Tuesday, November 15, 2016
I took some time to exercise, sprucing up around the church, and found myself singing "Come and fill my heart with your peace; you alone O Lord are holy . . . Come and fill my heart with your peace; Alleluia." After singing that a few times I opened the back door to sniff the air and spotted a magical creature tip-toeing along the sidewalk by our parking lot. A fox? It has a horn and wings. A foxicorn dragon? Whatever it is, it gave a big smile. As an answer to prayer, I will think of it as a manifestation of peace. When I thanked it for occupying our neighborhood, it thanked me, in return, in a small, musical voice. Its paw when it gently shook my hand was velvety soft.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
I feel myself galvanized today, determined to be a contributor to a safer, more humane world. Rather than live and preach against what I disagree with, taking a negative, adversarial view in an American culture which has grown more dangerous in recent times, I hope to keep walking forward with my head up, eyes clear, and my arms open to conciliation. I invite my friends and readers to join me in a commitment to living by three simple rules. They are easy to remember, harder to practice, but potentially transformative. The three simple rules are: First, do no harm. Second, do good. Third, always stay in love with God. Doing the first well is an important beginning. I appreciate what Ruben P. Job says about how this practice of doing no harm affects my relationships with adversaries. "Each of us knows of groups that are locked in conflict, sometimes over profound issues and sometimes over issues that are just plain silly. But the conflict is real, the divisions deep, and the consequences can often be devastating. If, however, all who are involved can agree to do no harm, the climate in which the conflict is going on is immediately changed. How is it changed? Well, if I am to do no harm, I can no longer gossip about the conflict. I can no longer speak disparagingly about those involved in the conflict. I can no longer manipulate the facts of the conflict. I can no longer diminish those who do not agree with me and must honor each as a child of God. I will guard my lips, my mind and my heart so that my language will not disparage, injure or wound another child of God. I must do no harm, even while I seek a common good." I hope you will join me.
Friday, November 4, 2016
The rain has poured buckets on us here in Western Oregon this October. So wherever I choose to walk on grass or ground I sink and squish. I am not happy with the sogginess, but mushrooms are. I spied a large, orange cap across the church lawn and squelched over to investigate. The warm, wet conditions hatched a batch of very large mushrooms. King boletes are edible and delicious. Raccoons had chawed the largest one mostly to bits, but left a smaller one, a mere 10" across, well enough alone that I could pick it. I dismantled it in my kitchen and set bits to dry in our food dehydrator. The house has a wonderful, rich mushroom smell. I am not fond of grey skies and showers in general, but remembering, from my childhood wanderings, the fun of mushroom hunting in the woods lifts my spirits. When it rains, wonders appear.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Friday, October 14, 2016
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
I’ve kept my eyes open and my feet moving lately, but as it turns out a good footprints story belongs to someone else’s feet this time. This is a story about a wedding. This event was a lot of fun, with two families from worlds apart connecting because a couple of their young adults fell in love. The congregation numbered about 50, fairly equally split between white Americans on the groom's side and bronze and brown Cambodians on the bride's side. We had to have rehearsal for the Saturday wedding on Thursday night late, because the couple would have a Cambodian wedding ceremony on Friday evening, the usual time for wedding rehearsal. So we were missing a few of the wedding party on Thursday, most significantly the flower girls and ring bearer. Come Saturday the children came with their families. We would have a very young, short little boy, Anthony, in a vested pin-stripped suit with a clip-on tie, a second-generation Cambodian, serve as the first of three flower children. He would enter first, followed by a pair of equally adorable little girls, Angela, a doll not much taller than Anthony, and Jessica, a twiggy 12-year old cutie with jug ears and hipster glasses, and a glowing smile. None of the children had the opportunity to practice their bit. So, as I like to say, we cannot do anything wrong, so whatever happens, happens. The groom's white, nervous mom is seated; then the bride's mellow, dignified Cambodian mom is seated (after the young woman who was in her spot figured out she needed to scoot over). I then walked up to the chancel steps with a terrified groom. Pachelbel's Canon is cued up on the sound system; I nod to the Wedding Coordinator to begin the processional. Anthony steps into the doorway of the sanctuary, and stands at the head of the aisle leading up to the chancel. All eyes turn to look at him. He glances around the room, and at all the eager faces looming over his head. Then he calmly plucks a single red rose petal from the small basket he is carrying in his right hand. He holds the petal up in his left hand, studies it for moment, looks down at a place on the carpet, and gently drops the petal on the aisle. He continues to do this for each and every petal. He thoughtfully places each and every one, as though each petal has an opinion that must be respected. Step by step, petal by petal, a white one, a pink one, another red one, he slooooowwwwwlllllly makes his way up the aisle. At last he reaches the step up to the platform, where the groom and I are waiting. He continues to take one step and drop one petal right up to the shoes of the groom. Anthony would have kept going right to the far back wall, except that I knelt down, told him he did an awesome job, and gently turned him around to stand and face the congregation, right next to the groom. By now, the song has run down and Kyle, my sound guy, has looped it up again from the beginning. Now is the time for the flower girls to come in. Since their only model was Anthony, they assume that how he did it is how they should do it. So now two little girls are slooooowwwlllly coming down the aisle, dropping one rose petal at a time, apiece. A wonderful thing has happened while the little ones are savoring each beautiful moment, step by step, petal by petal, and Palchelbel's Canon is looping on endlessly. Everyone is smiling. And all the white Americans and brown Cambodians are smiling at each other, and together. From then on, we could do nothing but have a spectacular wedding. At the conclusion, when I pronounced the couple husband and wife, I needed