Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
-- Anne Hosking
The leaves are all gone, swept by the wind into the woods surrounding our house. And I began to think of people who, like those leaves, have been swept by the Divine wind into the Eternal arms of God's love. I remembered Grandpa and Grandma Bill, Grandma and Grandpa Fortune, Great Uncle Johnny (dreamt about him last night), Great Uncle Burt (quite a character), and a host of other aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders, and pastors. It was quite a parade.
And I also thought, as the wind was really howling through the naked limbs of the trees, that God's love has always blown many new friends to me -- from all sorts of places (Philadelphia, Portland, Chicoutimi, Vancouver, and more) in all sorts of ways (readers of my books, via the Internet, face-to-face meetings). Each new friend has enriched me in wonderful ways.
And I also thought of my old friends and my family -- who stand like those trees. The wind moves around and through them. They change with the seasons but are always holding steady while they are growing. Their steadfastness, even as they grow and change and mature, blesses me more than I let them know.
As I thought about all these people in my life, I also remembered my favorite Thanksgiving poem. I discovered it more than ten years ago, and has become a favorite of mine. It’s by Max Coots and says:
Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:
For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.
Let us give thanks;
For generous friends...with hearts...and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends, as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we've had them;
For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes;
And serious friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter.
For all these we give thanks.
Indeed, for all these we give thanks. Let us give thanks, this holiday time, for friends no matter their type and God’s graciousness in giving them to us. People who are made in God’s own image, come to bless us.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
— Thomas Jeavons
Friday, November 20, 2009
-- Rufus M. Jones
Thursday, November 19, 2009
What do you see?
-- Pierre Ceresole
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
"But I hope that will not be the case; at all events, religion, true and uncorrupted, is all that comforts the greatest; it is the first stimulus to virtue; it is a support under every action."
-- Elizabeth Fry
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
No one is allowed to get it second-hand by accepting a ready-made creed. Furthermore, the discovery points a path and demands a journey, and gives you the power to make the journey."
-- Elise Boulding
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
-- Mary F Smith
Thursday, November 12, 2009
That was my plan. Which I saw fall to pieces, literally, when Deere John blew a hydraulic hose. A hose that controlled the bucket and rendered my plan inoperable. It was the bush honeysuckle that did it. It's shallow rooted, but tough if if the plant is old and when I pushed over one, part of the stump came up and ripped the hose right out of the snap coupler, shredding the hose in the process.
So it was back to the barn to take the old hose off and go buy a new one. Turned out I had to disconnect all of them at one point to be able to free the broken one. And, being the farming equipment genius that I am, I had a bit of trouble getting the last fitting to release. When I finally got it loose, after much effort and a few well place curse words, I ended up seeing red. That's because the line was still pressurized. Doh! So I ended up covered in red hydraulic fluid. A mess.
After I got the broken hose off and cleaned myself up a bit, it was off to the tractor supply store in Plainfield They didn't have the right hose, but they do have great black licorice, so I picked up a bag of that. That took 45 minutes. Then it was off to Indy Tractor in Mooresville, where I first bought the tractor anyhow. They didn't have the right hose either and had to order it. So an hour and half later I finally made it back home. Where I spent an hour cleaning up all the hydraulic fluid, refilling the fluid reservoir on the tractor, and cleaning John Deere.
By then it was 12:30 and I had only spent an hour doing what I'd planned to do. And, since everybody close was out of the hose I needed, was done for the day. Seeing my plans fall apart put me in a grumbly mood.
But then I decided I go do something sort of productive -- like trim my beard, which was looking shaggy, trim my nails (which had grease under them), take a nice long shower, and use my laptop to catch up on some email.
I usually use the computer up in my office, which is zippity-fast, but it was in the process of uploading massive files to MozyHome, so I planted myself in an easy chair in the living room. I put "The Innocence Mission" on the CD player, propped my feet up, and fired up the computer. I answered some emails that had been nagging at me for neglecting them, watched the squirrels scamper up the trees, saw a red-headed woodpecker pecking away, and witnessed a great autumn day through the two-plus storey bank of windows.
And, because I was indoors and on-line instead of out in the woods, I was able to respond immediately when a dear friend emailed and said that she had lost an important person in her life. And I was able to accept a dinner invitation from an old high school buddy who found himself in Indianapolis with some unexpected free time.
So I saw my wrecked day, actually turn out quite well. And it all had to do with my letting go of all my self-imposed plans and just let the day unfold as it would. I thought about Jesus words in Matthew 6 -- "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life..." It just goes against my nature not to worry. Especially when my plans get messed up. But yesterday, for whatever reason, I was able to let go and not fuss. To not worry about my life. And in so doing I was blessed -- and saw the goodness of the Lord.
The first was one of the things I consider a true mark of really bad Indiana driver. Whenever I see this particular sign, I am almost assured that person will cut me off at some time, change lanes without signaling, run a red light, sit out in the speed lane going (gasp!!) the speed limit, or some other such bad road behavior. All done, of course, with the intention of annoying me.
So when the big green SUV came roaring up behind me this morning (yes, I was in the speed lane -- but in my defense, I was speeding!) and sat right on my bumper until I could find a gap in traffic to move safely over, I said to myself, "Self, I'll bet that fellow has 'the badge' of a bad Indiana driver on the back of his car." As he zoomed around me, only to slow down and pull right in front of me and then dive farther right for the upcoming exit, I saw the sign.
What is it? The "In God We Trust" license plate. I figure those drivers must trust in God because they drive sooo poorly that only God could keep them safe.
But what really struck me was the other sign. It was a smallish decal (smaller than the red, white and blue "In God We Trust" plate) of a fairy. A female fairy. An adult female fairy. A naked adult female fairy -- suggestively posed. I'll end the description there.
