Monday, July 21, 2014

COMMON ROOTS


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 monothestic 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 19, 2014

RUSH HOUR


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

JOYFUL LIVING


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!

Friday, July 11, 2014

BEAUTY


Carolina Tobacco Blooms, Stokesville, NC

Beauty.....sometimes it IS only skin deep!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

HAIKU AFTERMATH


Clearing, Carolina Beach, NC

Fierce driving rain squalls,
driven by hurricane winds,
descend on the beach.

Relentless high waves,
erode the defenseless sands,
and reshape the land.

Long buried treasures,
now lie exposed for shelling,
as the storm passes.

The rain dissipates,
as the clouds begin to part,
and the sun breaks through.

Golden sea oats bow,
in the peaceful aftermath,
of the storms of life.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

HAIKU SUNDOWN


Island Sunset, KI, SC

The sky glows golden,
as intercoastal waters,
absorb its beauty.

Long shafts of sunbeams,
light the radiant aura,
as the sun withdraws.

Graceful white egrets,
slowly glide over the marsh,
as dark shadows fall.

Cool breezes refresh,
as suntanned sojourners pause,
to seize the moment.

Insects sing praises,
with the rhythm of the waves,
as they rise and fall.

Island timekeeping,
is measured by watching tides,
as they come and go.

Courageous folks pray,
“I’ll try again tomorrow”,
as daylight dissolves.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

HAIKU STORM


Summer Storm, Jamestown, NC

Quickening south winds,
stir Thunder Being Nation,
and begin to sail.

Vapor droplets join,
rise on warm air currents,
and gain momentum.

Sky sculptures are formed,
spontaneously expand,
and block out the sun.

Fire spears strike the earth,
war drums shatter the silence,
and sheets of rain fall.

Double rainbows glow,
gurgling stream voices respond,
and chant Hey-A-Hey.

Tender shoots of grass,
turn their faces to the sun,
and the sky shines blue.