I got a big chunk of work done today, and boy did it feel good.I still have a lot left to do—more than I can probably really manage in the what is left of the week—but I still decided to take a little time to celebrate.I took a walk down to the beaver dam for the first time in almost a week.
It is amazing how much can change in such a short time.The long strings of toad eggs and little clumps of frog eggs have now hatched, with tiny black tadpoles everywhere.Some of the bigger tadpoles that over wintered in the water are now growing legs and are beginning to look a lot more like frogs.A pair of Canadian geese has taken up residence, and they already have a little gaggle of the cutest babies imaginable.
The beavers themselves have been building a huge mud dam.It is holding back a lot more water, so the meadow along the stream where I used to walk is now filling with water.I’m having to find new paths around it as going through it no longer seems to be an option (at least, without getting very wet or very muddyor both).
But most excitingly, I got a great view of the beaver tonight.He was sitting on the bank and decided to swim down and check me out. The beaver swam quite close, did a circle, and then swam away. Not quite satisfied, he came back and did another circle. Finally he swam back up to where he was before, crawled back out on the bank and began eating.It was a real treat.
I’m wondering if there is just one, probably a male, and if he has to build an acceptable habitat to attract a female.Or maybe the female has pups (what do you call baby beavers? I don’t know) and is staying with them in the lodge until they get a bit bigger.I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
Being outdoors in the woods, there is always something new to observe; always another reason to be awed and amazed at the incredible gift of life in all its glorious diversity.
When spring comes, I use what little free time I have digging in the garden rather than typing away on my laptop.Hence the lack of posts.It has felt pretty good to give my brain a rest, especially since I have two national level articles due this week that have kept my thoughts occupied.
Anyway, I noticed Elise (http://ladygrey.typepad.com/) tagged me for a meme to post weird things about oneself. I’m grateful for the tag because it gives me a reason to post again and something easy to post about.
I love Japanese monster movies.Godzilla, Gamera, Mothra, Rhodan, Monster Zero/King Ghidorah, Anguirus, Baragon and so on—they are the coolest!
I’m a kid who never outgrew his snake phase.At one time I had well over 100 snakes living in my basement.(Yes, they were in cages.No, I don’t have them anymore.No time to take care of them so I sold them.Yes, I miss them.)
I’m one of those strange people who love tomato soup, tomato juice, ketchup, Salsa, and tomato sauce—but hate tomatoes.
I like to go fishing but don’t like to eat fish.
I don’t like certain foods more because of the texture than the taste. Like shell fish.They actually taste pretty good, but there is something funky about the way they feel in my mouth.And asparagus. Yech.
I think if a desert describes itself as a gourmet or premium product but uses fake vanilla (vanillin), it doesn’t really qualify.So I usually won’t eat it—figure it’s not worth the calories.
I can figure out a way to add sugar to just about anything.
There’s probably lots more stuff than that, but that is all that comes to mind right now and I need to get to work.
As you probably know, for most Christians in the western world yesterday was the celebration of Easter.After 6 straight hours of services, I went home feeling grateful and inspired.
So many people went above and beyond in so many different ways.People thanked me as they left church for a “glorious Easter”, but the truth is (and I tell them this) that it takes many dedicated hands to make a glorious Easter, and it is the work of each and everyone of them that makes the day as glorious as it is.
Of course, we would also like to believe that it is primarily the experience of the presence of God in our midst that makes the day glorious—but even so, in my experience God often chooses to work through His people.All of which is to say I am very thankful for my church.
And it is not just what happens on our grounds that is so cool.One of our families, for instance, went into the city for a sunrise service at the National Mall.On the way back, they handed out bag lunches to the homeless.Another went and visited hospitals.Somehow, I think that is precisely the kind of thing one would have found Jesus doing on Easter as well.
I tried to talk my parents into driving up from North Carolina and joining us, but after having just spent a week working on rebuilding homes in Mississippi they were too tired to make the drive.
