Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Fox

One morning this week, as Vickie and I were having breakfast, I looked out the window and saw our neighborhood red fox furtively gliding through the woods. He disappeared behind a brush pile and after a few moments reappeared, nimbly climbing onto the top of the pile to inspect it. After looking the pile over and noting whatever it is that foxes note he descended into the pile.

The neighborhood fox is missing his tail. I wonder what that does to a fox’s self-esteem. Does it make him (or her) even more reclusive? Is he now the Howard Hughes of foxes? Is he ashamed to be around other foxes? Can he go home on holidays or has his family disowned him? Is he eligible for special Federal assistance?

Perhaps he’ll soon appear on a talk show and recount the traumatic tale of the tail? There will be other foxes there that have had similar experiences for support. A veterinary therapist will be present to facilitate discussion along with the Fox Whisperer.

The first time I saw a fox a friend and I were walking in the woods after school. I was in the sixth grade and attended the school where my mother taught in Wheaton, Maryland; the friend’s mother also taught at the school and so we’d spend time together after our classes waiting for our mothers to finish their work before heading home. Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement and then into full view the gray fox came, he was on the other side of a ravine, moving steadily with eyes darting this way and that. His appearance was brief; he was there and then he wasn’t – but how neat it was! Why is it that the elusive can be so intriguing?

A few years ago I was on an early-morning motorcycle ride in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. The road was quiet from Becket to Chester to Huntington; I turned off Route 20 in Huntington onto a road taking me out into woodlands…all was quite…my bike, a Honda Magna, hardly made a sound…it purred…neither the bike or I intended to intrude on anyone or anything, including the quiet of creation.

As the early-morning sun was breaking through the trees I rounded a curve; in the middle of the road ahead of me a red vixen and her kits were running around in circles and jumping on each other. At my approach momma herded her babies into the woods but not before that picture of joy was impressed in my heart and mind. It was a moment of beauty, a moment of joy, a moment to treasure – one that is still with me.

Had I seen the mother and her kits in a zoo I would have enjoyed them, but encountering them serendipitously was altogether another experience.

When we lived on the Zuck Homestead we also had foxes that we’d catch glimpses of from time-to-time. The Homestead fox that I remember well was one I didn’t see but rather heard; in fact we all heard it. For a few days a cry of pain came from the woods behind our home, a cry that carried down the lane on which we lived. Alice called Vickie and asked if she would venture into the woods with her to find the fox and help it – their search proved futile for as soon as they entered the woods the crying stopped.

Vickie did an internet search, found a fox expert, and emailed him about our concern. It turns out that we had nothing to worry about, it wasn’t a cry of pain but rather a vixen telling her kits that it was time to leave the den and venture forth into the world – our concern was a common one to those unfamiliar with foxes.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The House

Who understands compassion? How does it move us? How does it move others? What are its roots? Who really understands selfless love? Who can plumb its depths? When we touch compassion, when we experience selfless love – as givers or receivers – it transcends the rational, it is “other” than we are.

And so the story of the “house” is amazing to me. There are more details to it than I can hope to share in a blog post, or in a short story, or even in a book. How a man was touched by compassion and built a house so that a homeless man and his family might have a home; he built the house and he gave it to them – it cost them nothing. The story goes that as he was building the house that he lost greatly in the stock market and that his business failed, leaving him with but little to live on; any reasonable person would have finished the house he was building for the homeless family and sold it for money to live on until he could recover financially.

But he had made a commitment to build the house and to give the house away, and even though his own family was suffering he kept his promise, he kept his word. His friends thought him idealistic to the detriment of himself and his family – but he had had compassion on the homeless family, he loved the homeless family, and he was going to honor his commitment, he was going to keep his promise.

When the house was finished he made sure that it was completely paid for, even though it drained his bank account. Then, he withdrew funds from his retirement account and completely furnished the house. He also paid an estimated year’s worth of utility bills in advance. Finally the day came when he transferred title and possession to the homeless family, a family who would be homeless no more.

Five years had gone by since the family moved into their home. The man who built the house had moved out of state in order to find work to support his own family – those five years had been challenging, at one point he had been on food stamps, many a week he and his wife had been to food pantries. On a trip back to his hometown he wondered how the homeless family was doing – a family that was homeless no more; he decided to visit them.

As he drove down the street where the house was located he drove right by the house without recognizing it – at the end of the street, realizing he had missed the house, he turned around and drove back but missed it again. Turning around once again he slowly drove down the street looking for the address on the curbside mailbox. When he saw the address he stopped, parked, got out of the car…could this be the house?

The trees and shrubs in the yard were dead. The grass was dead. Windows were broken. The gutters were filled with debris and there were saplings growing from them. The screen door was off its hinges, the window screens were torn, some screens were still in the windows and some were on the ground.

He walked up to the door and knocked, a teenage boy answered the door, and the man recognized him as Adam, the couple’s older son. The son, recognizing his family’s benefactor invited him in.

Inside were holes in the walls, torn and stained carpet, and an overpowering stench indicating imbedded filth throughout the house. As the man peered from the living room into the kitchen he saw stacks of unwashed dishes, cardboard fast-food boxes, beer and soda cans covering one section of the floor, and empty liquor bottles crowning the trash can. Movement on the countertop indicated that roaches were having a chow down.

When the man asked Adam where his parents were the boy told him that they had been arrested the day before for operating a drug lab out of the basement of the house.

As I indicated above, this is only part of the story but it serves to illustrate the heart of the story. It is hard to imagine that the family in question would treat their home this way.

How do we treat the house that our heavenly Father has given us? What do we invite into our houses? What do we produce from within our houses? What comes from our hearts and minds and tongues to the people around us?

God not only made us, giving us our bodies; in Jesus Christ He came to redeem and save these very bodies after we had desecrated them with sin and selfishness and rebellion. And yet…and yet…are we good stewards of them?

“…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body,” 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20.   

Monday, February 3, 2014

I Wonder? – Super Bowel Ad

We watched the Super Bowl. I hadn’t watched football for sometime, not since I started learning about brain injuries to players – I haven’t missed football. This was the first college bowl season that I didn’t watch even one bowl game that I can remember.

We were with friends who were watching the game, left at halftime, and when we got home I turned the game on.

There was a pornographic ad that was shown in the second half – pornographic to the mind – there was no way the viewer could have seen it coming. I was shocked.

And I wondered about church Super Bowl events, and I wondered if anyone stopped the game for a few minutes and critiqued the disgusting ad. I wondered if any adults in youth groups that were watching the game stopped the game to discuss the pornographic ad. Or did everyone act as if it didn’t happen?

We do that don’t we? We act as if we aren’t living in a cesspool. We act as if holiness is outdated, as if purity is something to be ashamed of, as if it is perfectly acceptable to sprinkle rat poison on our pizza. We rationalize away our entertainment habits and our introduction of filth into our homes and churches and communities.

Too strong you think? Jesus Christ died, taking our sins upon Himself, becoming sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians Chapter 5); no…not too strong…Christ died for us…He loves us…do we not love Him enough to leave the filth alone?

Our Father says to us, “Be holy as I am holy.” Let us teach our children and young people the beauty of holiness; let us remind one another of God’s holiness, let us encourage each other to live in God’s holiness. We are to be God’s living, walking, talking, breathing sanctuary – and His sanctuary is holy.