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fount of contemplation

Bloged in apprenticeship, life by rod Wednesday June 28, 2006

On Wednesday night, precisely one year and one week ago, I sat beside the Cranberry River, next to a fire and listened to the water run over the rocks in the dark, and thought. I’ve sat above, beside, in that river countless times in the last 25 years thinking pretty much the same thoughts every time. But each time, a few new thoughts, made possible by increased experience and the passage of time, are added to the archives of contemplation. Many of those thoughts are recorded in the archives of this blog.


This afternoon Molly and I picked up Will from his last day of Summer school and drove to Lowe’s for materials needed to finish Jack’s room while he’s gone at camp. We’re going to build him a narrow shelf around the room for his collection of Jones Soda bottles. We found what we needed and on the way out, stopped to stare at some indoor fountains that catch my eye every time I’m in Lowe’s. When I stopped, Molly said, “Oh Dad, Mom LOVES those fountains!”
Let’s get one then!
I chose the copper and slate for reasons that some of you will know. Its name on the box is “Contemplation Fountain.” I’ve been staring at the fountain for over 3 hours, listening to the water run over the slate, through the “decorative stones” and trickle into the reservoir to be pumped back up through the copper tubes to begin again. I’ve been contemplating. Mostly fountains. Fountains of living water, of every blessing, and never ceasing streams of mercy into which one can be plunged and lose all his guilty stains.
This fountain is truly beautiful with its hollow copper and gray slate. Much like me – the construction of this fountain – hollow, dry and gray if not for the constant coursing of the water through the copper and over the stone, washing away the paths of resistance, coloring, over time, the drab, hardened clay.
There’s a light perched at the top of the whole affair so that even in the dark, you can see the water flowing.

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they’re watching you

Bloged in family, love and marriage, parenting by rod Wednesday June 28, 2006

This morning as Allison was rushing to get ready for work, she asked me if I’d iron her clothes so she wouldn’t be late. So I turned on the iron and got to work. Molly was talking to me while I ironed, and said, “dad, do you remember when Pastor Don said on Sunday, that “you take out the trash for your spouse not because you have to, but because you love them? Well, I turned to Nikki and joked, ‘I guess I won’t love my spouse because I don’t want to take out the trash.’ Anyway, I was thinking about that while I was watching you iron mom’s clothes.”

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Bloged in cognition, random by rod Sunday June 25, 2006

As I posted the previous entry, and glanced at post as it wisped away into cyberspace, I had a very clear déjà vu. I distinctly remembered having posted the same thing before. The recollection was so overwhelming that I wondered if Pastor Don had made the same funny some time ago and I’d responded with the exact same blog. Though it is likely that a pastor would make the same joke more than once in the same situation, I dismissed the likelihood that I’d responded before in the same way, but couldn’t get the clarity of the déjà vu out of my head.
So I did a search on my blogs. Nothing. Tonight’s was the first. That is such an eerie feeling. I pondered the eeriness for a moment and then distinctly remembered being told recently that Chris Rice had died.
Chris Rice?
Why would I even have been talking about him? Well, I did mention to Molly that I really liked his song, “Untitled Hymn”, which for the longest time I thought was Fernando Ortega. Since the song is now 3 years old, it is beginning to be played on Christian radio. Come to think of it, that is enough reason to wonder if he is still living. But apparently he is. I obsessed on that too, and began googling all things Chris Rice to be sure that there was no unhappy news to found.
Must have dreamt it. I did have an extra long, fit-filled, restless nap yesterday. Who knows what confusing memories will emerge over the next couple days, or even in the distant future, that I will not realize were born of a fitful afternoon nod?
Sometimes it takes me hours to recover from a dream that I remember and realize is a dream. It is even harder when you don’t remember having the dream.
So then I visit Chris’ website to link you to him, and lo, what should be on the front page? “to sleep, perchance to dream – random thoughts on my favorite activity.”
Hmmm.. ooohoooh.
Am I old, or just weird?
Don’t answer that.

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Bloged in worship by rod Sunday June 25, 2006

A while back I blogged about a children’s Christmas presentation in which a line was messed up and became much better than originally planned.

