Thursday, July 28, 2016
Friends, Chicago, IL
The scripture reading of John 15:14-17 from the New Testament and the new covenant should give us all great solace to know that even though Jesus is Lord, he has chosen us all to be his friends. In the Old Testament reading of Exodus 33:7-11, Moses didn’t find favor with God because he was gifted, perfect or powerful. It was because God befriended Moses. Fellowship with God at the time was out of reach for the other Hebrews and it was a true privilege for Moses. But Jesus has made it possible for any of us to become his friends.
It may sound a bit trite to some but the universal truths in life don’t ever lose their luster and I know that God answers prayers and connects to us in ordinary people who come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Our lives take countless forks on the path to our final destinations and we have the great honor to interact with countless folks along the way. And every encounter adds another thread to the fabric of friendship that is inextricably woven into our very soul and character.
Thanks be to friends!
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Spirit Line, Four Corners, NM
In memory of longtime friend Mike Ruggles who died July 21, 2016
Now that I’ve crossed over into the second half of life, I have the benefit of looking at my life in the rear view mirror. The recent loss and separation of old friends has prompted me to reflect on all the friendships and relationships of strangers and relatives that I’ve had the good fortune to experience. It may sound a bit trite to some but the universal truths in life don’t ever lose their luster and I know that the eternal weaver answers prayers and connects to us in ordinary people who come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Our lives take countless forks on the path to our final destinations and we have the great honor to interact with countless folks along the way. And every encounter adds another thread to the fabric of friendship that is inextricably woven into our very soul and character.
Sometimes those friendships don’t always end as we would have preferred once we’ve moved on, but I learned long ago to substitute the words “next time” whenever I find myself uttering the words “if only”. There are times when there is no going back, but there is always next time. And in the course of a life there are inevitable differing circumstances that leave us in a position to take opposing forks on the path and we drift apart. But that doesn’t alter the woven threads that are set in place within our fabric of friendship that will someday complete the tapestry.
I recently read a post challenging us to consider the use of the term "being blessed”. That can imply that you have found favor in a higher being and are being showered with good things and people. And it can begin to give us a feeling of entitlement and rewarded for good behavior. That may be the case in some instances, but I agree we have to be careful here. The author suggested substituting the words “being grateful” instead of “being blessed”. I think that being grateful for the people who have guided and shaped my life is a much better frame of mind. And we can always emulate those words and actions that we admire and do the opposite of those we don’t as others observe the language of our own lives.
I believe there is a plan for all of us, but we’ve been given the free will to either follow it or take a detour every so often as imperfect human beings. That also applies to all the people who enter and exit our lives over the years. Never-the-less, they all contribute to the colors and patterns they leave in our tapestry. I can honestly say that I’m grateful for all the friends that have participated in weaving the fabric of my life for a reason, a season and a lifetime.
My wife Karen and I enjoyed the adventure of traveling in the Southwest during our early years of marriage. One of those trips included a quest for woven Navajo blankets. We purchased a storm patterned piece on a drive through the four corners region one summer. We were a bit disenchanted with the blanket because we had noticed what we perceived to be a flaw in the lower right hand corner. It was only later that we discovered that the Navajo sometimes weave a “spirit line” into their creations so that the weaver’s spirit has a path to escape after the piece is taken off the loom. I’m perfectly at peace to know that my spirit stays inextricably woven into the fabric of friendship that has influenced my life.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Spirit Dance, Cloudgate, Chicago, IL
CIRCLE OF LOVE
Hands are joined in dance,
as life revolves in circles,
hours, days, seasons, years.
Sunup to sundown,
the earth spins on its axis,
moonrise to moonset.
One more cake candle.
One more trip around the sun.
One more circle dance.
Ring around rosie,
ashes, ashes, all fall down,
in gales of laughter.
We dance to connect,
to life forces around us,
for joy, rain, worship.
The circle of arms,
extends to community,
The world is broken,
but the circle never breaks.
Love is the answer.
Monday, July 18, 2016
Lipstick on a Pig, Internet Domain
There’s an old story about a man leisurely driving through the countryside on a fall afternoon and passing by an apple orchard. He notices an old farmer feeding his pigs by holding them up one at a time and letting them eat the apples hanging from the trees. So the man pulls off the dirt road, walks up to the farmer and quizzically asks, “Wouldn’t it save time if you simply shook the apples onto the ground and let the pigs eat them all at once”? And the farmer looks up even more quizzically and responds, “What’s time to a pig”?