But my brother and his family did come over.Even though they live just minutes away, I don’t get to see them nearly enough, so I was glad they were able to spend the day with us.We grilled hamburgers and ate Chef Eloy’s “Kickin’ Salsa” (a local salsa that is simply the best—and I love salsa).We were going to have milk shakes, chocolate cake, and flan, but by the time we were done with the hamburgers, we were just too doggone full.
So we went for a walk to the beaver dam, something of a challenge since my brother’s three kids are all under 5.But it was fun and they did well.My youngest brought a camera and walked through the wood merrily taking pictures, which for some reason I don’t quite understand brought great joy to my heart.I posted one here and put some of the others in the album on the side, “A Kid and Her Camera.”
We got back and managed to squeeze in the milk shakes and the desert, though I kind of wished I didn’t.About dark my brother and his family left, the kids went off and did their thing, and I laid down with my wife and read Mary Higgins Clark’s newest book, Two Girls in Blue.
It was a good day—the kind of day that even if you just got one of in life, it would be enough.
I'll get to the house call in a moment. But first, a couple copperhead (a mildly venomous snake) stories.
Several years ago, I was taking a bunch of kids to a non-commercial cave. For some reason, were going at night. It was about a mile hike to the cave, and I was bringing up the rear. Though none of the kids saw it, they had all walked over a small copperhead in the middle of the roughly defined path we were walking. It was coiled up on a rock holding heat from the day's sun.
Another time my family was staying at a cabin in Lost River State Park in West Virginia. My grandparents where there (the same one's that took me to Alaska) and we were driving back to the cabin at night. Stretched the whole way across the road in the head lights was a truly massive copperhead.
We all just watched it, a truly beautiful animal, as it moved off into the woods. Then my grandfather got very angry with himself. "I should have run it over," he said. "Tomorrow you kids or some others will be playing and someone will get bit."
So now the house call. I received a phone call from some parishioners that had a snake in a bucket and they wanted me to come tell them if it was a copperhead. It always makes me happy when people don't summarily dispatch snakes.
It turned out it was a cute little common water snake (baby copperheads are easily identifiable as they have bright yellow tails). They let it go at the creek down behind their house.
“The Gospel of Judas” has been getting a lot of attention lately.Perhaps you are wondering about it, and just how revolutionary it really is.Here is my take on it.
You may know that the first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are called “Gospels”.“Gospel” comes from a Greek word that simply means “good news”.Christianity, then, has viewed these Gospel as telling the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ.
But the four Gospels of the Christian Bible are not the only gospels we have; there are literally over 100 “apocryphal” gospels containing writings about Jesus.In this sense, there is nothing new or revolutionary about the Gospel of Judas.In fact, the Gospel of Judas is mentioned in the writings of the early church in about 180AD.
More specifically, the Gospel of Judas falls into a category of manuscripts called “Gnostic gospels”.Basically, these have never been regarded as “Christian Gospels”.They are a syncretistic blend of elements from different religious and philosophical perspectives, which happens to include material from Christianity as well.
And by the way, the church has never tried to hide these gospels.They are available to anyone and everyone in collections of “Apocryphal” or “Gnostic” gospels.It’s just that until Dan Brown –in his very fine and very fun novel, The DaVinci Code—called attention to them, nobody except scholars and seminarians wanted to read them.
Anyway, from very early on—when eyewitnesses to the life and ministry to Jesus were still very much alive—an oral tradition formed about who Jesus was, what he said, and what he did.It is this tradition that becomes the four Gospels of the New Testament.
It is important to understand how oral tradition worked in Jesus’ day.People didn’t have television or computers or MP3 players.So from childhood on, they committed what was important to them to memory.
It’s a little bit like the way we tell kids stories.I’d read my kids Dr. Seuss, for instance—let’s say Green Eggs and Ham.My kids loved the story, and having heard it most every night for years they knew every single word by heart.Sometimes, just for the fun of it (and out of boredom) I’d change a word or two.And inevitably, my kid’s response would be the same:
An outraged, THAT’S NOT THE WAY THE STORY GOES!!!