Tonight, Pastor Don didn’t “mess up”, but he attempted a funny that had layers of truth in it. He was painting a verbal picture of the symbology of baptism and said, “the good news is I don’t have to hold them under for 3 days.” Everyone laughed, and I snickered too, and said, “that IS the good news,” to the person standing beside me. “Really,” I said, “the gospel is that we don’t have to be held under for 3 days.”
Well, anyway, it IS a major part of the good news.

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Bloged in apprenticeship, life, seasons, time by rod Wednesday June 21, 2006

It is a very apt first day of summer here in Columbia. The temp topped out at 97 degrees, the sun is high in the sky, late afternoon brings rumbles of thunder, but as of yet, they are only heard from a distance.
This morning at 8:26am, the sun passed over the Tropic of Cancer. This event creates the longest day of the year here, and heralds the arrival of summer. Henceforth, until the sun passes over the Tropic of Capricorn at 7:22pm on December 21, the days will shorten and the nights lengthen and Winter will blanket us.
The word solstice comes from the Latin for sun stopped, because for the few days surrounding the event, the sun doesn’t appear to move in the sky. Much like the conditions that allow for the apparent standstill of the Harvest Moon, the sun seems to rise to the same point each day and given its extremely long trail across the sky, just hangs there and bakes us. It will not move any further north, and tomorrow it will be in the same spot as it was yesterday.
As all of you know, we travel around the sun not in a circle, but an elliptical path. Our average distance from the sun is 93 million miles, but we vary by about 4 million miles. It is not hot outside because we are closest right now. That wouldn’t explain winter in Australia would it? It is hot because we are tilted toward the sun. We are getting direct rays. We will be at our farthest point from the sun sometime at the beginning of next month.
So anyway, I just think it is interesting that no matter the distance, the direction we are tilted determines our warmth.

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Bloged in life, music, parenting, poems by rod Tuesday June 20, 2006

-to molly, who got her first pair of real pointe shoes tonight


when you hear music, dance.
When you don’t hear music, dance.
the music will start.

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more daddy thoughts

Bloged in apprenticeship, family, parenting by rod Sunday June 18, 2006

Tonight when I went upstairs to pray over Will, he told me about how much the prayers work to calm him, make him feel safe and give him peace at bedtime. I held him in silence for a few minutes and then he said, “…and I love it when you hug me. I can feel all your love pouring out of your muscles and it makes me feel good.”

So that confirms it. I am a metaphor. I am a physical, flesh and blood, muscle and bone representative to my kids of the love and care God has for them. He sends the Spirit of Peace, and I am His arms to wrap my children. And in the strangest paradox, at the same time, I represent how other and above the heavenly Father is. I am but a man. If my arms feel so safe and my heart so giving, imagine His. If my children ask for something to eat, I would never give them a rock; or if they asked for a fish, I would never give them a snake. If I, an evil man, know how to give good things to and care for my children, imagine how much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts when we ask?

