Thursday, June 29, 2017

I Am "Other"

Lemuel was having his windshield repaired the other day. He struck up a conversation with a man a couple of seats over from him in the glass-repair shop. As is often the case, a television was on in the waiting room with bad news upon bad news – man’s inhumanity to man (a good argument for God – where do we get the idea of inhumanity from?).

Lemuel and Ed quickly realized that they are both followers of Jesus. Ed, whose skin color is black, said, “I told my adult daughter that when I have to fill out a form that wants to know what race I am that I check the box that says ‘other’. When she wanted to know why, I told her that I am ‘other’ – I am not white, or black, or any other skin color, I am ‘other’ because Jesus changed my heart. We Christians need to see that we are ‘other’ and live as if we are ‘other’ because we are ‘other’”.

The world doesn’t want us to be “other”, it wants us to deny who we are in Christ. We’ll probably continue to have divisions in the church, both racial and socioeconomic, until we follow Ed’s example, who in turn is following Christ.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Virtue, Blue Light, and the Needy

I was listening to two fathers talk about their children's sports activities; not only were they involved in year-round local sports, but they were also on travel teams.

It was as if they were talking about robots programmed to play baseball and hockey - they were pushed into the sports pipeline and their sports futures are assured until high school graduation, if not beyond.

Why don't we also talk about how we are developing virtue and character in our children? Certainly that is more important. Or is it?


A coworker just left my office - thankful I think to leave. I was talking to him about a recent ABC 20/20 segment that highlighted addiction to electronic devices in children and adolescents. He came in with a story about his young son using his tablet in bed, and he left with me asking him to think about the child's well-being. I don't get a lot of traffic in my office...I wonder why.

The 20/20 segment shouldn't be a surprise, the fact that it is and that most parents are in denial shouldn't be a surprise either - how can people living in a stupor be surprised? We disparage parents of crack babies but think little of raising children on blue light and electronic addiction - no matter what it does to their brains and cognitive processes.

So the adults program the computers and the computers program the children and then the adolescents program more devices and the devices program the population and it may well be that one day there really is a Matrix - which I think is already the case - the Bible calls it "this present age" or "kosmos" - God's people are in the Matrix but not of the Matrix - well, I hope so anyway...hard to tell sometimes.


King Lemuel's momma said to him (Proverbs 31:8 - 9):

"Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Well, I don't see many leaders speaking up for the poor; not in the professing church and not in government. The way a society treats it defenseless, its innocent, its children, its elderly, and its poor says a lot about the society.

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it and decrease the surplus population."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Sun or a Planet?

Why do people circle planets when they could circle the sun? Why be distracted at best, or disoriented at worst, by living in an orbit that cannot give life?

Why settle for lesser things? We are distracted as puppies and children – in fact, as Pascal would say, the whole point in money and power and position is to pay for distraction. As Neil Postman wrote, we are amusing ourselves to death.

We are a foolish people. We have traded virtue for personality; character for charisma. We are a plane load of drunks heading into a mountain and don’t know it. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Fire That Broke A Heart and Hope

Catherine and Bill Robinson were a couple in our parish in Becket, MA. During a visit to their home one day they told me that the house they were in was not their original house. Years ago their home had burned down; by the mercy of God no one was hurt, and while no animal was burned, a dog’s heart was broken.

Their dog lay for days on the concrete threshold where their front door had been and whined…then he died.

What a mysterious relationship between man and creation; many facets, few understood, if any. Our backyard holds a universe. The two holly trees off our deck are apartment buildings for birds and places of safety for songbirds when owls and hawks scan for living food. The moles and vols have a subway system that rivals London’s Tube. The crows and turkey vultures (as ugly as they are) provide a garbage service that cleans our street at no cost to us. The worms in our gardens are our partners as they aerate the soil.

Our original habitat was a garden, we will return to a Garden City – an arboretum, a place of life and vibrancy. Won’t it be amazing when the lion lies down with the lamb?

