Thursday, August 21, 2014
Twilight Rose of Sharon, Jamestown, NC
Beauty can easily be a matter of perspective. I learned long ago that viewing creation from an out-of-the-ordinary position can be extraordinary!
Bright sunshine would wash out this image, but the vanishing filtered light of the setting sun adds just the right amount of back lighting to reveal the intricate veins of the flowering petals. And these veins are not unlike the extraordinary life-giving blood veins and sensitive nerve branches that permeate every square millimeter of our extraordinary bodies that God created to sustain our own lives.
And if you view all the rivers and streams on the surface of the earth from high above in the skies, the same patterns that sustain our planet are readily apparent.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Roots by the Stream, Valley Forge, PA
The very first Psalm tells us that those who place their faith in God are likened to a tree whose roots are firmly established beside flowing, cool streams of water that never run dry. The Psalmist relates that your fruit ripens in its time and your leaves never fade or curl in the summer sun. No matter what you do, you prosper, i.e., when we apply God’s wisdom the fruit or results we bear will be good and receive God’s approval. This doesn’t imply an easy life, but a worthwhile life of significance and true value.
Jesus offered the woman at Jacob’s Well living water so that she would never be thirsty again. She wanted to be free of physical thirst, but Jesus was offering spiritual nourishment; streams of living water that flow from within. He empowers us to deal with our problems from God’s perspective. Jacob, Isaac’s son, actually purchased this land outside Shechem, north of Jerusalem, for a hundred pieces of silver (Genesis 33:19). After wrestling with God, his name was changed to Israel, meaning “he struggles with God”, and he became the third link in God’s plan to start a nation from Abraham (Genesis 35:10-11). Jesus was in the lineage of Isaac and Mohammad was in the lineage of Ishmael, Abraham’s other son. An angel of God called out to Hagar and Ishmael in the desert and told Hagar to “lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation (Genesis 21:17-18). Perhaps the one common thread of hope for peace in the Holy Land is knowing that the roots of the world’s three major monotheistic religions of Judiasm, Islam and Christianity all commence from one man, Abraham.
And the well of God’s living water still flows today as a reminder of His love for all nations and the promise of a restored Kingdom of God.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
High Country Aspens, Vail, CO
Rose Quartz Bloom, Jamestown, NC
About forty five years ago, my bride and I were spending our honeymoon vacation high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It was a carefree time to be alive in the midst of one of God’s most beautiful creations in this high country. We fell in love together with this glorious country and the experience became the first of many summer excursions through every corner of the Ute Indian territory.
The cold snow melt rushing headlong down rocky mountain streams was a tranquilizer for the senses along with the Mariah wind song slicing through the pine needles and rustling aspen leaves on cool breezes. Late afternoon showers wafted through the valleys as fire spears pierced the air and thunderous waves of war drums echoed off the ancient cliff dwellings. As the storms moved on to the east, the western skies cleared to reveal the low rays of the setting sun over the high peaks. The bright rays reflected and refracted against the trailing rain drops, revealing the Navajo Yeii rainbow spirit that is said to bring beauty to those in harmony.
We drifted high into the old mining town of Leadville and toured the Tabor opera house where silver mining barons once cheered some of the best entertainment of the time. Then our government switched to the gold standard and bankrupted them faster than their fortunes were made. The "Unsinkable Molly Brown" who survived the Titanic disaster met her husband in Leadville where they became rich through the Little Johnny Mine. Horace “Haw” Tabor made his fortune in the Little Pittsburg silver mine and then bought the Matchless Mine. He later legalized his relationship with Baby Doe McCourt after he divorced his first wife. We listened to an elderly woman who said her father used to carry her into the opera house on his shoulders to watch the shows. As fate many times has its way, she related that Baby Doe was found penniless and frozen on the floor of the Matchless Mine’s wooden tool shed one blustery winter's day. She had spent her last thirty years there after living the high life, silver had lost its luster and Haw had died of pneumonia.
Later, we ventured outside the Leadville area and stood at the site of the Matchless Mine, pondering Baby Doe’s life. At the very least, it was a sobering life lesson and a testament to how quickly earthly treasures can vanish. Especially compared to the investment one can make between your ears and spiritual treasures stored in heaven. As we departed from the mine along a winding mountain road, we happened upon one of the many serendipitous life events that we experienced during forty years of traveling together. We followed a crude sign to a partially abandoned mine that had a few rusting ore cars sitting on rails outside another small weathered building. The small cars were piled full of large chunks of glistening rose quartz rocks. When looking for a souvenir of some earthly location I’ve passed in the night, I like to acquire something germane to the country. So, we bargained for one of the largest pieces of rose quartz we could comfortably fit into our loaded car and took it home. It has remained a beautiful fixture in every flower garden that I’ve planted ever since that first Colorado adventure. And today, as I was photographing fresh blooms in the garden, I looked down to behold the perfect fusion of new life and old memories under the warm Carolina sunshine.