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daddy’s thoughts

Bloged in apprenticeship, family, parenting by rod Sunday June 18, 2006

It’s Father’s Day, and I’m a Father. Since Allison works weekend nights, she sleeps weekend days, which means these special parent-honoring Sundays get recognized before or after. Usually after. But Friday night I tried to take the fam on a Father’s day outing to reconstruct a date that Molly and I had back in January. We headed to Pavilion Coffee Shop for supper and Ashley Cleveland. We had to rush to get there by 6:00 so that we may be able to find a seat. When we arrived, we were surprised that there was no one there yet, so I jumped out to see if there was a sign on the door. Indeed! It read, “Don’t forget Ashley Cleveland on June 23.”
Oops. We arrived a week early. How are you supposed to celebrate Father’s Day next Friday?
The Fam agreed that we could still go out to dinner, and that I could still choose the establishment. I had one in mind, so I drove there to find it closed for good. The third time charm was Yesterday’s for Shrimp St. Thomas. They, of course, were open.
Molly was prepared to celebrate me and upon arrival at the restaurant, produced a card and package, which I immediately dug into. I have to say that the card would have been enough. I can’t remember many occasions when I received a more wonderful card. Then I opened the package. A journal whose cover recites the Souza quote, “dance as though no one is watching you, love as though you have never been hurt before, sing as though no one can hear you, live as though heaven is on earth.”
Yeah, I know, you’re thinking yeah yeah yeah. All those wonderful quotes have been pimped out so much in hundreds of circulating forwarded emails complete with Microsoft® clipart and animated gifs of cute rabbits clapping their hands, that they don’t even warrant a complete read, much less the care of forwarding them to ten friends and the one who sent it to you.
But Molly hasn’t experienced the pimping of the blessing. She hasn’t been beaten to death with meaninglessness expressed through the bastardization of meaningful thoughts. So when she saw that journal cover in the store, she thought, “THAT’S MY DADDY!” And she told me so. She told me with her smiling face when I opened and read it. She told me in the inscription she had thoughtfully engraved on the inside cover.
Early on I had a long list in the inheritance that I wished to leave my children. In the past couple years, I’ve realized that many things on that list are fruits of only a few things that I need to pass on. We all know those whose undignified behavior has been halted by selfish onlookers who have long ignored the rhythms to which they once moved. We all know what life can be stolen by fear caused by pain of heartbreak in giving love and receiving a counterfeit or being rejected or used or betrayed. We know songs that have been silenced by careless, insensitive listeners. And surely we’ve all felt the abundance of life squeezed to pulp from a theology that falsely equates suffering with misery. There are those among us who have become terrified that if we feel any happiness in this life, we are robbing ourselves of our treasures in heaven and in so doing, have become entirely selfish in protecting what is theirs in the next life. Karma covers grace and they damn sure want to make sure no one else is happy either.
But Molly is right. Those words that we’ve all heard so many times, sum up my purple heart and her mother’s orange soul. Living by these words allow you to freely accept the grace that is offered you and to aptly worship in return – to live a life of apprenticeship that will result in the words, “well done.”
I so want to convince my elder son that those feelings he’s felt for months are no less good and real and valid when they are no longer important to the one for whom you feel them. I want Will never to lose that involuntary skip that unexpectedly propels him into the air as he walks across the lawn. I want never to hear silenced Molly’s songs and never see stilled her dance when I peer through a doorway unbeknownst to her.
A soul whose body dances to exhaustion is forever a dancing soul, and to love as though you’ve never been hurt is to feel an unselfish Christ-like love that is not contingent upon being loved in return. To sing as though no one can hear you expresses a heart that cannot be contained, and requires a song that is more important than the singer. To live as though heaven is on earth is to accept Jesus’ gift of abundant life and to assume the answer to his own prayer when he taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
My father’s day prayer is that I can somehow help facilitate the ability in my children to dance before the Lord undignified with all their might, love him with all their hearts, souls, minds, and bodies, to sing to Him a new song, and to live life more fully.

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Bloged in worship by rod Saturday June 17, 2006

