sunny sunday

Bloged in life, seasons by rod Sunday February 26, 2006

This morning broke bright and beautiful. Intensely bright sunshine beating through the windows. Though bright sunny mornings are wonderful, I guess they aren’t all that strange an occurrence. This one though came after 36 hours of steady rain. When Allison and I came home from the gym yesterday, she said she was not usually bothered by rainy days, but this one was really getting her down. Me too. It was our 4th washed out Saturday in a row. There is so much that I need to do out there, and Saturday is my only chance. So I’m a month behind. Next week is forecast the same. Sunny and 70s all week, wet and cold on Saturday. Yes, Spring is at the door.
A very mild and strange winter has ushered in a lot of early occurrences this year. You’ll remember that I get quite annoying this time of year with all my blooming announcements and dated and documented seasonal arrivals. It’s now to the point that with each springy occurrence, I check last year’s blog to find out how the dates match up. It all starts during birthday month. Groundhog day on the 2nd, and then we await the arrival of the Robins. Last year, the Robins came earliest they ever had. They arrived early in the morning on my birthday. I was sitting at the kitchen table, looking out on the deck and a robin flew in. I got up to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing, and lo, there were hundreds of them in the back yard turning over leaves, flipping dirt, and hopping around in the morning dampness. What a birthday present – an early announcement of spring. I went through the rest of the season begging for new life and announcing each new blossom and rising temp and lengthening day.
This year, I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut for longer so as not to bore you, so I didn’t announce that the Robins came more than a week before my birthday this year. Allison and I were driving home and saw them all along Irmo drive. I guess they weren’t really sure it was time either, and needed to come to the Tulip trees to be certain. Sure enough, the Tulip trees also bloomed two weeks early and today the blossoms are already falling off. The crocuses were beginning to bloom two Sundays ago. A week and a half ago, the daffodils began to bloom. They’ve been slow, and they’re small, but they’re blooming. This past week, the buds on the Bradford pears began to burst.
Yesterday’s depressing rain had its purpose. Today’s sunshine will warm the blossoms. It takes both kinds. It’s a lot easier in the sunshine to be thankful for the rain. The fragile, fleeting flowers remind us that both are equally important, and each year at this time, I’m reminded that re-birth follows death. Sunday morning, eh.


Bloged in apprenticeship by rod Saturday February 25, 2006

For the first couple years I was married, my brother-in-law-in-law, Dave and I played a lot of golf and basketball together. I remember once there was a game on TV, and Dave was planning on watching it when I called and told him there was a game about to happen and asked if he’d like to play, even though he wanted to watch the game on TV. He said he’d much rather play, than watch.
Of course, I’ve always been that way. I grew up playing ball year round, and daily. Empty lot touch football, outdoor hoops, wiffle ball, little league, junior high and high school basketball, but I’ve never really been a TV sports watcher. I think of other things I need or want to do, and lose interest. Maybe that’s why I remember Dave’s comment. Though he purely enjoys watching a ballgame more than anyone else I know, he’d rather participate.
Last week in the Canyon, Jack made a similar statement. I can’t remember the exact context, but we were making choices as to how to spend our time, and he opted to spend it hands on rather than vicariously. I was very proud of that. Another quote from Neil’s book, Ghost Rider, speaks to the difference in vicarious experience and real life participation. He observes that watching a movie or reading a novel might make you feel sad, or happy, but in the end, nothing had really happened in your life. This is not true of real life experiences. One emerges from life experiences, regardless how small, affected and changed. Again, the point of Jack’s and my journey.

