Archive for March 2011

“INFANT JOY” IN HIS IMAGE

March 29, 2011

It’s incontrovertible.   God created us because He wanted us to be.   He made us “in His image,” and it gives Him great joy to bring us into being.

We intuitively know this, when we look into the face of a newborn baby who is becoming conscious and awake.     So I offer to you today one more “Image of God” along with the eloquent words of William Blake

The subject of the photo and of the poem is Joy.

Infant Joy

“I have no name;

I am but two days old.”

What shall I call thee?

“Joy is my name.”

Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!

Sweet joy but two days old,

Sweet joy I call thee;

Thou dost smile,

I sing the while,

Sweet joy befall thee.

  

As I said yesterday,  you came into this world as Infant Joy and it is still within you, and “you are no less precious now in the eyes of your Creator.”

Thankful acknowledgement to William Blake for these simple words of pure joy   and to Cooper Kenneth for the joyful  illustration of purity and simplicity.  

AN IMAGE OF GOD

March 28, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about loving each other for the image of God found in each person.  That is,  if we love God, we will love the ones He created in His own image.   

Today I thought I’d give you an example of someone made in God’s image.

Still fresh and new from his creation.      

He will grow up and he will grow older, as we all do.

I like to think that you were once a brand-new precious creation like this,  whether you were baby boy or baby girl.   You grew….but you are no less precious in the eyes of your Creator.

Those who love you … agree with Him.

When you love someone else .. you also agree with Him, Who is Creator of us all….

In His image.

(That’s Cooper Kenneth in the photo above at 3 1/2 months old.   His Grandpa beckoned him into this world and launched him on his way.)

MARC ANTONY’S TWINS (3rd Sunday Lent)

March 27, 2011


The political and military maneuverings of Marc Antony of Rome  used to be considered worth studying for examining the character of the man as well as for understanding the rise and fall of empires.    

I’m glad St. Francis de Sales had an opportunity to contemplate the life of Marc Antony during his formative years.   Later, drawing from his knowledge of this historical figure,  St Francis was able to illustrate a point of the Gospel given to us on this Third Sunday of Lent.

Here’s the story about Marc Antony, as St. Francis tells it:   Marc Antony once purchased two young slaves who were brought to him by a trader.   These two children resembled each other so well that the trader tricked him into believing that they were twins.   That was such a rarity that Mark Antony valued them greatly and paid a very high price for them. 

But when he brought them to his house, he found  that each spoke a different language.  It was discovered that one was from Dauphiny and the other was from Asia, places “incredibly distant” from each other.  Marc Antony flew into a rage  and became incensed with the person who had sold them to him.  

But a certain servant in the household convinced him that their resemblance was that much more remarkable inasmuch as they were from different countries and had no connection with each other.   That calmed Marc Antony and he began to value the twins even more.   

The Gospel we are given today is Luke 11:14-28.  Jesus had just been criticized for casting out a demon from a man.   They said Jesus must be in league with the demons in order for them to listen to Him.   Jesus pointed out that this is illogical:   “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.”
 

No, St. Francis had commented a few hundred years ago;   a kingdom must be in concord with itself in order to survive.  The king and the people must be at peace with each other and love each other.   And the people of the kingdom must likewise be at peace with each other and love each other.  

These are the two Great Commandments, to love God and to love one’s neighbor.   St. Francis explains that this is accomplished by loving God and then – remembering that each person is made in the image of the God we love – by loving the image of God in our neighbor;  by loving the person next to us because God loves him and made him in His own image.  

So even though God and man come from “two different countries” and are found not to speak the same language (so to speak),  by perceiving the image of God in each person we value each other highly because we see the “twin” of God’s image.

Don’t worry about what the person next to you “did” with the image of God within him.   It’s enough to know that the person next to you was indeed created in God’s image.   And it’s enough of a task for each of us to try to resemble that image in our own lives. “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Or else – it might be discovered we aren’t twins from the same country after all.

MAKING WAY FOR NEW THINGS

March 26, 2011

Sorry to be away so long.    I’ve been all right.     My To-Do lists have been rather long.    There are two catgegories:  Getting Things In Order, and Getting Things In Working Order.   And then there is Round Two of the Battle With the State:   perhaps ….perhaps…they made a mistake, and I will not be living “on the edge” of financial disaster after all.

We’ll see.

Meanwhile,  I really am keeping myself busy.  I think Hubbie would be proud of me today:That’s the  thick viney-leafy debris that melting snow uncovered.   From all the tools in the garage, I chose a hoe and began tackling the mess.     I’ve always wanted this area clean and vineless.  The ivy against the house is a good hiding place for all kinds of four-footed, six-footed, and eight-legged creatures.     I feel most unwlecome there!