A week or two ago I told a boy of about ten years old who lives across the street that the great oaks in our yard were descendants of Ents. He is a foster child who has been with his foster family a few months. When I told him about the Ents he smiled and asked, “Really?” It was the first time I’ve seen him smile, the first time I’ve seen a hint of joy. I think it gave him hope. It gives me hope. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why Does It Hurt So Much?

I knew there was something different in Vickie’s voice when I called to tell her that I was on my way home from work. It was the day after I had taken the photos in the previous post; the day after the joy of seeing the doe and her fawn; the day after watching the little fawn walk around our backyard; the day after worrying whether the mother would lose track of her baby.

Vickie was in the sunroom as she told me the story. That morning the mother deer had been in the yard and the adjacent woods making noises; searching, searching, searching for her fawn, her baby. As Vickie watched her heart broke, as did mine as I listened and envisioned the doe; as I envisioned my wife watching the doe.

I looked at the tree line expecting to see mother and baby appear. I changed clothes and walked into the woods looking. I followed the creek looking. I saw deer prints on the edge of the creek but no deer. I retraced my deer.

The next day the mother was back; searching, searching. The next day I looked at the tree line expecting to see the fawn - no fawn. Why does it hurt so much?

I seldom ask God, “Why?” I know some folks who ask God, “Why?” a lot, and that’s fine - I just seldom do it. Right now I’m asking God, “Why did you allow us, or give us, the gift of seeing this newborn fawn, the joy of watching it with its mother - and then take it away?”

This week was already a week of sadness because it contains the birthdays of those no longer with us, and anniversaries of deaths of dear ones in our families - it was already an emotionally-complicated week. “Why God did you give us the fawn only to take the fawn?”

I am still looking for the fawn to appear, as is Vickie - but we know it is gone. But why?

We have dear friends who had to put their puppy to sleep this week. He was a senior dog, their first dog after many years of marriage - and they also have pain; they also have tears. When I think back to our dogs Chris Ann, Mitzi, and Darby the pain comes back to me - the journey for each of our puppies was different and I can relive each day that brought the end for them. Why does it hurt so much?

Our friends cry for their puppy Alex. We know those tears.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mommy and Baby Deer

We didn’t see Mom or Baby on Sunday, but when I arrived home from work on Monday Vickie told me, “Look out in the woods by the tree line where two trees have fallen and make a “V” – the mother put the baby there for the day. Every once in a while it will raise its head and put its ears up, look around, and then lie back down.”

Vickie then told me that she’d read that mother deer leave their fawns during the day so that predators won’t be attracted to them – the fawns blend in well with their surroundings. She also shared a number of other things she’d learned about mother and fawn behavior.

That evening I looked out the kitchen window and saw the two in our backyard – photos below. It was sweet to look at them. Then the Mom left the fawn in the backyard and moved into our side yard to graze. The fawn was running and walking around the backyard, as it headed toward the tree line and the creek Vickie was worried that the mother would lose it.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

As The Deer Loves Its Fawn – A Morning To Remember

This morning, after letting the dogs out and back in, I wanted to lie down in the family room and doze but no sooner had I done so than I realized that I needed to go outside and put the bird feeders up. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been taking the feeders in at night because of R.R. Raccoon. Roscoe Rocky was playing havoc with our feeders and the only solution was to bring them inside at night and put them out in the morning – he even went after a hummingbird feeder; he has a taste for the good life.

After putting the feeders back up, I poured coffee and stood in the sunroom looking at the birds breakfasting at the feeders, when I saw two deer exit the woods behind the feeders. One deer nosed around the feeders and then went down the hill in the back toward the creek, the other browsed in the grass and shrubs for a few minutes and then went back in the woods. Within a minute the deer came back out of the woods with a fawn so tiny that I could hardly see it at first in the dim early-morning light. The mother began to lick the fawn all over, and then mommy lay down and the fawn came over and snuggled against her. The mother continued to lick her baby.

I watched the two for a while and tried to get some photos with my phone, the distance and the light made this problematic. The batteries in my camera weren’t charged so I couldn’t use it – you’d think I’d learn by now, I’ve missed some good shots over the years.

