Sunday, March 25, 2012
Escort, Jamestown, NC
Holy Ground, Greensboro, NC
In the book, Glimpses of Heaven, written by Trudy Harris, RN, the former Hospice nurse shares one of her end of life experiences about an elderly man who lived alone. When she entered the room he told her “There’s an angel at my window, Trudy”. Trudy recalls “I explained to him that God was preparing to take him home very soon, and He was letting him have a glimpse of heaven before going in. He smiled knowingly, nodding his head in agreement and seemed totally at peace with that thought. I promised to stay with him until he was taken there safely by the angel who was watching over him now. Sitting on the floor next to his bed, I held his hand for less than an hour until he died”. She concludes by writing “when many others told me about seeing angels in their rooms, being visited by loved ones who had died before them, or hearing beautiful choirs or smelling fragrant flowers when there were none around, I assumed it was the result of the medications they were taking or possibly dehydration. But when others who were not on medication or dehydrated were saying the same things, I started to listen, really listen…Angels were described as luminescent, music more exquisite than any symphony ever heard and over and over again they mentioned colors that they said were too beautiful to describe…There are so many important lessons people are trying to teach us moments before they die. We had better listen. We are standing on holy ground during these moments.”
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Light, Greensboro, NC
When Jesus states in John 3:16 that everyone who believes in him should not perish, he is referring to hell. The short one chapter book of Jude likens unbelievers as clouds without rain blown along by the wind, foaming wild waves of the sea, and wandering stars for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Jesus tells of a rich man in hell who attempted to appeal to a beggar in heaven for relief, but the chasm between the two was impenetrable. I think it’s also thought provoking to consider that if you were born in this great country of America, you are considered as rich by most of the world. One of the best thoughts I’ve come across regarding the concept of hell is simply eternal separation from the love of our creator. We know that nature abhors a vacuum and once goodness is removed, evil replaces the void. Once light is removed, darkness fills the void. Jesus tells us that he is the light of the world.
I’m reminded of the human issue of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s now an acknowledged disorder that affects many of us in varying degrees during seasonal changes where sunlight is withdrawn from our presence. It manifests itself in the human psyche as a depressed feeling of hopelessness. The most common prescribed treatment for SAD is exposure to a bright light. One of the oldest questions asked by inquiring minds is “why would a loving God condemn someone to an eternal life of darkness in a state called hell”? The short answer is that he doesn’t—they volunteer. When the chosen people of Israel turned their back on God, His response was to simply respond in kind and withdraw his protection. Jesus says that in the final day, some will be confronted with the admonition, “I never knew you. Away from me.” Once we have breathed our last, our book of life is closed and the light may be extinguished forever. But there will be no need for a sun or moon in the new earth, for God’s light will shine there eternally.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
David Austin Rose, Jamestown, NC
I imagine that my life is like most everyone else and some days are better than others. Yesterday was one of those days that I considered not as good as others as I prepared to leave home and drive to a local high school to judge senior presentations. I had judged nine presentations the evening before. All nine of those presentations were close to perfection with these “top of the class” students dressed in business attire and basking brightly in the graduation glow of entering the world of self determination with a seemingly unlimited future. The students were articulate, well versed and rehearsed, and gave me hope that humankind might survive after all.
The presentations last night were moving right along at close to the same level of proficiency. In fact, our presenter list was down to the last two seniors on our list as a violent spring thunderstorm dashed buckets of rain and hail against the darkened windows of our classroom. The lights flickered off and then thankfully back on as lightning streaked overhead across our small gathering. One of the teachers entered the room and asked if we could switch the last two students. She wanted to be certain the next young man had sufficient time for his presentation which she had apparently mentored. And, “Oh by the way, he’s in a wheelchair”.