We humans are the only creatures on the planet, and possibly the universe unless you watch the ancient aliens segments on the History Channel, that have a developed frontal lobe in our brain that can ponder the future. And of course, some have a more or less developed right brain that can reason about such things as time. A pig, for instance, wakes up every morning thinking he’s going to live forever—so far, so good! But we humans have been given the capacity to understand that our mortal time is limited and there are only so many turns of our life clocks, while no man knows the exact hour and minute it will stop. We’ve also been given the capacity to ponder life after life. When you think about it, why bother if there is none?
It’s a matter of being committed to life, not simply involved in it—like a breakfast of bacon and eggs. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed! Maybe it's time to pause and consider if we are really, really making good use of our time.
We may choose to ignore time and merrily soldier on with the pig’s mindset that life will go on forever. The pig can be excused. But we’ve all been given the priceless gift of life with the caveat that it comes with a limited amount of mortal time for a reason. And we’ve been given the free will to do with it as we please—to squander it and wake up one final morning wondering to ourselves “Is that all there is?”--or to wake up on the other side of the thin veil rejoicing in our legacy. We could argue the point forever, but that would be like wrestling with a pig. We’d get mud all over us and the pig would enjoy it. We can continue attempting to convince ourselves that our time doesn’t matter, but that would be like putting lipstick on a pig. It doesn’t change the eternal truth that it’s still a pig and our time does matter. Perhaps the answer lies in pausing time to ponder our destiny. Perhaps over a breakfast of bacon and eggs.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Swallowtail Butterfly & Dragonfly, Summerfield, NC
To become a butterfly you must have a desire for flight that is passionate
enough to enable you to sacrifice your life as a caterpillar.
Blue pickerel plants,
swallowtails and dragonflies,
line the summer lake.
and glossy green leaves abound,
under lazy clouds.
Earthbound at the start,
swallowtails and dragonflies,
transition with grace.
The flying spirits,
The power of light,
reveals beautiful colors,
reflected by wings.
When they touch your life,
swallowtails and dragonflies,
renew your spirit!
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Lost Everything, Chicago, IL
I took this image of a homeless man sitting on the Magnificent Mile of prosperous retail shopping in downtown Chicago. His cardboard message relayed that he had “lost everything”. There are charities that help people like this if they are sociable enough to contact them. So we added a donation for food to his cup as we passed by with all the people hurrying along the street. Jesus said that the poor would always be with us, so that leaves us plenty of opportunity to do something.
Europe was overwhelmed with hungry, homeless orphaned children after WWII. Large camps were created to house and feed the children, but the caregivers noticed that they were anxious and fearful which resulted in sleepless nights. Finally, a psychologist resolved the issue by instructing the caregivers to give each child a piece of bread after they were put to bed. The bread was not placed in their mouth, but in their hand and the results were astounding!
The children slept all through the night because the bread gave them a sense of security (they were safe), significance (somebody cared), and satisfaction (there was bread for tomorrow). We need these things also and Jesus has proclaimed that he is the “Bread of Life. He satisfies the spiritual hunger of the human heart and the eternal hunger of the human soul. Once we’ve received this bread of life, it’s up to us to help provide bread for the body.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Buck and Jonathan, Art Institute, Chicago, IL
Are these two students friends or enemies? I took this image of Buck and Jonathan’s photograph at an Art Institute of Chicago exhibit last weekend. I was drawn to the photo when I noticed an Asian man taking great pains to record the image on his camera. The photographer, Julie Moos, spent almost a year at a high school with students and staff to understand the students’ relationships and then invited them to be photographed in pairs. However, she didn’t let them know with whom they were paired until the last minute. They might have been with friend or foe. The students were asked to sit beside one another and look directly into the camera lens.
Once the photographs are placed on exhibit, observers are challenged to determine which of the duos are friends or enemies. The exercise forces us to re-examine not only our own high school relationships, but also our own filters, biases and stereotypes.
What first impressions do we perceive that is surely based on those filters and biases? Could these cloud our perception and judgement of people we meet to block interactions that fate has placed on our path? Would we now re-evaluate how we respond at the next meeting? This project is as much a social experiment as it is photographic art.
Too often we get more concerned about the outside of a person than the inside, e.g., if we don’t have tattoos we judge people who have them. It’s been rightly said, “Never mistake the moment for the man.” Appearance and first impressions can be deceptive, so we must be aware. These students may or may not look similar, but we are only seeing their outside and we must recognize that sometimes we see a splinter in someone’s eye while overlooking the log in ours! We should always look in the mirror before peeking out the window.
And what about Buck and Jonathan? How do you think their different races have affected their relationship? Does Jonathan’s “Harvard” sweatshirt provide any clue? Do they seem at ease or in tension beside each other? Ms. Moos provides no clues or answers. It’s up to us to decide and in the process we may just learn something about ourselves.
Additional pairs from the “Friends and Enemies” exhibit at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, can be found at: