Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The Princess in Her Bed Chamber, Jamestown, NC
Princess, Jamestown, NC
Seeing Princess in her bed chamber, one would immediately sense that she is most assuredly living the good life. And you would be right. But she hasn’t always lived the life of royalty provided by my back yard neighbors. She’d been spotted on a number of occasions in a parking lot living in the urban wilderness and struggling to survive on her own. She was apparently living a feral existence in the company of the cast from the musical Cats. After many attempts to gain her confidence, she was finally coaxed off the streets and welcomed into a warm and loving home. By this time, however, she had learned one of the basic tenants of the streets to not trust anyone.
Princess disappeared after a violent storm this past spring. After a few days it seemed that she had relapsed back to a life on the streets away from human contact. And just when all hope seemed to fade, she simply returned with her tail between her legs through a garage door that had been cracked open for her. So, in honor of her return and in the spirit of the return of the prodigal son, the neighbors gathered to celebrate the prodigal cat’s return. Just as the accepting father ordered a fattened calf to be brought for the feast, we celebrated with libation and hors d'oeuvres. Prodigal cat toys were brought in the spirit of the forgiving father who had the staff bring him the best robe and sandals and put a ring on the prodigal's finger. The prodigal’s return provided a reason to celebrate one of life’s little victories.
It has taken the passage of time and many strokes from caring human hands to unlearn the harsh lessons of the streets. But it would seem that those difficult days of living on the edge of existence are slowly being cast into the recesses of corrupted memory files. Princess now delights in chasing the elusive red laser beam. She has begun the slow process of living up to her new namesake and the ultimate creature of God that her staff could see in her before it was revealed. She has now morphed into a lovable creature worthy of being christened a princess, and it shows in her Bette Davis Cleopatra eyes.
"But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this cat of yours was dead and is alive again; she was lost and is found."
--Luke 15:32 (very loose translation)
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Carousel, Internet Domain
I like the imagery of being on a circling carousel riding horses that rhythmically move up and down as a metaphor of daily living. All the world’s a stage and we can easily turn into actors that strut and fret our time upon that stage and are heard no more. Seeing the stage of life as a carousel focuses on the rat race which we can easily get caught up in as we move through the seasons of life. Life can morph into a flurry of daily activities that occupy all of our time and stresses us out to the max. There can be periods in those seasons when it is about impossible to get off the carousel, even if we’d like to do it. And there are other times when the speed of the carousel seems to keep accelerating out of control with no end in sight.
But it is at those critical times in our lives that it becomes imperative for self preservation and ultimate peace of mind to jump off the spinning ride and walk over to a quiet bench and simply be still for awhile. It’s important to pause our life and rethink about our purpose in life. It’s important to pause and rethink about what’s important in our life. It’s important to pause and rethink about who’s important in our life. It’s important to stop and rethink about our relationship with our creator.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
After the Storm, Rocky Mountains, Colorado
I've known of people who couldn't get past aspects of their own lives that inhibited them from seeking God's love and forgiveness. I recall a conversation from one of Philip Yancy's books when he was ministering on the streets of Chicago. He was trying to get a young woman of the streets to attend a Sunday service. Her response made an impression on both Yancy and myself. She replied, "I already feel bad about myself. Those people would just make me feel worse!" I believe we must understand the frailty and vulnerability of the human condition and understand that God's grace is open to all, which can then begin the healing process for ourselves. Sometimes folks find it easier to love and forgive others rather than themselves. I've reviewed many self evaluations of associates that were much harsher on themselves than their peers or managers. We can be our most ardent critic and that can have a negative impact on our own lives. Self evaluations can be positive if viewed as constructive and a path to self improvement, but not perfection. Only one man ever walked this earth without sinning and we believe He was also God. All the rest of us are in the other category and everyone has their cross to bear, some heavier than others.