Then I went upstairs to see if Vickie was awake, which she was. I motioned to her to come to a window overlooking the west side of our home and look in the direction of the feeders. At first she couldn’t tell what she was looking at – the baby was so small. Finally things came into focus and we shared the joy of creation together as we marveled at doe and fawn.

While our God is an awesome God, and while the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, He is also our Good Shepherd and the Creator of all that is tender and loving in life. Jesus is the One who goes after the lost sheep, He is the One who heals the brokenhearted.

After a while a jogger came down our street and at his approach mother and baby ran down the back hill toward the creek and the thickly-wooded enclaves surrounding it.

It was a moment of grace, a gift of reflection, a time of peace. It was a sweet way to begin the day with my wife and our Lord. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

As The Deer Plays

Wednesday Vickie was in the kitchen getting a glass of water when she looked out the window and saw our lone deer. The lone deer has been around for a few weeks now. Unlike the local herd of around fifteen deer, the lone deer is…of course…alone. We haven’t seen the herd for a while, suggesting that it needs more roaming space than the narrow band of woods that our neighborhood provides. Since I’m not a deer, nor an expert in deer, this suggestion is conjecture, but with folks in the neighborhood cutting their grass there isn’t much forage for a herd to share.

As Vickie watched, the deer ran down the hill in our backyard to the creek, splashed in the creek, jumped up the far bank, ran on the other side of the creek, came back across the creek at the far end of our cleared area in the back, then ran back up the hill and back across the yard to where its sprint had begun. Then it stopped, waited, and took off again down the hill repeating its circuit into the creek, up the other bank, and around the yard once again.

Then it stopped, waited, and took off again. The deer repeated its escapade nine times, having a grand time, perhaps envisioning itself running in the deer Olympics or the Animal Open Track and Field Competition which is held every ten years at a place undisclosed to humans.

This is one of those God-presents, gifts of God through creation. There is something about innocence and beauty that has the power to remind us that things are not as they should be, not as they will be One Day, when the lion lies down with the lamb and there will be no hurt or destruction in God’s Holy Mountain. To be sure creation is not tame, and we watch for snakes when we garden and walk in the woods. Yes, there are predators in creation; as Patrick Revere used to remind us, “All God’s creatures have to eat.” But One Day that facet of creation will be no more as we live in the restoration of all things. There is a sense in which creation knows that it needs healing (Romans 8:20-22), we, however, would usually prefer to medicate ourselves with foolish thinking and living. Perhaps the joy the lone deer experienced in its ten laps around our rear yard is more joy than most of us will know in a lifetime.

C.S. Lewis wrote about joy being the business of heaven, and of play being a glimpse of heaven. We make play into a business and competition, programming our children so to alienate them from the joy of play – they “play” sports and take gymnastics in order to progress and win, win, win. We make little machines. I don’t think deer have regressed to that point. Our production is our worth; teach the kids this when they are young and when they are old they will not depart from it.

Creation can be sacramental; we can see our Father Creator in it and through it; we can receive His grace as we ponder His wonders. When John was in the Throne Room (Revelation Chapters 4 and 5), he saw a lion and a lamb – The Lion and The Lamb.

David wrote, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God,” (Psalm 42:1). Do we pant for God as the deer pants for water?

Do we play in the joy of God as the deer plays?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Blue Jays

Blue Jays can be a nuisance at bird feeders, like crows they bogard their way into the feeding area scaring songbirds away. They typically only give way to large woodpeckers; but they do have a benefit – like crows they will chase hawks away. While the blue jays might monopolize the bird feeders, they are little threat to the songbirds, while hawks view smaller birds as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Blue jays are fighter interceptors when they see a hawk, swarming after it and chasing it away – and while the blue jays are after the hawk the smaller birds are back at the feeders.

I guess there is a sense in which, if you are songbird, you learn to put up with blue jays knowing that they can be beneficial. Life can be like that.