to very quietly ask them what they had decided to do about the kiss. At the rehearsal, the bride felt too shy to practice that part . . . not something one would do in Cambodia, in front of family and friends. So we left rehearsal undecided, with options to smile, hug, high five, spin around and fist bump, or whatever. Now the moment is upon them. The groom is facing the bride, who is lovely in her beautiful white gown, a gossamer veil still over her face. I whisper, "What did you decide?" The groom, who has looked and stood nearly petrified during the whole ceremony, suddenly grows very animated and says, loudly, "We are going to kiss!" Then he lifts his bride's veil and plants one. Applause and cheering ensue. I am so breathless with wonder that I can barely utter the blessing. After the recessional, I thought rose petals in the aisle of the church looked so lovely and so special I asked the folks to please leave them for the people on Sunday morning to see and enjoy. “Are you sure?” “Yes, I am sure.” * * * Come Sunday, several people felt nervous that the floor was littered with now dried up rose petals. I gently forbade any of them from getting out a vacuum, and assured them there was a reason for the petals to be there, and it had to do with a very sweet and special wedding held in our sanctuary the day before. So people came in to worship wondering about the rose petals, and many looking forward to a story. So I told the story of the beautiful wedding, just as we were gathering for worship, having entered the sanctuary with rose petals at our feet. When I finished, the whole congregation applauded. As was completely correct.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
So, I am out and about the other afternoon and got a deep, spiritual craving for potato chips. But I have no actual cash or spare change, and decide it would be silly to use my debit card for such a small and selfish purpose. So I manned up and decided to tough out the afternoon without potato chips. Sort of. Because I also planned to stop at BiMart for a cheap wine purchase, and realized I could easily add a bag of chips on that purchase. So I get to BiMart and it happens to be Lucky Number Tuesday. In case you don't know about this, every Tuesday at BiMart you can see if your membership card number matches the selections of the week and maybe win something. The numbers are seven digits long, so the odds aren't good for winning any of the big prizes, like a power saw or a tent or a microwave or such. But there is a low tier prize level if you match the last digit of your card. So I walk in and check the number board, and behold the winning number is 2, which is the last number on my card. So I win! I win . . . potato chips! Such small things stand as proof that God loves me and wants me to be happy.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
So, on this beautiful sunny, dry day I let my road bike out of the stable for a ride in the wine country. I had no other aim but to get out and move and metabolize some much needed vitamin D. I had, for the moment, given up on my small quest to hear a strange, disturbing, high-pitched sound that has puzzled residents of Forest Grove for a few days. The story of the unexplained racket has been picked up on national networks; theories as to the source of the sound abound, and no one has figured it out. Last night, after a meeting, I drove around the neighborhood where the sound has been heard; I let my windows down, shivered a bit in the cool shadows beneath a cloud shrouded moon, and . . . heard nothing. So I came home and forgot about it. Anyway, today, I'm about two miles into my bike ride, 3:30 in the afternoon, just getting warmed up, the sun low in the sky and causing me to squint like a mole . . . when a harsh, multi-high pitched sort of shriek drops on me from seemingly everywhere. The noise was absolutely awesome and genuinely disturbing. Now keep in mind I am whizzing along at nearly twenty miles an hour, which is enough to produce a doppler shift effect with a sound from a stationary source. Ordinarily. This noise continued for about three seconds, constant in tone. This is one of the strangest things I've come across. I can understand why folks are a bit freaked out. Someone will probably figure out what is causing the noise before too long. But I kind of hope not. It probably isn't someone harvesting immature mandrakes, even though I did hear the sound while cycling by a local nursery . . .
Friday, February 12, 2016
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
My mom has been on my mind the last week, which included the anniversary of her death on January 4th. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was a favorite birding place of my mother's, so I was thinking of that place and her love of birds and unspoiled places. Not long ago I read about how invasive common carp have infested the Malheur Reservoir, destroyed much of the wetland habitat favorable to migrating birds, and so reduced the seasonal populations drastically. The carp were apparently introduced into the waters with some benefit to people in mind. Now they have to go, but getting them gone is tricky. Can't just poison them without hurting a lot of other creatures. So the hope is that fisher people will take bait, rod and reel to them and hoist them out one at a time. Hardly anyone likes to eat carp in these parts, though, no matter the claim that they taste like cod. Once, on a fishing and birding outing with mom at Fern Ridge Reservoir in Eugene, she snagged a 12 pound beast on her little spinning rig. She took about 15 minutes to land it, with last second help from me hoisting it to the reedy pond bank. We took it home and cooked up some fillet of bottom feeder, and if that tasted like cod I'm a Beaver. Well since then some folks have made themselves invasive to the habitat. Kind of like carp, they are quiet bulky entities that can't seem to help being what they are. Their reasoning about the U.S. Constitution and Congress's role in land management is terrible, not based on history or fact; but their beliefs override any other view and so there will be no changing their minds. Unfortunately, what they are doesn't fit the context of American life any more than carp fit in the Malheur Reservoir. They probably won't go home if politely asked any more than a bull carp would. At the moment, there are only a few of them and they won't do much damage if let be. But if they reproduce, then we would have a problem. For starters, I recommend rising to the surface where there is light and a clear view of our Constitution. If there is no other positive to be had at the moment, my getting a prompt to read the document for myself was fantastic. It is really quite amazing. I think Captain Moroni and Co. must be reading it through magic glasses that only let them see what they already believe in and feed their minds on, which amounts to stuff on the bottom.