I've also come to a conclusion about the troubled Tucson shooter whose actions were abhorrent. It seems that this troubled young man may have been rejected by his Congresswoman during his first short meeting with her when his questioning may not have been understood. He was rejected by the military when he tried to join. He was ejected from community college and asked not to return without a mental clearance. His Internet postings indicate he was rejected by most of his advances to the opposite sex. This loner may not have been so mad at government as he was mad at the un accepting world in general, finally prompting an outburst at the world in general. These rejections absolutely do not justify this young man's actions and I'm no psychologist, but I suspect he had come to love himself even less.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The Obits, Greensboro, NC
I’ve reached that stage of life where the obituaries catch my eye occasionally as I read the morning’s newspaper. A snowy winter’s day can provide such an occasion. I don’t have the slightest idea who the majority of these people are who gaze at me from the black and white thin veil, but how the sum total of their lives is described provides some kind of fascinating curiosity. On those occasions, I like to scan each article of those who have gone before me and keep a mental note of how the writer described the departed’s departure. It is mostly written that a person simply died. Sometimes, the exit is peacefully in sleep. That’s probably the best way. Interestingly and not so often, it’s written that they go to be with the Lord or go to their glory home. And other times, they just pass away or depart this life. I’m not at all sure why all these different exit strategies are used for the same common destiny of all mankind, except for the slight variety in the daily routine that it offers the journalist who has been assigned the task of writing all these very brief overviews of a life.
In the final analysis, how our lives are summarized in the daily paper is only a brief news item. And there is that rare occasion where the writer records an intimate and sometimes humorous observation like the one shared by a colleague; “One of my all time favorites was the one in which the gentleman who died was described as ‘...could be a pain in the ass just like the rest of us...’" No one can summarize a life in such short space, not even in an autobiography where the words are carefully chosen and I suspect the truth is gently stretched. It’s the voluminous entries in the Book of Life that matter. It’s the fast forward video that is reported by those who see their lives rapidly passing before them just as they are being resuscitated from almost certain death. It’s about how we ultimately lived life and how we conducted ourselves. It’s about how we genuinely asked for forgiveness and received God’s priceless grace in response when we didn’t act as we knew we should have in a given instance. It’s about how we loved and lived as best we could in a broken world. It’s about how we dealt with others, especially the unlovable in this world. It’s about how we loved and forgave ourselves in light of our humanness.
I’ve always liked the story of a man’s response when asked how he’d like to exit the world. He remarked that he’d like to die peacefully in his sleep like his grandfather—not like the others in his grandfather’s car who were hysterically screaming and yelling.
Aspire to inspire before you expire.
Monday, January 10, 2011
American Flag & Washington Monument, Washington D.C.
I support the notion that all of us Americans need to raise the bar of civil discourse regarding our political disagreements so that we can maintain our basic American freedom to disagree without inciting senseless, extremist reactions.
The vitriolic rhetoric and political ads that fill campaign coffers and boost talk show ratings have consequences. They not only cross the boundary lines of basic human decency, but they inflame the misplaced passion of all the crazies out there whose actions can never be predicted or understood by the rest of us. It prompts a time for serious soul searching, a renewed call for understanding the requisites of this experiment in democracy and ALSO raising our flags from half mast to meet a new day in American history with the resolve to carry the torch of freedom with the same respect demonstrated by the sacrifices of those who have passed it to us.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Cloud Waves I As Published in USA Today 2/16/11, Jamestown, NC
Cloud Waves II, Jamestown, NC
Cloud Waves III, Jamestown, NC
Normally, you drive east in the Carolinas to photograph huge breaking waves crashing in off the Atlantic over sandy beaches. But today, the waves were rolling in from southern Gulf of Mexico waters in terraced rows across the early winter sky.
Flat Santa & No Glow Rudolph, Greensboro, NC
Silent Echo of Children Playing, Greensboro, NC
End of Dry Needle Trail, Greensboro, NC
Deflated Dukie Decoration, Greensboro, NC
Sadly, in our instant credit culture of instant gratification we all too often miss the sweet anticipation of receiving God’s blessings. All we get is a brief moment of exhilaration just before we cut off the price tags and then later receive the statements with interest charges from the dark side.
We’ve come to that inevitable pay the piper time of the New Year when all the air has gone out of our inflatable holiday decorations. Discarded evergreen trees leave a trail of dry needles out to the curb side where they will gather with gay gift wrappings and meet their collective fate in a toxic landfill. Even Rudolph’s nose no longer glows. The motionless empty tire swing surrounded by unlighted reindeer serves only as a reminder of the children’s laughter that now echoes across a distant school yard.
But hopefully, amid this seemingly depressing overcast scene, we are also left with the priceless joy of the past Christmas season and the peace and goodwill that will sustain us throughout the New Year, until we once again enter another Christmas season to recharge our spirit!