Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strange Creatures

I see them walking down the street with wires going into their ears or with apparatuses attached to their ears; the apparatuses are not earrings. I walk into a store and the clerks have wires going into one ear; do they get to choose which ear is wired?

Is there a mother ship communicating with them? Controlling them? Are their ears inspected for wax? Does wax impede or distort communication? Are they appurtenances of a great mind? Puppets? Are they able to generate their own thoughts or are they the equivalent of cloud computing in which the application software is elsewhere?

Is the abdication of thought and reflection an advance? Are the wires and the Bluetooth devices the mental equivalent of a body on a respirator? As the respirator breathes, in a sense, for the body the externally-provided content and control thinks and provides content for the brain – content that by its nature is often under the cognitive radar screen; which is to say that it does not lend itself to critical reflection.

Shades of C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength and of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and of Ray Bradbury’s 451 Fahrenheit. Fiction?

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Celebration of Patrick

The text of Patrick's Celebration Service follows: (I've tried to do a "jump page" so the post isn't so long on this page but don't know if it will work - if it doesn't work, and if you can coach me on how to do it, please send me an email so I'll know better next time - I'm technically challenged).

Patrick K. Revere
May 23, 2011

We’re here to celebrate the life of a wonderful friend, brother, coworker …and of a loving husband and devoted father …Patrick Revere.  We’re also here to grieve our loss and to gather around Patrick’s family, around Alice, Seth, Silas, and the Nicelys and Zucks. We’re here to say to them, “We love Patrick, we love you, and we’re here for you.”
Let’s listen to the words of Jesus Christ:
            “Do you let your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”
            And let’s listen to the words of Paul, the Apostle:
            “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one born out of due time.”
Christianity, faith in Jesus Christ, is supremely a recognition that the tomb of Christ is empty…that He rose from the dead…that He conquered death…and that by believing in Him we share in His victory over death.  Christianity stands or falls on the reality of Christ’s resurrection…there is no halfway ground…no tenable middle position.  The historical record tells us that He rose from the dead.  The lives of His people for 2,000 bear witness that He rose from the dead.  And today, this afternoon, in this place, even in the midst of our grief, those who place their trust in Him know, in their heart of hearts…that He rose from the dead…for He now lives within them.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

This morning we went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. I decided not to take my camera because I didn’t want to have to think about anything except enjoying the gardens; I wish I’d taken the camera so that I could show you what I’m writing about.

Glass and steel, steel and glass; steel and glass, glass and steel. Trees and flowers and birds and the occasional snake are not enough; fragrances are not enough; honey bees are not enough; we must have glass and steel, and steel and glass to filter and distort our perception of Creation.

The conservatory was populated with glass flowers interspersed among living flowers and trees; were they Martians? A quiet pond surrounded by Iris and interesting trees had a giant steel and glass cube in the center of the pond with glass figurines atop it; were they refugees from Neptune?

We walked by plant beds intertwined with poison ivy, past signs indicating the species of plant that were lying on the ground or leaning like a liquored-up sot; is this neglect or is Lewis Ginter so enamored with its “art” that it can’t see the nature for the art?

Whether what I’m speaking of is your idea of art or not, its reasonable context is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts or Bush Gardens or King’s Dominion, take your pick, but it is not a botanical garden. If you need an example of Postmodernity then welcome to Lewis Ginter.

Of course gardens from time immemorial have had sculptures and structures integrated within them, but they have been integrated to enhance and not to distract; they played a supporting role, not (for the most part) an intrusive one and certainly not one that demanded center stage.  After all, the delight of a garden is that it is a garden.

Below are some photos of an earlier exhibit at Lewis Ginter, perhaps I should go back with my camera…but I have little motivation. 


Thursday, June 2, 2011


Last year a chipmunk came into our screened-in porch and Lily ran after it. Vickie, seeing what was happening rushed onto the porch to save the plants and keep the plant stands from overturning. Around and around the porch went the chipmunk and Lily and Vickie, plant stands tottering that way and teetering this way, until finally the chipmunk made its escape through the open screen door. However, Lily was hot behind the little creature and finally caught it in the yard only to drop it when Mom (Vickie) yelled, "Drop it!". The little critter staggered off into the thicket with a hyper-beating heart, a story to share around the chipmunk campfire, and hopefully no worse for wear.
A couple of days ago a chipmunk was at the screen door (closed this time) peering into the screened porch; don't know whether it was last year's adventurer or not; if it was it may have been reliving what was perhaps the most exciting day of its life. Or it could have been another chipmunk visiting the scene of its friend's great adventure; perhaps it was there on a triple-chipmunk dare to encounter the dawg and get the human to chase it around and around the plants? Maybe the underbrush concealed an audience of chipmunks waiting to see if the chipmunk would follow through on the dare? 
In any event I broke the party up when I approached the door from the outside, the furry thing darted away beneath the ramp to the porch. 
I've had a thing for chipmunks for as long as I can remember. It probably started with a Little Golden Book titled Donald Duck's Toy Train. Chip and Dale were in the story.
Now I know chipmunks don't get a lot of press, but they sure are cute and I love to see them dart hither and tither and yonder. 


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Inward Passage

A few years ago Vickie and I took a cruise through the Inward Passage, from Vancouver to points north into Alaska. There isn't a lot of "action" in the inward passage; it's pretty serene with generally placid waters. Visiting a cold climate is different than visiting a hot climate, the skies, the clouds, the plants, the animals - though we did visit a rain forest in Alaska - yes, a rain forest.My skin lets me know whether I'm in Alaska or in the Caribbean, my body interprets my surroundings and goes into "hot climate" or "cold climate" mode.

I think there are times when we experience an Inward Passage in life; perhaps some of us more so than others. Our loss of Patrick has me in one of those Inward Passage experiences; contemplating the fragility of life. It is as if the cold horizons of Alaska's mountains and glaciers have found their way to Midlothian; the waters surrounding me are cold.

For an Easterner the vast spaces of America's West have engulfed me; the geographical perspectives of our continental East and West are quite the contrast. And for one who lives in the Lower Forty-eight, well...the endless regions of Alaska are to our West what our West is to our East...almost. For when I see the Rocky Mountains I know that on the other side of them is the Pacific; but when I see the mountain-vastness of Alaska I'm not sure there is an end to the rock and ice and snow.

But the Inward Passage has its own perspective, and it is not a perspective of largeness but rather one of intimacy; it is not an experience of speed and exhilaration, but one of contemplation and measured pace. Of course on the other side of the mountains that line the Inward Passage is vastness; but within the Passage a man or woman still has proportion to Creation.

Now I know that people die every day, I have told my congregations more than once that the death rate in this country is 100%. There is a vastness about the number of people who die everyday, a vastness that defies comprehension; but there is no vastness about Patrick dying; he was part of my life, he was part of my heart, seeing him throughout each week was as natural as breathing, thinking about him and praying for him and his family was to my heart-life what water is to my physical life. I don't count the number of times I drink water, I didn't count the number of times I thought about Patrick. Of course I still think about Patrick, and I still pray for his family...but it's not the same, is it? I know I won't see him this afternoon, or tomorrow, or the next day. There will be a Day when I will see him, but that may be a while longer - who really knows?

If you know what loss is then you know something about the Inward Passage. I hope you also know that our kind Heavenly Father wants to be with us as we traverse the Passage, for after all, He is our Shepard and if we have come to know Jesus Christ we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23).