Unfurled

Spring in Middle America is a delight for the senses. The rhythm of nature’s ritual creates longer days of sunlight, much needed rains, and the awakening of life around us People generally respond to such change with a renewed sense of optimism. Exiting our caves for new adventures (and tasks) somehow lifts our spirits, especially after a year of lock-downs.

The amazing and methodical unfurling of the iris’ glorious petals reminds me that beauty still exists in our world, and can be found as close as my backyard. This flower is simply one of thousands upon thousands of plant species which explode forth from their winter dormancy. The change of seasons not only rouses my senses, but does something wonderful inside of me. Hard to explain, but I like it’s effects.

I contemplated including (in this post) myriad flower photos which I have taken over decades, but declined for several reasons: too painstaking to select just the ‘right’ ones; my images cannot equal those of so many talented photographers (not that I am into comparing, but I enjoy looking at best rather than good); don’t want this post to end up like a run-on-sentence!

So, I have chosen to limit my photos to one flower with the express purpose of narrowing my written expression to only a few words. Optimism. Hope. Renewal. Beauty. Unity.

Anticipation

Brown turned to white during first snow. Our feathered friends started paying us a visit as soon as I put out the feeder…squirrels, too, although they are always active. Winter’s chill replaced Autumn’s confusion. Life goes on.

Nature’s rituals are as regular as clockwork. Thankful that something is consistently good. Man can be a brute. And, He can be amazingly kind and generous. Last year challenged all of us. Some didn’t make it. Life goes on.

Results rather than resolutions. Hope instead of despair. Calm words replacing angry voices. Love overcoming division. Health being restored. Truth defeating lies. Effort required by all. Life goes on.

A N T I C I P A T I O N . . .

Please excuse the lack of clarity as these photographs were taken through glass and during blowing snow with my cellphone. Also, when ‘Man’ and ‘He’ are used, their meaning extends to all humans.

Hope your New Year is filled with a bounty of joyful experiences !

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