But I also thought more literally about Neil’s example, books vs. real life - in particular, our approach to reading the bible. We do, all too often, read it vicariously. I’ve stated recently on my blog that I feel we are a vicarious religion. For most of us, we read the bible and are inspired or moved, or convicted or amazed, but in the end, nothing real has happened in our lives. Often, at best, our behavior has been changed in that we are more resolved to avoid certain behaviors, but how often are new behaviors instilled in us? I feel like that is because the bible doesn’t have the power to change us, it merely reveals the One who does have the power to change us – to cause something real to happen in our lives. If we read without looking for the One who is revealed to us, the book becomes a behavior code from which we’ve extracted the dos and don’ts, but have long since forgotten the reason. Love as a positive motivation is replaced by guilt, as a negative motivation. When this happens, the behavior code no longer represents who we are, or what we’re about, but only how we act.
I’ve often lamented that the book itself is sometimes worshipped in lieu of the God to whom it points. The book can tell us how to experience God, but it can’t cause us to experience him. He does that, and we are merely brought to him by his revelation. Sometimes it just feels like a generic envelope that arrives in the mail saying, “you may have already won $10,000,000! But until we claim it, it is simply available, it is only what someone else has already won. No matter how many times we read the envelope, we will not get our prize.


Bloged in culture by rod Thursday February 23, 2006

A couple weeks ago, Allison had an inadvertent visitor to her blog who commented that she certainly read the Bible a lot. When I saw his comment, I visited his blog. Almost all the links were to atheist, agnostic, humanist, etc. sites and blogs. In several places on the blog, he states that he is “unencumbered by religion”. I find this fascinating.

While I would admit that I am often encumbered by religious people, I am certainly not encumbered by religion. I find great freedom and rest in my beliefs and in practicing Christian apprenticeship.

For example, what if I were to state that I am unencumbered by Islam, and yet, find it necessary to point this out to you often. To continually tell you that I am not encumbered by Islam, to tell you how it doesn’t affect me, to constantly be in contact with websites that talk about not being encumbered by Islam, would probably lead you to wonder what is my hang-up with Islam. On the other hand, if I were truly unencumbered with something that I do not believe, it would probably not occur to me to think about my religious encumbrance. It seems to me that spending much of my energy convincing others that I am unencumbered by religion, is definitely an encumbrance.
I feel much this way about people whose life mission seems to be to make it illegal for anyone to mention God or belief in God around anyone else. We mustn’t offend anyone. But I don’t understand how one can be offended by something they don’t believe exists. I’m not so sure that this behavior is not just a power-hungry, controlling personality. I am free not to believe, but you are NOT free to believe.

It has never made sense to me to argue the non-existence of something in which I don’t believe. I find it easy to argue in defense of something I believe, or have experienced, but to argue something that I claim has no affect on me seems very odd. It seems like arguing with an imaginary friend about whether or not he exists. Then to insist that I’m offended by someone else talking about something I don’t believe seems odder still.

Recently, Penn Jillette submitted an essay to NPR’s “this I believe series. The rule for these essays is that you may not write an essay about what you don’t believe. Penn cleverly skirted that issue, with a title that said, “This I believe, there is no God.” Now there is a true atheist. Penn’s essay dealt with his observations that to him proved there is not a God. Honestly, he had drawn a picture of a god that should be about specific things, and since those things obviously aren’t being divinely controlled, there can’t be a god. True that his god doesn’t exist.
But most self-proclaimed atheists I’ve met aren’t thinking like that. Most don’t point out the fallen world around them as evidence that there is no higher power. Most of them aren’t led to this belief by starving children, or the AIDS epidemic, or the holocaust. They are led to this belief by looking inward, being extremely insular; because god makes them feel bad. God is equated with morality. There are too many rules to follow. One can’t have fun if he believes in God. Many seem more like guilty, troubled, oppressed skeptics. They have an equally messed up view of a different god than Penn’s non-existent one. A very common factor among those who TRY not to believe is morality, desires and urges.
This seems to me to be very encumbered by religion. Penn doesn’t seem to be encumbered because his disbelief is actually a belief that God doesn’t exist. In fact, his evidence is a confused, non-selfish concern for others. He seems encumbered by the same things that trouble my God. Sickness, sin, starvation, wars, neglect, etc., and in that, he’s worrying about the things that trouble God. He could be closer to finding God than those who believe, or wonder, and pretend not to while they are angst ridden by feeling that if he does exist, they, themselves, are fried. On the other hand, Jillette who earns his living on the Las Vegas strip, seems not to be encumbered by moral issues. He claims not to gamble and never to have tasted alcohol.
I have so much more respect for those who seem to have it made, but who look outside themselves at the suffering and pain in others and arrive at the belief that this injustice could not exist if there was a God. So much more than those who seem to have it made and look at their own desires for more, urges and selfishness, and decide that they don’t want to there to be a God because God would be disappointed in them. This is not a disbelief, this is a belief that worries the conscience. It is a conscious acting that is contrary to a belief system that disallows what one wishes to do. This is conviction, and there is a great gulf between conviction and disbelief.