All those straight lines are vine things that you have to pull up and out with your (gloved) hands —  with great effort!    Fortunately the weather was perfect today, about 30 degrees and sunny, cool, crisp, clean air.

A tip for you, though, if you ever have to do this:   Don’t rely on the vine you’re tugging and tugging and tugging on…for your balance.   It will eventually give up, sending you flying backwards without any support.     (I guess it’s sort of like sawing off the tree limb that you’re sitting on.) 

An additional related tip:   Don’t give one huge major tug on one of those vines until you’re very sure it actually is stuck into the ground!

I’m on a steep learning curve here….but I am determined to keep our yard as Hubbie would have kept it…up to his standards.

I am inordinately proud of this six foot by twelve foot area under our bay window.  The debris is now outside of the stoned-in area, on its way elsewhere.  

All the while I was working, I was thinking these vines ought to remind me of the Gospels….“I am the vine, you are the branches….”   That didn’t work for me today.   I couldn’t wax philosophical  (or theological) .    I think it’s because I knew when these leaves were living….and when they died.   

They were alive last spring and summer when Hubbie was alive.   They died in the Fall….when Hubbie….did.   

What was I doing out there?

THE BET IS ON

March 22, 2011

Hubbie would be doing this if he were here:

It’s that time of the year….Every year around this time we stand at this window and look down on our backyard pond.   This is what it looks like today.

It’s no longer a hockey rink.    No more ice skating,    The ice cover is noticeably shrinking. 

And Hubbie says:   “Okay!  What date do you  bet the ice will be all gone this year??!!”    And then he would bet on March 28th, or April 3rd, or April 6th…..   He loved to make bets like that!

And I would grumble and say I don’t know….April 8.   Or whatever.  And then I’d say something vague like the ice will be all gone by April 15 – Income Tax day.

So  what happens next?  Who was  the best guesser?

We never found out!

By the time we notice the ice is all gone,  we never remember who said what!   I guess the fun is all in the challenge of placing the “bet.”   

We “guessed” the future, and then we just went on with our lives, forward day by day, enjoying all the new challenges, forgetting the little ones in the past.

Maybe that’s a good thing…when  it comes to family life.

UNDER THE MOON

March 20, 2011

Thank you, my Friend With the Camera. 

 I knew you’d have some great photos of our Super Full Moon last night!

Son and I noticed this large full moon rising through the branches of our winter forest, but we were both very tired from the week’s work and  in the middle of number crunching for the IRS  and mice battling.  Since we were actually losing the battle at that  time,  getting my camera and tripod ready was just too much to add to the night’s activities.

But there’s something to be said for not taking a picture “every time.”    I told myself last night that I’m just going to have to enjoy the moment.     Without taking photos of that moon, I just wonder if  we more fully experienced the pleasure and the delight of the moon.  I keep thinking about that.   Deep pleasure is doled out a little at a time.

But, my Friend With the Camera, I’m glad the moon rose over your house:

Thank you for sending the photos.

OVERCOME BY NUMBERS

March 18, 2011

I am awash in numbers.    These numbers are supposed to be very, very, very important to me.    They’re all over my table:

And they’re all over my countertop, albeit in some sort of order:

This has been going on for quite a few days and in quite a few places around this house.   

It seems that every single thing that Huibbie did on the computer last year involved “numbers”  that the tax people are very, very interested in.     And I have to track them all down  and find all the parts of all the sums.

I can tell you for sure:  “The sum of the parts are much, much greater than the whole”  because  “the parts of the sums are more numerous than the sums of the parts.”

Overcome.   I’ll be overcome by numbers, for a while.They say some primitive tribes don’t have an exact sense of “numbers”;    they say when they count they do it something like:  “One….two….three…..many.”   That would simplify our tax system enormously.

MEET AMOS… AND ST. PATRICK

March 16, 2011

The Prophet Amos and St. Patrick:   Two men who have a lot in common.   If I add young David who became Israel’s Great King, you will probably know what they had in common.   And it’s something very few of us are able to have.

Here is a composite illustration of St. Patrick, the great saint of Ireland, for whom we eat corned beef and cabbage.   Well, no.

But  he was a real person, and the story that come down to us is that he was born in Roman Britain, in the 4th century a.D.,  to a fairly well-to-do family, possibly a family of the Roman nobility, long established in Britain.

