STONES

Visited a part of Kansas City, Missouri the other day…hadn’t been to this area for quite some time. The above home is Tiffany Castle, built in 1909, from native limestone. This structure is young compared to a plethora of the world’s architectural treasures, but it is still impressive. Worth the visit to view it and adjacent houses of like materials.

What comes to mind when you recognize the word STONES ?

Rock. Hard. Strong. Building Block. Tool. Weapon. Table. Cliff. Escarpment. Fjord.

Petrology: Igneous; Sedimentary; Metamorphic.

Brief History: Two stone tablets; Five smooth stones; Millstone; Cornerstone; Capstone.

Quips: Hard as a rock; Dumber than a rock; Heart of stone; Rock solid; Stone cold.

People & Things: Rolling Stones; The Rock (actor); Stony River; Fortress; Cairns; Grand Canyon; Victoria Falls; Petra; Parthenon; Stone Hedge; Pyramids.

Thought: When the heart is like stony ground, no seeds of hope are allowed to sprout. Only when the hardened crust is broken loose can a sprig shoot forth, penetrating what was once thought impossible. Hence, the reason farmers use plows to breakup the fallow earth. It is a process I have learned from, and much to my chagrin, continue to repeat. There is hope.

A Whiter Shade of Pale

 

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The Procol Harum song from 1967 is full of skillful instrumentation and some mystical lyrics. It is an iconic song as far as rock ‘n roll is concerned and many people know it well. I thought of this song as I searched for this photograph of Carson, our Westie, which I took in the summer of 2018. Carson was indeed white when clean, but took on various shades of pale, especially after digging in dirt which was almost a daily ritual for him !

The song’s meaning is full of conjecture and possibly some unpleasantness. My intent is only to focus on the title which fits the image I chose. Our world is full of questions and much conjecture due to the pandemic. We read and hear daily of one-sentence snippets of hope and encouragement for which I question their benefit. On the flip side are the purveyors of doom-and-gloom forecasts. I doubt these are helpful to anyone.

So, we exist in a time where there seems to be a lot of pale and very little white which I equate with truth and purity (not about skin color). This much I feel is certain…our world will not be the same once we are rid of this virus and its devastating effects. My purpose is to look at the positives that will come (and are currently taking place) out of this uncertain experience. Hope is an essential ingredient, as is a real dose of unbiased reality. Remain vigilant in staying engaged and find an anchor to hold onto to. Mine is Jesus. I hope you stay secure. Carson was.

 

Social Distancing Nature’s Way

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Does it seem ironic that much of the world is experiencing this viral pandemic during the Spring season? At the very least most people can step outdoors and inhale fresh air, take a walk and enjoy the beauty of God’s colorful creation. Contemplate the advent of this virus in December and carried on through the winter months. I submit to all that that scenario would create much greater stress than the present. Don’t misunderstand, I do not minimize the current situation, but it could be worsened by the season.

Nature hasn’t seemed to be affected by COVID-19; grass grows, flowers sprout, squirrels play, birds build nests and lay eggs. In more remote areas, lions still roar, monkeys swing in trees, whales traverse the ocean depths and reptiles catch their prey. This lone morning dove has chosen to do what comes natural every year…lay eggs and hatch them. Social distancing is a natural thing for much of the Animal Kingdom.

To be totally honest, I am a bit tired of all the overused buzz words we hear a multitude of times each week. Words and phrases like: new normal; N95 masks; six foot rule; zoom meetings; essential services; sanitize; hoarding; scamming; isolating; etc. All apply, but to what degree? Job loss is real. Businesses will fail, millions will be unemployed in the future, just as they are now. Yet, I see so many folks treat this pandemic like a holiday. I work in an essential service industry and DIY projects are the “thing” right now, but this will pass as the virus continues to reek havoc in our world. People will really suffer if this pandemic continues for many more months.

On a more positive note, I am encouraged by the sense of unity, cooperation, sacrifice, ingenuity, beauty and positive social change which is taking shape around the world. We truly have become a global community. Wouldn’t that be grand if this dynamic continued after this germ is eradicated? Until then, look to nature for inspiration. My dove has distanced herself far enough to be kept from harm, but close enough to be seen and heard. May we learn from her.

 

 

Monochromatic by Nature

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Well, almost monochromatic, but close. “Where have all the people gone?”  So goes the 1970’s song sung by Joni Mitchell. It is a question that had serious implications (given all of the issues at stake in America and the unrest at that juncture of time).

I looked out my sliding glass door after a light snow, and this is what I found. It was peaceful, and oh, so white. However, as often comes to mind are partial lyrics of days gone by…this happens quite often.

So, I study the Adirondack chairs. And, I study them a bit longer. I wonder where have I gone? What has happened to my life? I feel uncomfortable. But, to not question is an affront to introspection and character. Somehow, I must determine the reasons as to why I feel this way.