My point is that in the culture of Jesus’ day, the story of Jesus couldn’t have been made up or changed at will.There were too many people who would have said, “That’s not the way the story goes!”
So, when other Gospels (like the Gospel of Judas) came along that were written much later (in this case, probably at least 100 years) than the biblical Gospels, people said quite clearly, “That’s not how the story goes.” Despite being of great historical value in contributing to our knowledge of Gnosticism, from the very early on it was recognized that this Gospel, and others like them, were incompatible with the Christian faith.
For length’s sake, I freely admit the above is something of an oversimplification—but I think the points hold even if we want to get very technical.In fact, I think the points I have made only get stronger the deeper one looks at the evidence.
Lately I haven’t felt at all like blogging.I still don’t, but I figure unless I’m going to quit altogether I should make myself write a post.
It’s not that anything is wrong—to the contrary, it is that so much is right that my life has basically hit a saturation point.The days lately have been very full and very good.
Take yesterday.We had an Easter Egg Eggstravaganza—a community wide event designed to include a 10,000 egg Easter Egg Hunt, games, crafts, a band (our church band who these days is simply phenomenal), face painting, food, and so on.
After near drought conditions for the last several months, yesterday we were hit with a deluge of wind and rain.The temperature dropped into the low 40s (it was 29 degrees with ice when I got up this morning.) With an event of this magnitude, it is hard to reschedule (especially with Easter only 1 week away) so we just went with it.And you know what?People came.We had a blast.And I was so proud of my church.
Or take today.What a gorgeous day.Though the air was still brisk and cool, the sun was bright and warm.My youngest daughter and I walked together to the beaver dam.
Despite temperatures having dropped back into the 40s by the time we got home, the frogs were singing up a storm once again.Most of them were spring peepers—tiny things that make a lot of noise!Standing right in the midst of them, we couldn’t see even one.
We did see bluebirds, ducks, a big blue heron and a bunch of deer.We walked across the log pictured here to get across the creek.We talked about life and friendships and she asked me why bird droppings are white.You know, I never even thought about that.Anybody know the answer?
Several years ago Linda and I took a long vacation through the wilderness of Labrador. There were no restaurants, no movie theatres, and once we left Labrador City, no motels.At night we camped by the side of the rough dirt road.Our meals were freeze-dried backpacking food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.No Milwaukee Custard for desert!
At first it seemed like something of a hardship.We craved good hot pizza and something to do in the evenings. But then, somewhere around the second week of being away, we found a deeper rhythm, both as individuals and together, that was simply glorious. Sitting by the fire talking and looking up at the Northern Lights dancing magically about the heavens, we began to wonder why we would want to be anywhere else.
Lent for me is something like that.At first it’s a killer; it’s hard to see beyond my desire for the things I have given up.But then something happens.Something starts to shift inside, and I start to feel the pulse of that deeper rhythm once again.There are moments, at least, where I start to remember that life is more than food; that my worth is not determined by my busyness; and that I am not loved only for what I can do.
I took a walk to the beaver dam today to see if last nights rain raised water levels at all (it has been very, very dry here lately).It didn’t.
One the way, I saw these two snakes.Interestingly, there are two different kinds of snakes here.For the naturalists among you, anyone care to try and identify them?Or to take a stab at how one tells them apart?Since today’s high was only in the mid 50s, I was surprised to see these snakes active at all.
Last night’s rain brought out a carpet of flowers in the woods.Not only are these flowers quite dramatic in mass, but they are beautiful individually as well.
Life at the beaver dam was quiet.The various frogs and toads that have been making such a ruckus lately were nowhere to be seen or heard.I sat on a log and looked at nothing in particular, enjoying the luxury of letting my mind go blank.