulations in this life are relatively short when weighed in the balance of eternal life on this Easter season of rebirth and new life. He understood the meaning of stewardship and trust revealed in Genesis 2:15 and John 3:16!
Broken Beach Shells--Wrightsville Beach, NC
Here's some of the "life lessons learned" from a sunrise shelling walk on the beach during an Easter break weekend:
* Rising at daybreak assures the best shelling and also the best seat in the house for greeting the gift of another day of God’s creation.
* Braving the cold and wind chill of an early spring day gets a leg up on the competition which has rolled over in bed and pulled up the covers.
* The very best shelling occurs at sunrise after a storm has passed through on the previous day and night. Christian believers have the promise of finding eternal life after braving life’s storms.
* When faced with the daunting choices of the many shells deposited by the pounding waves, the first inclination is to go for the “perfect” ones and disregard those that are “broken and disfigured”.
* Close examination reveals that even the “perfect” shells that you have gathered are still somewhat imperfect in shape and color, but each one is still truly unique and beautiful in its own right.
* Once you have tired of collecting the “perfect” shells at your feet, you begin to notice the uniqueness and hidden beauty of the scattered and broken shells left behind by the bearer of the foot prints walking somewhere ahead of you.
* The broken and unusual shells begin to take on an aura of their own and that’s when you transition to a search for the most unique and interesting “one of a kind” shells. These creations have the physical changes acquired from time and experience and have been tossed and turned by the crashing waves, sand and storms.
* Jesus recognized that we all live in a broken world— broken lives, broken dreams, broken homes, broken relationships. During the last supper he broke bread and instructed us to eat it as symbolic of his body “broken for you” and drink the wine as symbolic of his blood, “shed for you”. He sacrificed his life so that we will have eternal life. He taught us to help and comfort those spirits and bodies that have been broken by life’s crashing waves and storms and recognize the beauty that resides in all of us.
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
David is not only praying to God to be with him during one of life's storms, but also delivered a prophetic sign that Jesus' bones would not be broken during his crucifixion. The Roman custom was to break the legs of the crucified to hasen death.
New Easter Life, Bicentennial Park--Greensboro, NC
I recently finished a book, "Twelve Ordinary Men" by John MacArthur that presents a brief narrative of each disciple’s life and involvement in the beginning Christian movement. Each bio concludes with an account of their death which is mostly early church legend, since only James' death is recorded in the Bible in Acts.
These men had locked themselves up in a room to hide after Jesus' crucifixion, but were later eyewitnesses to his resurrected being, were given the power of the Holy Spirit ten days after his ascension to be with his father, and were all persecuted for their faith. With the apparent exception of John, they all met very tragic deaths spreading the Word. I think their deaths may in fact have as much meaning for us as their extraordinary lives.
Why would these men place their lives on the line and die such traumatic deaths when they were indeed such ordinary men? Certainly they had the power of the Holy Spirit, but perhaps it was also because they witnessed the resurrected Savior and knew deep in their hearts that his message was the truth, the way and the life everlasting! I believe their collective fate is a dramatic answer for anyone who questions the resurrection!
This is how their inspired lives ended according to MacAuthur:
* John--Banned to the island of Patmos and later died in Ephesus.
* Peter--Forced to watch his wife be crucified and at his request was crucified head-downward because he believed he was not worthy to die like Jesus.
* Andrew--Lashed to an X-Cross instead of nailing and took two days to die.
* James, older brother of John--Herod had him killed by the sword.
* Philip--Stoned in Asia Minor
* Nathanael--Either cast into the sea in a sack or crucified.
* Thomas, the doubter--Needed to put his hand where a spear had pierced Jesus on the cross--Run through with a spear.
* Matthew--Burned at the stake.
* James the Less--Stoned or beaten to death or crucified.
* Simon the Zealot--Killed for preaching the gospel.
* Judas the Apostle with Three Names--Clubbed to death.
* Judas Iscariot--Hanged himself for betraying Jesus.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Rusty Weathered Barn---Columbus, OH
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” --Matthew 6:19-21
"A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. From the perspective of an airplane, you can see hundreds of little piles of stuff, neatly arranged in rows. When you leave home, you have to lock up your house so that people won’t take your stuff while you go out to get more stuff. If thieves do break in, have you noticed that they only take the GOOD stuff? They never take all that other stuff that you’re saving for no good reason. Sometimes you gotta leave and get a bigger house because you need more room for your stuff. When we go on vacation, we pack up and take a smaller version of our stuff, which is all we basically need."
--George Carlin, A Place for My Stuff
Our culture tells us that our lives consist in the abundance of our possessions and pleasurable experiences. And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, most times the pleasure of acquiring stuff lasts about as long as it takes to remove the price tags And then we’re off to other pursuits which the medias' relentless bombardment of ads assures us we have to acquire.
Life is a gift, and everything belongs to God. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1).” We do not inherit the earth from our parents. Rather, we borrow it from our grandchildren and God. God freely blesses us and expects us to take care of our needs and our children. He wants us to enjoy life, but not only focus on ourselves. And when we help others by returning a portion of our livelihood, we are blessed. Sharing with others is a great cure!
We oftentimes reach a crossroads in life where our material demands and our spiritual growth are intersecting! We can maintain our momentum as long as we continue to align our time, talents and treasures (our will) with our best view of God’s will.
Versailles Formal Gardens, Versailles, France
Chicago Art Institute Flower Garden--Chicago, IL
Be mindful of your thoughts, for they become your actions.
Be mindful of your actions, for they become your character.
Be mindful of your character, for it becomes your soul.
“I view the garden in my mind as a sacred patch of cosmic real estate that the universe has entrusted me to tend over the years of my lifetime. As an independent agent, I and I alone, in conjunction with the molecular genius of my DNA and the environmental factors I am exposed to, will decorate this space within my cranium. Regardless of the garden I have inherited, once I consciously take over the responsibility of tending my mind, I choose to nurture those circuits that I want to grow, and consciously prune back those circuits I prefer to live without. Although it is easier for me to nip a weed when it is just a sprouting bud, with determination and perseverance, even the gnarliest of vines, when deprived of fuel, will eventually lose its strength and fall to the side.
Your body is the life force power of some fifty trillion molecular geniuses (The cells in our brain are the same, but over time their connections change based upon their/our experience). You and you alone choose moment by moment who and how you want to be in the world. I encourage you to pay attention to what is going on in your brain. Own your power and show up for your life. Beam bright!”
--Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., My Stroke of Insight, a brain scientist’s personal journey after a stroke
Rise & Shine--Wrightsville Beach, NC
What I do this day is very important, because I’m exchanging it for a day of my life. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded it for. I want it to be gain not loss; good not evil; success not failure; in order that it shall be worth the price I paid for it.
Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the one who is in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat, who strives valiantly, who tries and may fail again, because there is no effort without erring or shortcoming. The credit belongs to one who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows the greatest enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
"Gunner" by Becky Davis--Emporia, KS
"UNTIL ONE HAS LOVED AN ANIMAL,
PART OF THEIR SOUL REMAINS UNAWAKENED"
This photo was taken by my niece, Becky Davis, of the barn dog which sort of belonged to her veterinarian neighbor on the outskirts of their Kansas town. Gunner was apparently born about the same time as a litter of prize piglettes on a neighboring rural farm. The kids from both families were buying the piglettes to raise and show at the local county fair. The wise old farmer was giving away one puppy with each purchase. So, that's how Gunner came to be a barn dog, and he seemed to be OK with the "Charlotte's Web" way of life with the other farm animals. But he did like human companionship and warmed up to the visits he had with Becky on her evening walks past the old barn. Then, the veterinarian's family moved to another city and Becky offered to take in Gunner. He started his new life in a simple little bed in the garage, but soon found his way into the house and hearts of those inside. He even cleans up very nicely and now his personality shines through even more abundently!
"And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds...And God saw that it was good...Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creaures that move along the ground." (Genesis 1:24-26) "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being...The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:7-15)
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Blue Ridge Mountains--Ashville, NC
Happy moments, praise God
Difficult moments, seek God
Quiet moments, worship God
Painful moments, trust God
Every moment, thank God
Life is composed of a sequence of present moment experiences. Each of these, no matter what the circumstance, is an opportunity to grow in our relationship to our creator.
Scattered Gulls--Wrightsville Beach, NC
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;...
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!
These first and last lines of Rudyard Kipling's famous poem, "If", are great advice during the most tumultuous times of our lives. When a situation gets really tense, really fast, it's best to be like a duck--calm on the surface (so folks around you don't panic), but paddling like crazy under the surface (so you can react decisively).
Cholla Sleleton--Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale, AZ
You see in life what you look for. These close up images of the decaying remains of a Cholla jumping cactus have many possibliities. But the first one immediately caught my eye for the "evil eye" that stared back at me on my computer screen after I downloaded it. The second image attracted my attention for the organic art I thought I was photographing. The skeletal remains of a once thriving, living organism viewed in the micro world reveals a subtle evil and beauty that mirrors our universe. There seems to be a potentially equal number of both negative and positive life forces around us at all times. Perhaps this is part of the delicate balance that exists throughout the entire universe. And we have the free will and attitude to look for either one. We can see the goodness that others exhibit all around us or we can see the terrible consequences of man's inhumanity to man. We can see all the natural disasters and suffering that seem to be occuring like the increasing pains of childbirth or we can see all the acts of courage and compassion that teams of humanitarian workers bring to the aftermath. Street smart people shouldn't turn a blind eye to the evil that exists around them. But we shouldn't ever become so hard hearted and callous that we look right past all the beauty that is in our world as well.
And what we look for is what we will see.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Chicago River Rainbow--Chicago, IL
"You can't step twice into the same river."
Heraclitus recognized ages ago that the only constant in life is change. The universe around us is in constant change and every sunrise heralds a new creation. Learning to embrace change and go with the flow circumvents a lot of heartache. We are constantly learning and growing and developing the character that shapes our eternal soul--the one unique essence that transcends this life into the next. And the shape of every soul has the potential to be as ethereal and beautiful as the colors of a rainbow that are refracted from the seemingly translucent light that surrounds us throughout our lifetime. And during the flow of that lifetime, both we and the river are never the same from one present moment to the next. Honoring the source of that life flow enables us to navigate the rivers of change successfully.
Embracing change instead of resisting it makes life infinitely easier sledding. Change is good, heralds new growth and opportunity, strengthens us and our position in life, and can open doors to sucess and enrichment. I've always liked the ancient Chineese symbol that represents both chaos and opportunity, for there is indeed opportunity in every occasion that others see as disaster.
Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House---Chicago, IL
Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub; It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel; It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room; It is the holes that make it useful.
Therefore, benefit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there.
--Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu
In the Hindu tradition there are five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space.
Space is often the element that is overlooked, and it is the one we yearn for – the one where we feel at home. Without space, there would be no place for the other elements to manifest themselves.
Knowing that unused stuff that was acquired at one time is no longer needed, but can be essential to someone less blessed, makes it very easy to part with and pass along. Have you ever had the experience of clearing out the home of an older parent whose life has been transitioned from independent living to assisted living? It’s amazing to see just how much material stuff is no longer necessary. Life can truly be reduced to a very limited number of essentials and an even fewer number of nonessentials—and life goes on quite smoothly!
Isn’t it interesting that in this world where the mantra seems to be, “He who dies with the most stuff, wins”, Jesus left behind exactly nothing of this world for history. He built a kingdom based on relationships, not material things.
Clearing out the extraneous anxieties that occupy our minds and all the extra stuff that occupies the deepest reaches of our closets can indeed be a very refreshing and liberating experience. By liberating this space in our lives, we simplify and actually enrich the quality of our life!
Monday, March 1, 2010
Early Morning Web--Jamestown, NC
We're generally not aware of the thin veil that separates this material world from the spiritual one that coexists in our universe, but occasionally it manifests itself in the oddest places, if we look for it. I believe that we simply have not been wired to sense the spiritual plane because it would be too much of a distraction to perform our daily earthly lives. It's interesting to note that just about every time a spiritual being appears to one of us mortal beings in the Bible, the first thing said is "Fear not". We'll all get there eventually.
Low Country Sunset--Kiawah Island, SC
"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice
at the end of the day that says, 'I will try again tomorrow.'"
--Mary Anne Radmacher
I think this wisdom speaks volumes for those going back to a highly stressful job in the morning or back to chemotherapy willfully because it needs to be done. I've always said that persistence is a great equalizer. Many folks don't do it. And all too many folks don't realize what great personal courage they are experiencing.
The storms of life many times leave us a bit battered and beat up, but that's when a firm foundation of faith enables us to just trust in our creator God and promise ourselves that we'll try again tomorrow and go to sleep.
Heavenly Day Lily--Jamestown, NC
What if you slept?
And what if, in your sleep, you dreamed?
And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven
and plucked a strange and beautiful flower?
And what if, when you awoke,
you had the flower in your hand?
Ah, what then?
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Dewey Web---Jamestown, NC
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” --Proverbs 3:3, BCE
“The portion of our brain that separates us from all other mammals is the outer undulated and convoluted cerebral cortex ...which is divided into two major hemispheres…Many of us speak about how our head (left hemisphere) is telling us to do one thing while our heart (right hemisphere) is telling us to do the exact opposite. Some of us distinguish between what we think (left hemisphere) and what we feel (right hemisphere)... Most of the different types of cells in our body die and are replaced every few weeks or months. However, neurons, the primary cell of the nervous system, do not multiply (for the most part) after we are born. That means that the majority of the neurons in your brain today are as old as you are. This longevity of the neurons partially accounts for why we feel pretty much the same on the inside at the age of ten as we do at age thirty or seventy-seven. The cells in our brain are the same, but over time their connections change based upon their/our experience…
--Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight, A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, 2009
“Experience for the nervous system involves the activation of neural firing in response to a stimulus. When neurons become active, their connections to each other grow and supportive cells and vasculature proliferate. This is how experience shapes neural structure…One hundred billion neurons are, on average, linked to each other via 10,000 synaptic connections, which are created by genes and sculpted by experience: Nature needs nurture.”
--Daniel J. Siegel, The Mindful Brain, 2007
“When we choose to act in loving ways, loving feelings begin to flow…the best way to cultivate a heart of gratitude is to give thanks in all circumstances. Likewise, the more we give, the more generous our hearts become. Generosity changes us, filling us with joy and filling our lives with blessings.”
--Adam Hamilton, Enough, 2009
Shrimp Boats--New Bern, NC
Some folks spend their entire lives getting their ropes all knotted up. And then it gets so tangled that they slip down to the very end and just hope to hang on. But remember, when you reach the end of your rope, you'll find the hem of His cloak.
"Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, 'If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.' Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' he said, 'your faith has healed you.' And the woman was healed from that moment."