As a young man, or what we would call “teenager,”  this beloved son, Patrick, was captured by the Irish pirates that sailed the shores around Britain.   Instead of being held for ransom,  he was simply sold to a landowner back in Ireland.  After the purchase,  this young captive was put to work way out in the Irish hills to tend the sheep of the estate, which is where he spent long, lonely years, separated from family,  friends, or anything familiar.

This is not unlike the experience of young David.

David was not “captured,” but just merely sent out into the fields and hills of Judea to tend his father’s sheep.    As youngest and least important and skilled of his father’s sons,  he could at least be useful out there.    As a young man (again, what we misname “teenager”)  he spent days and weeks at a time in isolation from his family and friends.

Hills of Judea:

Not much there.   The higher into those hills you go,  the rougher the land and the weather,  but this is the very place where you can raise a certain kind of sheep known for the best kind of wool, highly prized.  Even the vegetation, though sparse, can produce some of the most unique and desirable fruit such as the “sycamore figs”  which you will see referenced in the book of Amos.

And it’s here that Amos spent most of his life.  He was certainly a shepherd when he was a young man, but as a grown man, the Bible calls him by a name that is better translated “sheep-breeder”  or “sheep-herder.”  That is, an owner and highly-skilled  manager of large herds of sheep which he would then combine with the task of a merchant, traveling far and wide to market his sheep and wool.   

For thousands of years, lonely hills have provided the environment that sustains  sheep herds and that  develops and widens the intellect of the men who tend the sheep.     

What kind of “intellect”?    We can see evidence in the Psalms of David, some of which were  imagined and composed during David’s days and nights alone in the country with his sheep.    He looked up at the stars in awe and wonder  and asked their Creator:  “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?”      The life and death needs of his sheep and himself led David to understand that when our need is so great, the depths of God’s fatherly care of us is yet deeper and surer:    “The Lord is my Shepherd…..”

And so……meet Amos.   Shepherd of the hills of Judea near the village of  Tekoa;   observer of all sorts of humans as he traveled with his sheep and on  business;   a pious man who had long periods of time for contemplating God, which then, in turn,  opened his mind to hear when God called.

I have much to learn from these three men.     I  think all three of them felt they were nothing     “special,”   and  there was no great future apparently lying ahead of them.     So how did they fill their time during their long years of loneliness and obscurity?    

How, indeed!

MICE OF THE APOCALYPSE

March 14, 2011

Since I placed the last posting in the Category “Apocalypse”  my mind is still “there.”

I’ve been cat-less for a full year now.   Suzy was not much of a mouser, but I guess the mice didn’t know that.    Michigan mice prefer to live indoors in the winter, and they discovered safety in our house this winter.   They, too, are cat-less.

Yick!    Cat-less and happy about it.

I have a two-pronged approach to my war against (indoor) mice:     At their entry points I place oil of peppermint drops in a small dish of water.   They hate the smell of peppermint.    

And I leave little drops of floride gel  from the dentist where they can eat it – and die!     Better the floride goes into their bodies than ours.   I’m just glad I never threw away the tube.

I’m about to add a third prong, prompted by a rare experience with junk food today.    I don’t  like junk food very much, and I don’t eat it often, because  I need my body for the next few years, but, see, my gas station gives me 200 extra Points when I buy a small bag of  crunchy salty oily corn-based junk food.     They give me only 80 Points for buying gas.

25,000 Points, and I get a free gas tank full of gas!    Now, I’m not going to eat my way to a whole gas tank’s worth of Points, but every little bit helps.  

And this particular junk food is not kind to my digestive tract.   In fact,  the genetically modified corn that is its main ingredient is not kind to anyone’s digestive tracts, animal or human.   Cows, monkeys, and mice have all been shown to have miscarriages and/or smaller, unhealthy,  and sterile offspring.

See where I’m going with this?     I’m thinking my third-prong against the mice could be buying some corn-based junk food for them.   Apocalypse for them;  gasoline for me.   

Hopefully a plan of  “diminishing” returns, if you know what I mean.

SOBER-ING

March 14, 2011

Sober –   def.  (adj.)    serious;  turning one’s attention to serious matters;  (vb.)  to become more realistic….(Wordnet)

Perhaps it’s the news from Japan;  perhaps it’s our economic and social situation which becomes more serious every day;  perhaps it’s our politicians who bewilder us with absurd actions and irrelevant statements;  perhaps it’s growing worldwide unrest;  and perhaps it’s also the season of Lent.  

It feels like it’s time for a little sobriety.     