plain white rapper

Bloged in art, culture, life, random, worship by rod Wednesday February 15, 2006

I didn’t plan to, I didn’t want to, I didn’t mean to, but I did it. When no one else will, it’s still got to be done.
A while back, when my hair was a bit shorter, a lady at the corner store told me I looked like Slim Shady. So maybe that helped me to pull it off.
Who knows?
Maybe next time I’ll yodel.

the tourist, the pilgrim and the traveler; a long and winding tale of paths traveled and lessons learned

Bloged in apprenticeship, life, traveling, worship by rod Wednesday February 15, 2006

This morning when I posted my Neil Peart quote, I zipped off to his website to copy the URL to link to his initials. This evening while I tried to shed the accumulation of the day from my grey matter – clear off the mental desktop, if you will – so that I could access what I needed to get back to work on tomorrow morning’s chapel, I visited the site once again and clicked to listen to him narrate a portion of his book, “Ghost Rider”.
In just a couple pages, several observations struck me. He comments on the difference between being a tourist and a traveler, and I was made to think of Jack’s and my trip to the canyon last week. For a year, I’d called it a rite of passage, for weeks I’d fantasized, talked and dreamed of it being a pilgrimage. When purchasing airfare, I’d been perfectly willing to take the trip with the most connections, plane changes, and land hours from the canyon to drive the final leg of the journey. I talked with Allison about my desire for this to be the main point of the time together with Jack. The Journey. The point of the Journey is not to arrive.
I had thought, weeks ago, about the difference in a tourist, a traveler and a pilgrim. I thought about the popular theology in the recent past, of our place on the planet. “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through”, “I am a pilgrim, and a stranger, traveling through this wearisome land, I have a home…” This idea is not all of the past, even Switchfoot declares, “I don’t belong here, I’m gonna carry a cross and song where I don’t belong.” But in these words, there is a bit more of a resolution to own the journey, to be intentional in the getting from here to there. Rich Mullins promises “I’ll carry the songs we learned when we were kids, I’ll carry the scars of generations gone by, I’ll pray for you always and I promise you this, I’ll carry on.” Michael Card recognizes that “there is a joy in the journey, there’s a light you can love on the way, there is a wonder and wildness to life.”
I don’t want to be a tourist, I’ve been self-conscious of this since I was a little kid. I’ve always felt weird appearing as some rubber-necking, gawker, come by to see what all the hullabaloo is about. I always fantasized about blending in when I traveled outside my element. I’ve never believed that being “in the world but not of it” meant wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts with a fishing hat and a camera slung around your neck.
A tourist checks the listings to see what other people seem to be interested in, pays a fare and sits back to drive by or fly over and be told about what he’s seeing outside his window. A vicarious naked-eye observation of something that is going on outside himself. This is not what I want to be. Jack and I didn’t go to the canyon to gaze from afar and be told interesting facts about the sediment layers. We came so that at some point in our footsteps, we’d put our weight down in the precarious, eroding, sandy desert soil and step beneath the rim and feel the canyon around us. Turn our faces to the wind and feel the bitter bite of winter from the outside of the windshield. Not only to gaze from a panoramic vantage, but to experience the height before us, and the depth behind us simultaneously. To be immersed at once in the past and the future.

