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Baptized Again

14 Apr

Baptized Again

Water in my church’s baptismal font is so clear and clean that it reflects the colorful stained glass windows on the east wall of the building. Clear, refreshing water.
I was baptized at age twelve and again at age seventy-three…just a few days ago.
Well into a 30-mile bike ride, I ran short of water…something important to have on a 90 degree ride. Knowing that a water fountain was located close by in a public parking lot, I peddled to the site…only to find that the fountain was not in working order. My only option was the sink faucet in the restroom facility…better than nothing, although you might need to know that tap water in my hometown is not highly regarded by lots of people. It just doesn’t taste very good. Some would say “yuk”!
Now, full bottle in the holder, I started out of the lot onto the bike trail when a man called me to a halt. He had gotten out of a pickup truck, parked in the shade of a small tree, and he approached me with a bottle of water in hand. “You can’t drink that stuff”, he announced. “Here, take this”, and extended the fresh water. “I can’t take your water on a day like this,” I replied, but he insisted. “No, please. I want you to have it.”
As he drove out of the parking lot, I tasted cold, clean, refreshing water…and it was wonderful. If he looked back he saw me drink almost all of it and then pour the rest over my head and shoulders for the cooling effect.
Baptized again with generosity and kindness.
Baptized again at 73.

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Wondering

5 Apr

Wondering

I wonder what she’s thinking?

As she nestles her infant child in her arms, is she wondering about the recent UN report concerning climate changes and how we are slowly but surely walking down a narrowing path?

Or, maybe her mind is concerned about troops massing on various borders or Sudanese refugees or Syrian victims or terrorists whose passions erase the value of human life.

Or, perhaps she’s wondering about water for her child to drink or food shortages as the gap between the 1% and the 99% expands. And expands. And expands.

She looks like a kind and caring mother, as do all the ones on television each night weeping about the plight of their families and communities. She reminds me of mothers around the world who must be wondering what the future will hold for their innocent infants.

I wonder. Do you wonder?

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31,32,33…

19 Mar

31,32,33...

I drive along LaCholla Road everyday. Painfully, cautiously, and slowly.
Painfully because the major roadway is under construction and there are lots of unexpected bumps and thumps that rattle both the car and me. Cautiously because the safety-cone lined passageway for cars is narrow and twists back and forth as machines create controlled chaos on both sides. And, slowly because there is always a deputy sheriff concealed behind piles of dirt or rocks with a radar gun aimed at anybody who dares to go more than 25 miles an hour. Slowly, please, because construction zone fines can ruin your day.
One redeeming aspect of driving through the mess, though, is an opportunity to see artists at work. Thus the photo above. I watched for weeks as sturdy construction people placed the rocks you see one by one, hand to hand and created a lovely stone mosaic along the route. First the ground was packed hard, then wire mesh was laid, then cement poured and, finally, while the cement was still wet, a single line of construction artists took one stone at a time from a huge pile, passed the stone from one man to the next until the last man in line nestled it into the waiting cement. One at a time. Rock by rock. And, as you can see in the photo, there is a lovely line of white rocks flowing lazily through the many shades of brown. It’s quite beautiful.
But imagine the effort, the painful process of placing one stone and then another and then another, day after day.
Several things occur to me. I’m grateful for artistry all around me, in common things and in unexpected places. Stunning beauty is everywhere. Also, I appreciate the seemingly tedious efforts of people who often do common tasks, jobs that I pass by without a second glance, but who produce creative beauty in subtle ways. The waitress who delivered the colorful salad yesterday…the landscaper who turned my yard into a special place…the house painter next door whose meticulous care for detail shows in every brush stroke…the hummingbird building a penthouse straw by straw in my oak tree.
Perhaps I ought to slow down more often and observe beauty taking shape.
Slowing down is never a bad idea…especially when there’s a radar gun in the neighborhood.

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It Only Sleeps

12 Mar

It Only Sleeps

Not very attractive, is it?
It could be, and will be, when it’s shaped up and decides to look like the lovely oak tree that it is. Not wanting to chop on it here and there myself, I sent this same photo to a tree landscape specialist who answered my email in this way: Your tree is obviously dead. For $25 we will consult with you about removing it.
Dead? I don’t think so.
What he could not see at a distance in a photo are all the green shoots covering the barren looking limbs. My oak tree is ready to burst into new bloom. I can see it myself. I can see it because I stood close to it when I snapped the picture. I got close enough to see what’s really happening to my tree.
Too bad, isn’t it, that some of us make judgments at distances without getting close enough to see the green shoots of promise or hope or possibility? Making judgments at arm’s length about people or circumstances so often distorts reality and sends us off on twisted paths of fear or anger.
The budding life of my oak tree was affirmed the day I took this picture by two tiny objects that you cannot see in the picture. The very top of the tree is cropped off in the picture, but sitting on the delicate threads of branches at the top are two finches. They were singing their hearts out in that moment, probably telling the world that something new and wonderful is about to happen. New life is coming back into the old frame. Green shoots in the warm sun are about to unfold as lush, green leaves.
Stand close before you make up your mind. It is not dead…it only sleeps!
Sing on, birds!

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Just Like A Mom!

19 Jan

Just Like A Mom!

I read too much these days about Moms and Dads who neglect or abuse their children. Perhaps we should take a lesson from the wonder of creation. For instance, in the dry desert where I live it is not unusual to find a mesquite, or palo verde, or ironwood tree embracing a saguaro cactus. The cactus, fragile at birth and tender, grows up under the caring protection of the “nurse plant”. The tree provides shade, nourishment, and stability as the saguaro matures. It cares for its little neighbor, even though they are very different. It’s nice to see things care for each other. Maybe we ought to pay attention.

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Waiting For The Wonder

4 Dec

Waiting For The Wonder

No, I don’t get it either.
But it’s worth wondering about, isn’t it? How often do you see an upside down metal man with spikes coming out of his body? I’m waiting for the Freudian light to come on or the metaphorical meaning to slip into focus.
While waiting, though, let me just suggest that pondering the unexpected or unexplainable is time well spent. Who knows what wonderful insights might be slightly hidden behind the bizarre.
So, the next time you encounter the unusual…whatever it might be…don’t pass it by too quickly. Sit with it for a little while. Wonder about it. Let it say something to you.
I still don’t get it…but I’m waiting.

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56 Cent People

28 Nov

56 Cent People

No, it’s not a political sign. It defines safe travel not political persuasions. I think, though, it might encourage us to do “the right thing” as we dance and stumble through life. To do “the right thing” means one is informed by values, ethics, moral principles, or religious beliefs…or all of them. Values drive behavior.

That’s true in this morning’s news report about the sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, who has decided to save money in his budget by reducing the cost of the Thanksgiving meal given inmates to 56 cents per person. Do you know what you get for 56 cents per person? Not much. Some soy mixture, the article said. I think I’ll pass, thank you.

Nobody believes inmates ought to be treated like guests at the Hilton. Too many believe they ought to be humiliated and treated as if less than human until they’re turned back onto the streets repentant and rehabilitated. So in the name of saving money in the budget, let’s diminish their humanity even more and reminded them again and again that they are worth 56 cents on Thanksgiving Day.

The fallacy of letting inhumane values drive rehabilitation is that the anger and even rage produced by such money-saving brilliance, pent up in months or years of jail time and aimed at any form of authority, explode again on society when the cell door is opened and the 56 cent person is back in contact with the rest of us.

I’ve heard it said that prisons, where dignity and human values are lost, can become the best training grounds for deeper hatred and more violent behavior. Those places become school houses for violence. Maybe the wise philosopher of the comic strip, Pogo, got it right: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”