From time to time I look at images of an oddly made statue out of Ecuador of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Child.    It was created in the 17th century.    It’s called Our Lady of Good Success.  As the recently discovered writings indicate,   the events and explanations surrounding  this statue would be more appropriate for our century, not theirs.     The writings would be rediscovered some day, right before our century begins.    They were.

Here’s one photo of ithe statue, lovely and beautiful:

 Here is someone’s close-up photo of another, smiling down with motherly attention:

And another old photo of the original in Ecuador:

But, then…..here is another photo taken by a pilgrim who visited the shrine recently:

The smile is gone.

There are seasonal differences in costume.  It’s just people trying to express their respect;  trying to get the beauty of a heavenly human soul right…but the statue had never had such sadness before several recent photos.

This particular statue, formed in the early 1600’s, but intended as a message for our times….Sad times coming before the “Good Success “?    Perhaps a visual metaphor.

Sobriety called for.

“HOURS”

March 12, 2011

As I go to bed tonight…..

        ……the various news services are reporting that Japanese officials have only “hours” to come up with a way to keep their reactor cores cool – in the absence of a reliable source of electricity. 

Right now the heat, the steam, the pressure is rising.   

It will be interesting checking the news reports tomorrow morning.

 

A LONG WAY TO JAPAN

March 11, 2011

Once, long ago, it was a “long way” to Japan:

The arduous voyage of St. Francis Xavier in the 16th century brought the knowledge of Japan to the Western World and the knowledge of the Western World to Japan.     It was to be only the slightest of acquaintances.     Christianity took hold and began to spread among the Japanese, but it was fiercely persecuted and nearly wiped out.

We can remember this time through the eyes of The 26 Martyrs of Tagosama:

No further missionaries or priests from the West arrived for nearly two centuries.   An interesting note:    When missionaries again began arriving in the 19th century, they found a few small bands of Catholic Japanese who had retained the Faith as best they could.  

They were able to pass  down the Faith from one generation to the next for two centuries, without the help of priests for one reason.   They did not sing or pray or learn the Creed in the vernacular;   they had used the language of  the Christian Faith – Latin.    Unlike spoken Japanese which changed slowly as the centuries passed,  the Latin stayed the same;  the words of the prayers and songs and creed carried the constant and unchanged meaning against which the changing usage of the Japanese language could be measured against.

Although Christianity remained a very small minority in Japan,  by the 20th century two cities were known to have large populations of Catholic-Christians:   Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

St. Francis Xavier and his companions, the 26 Martyrs, and  the unnamed saints  of their beloved  Nippon, Land of Beauty,  all  remain in the Communion of Saints with us.   May they look down with compassion and concern on Japan today and join with our prayers to petition Our Lord  for relief and comfort and mercy. . . . .   

We humans are so small on this planet and our needs our so great.

AMOS ENTERS THE TUNNEL

March 10, 2011

 

From a Christian perspective, these days of Lent are not like the other days of the year. They are “purple days.”   Days of fasting, penance, and preparation. It’s quite Biblical, and historians can trace the practice of the forty days of Lent back to earliest Christian years.

Although all my classes will have a sort of “Lenten flavor”during these next six weeks, it’s the Old Testament history class that recently had the greatest advantage in taking a quick look at what the prophet Amos had to say to the people of Israel as they were bring down God’s judgment on their heads. So, this year, I’m bringing Amos into the Spruce Tunnel.

In modern terms, Amos helped them out with an “examination of conscience” but they didn’t listen. The nation as a whole did not stop offending God, realize what they were doing wrong, and then work hard to reform themselves.

Isn’t this what we’re supposed to be doing during Lent? Honest self-examination, reform strengthened by penance, detachment from the ways of the world aided by fasting and abstinence, and made real by much prayer and mediation?

“A good Lent will increase our understanding and gratitude for the Cross and the Resurrection.” Let Lent go by easily, superficially, and there will be much that we’ll miss out on come Easter. And we will have stayed at the same level of maturity and wisdom that we find ourselves at right now.

During these coming weeks, I’ll still post the random thoughts which occur to me when I go into the Spruce Tunnel. However, from time to time I’ll also walk with you through the book of Amos, a little treasure chest of a book, often overlooked, but full of precious gems.

  

JUST A THOUGHTFUL DAY

March 9, 2011

Thought-filled day for me…..

I hope it was for you too.

                                             

                             Lent begins for us.

 

FOOD OF THE FAR NORTH

March 8, 2011

As I showed in the last posting, Son and I drove next to and over the Great Lakes this past weekend.   These deep cold Lakes give rise to beauties like this: 

I’ve posted about these lumps of smoked trout and whitefish and salmon before, nearly every time we return home from the Far North.    Their flesh is  smooth, smokey, sweet and creamy.   It is nourishing and satisfying.  