Can anyone relate? Lots of questions. So few answers in and of myself. There is One who has all the answers. As I study scripture, I am drawn to conclude, as did James, the brother of Jesus, that “Life is but a mist that appears for a little while and vanishes away”. If that is true then who am I to go through life without considering what is next?

I often look to the future, but of almost equal importance, I look at here and now. I wish I could change many of my past behaviors and consequences, but I cannot. Nor can anyone else. Regrets? Yes. Defeat? No. Healing? Yes, but it takes time. May we all be patient. Don’t forget the power of hope. And, dream in color !

 

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Loss and Hope

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Why do so many grieve over an ancient building being partially destroyed by fire. A building which survived world wars and political upheavals for centuries…not to mention the structure took over two centuries to complete!

Because it is Art.

Because it represents people…a nation…a world view.

Not all will mourn because of faith or political reasons which saddens me.

I am a Christian, but had this been The Dome of the Rock or some other significant religious building, I would still be sad due to the destruction.

Man creates, but he copies God’s plans. After all, it is He who gave the mind to man.

Not only the mind, but the heart, the drive, and the penetrating zeal to create.

Notre Dame was one of these creations. There are so many more.

I have not been to Paris, but have seen the replica of this great edifice in Montreal, Canada. From the exterior, the two look remarkably alike. The interiors differ.

Unfortunately, less than a year ago, a virus wiped away well over a thousand photos of which one folder contained images of Montreal’s Notre Dame. I have the memory, of course. As the French say, “C’est la vie”.

Below is the interior of the alter area of the Montreal structure. I copied it to another file.

So, to my French friends, I say ” Adieu”.  The building will be restored, as I hope so will your faith.

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Bruised Reeds

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“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out”.        Isaiah 42:3

We, the human race, are all broken (bruised) in one way or another. Sure, we can create facades that vault us into super stardom appeal, but in the end we all face issues that we simply cannot overcome in our own power. Try as we may via manifold self-help strategies, the latest diet and fitness plans, seeking advice from others who may or may not be qualified to give it, and on and on it goes.

Rather than spend your time on all of the reasons as to why we are bruised and broken, I want to state a few simple thoughts which compliment rather than deride this human condition. First, we are beautifully and wonderfully made (Palm 139:14). Period. Whether a model or a paraplegic, a millionaire or a homeless junkie, a child with AIDS or an Olympic star, we are all basically the same once we overlook the obvious differences on the outside.

Secondly, we have a hope which transcends this earthly existence. This hope is called Love and came to us in the form of a man. He set the world upside-down with His teaching and is either praised, loathed or ignored…Jesus is His name. Because He loves us so much He has chosen to not condemn us, but to save us from ourselves. Rather than break the reed or snuff out the candle, He strengthens the stalk and fans the flame to burn brighter. It may not always feel like it, but it’s during the tough times that faith grows and hope is renewed.

So, the next time you see the stalk of any plant think about the bruised reed, about yourself and have faith that both will outlast the storms of life and the foibles of the human heart.

When in Drought

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We in the Kansas City area have been in a prolonged drought for months. Plus, we have had extremely hot temperatures during this time. By looking at my yard one would think grass is meant to be brown rather than green…assuming there is any grass !

There are all sorts of droughts in life: spiritual (that’s a big one), relationships, health issues, job, work associates, financial, no change of scenery, hopelessness…and the list will become larger given enough thought, but you get the idea.

Some droughts last longer than others and some are more difficult, as well. What we do during a drought tells us a lot about ourselves. Droughts test our strength and resolve and reveal our limitations. I have been through several seasons of prolonged and difficult droughts and have learned a great deal about myself that I didn’t realize prior to those experiences. And, some of what I learned I don’t like.

Sometimes we come through a drought stronger, and sometimes not so much. However, we do come out of them as changed people. I share this iris with dew on it to remind me that droughts don’t last forever and that there will be times of joy and beauty and purpose. If you are currently in a drought think of this flower with wet petals gleaming in the morning sunlight. Hope is what we need and hope is what I seek for all of our lives. Tomorrow is a new day !

Your Song

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It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside

I’m not one of those who can easily hide

I don’t have much money, but boy if I did

I’d buy a big house where we both could live

If I were a sculpture, but then again, no

Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show

I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do

My gift is my song, and this one’s for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song

It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done

I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words

How wonderful life is when you’re in the world

Elton John

For better or for worse is what we spoke

Time has a different version than what we hoped

We’ve been through much pain and I’ve caused quite a lot

But we’ve also had much joy since we tied the knot

So you can tell everyone this is your song

I sing through my words to my most wonderful doll

I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind, but I can’t help myself

You’re the most precious thing in life…in the whole wide world

Michael

BLUE SKIES

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I can see clearly now the rain is gone                   

I can see all obstacles in my way                                             

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind,

It”s gonna be a bright (bright)

Bright (bright) sun-shiny day

It”s gonna be a bright (bright)

