It was two weeks ago today that we learned our Monday morning flight to NYC was cancelled due to an impending snowstorm. Since we needed to be in NYC to catch our flight to Israel (well, to Istanbul and then Tel Aviv), that was something of a problem. So I made a couple quick phone calls cancelling evening meetings, threw some clothes in a suitcase, and then hopped in a van another traveler had quickly rented. At about 5PM, just as the snow began to fall, we pulled out and drove to a hotel just outside the airport.
The next morning we had a little time before our flight, so I took pictures of planes taking off. I liked the one above withe Brooklyn Bridge in the background, and the one below with the Freedom Tower just below the ascending plane.
And then we climbed in one of those planes ourselves. Back home, my wife enjoyed tea with the cats, buried under a foot of snow.
For the last ten days, I've been walking where Jesus walked. Seeing where Jesus lived… and died. If all went according to plan, I felt the water of the Jordan River flowing around me, the same water that surrounded Jesus in his baptism. I will have touched pieces of wood, rock, or stone, and thought, “Jesus may have touched this as well”.
Before leaving, a good and wise friend said to me, "Use your imagination. Let your mind wander a bit , and see what a given place might have actually been like for Jesus in the 1st Century." It is my hope that in so doing, all the years between us will have passed away. I do think there are Holy Places and Sacred Things, and that part of what makes thems so is the kind of direct spiritual connection to our Source that they make possible.
Though I write this the day before we actually leave, I am trusting this will not just be a long physical journey, but a journey of heart, mind, and soul that takes our group ever deeper into the love of God. And I expect that I'll be chomping at the bit to tell you all about it!
Water features can really enhance a garden. They are also a wildlife magnet, drawing all kinds of birds and other animals to the yard. And finally, water gardens let you grow water lilies, some of the most beautiful flowers on the entire planet.
So here's the secret to growing stunning waterlilies every time! Cut off dahlias and float them in your pond. Yep, that's it!
...you are missing summer flowers as much as I am, here's a dahlia called "gramma's lemon pie". A true feast for the eyes!
...you are hankering to dig in the good garden dirt once again, here's a picture of what is to come to help tide you over.
... you can't wait for the summer when we can walk barefoot in the warm morning dew, here's a visual promise of the utter delight that's just around the corner. Of course, I expect there is plenty of delight around us right now, wherever we are. The trick, as Georgian O' Keeffe knew, is to appreciate the small things, and to take the time necessary to see at all.
One of the things that always amazes me about Lent is how profoundly I experience the concept of “less is more”. When I eat less, for instance, I appreciate all the more what I do eat. A fresh salad can seem like a gourmet treat.
When you get right down to it, life’s simple pleasures are hard to beat. A beautiful sunrise. Walking hand in hand with my wife in the evening. Hearing a bird sing. Talking with my daughters.
I remember wonderful afternoons of absolute bliss spent with friends just guiding a small stick down a little stream back behind our house. We called it “scanning”. Little stretches of faster water became (in our minds) huge rapids; tiny whirlpools presented grave peril; and there was always the possibility that our “ship” would get beached or stranded. The cost was nothing but the memory stays with me to this day.
I do wonder sometimes: does all the stuff with which we fill our lives—as good as it is!—just make it harder for us to remember where true happiness lies? It's something to think about anyway, which is one of the reasons I'm thankful for this season in the Church Year: it gives both occasion and opportunity to do just that.
Some years ago while living in Florida, a great influx of armadillos invaded our yard. They had a particular fondness for our (once) potted plants, though the truth is they dug up pretty much everything else as well. Pockmarked with deep craters, our lawn and garden was beginning to have a distinctly lunar appearance.
It was time for Armadillo Combat, built on a rigorous trapping program. To be successful, one must discern the habits of the marauding armadillos. Next, one sets a trap (the kind that catches them alive) in the middle of the perceived armadillo path. Finally, one hopes that an armadillo does indeed wander into that trap. And they did.
I caught four pretty quickly, all released alive and well in the yard of a Baptist church down the street (kidding). We also caught 8 raccoons, 2 squirrels, a rabbit, an opossum , and the neighbor’s kid in doing so, but we felt like we are on the right track.
All of us have things in our lives we’d like to change. Like the above scenario, such changes start when we have a concern (assault armadillos). This concern, if untended, grows into a crisis ( a garden that looks like a lunar landscape). The crisis requires a choice (can I live with the mess or do I choose a different path ahead?) Once one makes a choice, he must then carry out the decision in his conduct (becoming an armadillo trapper). And finally, if the change is going be effective, one must make a commitment to continue in it ( I set traps for months on end.)
We are now in the season of Lent, and one way of understandin this is that it is a season for "trapping armadillos". In other words, Lent offers us the opportunity to change. It offers a process by which we can identify our concerns before they become a crisis as we chose to correct our conduct. It asks us to make a commitment to do so (It’s only 40 days. We can do anything for only forty days. Really!) But at the end of 40 days, we just may find that we’ve created new habits, begun to experience a new and better way of life, and so want to continue these changes in creating a lifestyle.
The idea of taking 40 days-- just 40 days -- to be used in such a way that they can change the rest of our lives sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Though I gotta admit, I sometimes miss armadillos. They cause a lot of mayhem to be sure, but the also sure were cute.
Though OTV was meant to be a lesson in biology, it also turned out to teach a lesson about life.
My younger daughter also writes a blog, and so back in 2007 she also wrote about the exploits in natural history that were the subject of last week's posts here. Not everyone understood. She received some pretty sharp criticism for it and was feeling rather embattled. So we talked about that.
Criticism is a part of life… So is being misunderstood. From what I can tell, it’s an aspect of life that never stops being painful. But we deal with it as best we can and move on.
I assured her we hadn’t done anything wrong. A bit warped maybe, but not wrong. She smiled a mischievous smile, a smile I will never forget and will always appreciate. I saw the strength behind it and thought, “My little girl (who is no longer very little, of course) is growing up.” And I knew we were going to be OK.
A lot of criticism has come and gone since then. But you know what? We are.
At approximately 17:15:42PM on March 17, 2007, the quarry was officialy sited and captured on the above rare live action footage. This appeared to be only a preliminary approach, as none of the birds were yet willing to land on or near the bird feeder. Still, this gave the V-Team hope.
It was not in vain. Finally, on March 19th a couple vultures came to the yard.
And so I go back to the beginning. A high school biology teacher steps up to the challenge of engaging his students. And in the process he gives a father a treasured gift. We never know the full extent of our influence, but for better or for worse I expect we probably always underestimate it.