I was taken aback by the blatantly soft-porn eroticism of the decal perched above the "In God We Trust" license. It has often been said that we Americans lack a sense of irony -- and this was a living example right out on Interstate 70.
But as I began to shake my head and cluck and feel all very prideful about how I didn't have any stupid or incongruent signs on my vehicle (I have an "Environmental" license on my hybrid car), I began wondering about the ironies that others spot in my life.
I didn't let it get too far because, well, it made me uncomfortable and I was afraid if I started naming them, then I'd spend the whole morning on it. Yikes.
So, I turned on the radio and thought about happy things. Except, I still keep coming back to hoping I can learn to see the goodness of the Lord in both the congruenties of those who claim faith and their incongrueties -- as I hope they see that goodness through my life.
-- William Penn
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Can I, imprisoned, body-bounded, touch
The starry robe of God, and from my soul
My tiny Part, reach forth to his great Whole
And spread my Little to the infinite Much,
When Truth forever slips from out my clutch,
And what I take indeed, I do but dole
In cupfuls from a rimless ocean-bowl
That holds a million million million such?
And yet, some Thing that moves among the stars,
And holds the cosmos in a web of law,
Moves too in me: a hunger, a quick thaw
Of soul that liquefies the ancient bars,
As I, a member of creation, sing
The burning oneness binding everything.
-- Kenneth Boulding, There is a Spirit: The Nayler Sonnets
Monday, November 09, 2009
This latter sight was especially enjoyable. I ventured back to Friends Memorial Church in Muncie where I used to be the pastor. It was their annual simple gifts holiday bazaar and I was invited to offer some of the smple gifts in the form of selling my books. So I sat with my buddy Alan Garinger (great books for young readers) in the Library/book-sales room and we drank coffee and told lies to each other (that's what writers do) and sold a few books. In between Alan and me telling lies, though, I watched people. Mostly people who were members of FMC when I was their pastor eight years ago.
Of course, they (unlike me) had all aged. Even the kids. I knew this happened, of course, but for some reason many of these good people were frozen in my memory at the time I left in 2001. And while some looked unchanged, others -- at each of the spectrum, old and young -- had changed drastically. But, regardless, I was blessed by seeing them all and by being back in a place that not only tolerated my quirks as a pastor, but actually (for the most part) embraced them.
The highlight that day, though, was when two people from the first Friends meeting I pastored arrived. They had driven 28 miles to shop and see me. I was touched. Marcella Keys arrived thanks to the driving her of her daughter Nancy and we spent a nice time chatting and remembering my days at Jericho Friends.
I look back on those days and I see the failings -- the young, know-it-all pastor who needed way more humility, compassion, and a heart for people than he had. I remember the harsh words I spoke and the times I didn't visit enough.
But Marcella and Nancy did not see those things -- instead they saw only the good things. At least at this 30 year remove. I was grateful. For in their seeing me as I had hoped to be, I saw their love and forgiveness and charity. I saw their gratitude for the good gifts I had offered whilst there and grace for mistakes.
I saw blessing and continue to feel that blessing from them.
The photo is of me in my young preacher days at Jericho.
Friday, November 06, 2009
-- Isaac Penington
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Today was no exception, thanks especially to the slanty late afternoon sunshine. It transformed the whole trip into one of a variety of beautiful scenes. Scenes that on the surface -- and to many of my other fellow travelers I assume -- are easy to zip by in our hurry to get from point A to point B.
I saw combines kicking up cloud banks of dust as they waddled their way across bean and cornfields. I witnessed fields freshly shorn of their crops shining like the surface of a lake, shimmering and reflecting the golden sunlight. Slowly moving river water and non-moving railroad track shone silver. Naked limbs stood etched black and brown against the bright orange setting sun.
There was such beauty all around me that my heart almost broke from the abundance of it. I was full to overflowing with emotion. Why have I been so gifted as to enjoy this? To be able to sit comfortably in my fine car with music of my choice playing doing a job I love? And to watch God's good earth unfurl its bounty of beauty before me?
Of course, there are no answers for those questions. At least none that fully satisfy me, especially when I know people who are sweating out hourly wages in jobs they despise when they would rather be making beauty -- including some of my fellow writers, artists, and photographers. And some folks who just have to plain work so hard to hold body and soul together that it is almost impossible to take time for a daily round of beauty.
And so I thanked God that, for whatever reasons, I have been so blessed. I am grateful for eyes to see -- and ask that they might always be open to the wonder of God around me. And I asked for the strength, faith, and wisdom to be able to sometimes turn the vistas I've seen into words to share with others that they might be blessed, as well.
I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's drive home. What will I witness then?
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
When I went out to pick it up at the receptionist's desk, there I saw this soggy cardboard package, droopingly held together with yards of clear packing tape. Someone had tried to save it after it's "baptism" by wrapping it with the packing tape.
I didn't really have to open the box, it just fell apart in my hands. And inside, wrapped in plastic and dry as could be, Brooks Hansen's John the Baptizer.
No irony there, eh? The Quaker buys a book about the original Baptist and it comes in a box that is disintegrating because it's been dunked in a Hoosier version of the River Jordan.
So that's where I saw the goodness of the Lord today -- in irony, whimsy, what have you. Now I do not think God personally saw to getting my book package wet just for a bit of fun, but I don't think that's impossible either. Regardless of how it happened, it brought some small joy and light into my life -- which is where I often find God. In joy and light and life -- and laughter.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
--Douglas V. Steere
Monday, November 02, 2009
-- Rufus M. Jones
Sunday, November 01, 2009
--Elfrida Vipont Foulds