Bright sun-shiny day

Oh yes I can make it now the pain is gone

All of the bad feelings have disappeared

Here is a rainbow I’ve been praying for

It”s gonna be a bright (bright)

Bright (bright) sun-shiny day

 

By Johnny Nash in 1972 & then Jimmy Cliff in 1993

 

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S A P

 

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When I think of the term ‘bleeding heart’, I simply look at one of our Ponderosa pines we planted over 25 years ago in an environment which they weren’t meant to thrive in. The prolonged drought which ended about three years ago almost killed all of them. Today, many bleed sap. Sap covering trunk bark is usually a sign of a tree defending itself against invasive insects and fungus’s. Pruning also causes sap to occur to cover the wounded trunk and branches. Since these pines are mature and were weakened by the lack of water and extremely hot summer temperatures, they are unhealthy. At this stage in their lives, there is little that can be done to make them thrive again. They have already exceeded their life expectancy for our temperate zone. They are not native to Kansas and are more vibrant when located in cooler and higher altitude climates. Yet, they have survived. Speaking of survival, pine tree sap is an excellent wound salve and has other beneficial medicinal uses.

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It is wonderful how nature protects herself. From a strictly vision perspective, the bleeding sap looks like an abstract painting of sorts. All of this gooey, slowly dripping sap gives the pine a fighting chance to survive another year. Although their branches aren’t as full as when younger, and the ability to withstand drought and pestilence aren’t as good as they used to be, these out-of-place trees know a thing or two about life and stress. They adapt. The sap is like liquid artwork to me-gradually changing color and shape as time marches on. Although I know something is wrong, I can’t help but admire the ever changing covering of bark. Strange, perhaps, but also encouraging.

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So, why talk about sap? Because it reminds me of people…of me. The bark of a tree provides an outer protective shield much like people do with their words and actions. Get too close and the bark may scratch. If one could peel off or bore into the bark then the tree (person) becomes vulnerable to a host of problems. Since sap is created to protect the tree when the bark has been damaged (much like people respond to pain and injury as they reveal their emotions in a myriad of ways)  a protective balm is produced. People  will do almost anything to protect their souls from being injured further.

Often, we lash out against those who have injured us-and in the process create more harm to ourselves by striving to keep them away. Sometimes we curl-up emotionally and drive away those who care for us by simply closing them out. If we understand our condition and desire healing we are usually clueless as to where to find it. So, rather than produce sap, we humans look to other methods to bring about wholeness. Occasionally, we get it right and bounce back, but this is not easy and usually requires the aid from others.

There is something magnificent about the human spirit…each unique spirit God has given to mankind. We so much desire to be vibrant. We desperately want to be noticed. We vie for attention and when we don’t get it from where it should come from we do all sorts of silly things. We want to be understood, and appreciated simply for who we are. It doesn’t matter if we are fifteen, twenty-two, forty something, sixty or eighty-eight. We all crave the same thing-to be acknowledged…to be appreciated…to be recognized (with or without fanfare). Validation. We simply want to be acknowledged and valued.

So, we instinctively protect ourselves when our egos have been walked on or our ambition has been perceived as arrogance. Whether we are hurt, belittled, misunderstood, have been treated unjustly or are ignored we struggle to deal positively with what has been done to us (or perceived to have been done to us). Hence, sap. Just like these pine trees striving to live-we humans go through all sorts of mental, emotional and physical exercises to survive, as well. Being very complex beings, most of the time our self-protective actions are misunderstood or self-destructive. Quite often, our defense mechanisms return to a default position that only ourselves or a few others are even aware of. How sad. How true.

So, rather than end this post on a negative note, I choose to flip the record over and play a happier song. Sap is a good thing. Period. If God didn’t give each human the ability to produce ‘sap’ then we would be doomed to a life of pity…often self-pity. This statement is not to imply that some injuries are beyond our control to heal. However, each of us experiences a suppository of defensive mechanisms to deal with the pain; whether they be crushed egos, betrayals, personal attacks, mockery, physical deformities or a myriad of other conditions. We are resilient.

My God has stated that we are the Apple of His eye. In other words, the most vulnerable place in the human body is valued by the Creator in such a way that He loves us and desires to protect us. I admit that I am not an expert in this area. I know His love, yet fight to make things better by my  own will. The result is usually not so good. However, when I release all to Him, the result is one of inner healing which, in turn, results in outer blessings for others. To be human means to be a family. It doesn’t matter what one’s philosophy is, nor what religion, nor what influence one may have achieved. I wish there was equality among all people everywhere, but such is not the case. We all know this.

Let us become the Sap for the sake of others. Practice applying the balm of forgiveness, of understanding, of empathy, and sacrifice when it is called for. Go the extra mile as Jesus preached and surrender yourselves to the greater good…mankind. I speak to myself most of all. Do not despair, my friends, for there is a power far greater than our own which governs all things. In particular, this Power loves humans more than trees or sap. He loves each one of us simply because He chose to. You are wonderful.