 It’s hard to take slow bites, savoring the flavors, but this time I was able to pause for a moment and notice that not only does this Lake Trout have scales, but it has patterns of scales.  I’ve never noticed the hexagons before.   They’re beautiful.     (They’re also not created by nature, but rather by the grid upon which it’s smoked.   Thanks for the tip, Son.)

This fish is best eaten by scooping out portions of the flesh that cling to the big thick bones, but I tried being civilized and using a fork….

Yeah.   Worked for a while…..

Last year my cousin traced our family’s DNA back to a stone age grouping of villages around the North Sea, southern Scandinavia.   

There’s something to be said for eating like our ancestors!

Travel Northward

March 8, 2011

Well, after a delay (as noted in my last posting)  Son and I eventually took off towards the Far North . . .   It’s winter.     They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few beautiful thousand:

Yes, three more weeks to Spring.  But we were going in the other direction.  

Age-old winter mountains:

To go any  further north you have to drive over the Mackinac Bridge.    Looking down on the frozen straits between two Great Lakes:

Lake Michigan, with frozen waves:

Frozen Lake Superior:

After our visit we drove past all these beautiful scenes again.   The chunks of blue ice on Lake Michigan was fascinating.  Blue glacier-like ice waves:

Before we crossed over The Big Mac, we stopped at the home of My Friend With the Camera whose photos I sometimes use – he has such a GREAT camera!!!     He is also The Friend With a View, living within walking distance of the Mackinaw Bridge.

He took a picture of me taking a picture of the Bridge:

And then it was time to get on the Bridge and resume our journey home:

Son and I  had gone  north to visit Hubbie’s mother.   Grandma.     The visit was heart-wrenching, but filled with necessary talk of life and death, love and family,  and how nice it is to be together…and “what a shame” it is that Hubbie is no longer here…..   

A heart-wrenchingly beautiful visit.    And I don’t have any photos for that.

IFFY OR NOT

March 4, 2011

Sometimes even after you make a decision,  you spend the whole day wishing you could have decided otherwise.

Pink is ice.    Very pink is lots of ice.    Icy rain, sleet, ice pellets, freezing rain.

We would have had to drive 250 miles north straight through that mess.   Given the numerous accidents on the Interstate at our very own exit,  and the 700 local calls to AAA, and unfortunately two deaths 80 miles east of us, Son and I decided to postpone our trip to see Hubbie’s mom — until tomorrow.

Well, when I put it that way,  I’m glad we are waiting.

PILGRIMS THROUGH THIS WORLD

March 3, 2011

Been a bit tongue-tied lately.  Only two posts per week!   Tsk.

Here I am:

Among the many memories Son and I have tortured ourselves with lately  is  this question:  “What was Hubbie’s birthday present to me, just a few weeks before he died?”    There was no hint at all what was coming last Fall, so the time of my birthday seems like a different world from the desperate weeks that soon followed.

At last, I saw the answer on our wall.   Hubbie had arranged to have an old, old portrait of mine reproduced in  an oil painting.   He preserved the black and white, and I was glad for that.   It was a wonderful gift.    I remember the day the photo was taken at my home (so long ago!), and I remember what it felt like to be that age – full of optimism and possibilities, rather unscarred by self-knowledge.     That is,  a “child.”

And so….now…

We go from childhood innocence to knowledge.     And this is not a sad thing.   It need not be tragic at all.

A Christian comes to know, at one point in his life, that he is a pilgrim, passing through this life, preparing for the next — and he does it  individually, privately, personally.  I sometimes write about the songs my Grandma used to sing, songs that have served me well in this life.  One she used to sing starts out like this:  This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through….”     (Wish you  could hear her sing….)

Lovely lyrics, beautiful melody.   It’s Searchable and you can find any number of good voices singing it on YouTube.   

So as I learn to carry on and “pass through” this life I’m reminded that it is indeed a solitary pilgrimage, and a good one with meaning and purpose and Help from above.    There are things to do, things to learn,  things to give, things to help with – and things to enjoy.    We don’t need to cling to any of these things because we’ll be leaving them all behind some day.  Our responsibilities and possessions are all under our temporary stewardship.

So I look again at that little child in the portrait above and remember how I took each day, one at a time, step by step;  days develop into years, steps develop into a whole journey.

This step, this day, is the important one.

Thank God for it and for its possibilities.