I’m certain that most folks regard that chunk of rose crystal as just a colorful rock. But to me, those magical crystals encapsulate beautiful memories of the Colorado high life that we also shared for a moment in time. For us human beings, a wide variety of things like words, songs, places, sounds, objects, etc. trigger the remembrance of those special times. These can be precious memories that we hold close to our heart. Perhaps that helps to explain why Baby Doe stayed so close to the desolate mine which others considered to be worthless, but she still treasured as “matchless”.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Morning Rush Hour, Greensboro, NC
I attend a men’s prayer breakfast at 7:00 on most Thursday mornings. We enjoy good fellowship, a better meal than I’d probably have at home and share personal praises and concerns. We then dismiss and go our separate ways. Some go off to work and others move on to wherever today’s retirement agenda leads them. I like the thought that transitioning from work to retirement is simply moving from a life of success to one of significance.
Today wasn’t much different than most Thursday mornings as I drove in the rush hour traffic after breakfast. I’ve found that I actually enjoy driving the long way home to relive the experience that was so much a part of my life for so many working years. There’s a sense of camaraderie as you glance around you at multiple lanes of vehicles migrating to distant office parks, retail malls, school buildings, production plants, warehousing centers, downtowns, airports, etc.
I witnessed many familiar scenes today as I observed young women making last minute touches on their makeup and young men straightening their hair or using an electric razor. Folks were hoisting their cell phones at every stop light to get caught up on the night’s texts and e-mails. Mothers were giving instructions to the unseen child in a car seat behind them or possibly calming the family dog in a crate on the way to doggy day care. And dreary-eyed men were sipping their ubiquitous Starbucks Grande coffee cups as they attempt to ramp up their heads for the morning’s challenges.
As I moved through an urban business park, I recalled that I was generally fully engaged by the time I parked my car in the company lot. The commute had given me time to gather my priorities and my sense of urgency to tackle a new day. I was locked, loaded and primed to dive into all the opportunities cleverly disguised as problems. Every day is another chance to grow and learn and expand your circle of relationships. And since challenging work is generally good for us if we keep our family, spiritual and career life in balance, I was excited to see how life would unfold.
Admittedly, there were also those exceptional days when driving to work with all the other nameless faces could only be compared with voluntarily taking yourself to a beating. Like those mornings when you were faced with sitting down with associates you had known for years and explaining the terms of their termination. When I catch myself getting nostalgic about those mostly good days at work, I just conjure up one of those repressed dark days. And when the string of vehicles ahead of me begins exiting off the roadway and into a corporate lot, I simply look straight ahead and placidly drive on.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Donald Ross Golf, Asheville, NC
I have a golfing friend that gave me some good advice recently. My drive had landed in a precarious location in the edge of the rough and I was considering the safe shot using my wedge to lay up away from the green. That was a conservative boring choice that in retrospect might have been the difference between me scoring in the 80’s or 90’s. And it occurred to me that I generally don’t remember my score from one week to the next, nor do I really assign it that much relevance in my life. I go to the golf course for the joy of nature, the camaraderie, the exercise, the game, the focus and the occasional beer on the nineteenth hole.
But I do remember the fantastic, low percentage shot I hit one fine day through the forks of a tall pine tree and onto the green where I sank the putt for a birdie. I was actually trying to hit that shot and my playing companions now refer to that pine as “the Larry tree”. And it’s still standing, unlike “the Eisenhower tree” at Augusta National. So, when my playing companion told me to “go for the green; you can lay up when you’re dead”, I went for it with all the gusto and skill I could muster. No new landmarks were to bear my name that day, as I missed the green. But I was in a handy spot and still managed a par. I remember that par as vividly as the birdie, because I was really enjoying life on those occasions.
I was having a lunchtime conversation with a friend that professes atheism who commented that most people are afraid of dying. We have a survival instinct deep within our DNA that speaks to the ability of our ancestors to stay alive. But if you have no hope for a spiritual existence after this mortal one, dying must definitely be more daunting. And there are unfortunate folks that experience a debilitating phobia about dying that distracts them from the joy of living. Woody Allen famously noted that “I’m not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens”. Yet it’s a common destiny for all of us and part of the circle of life.
I’m a firm believer in living in the moment and trusting in God for my future existence. I don’t recall being anxious about coming into this life, so why should I be anxious about leaving it? I believe there’s a fantastic existence waiting for us on the other side, but I can be patient about crossing over. And then there are those who long for immortality, but never considered what they would do with it. Many of those are the same folks that generally don’t know what to do on a rainy Sunday. For myself, I don’t plan to lay up in this life or the next!