Yes I called it a pilgrimage, and I guess both Jack and I were pilgrims but from quite different perspectives. I was determined not to let Jack know where we were going until we arrived, because although we would arrive, it was not the point of the journey. I know I’m weird, but that was one of my main objectives – to create a metaphor in a rite of passage in which the getting there was just as much a part of the experience as the being there. Perhaps the getting there is just as much a part of the being there as the arrival is. Eternity is infinite forward and back. Eternity doesn’t have a beginning and thus doesn’t start when we get there. It already is and we’re in it.
I planned for Jack to fall asleep during the car ride from Phoenix. I planned for him to miss the signs that would give away our destination. He, immediately after departure, understood that we weren’t headed someplace for a rite of passage, but the rite of passage had begun. After the fact, when I talked with him about our traveling, we observed that even though he slept, we were still on our way, still moving. I hadn’t slept, but kept driving so that when he woke, we were closer. He was carried while sleeping. We talked about the fact that though I knew where we were headed and he didn’t, we were both pilgrims, and though I knew where we were going, neither of us had been there before. Though I had never been there, I knew the way and was taking him.

Once inside the canyon, we weren’t even pilgrims anymore. When we stepped over the rim, we had no destination, only an invitation for experience. We became travelers on a walk to meet whatever came our way. Pilgrimage is great, but the journey doesn’t always go as we plan. Nor is it designed to.
The Apostle Paul understood this. As a pilgrim, he forgot what was behind and pressed on toward the mark, but as a traveler, he understood that he wasn’t guiding himself toward a goal, but being called, drawn to it from the future. As a pilgrim, he realized that to die was gain, it would bring him to the pilgrim’s destination. But as a traveler, he realized that to live is Christ, that until he was brought to his destination, he was led on journey that was just as important. Philip surely understood this as he was told where to go and he went there, saw what was to be done and did it, after which he was carried elsewhere by the Spirit. Philip wasn’t pressed to his own plans, but traveling and being led, learning and trusting and all the time growing closer to what and where he was supposed to be.

Sometimes I feel that the differences between misunderstood word meanings, even slight nuances are detrimental to our being. Tourist, pilgrim and traveler. Other words that speak to the now and then are also confused. Currently and presently, for example. Currently describes what is, and presently, what soon will be. Likewise, Jesus’ language confuses us. The kingdom of God is at hand. So many people hear that as if it is just around the corner. Any day now. But to me, at hand means within grasp. Reach out and grab it. It is here. “An hour is coming and now is, when true worshipers will worship in Spirit and Truth. We won’t go to the mountain, or down to Jerusalem, because it isn’t about a place, it doesn’t come about by careful observation, you can’t say here it is, or there it is, because the kingdom of God is within and among us.
What? That can’t be, because I’ve not yet gotten to where I’m going? Perhaps we’re not only journeying to the kingdom, but journeying within the kingdom. Why is it so difficult to recognize. “Do you mean I’ve been living in it all this time and didn’t even know it?” Do we look around and say if this is it, it is certainly not all that? But once we realize what it is, it begins to look and feel completely different. We stop wishing our lives away. We stop existing in a grass is always greener mentality. We begin to realize that to live is Christ, we claim citizenship, recognize those who don’t realize what they are in the midst of, those who are resident aliens, and set about offering them the same citizenship by the same means it was given to us.
All those who wander are not lost. As James Taylor confesses, it’s enough to be on your way, it’s enough to be moving on, it’s enough just to cover ground. Press on.

claimed quote du jour 1.02

Bloged in apprenticeship, life by rod Tuesday February 14, 2006

I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.


claimed quote du jour

Bloged in apprenticeship, life by rod Tuesday February 14, 2006

I’m young enough not to care too much
About the way things used to be
I’m young enough to remember the future
The past has no claim on me