I was the designated time keeper and we were instructed to assign less points to less minutes, but deduct if the presenter ran over the ideal time of eight minutes. That left me a bit uneasy as we hadn’t deducted many points at all so far in this area, with the exception of one student who nervously blew right past the cutoff time. The door swung open and an assistant wheeled the young man into our classroom. He was somewhat reclined in the chair with what looked like a pc tablet mounted across his lap. He was wearing a sharp looking colored dress shirt and matching regimental stripe tie. My concern for our ability to communicate was quickly dispelled when he introduced himself as “John” and mentioned that he had CP. He admitted that he was a bit nervous to be doing this. We did our best to assure him that we were pulling for him and that was quite normal for everyone. It was very much a part of the experience and most of us have to dig deep to summon the courage for public speaking. John told us that his presentation involved recent developments in enabling technology to assist the disabled like him. He told us that when his day started, he couldn’t move himself or turn on a light. He reminded us that like all the other seniors we had listened to for the past two evenings, he was entering the age of seeking independence and wanted to enlighten people to the possibilities of robotics and voice recognition that had come of age as well.
John then proceeded into his PowerPoint presentation without the seeming need for any notes while staying in synch with the bullet points on the screen. And all the while, I was nervously glancing at the stopwatch app on my iPhone as it rolled off the seconds and minutes. By now, John had my full attention and admiration and I absolutely did not want to give him anything less than a great score. He didn’t disappoint! As John moved into a short video demonstration that was embedded into his PowerPoint, my stopwatch rolled over to seven minutes—one minute to go and not one second more. John finished in just under eight minutes for the maximum score. After our short question and answer period, John’s assistant approached from the back of the room, as I noted the good presentation time. He was pleased that their practice time had been productive.
As I drove home in the rain, I noticed that my attitude had improved considerably. The next morning a neighbor friend coincidently sent me a short message from their pastor. He was quoting the country song I Beg your Pardon, I Never Promised you a Rose Garden, and noted that “our problems and handicaps can shape us. History is full of how problems have shaped people’s lives into significance: Louis Braille was blind, as was John Milton and Helen Keller; Beethoven was deaf; Franklin Roosevelt’s legs were paralyzed; George Washington Carver stuttered; Albert Einstein had dyslexia. So God says, perhaps, I never promised you a rose garden, but I do promise you grace.” It was apparent that many people had been used as vessels of clay to pour out God’s grace to John. Many times God uses others to deliver grace, as John did for those of us who were judging him that evening and finding him more than worthy of the task to obtain a better life for himself and others. And the judged delivered inspiration to the judges in the process!
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Camellia I, II,& III, Jamestown, NC
In his book 3:16, The Numbers of Hope, Max Lucado observes that “God may speak through nature or nurture, majesty or mishap. But through all and to all he invites: ‘Come, enjoy me forever’!”
This one unforgettable verse has been said to be the Bible in a nutshell. And spring is a wonderful time to listen to God speak through the exquisite blooms such as the Camellias outside our windows right now! By the way, did you know that they got their name from G. J. Kamel who discovered them as a Christian missionary to the Far East in the late 1600’s? Enjoy both God's nature and nurture eternally!
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Big Bang, Emerald Beach, FL
The Day with no Yesterday
The book of Genesis doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how the vast universe we inhabit was created, but to say that on that first day with no yesterday God created the heavens and the earth. But of course, the Bible isn’t a science book. There’s not much to glean from how we arrived on this planet either, except to say that in the final act of the creation story God created man in his own image, both male and female. God wanted human beings to care for the earth and to commune with Him. The Biblical account lays no claim to the process of creation, just its origin.
Lawrence Krauss just published A Universe from Nothing. His credentials as a renowned cosmologist are pretty impressive. He candidly states in the opening sentence that “I am not sympathetic to the conviction that creation requires a creator”. He goes on to discuss the church’s position of First Cause or an eternal creator by countering with the question, “What is the difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one”? Hmmmmm. Well, personally, I’d say an intuitive faith that is grown by spending time in communion with our creator and reading the inspired word that became flesh in His Son for starters. Krauss basically acknowledges that the universe began with a Big Bang that resulted from the unstableness of “nothing-no space, no time, no anything” and random chance generated the rest.
Francis Collins has also recently penned a book on the Language of God after heading the project to map the entire human DNA, the code of life. His own journey from atheism to being a devout believer has convinced him that science and religion can find common ground encompassing both faith and reason. And he references the Anthropic Principle that our improbable universe is finely tuned to give rise to human existence. Collins was astounded by the elegance of the human DNA code and concludes that a creator God that is not limited by natural laws, time or space could have initiated the Big Bang that scientists now agree brought our universe into existence.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
First Robin, Jamestown, NC
Springtime Daffodil, Jamestown, NC
Bright sunshine contained behind tinted glasses, crisp fresh breezes caressing the skin, the first robin’s chirping in the new grass, the unmistakable scent of spring showers and flowers and the taste of hot burgers just off the grill awaken the senses and herald the arrival of springtime as the seasons circle around one more time!
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Sky Scales, Jamestown, NC
Published in USA Today on March 15, 2012
USA Today just published my January photo which I titled, Sky Scales. Interestingly enough, I chose the title based on the fish scale appearance of these unusual high-altitude cloudlets. The weather editor told me that they are a cirrocumulus formation which meteorologists refer to as a "mackerel sky".
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Almost Perfect, Jamestown, NC
I recently happened upon a quote from Christopher Hitchens that stated, “Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes humans objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created to be sick and commanded to be well”. I’ve got to admit that it’s an intriguing thought. I’m certain that perfection was a possibility right out of the gates, but that obviously was not the plan. We’ve been thrust into an imperfect broken world as imperfect mortal creatures created in God’s image. And we’ve been endowed with the free will to choose our destiny with each encounter of the forks in our daily path of discovery. We have the capacity to use our gift of life for good or bad. And we’ve been given the guidelines to attempt a good life if we chose to use them. That leaves me with the conclusion that although perfection in this life is not attainable for us human beings, our creator must give a lot of credence to the effort. God knows our heart to understand how sincerely we attempt it and provides grace when we do not.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Lenten Christmas Rose, Jamestown, NC
Reverential Lenten Roses, Jamestown, NC
Lent has been designated as a forty day period of reverence before Easter that imitates the forty days that Jesus withdrew into the wilderness in preparation for his three year ministry. Consequently the Lenten season begins the last week of February and ends the first week of April. Since Christians also recognize Jesus’ birth in the last week of December, His conception or incarnation would have occurred nine months earlier or in the last week of March. The Lenten period heralds the end of winter’s harsh fallow season when the snow melts and flowers once again begin to restore color in the woodlands and gardens in the gentle season prior to summer’s oppressive heat. The English originally called this transitional season Lent, but that term later became more associated with the observance of the events preceding Jesus’ resurrection and salvation for all mankind. So, a new term was devised and the season became known as spring. It became a season of eternal hope, reflection and reverence.
Hellebores are hardy flowering plants that are frost resistant, evergreen, and bloom in this same Lenten period. Their bell shaped blooms resemble the simple shape of old fashioned roses found in the countryside. Hence, they have become known as Lenten Roses. One ancient legend of the Christmas Hellebore rose relates that the pure white bloom appears in the depth of winter due to the tears in the snow of a young girl who had no gift for the newborn Christ child. Hellebore Orientalis and its colorful hybrids display their colors amongst the early spring landscape as annual reminders of the sacred Lenten season. And in accordance with their spiritual mission, they arise with the beauty of their countenance bowed in reverential deference to their creator. Only when one kneels beside them are we able to share the experience and peer into the face of God.
The contemporary poem Footprints in the Sand was penned by a young teenage girl who lost her mother at age six, one year before the start of the Great Depression. This message has captured the imagination of countless people ever since. The popular poem describes a dream in which a person is walking on a beach with God. Upon looking back, the person sees two sets of footprints, but occasionally they dwindle to only one. The person noticed that it was during times of trial and hardship that only one set of footprints appeared. When questioning God if He had abandoned his follower during those times, God responded that “the times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you”.
Why do you suppose this poem has retained its popularity for so long? One possibility is that it has an interesting twist at the ending. And that twist gives us all pause to reflect when we think back on times of trial and hardship when we felt abandoned by God and life seemed rather daunting and hopeless. But we did manage to emerge on the other side more resilient and hardened to life’s slings and arrows than ever before. And most all of us can relate to seeing footprints in the sand on the beach near a large body of water, but I can also see the setting in a desert valley. Psalm 23 also resonates within us in that word picture as we now know that all the while our creator was with us through the shadows of that dark and ominous valley.