Bloged in family, life by rod Sunday February 12, 2006

I know that stale posts on the blog and no updates must seem that the blogger has nothing to say. That is not how my blog works. One of the hardest things is when you get it in your head that a thought has to be depleted before moving on to all the other stuff that is playing in your head, but can’t seem to complete the thought and move on. I have more to say about the canyon trip, but it just comes out muddled each time I try. Meanwhile, other topics and rambles are piling up at the bottleneck, and I’ve been reluctant to post and interrupt the canyon thing. Alas a week has gone by.
Used to be that this wouldn’t bother me. I’d just go on about whatever was on my mind at the moment and come back to something if I needed to. For some reason, I guess I’m just reluctant to walk away from last weekend. The dam will break soon enough.
Meanwhile, Jack has posted three times on his blog about the experience. You should read his take on the whole thing. Kinda feels like reading the different accounts of the same events in the gospels. Same event, slightly different perspective. So for his account, go here. Of course they’re in reverse chronological order. Scroll down and read them in the order that he posted them.
Also, I’ve uploaded some pics to flickr. You can see them here. You can comment about how awesome they are, you can view them in different sizes, download them, email them, print them, etc. You can even subscribe to an rss or atom stream and get new ones as I post them. Pretty awesome. Oh, and you can see them as a slideshow if you like.
So, thanks for your patience. New stuff coming soon.

rising from phoenix

Bloged in family, life, parenting, traveling by rod Monday February 6, 2006

We were up at 5 to head to the airport. We both had trouble getting up without the canyon calling us. A quick shower and we’re off before they started the “continental breakfast” at the hotel. Ah, another long day en route. About 10 minutes into the trip to the airport, rush hour began at 6:15. “Where do these people work?” It was stop and go for 30 minutes until we got south of I-10 and headed around the bottom of Phoenix.
Jack and I were separated by 8 rows on the plane. We stopped in Denver, but still couldn’t get seated together. Beside me is a lady who seems also to be separated from a traveling companion, and maybe would have braved the bulkhead to trade with Jack, but I decided not to ask when I realized that it was another step of independence for him. Every time I checked on him he seemed so grown up and fine.
We flew to Denver, then to Orlando, then to Charlotte where the rest of the Fam picked us up and whisked us off in the rain to Razzoo’s to cap the whole weekend off with Rat Toes.
It was a long ride home from Charlotte in the driving rain, but here we are, safe and sound. Changed.

west rim

Bloged in family, life, parenting, traveling by rod Sunday February 5, 2006

Much colder this morning than yesterday, although yesterday froze our toes. This morning the wind was so strong that it was very difficult to leave my hands exposed long enough to take pictures. Yesterday, before Jack new what was in store, it was very difficult to rouse him at 6:30 in the morning. Today he was practically shouting in my ear, “Dad, get up, it’s starting to get light.” He didn’t want to miss the light and shadow show, nor did I. We put on all the clothes we had, complete with hoodies engaged, and gloves, and watched the sun cast it’s magic while fighting off the bitter wind.
Once the sun had come up, we found coffee and hot chocolate, and attempted to warm up our core. Though piping hot, by the time it had passed through the icy esophagus, it didn’t do much to warm the belly. So we froze out, went back to the room and packed up, cleaned, checked out of our room, and loaded the car.
We decided to head west along the rim this time, and visit popular vantage points that we hadn’t seen yet. We went along Hermit Road to Hermit’s rest where we found a fire, and Jack bought gifts for a few close friends. Along the way, we saw some of the most spectacular views so far. Sheer drops of 3000 feet and the Colorado River rapids in the distance. Ravens soared beneath and above us in the biting wind.
By the time we reached Hermit’s Rest, our bellies were beginning to growl. The canyon continues 95 miles west from where we were, ha, so we decided to head back to Bright Angel Restaurant to remedy the situation. Wrangler’s spicy chili in a sourdough bowl for me, turkey sandwich on toast for Jack.
We stopped in the gift shop for one more thing for Mom, before climbing in the car and heading back toward Phoenix. We’d decided we’d like to experience some more of Arizona in the daylight. It was a wise decision, as we traveled straight, flat roads at 8,000 feet and watched the mountains looming large in the distance, capped with snow. It was a beautiful ride and we arrived in Phoenix just after dark, grabbed a hotel and watched what was left of the Pittsburgh victory before becoming heavy-eyed. I made first contact with Allison since I’d left Flagstaff Friday night. It felt good to read her text and finally hear her voice. I wonder if a son realizes he has only half a dad when his mom’s not along.

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