When I first started blogging, I just sat down every day at the keyboard and wrote what I was thinking. Usually I would have nothing prepared and no preconceived notions about which to ramble. I’d sit down and write a sentence and the rest would follow. It is my guess that that is what blogging is.
Something has happened since then, I’m not sure what it is. Maybe someone started reading. I’ve definitely got a lot of feedback, especially in the past year. Interestingly enough, the comments on my blog itself have been less consistent during the past year, but the feedback comes in the real world. Indeed, things that I’ve said on my blog have landed me interviews, speaking engagements, guest lecturing gigs, and even a surprise indirect debate with D. A. Carson that I didn’t know about until our “separate” interviews were published on facing pages in a student newspaper.
All that is to say that I think this stuff has really changed the way my mind whirs in the process of putting my thoughts out there. What I toss out gets discussed at great length within my sphere at work, and I find myself formulating ideas and discussions that are of a very different scope than they used to be. In my mind, I’m no longer simply complaining and observing, but tossing out answer ideas and getting feedback from my students. I’m not sure I’m actually blogging anymore. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think it’s blogging.
I find myself organizing thoughts that are obviously too many for a single blog, so I think about what order they need to be presented in, and get hung up on one that needs to be posted after two others. So I write part 3, but parts 1 and 2 are not as easily tackled, and none get posted in any prompt fashion.
I’ve got no less than three huge topics I want to write about (or post what I’ve already written), but they are all awaiting organization or for holes to be filled in. Meanwhile, I wanted to post a journal of last week’s motorcycle trip. Without a computer, I decided to phone in my entries, but you can see how that went. When we shoved off the second morning, we rode into no man’s land and I either had no reception, or existed in analog mode and my battery was depleted forthright. I employed plan B, and decided to write my journal and post them backdated as if they were current news. I still may do that, but when I got back, I found myself not yet ready to be back and thus went on as if I was still gone. You might say that I continued to operate in analog mode though my phone had long since found its digital signal.
I have to admit that when we left on Tuesday morning, over a week ago, without my computer, I had serious reservations. How on earth am I going to capture thoughts as they fly by at mountain scenic highway speeds, wafted by my brain by high altitude breezes and shifted about by distractions of tiny frozen-in-time towns and general stores with pine floors and quietly conversant storekeepers? What if ALL my thoughts turn into run-on sentences?
But lo and behold, the first waft of mountain air, and I returned from digital man to analog kid. And at the first thought of schedule, the call of responsibility, or even decision making, the analog kid pulls down his baseball cap and covers up his eyes. Alas, the analog kid has thoughts galore, but no computer into which to type them. As a result, you, the occasional visitor to the cyberdeck, show up to find the kid sitting in analog mode under the stars on the real deck, vainly attempting to temporally stretch a week of freedom from all things driven by zeros and ones, a week about which he will eventually write and perhaps backdate, and post for all who have nothing better to do than to vicariously, via digital means, peer into an analog week posted on the cyberdeck.
I will try to hold on to the lesson learned and return to reality in the digital world as an analog kid who sits on the deck to peer vertically into the starlit sky rather than horizontally into an LCD lit screen.
Hey, there’s the moon…

This blog was originally recorded on analog equipment. Care has been taken to reproduce the highest quality possible, but due to the exceptional quality of the digital equipment, some of the original hiss and whir may be heard during playback.

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who says frogs don’t have tales?

Bloged in worship by rod Sunday June 4, 2006

Anyone who cares at all about The Church, regardless of which side of any discussion they find themselves, has to be watching the slowly shifting trends at least as carefully as the suddenly new fads. It always interests me that those who go ballistic over the sudden new stuff never realize that quite often, the new thing is a response to the slowly drifting course that has trapped them, or it may simply be a direct return to an older thing from which we’ve drifted.
It is not unusual for the sudden change to be an intentional correction to the steady drift. Sadly though, it is often a younger set of people who have not been drifting as long that notice the faulty heading. Youngins are always suspect so even when they return to where we all should be, they scare us to death. But out of the mouths of babes…
The problem with understanding traditions is that we don’t always realize that having always done something does not guarantee that we’ve always done it for the same reasons or in the same way. When questioned by our children as to the meaning behind much of what we do, we find ourselves at a loss, and our superficiality is exposed. Sometimes we even find that our faith is based on tradition and we falter if things get changed. Surely we would desire that our children’s traditions be based on faith, and perhaps thinking that ours are too drives us to try to pass on our ways to them.
Quite a while ago, I posted a response to some statistics that showed that children of evangelicals were not staying in their parents’ churches when they grow up. The study asked if parents were passing on their convictions. I answered with the old “frog in the boiling water story.” Perhaps children are less likely to put up with the gradually increased heat.
Ok, I didn’t really mean to say all that. It was just a serious set up for the report on an inadvertent experiment I witnessed tonight. As I was getting supper ready, I uncovered and lit the grill in preparation for some Tilapia filets. When I returned to begin cooking, I noticed a tree frog sitting on the grill shelf less than a centimeter from the lid. I waited awhile thinking that the frog would surely jump to a cooler resting place, but he stayed where he was. I quickly tapped the side of the lid that was nearly touching him, and it was VERY hot. Perhaps he thought roasting would be less traumatic that being discovered. Finally I had to manually remove him and place him in safety. Now, a few hours later, he’s still there on the deck, singing his little frog heart out. Praises of salvation? I don’t know, but he’s here tonight, not because of anything he did, but what was done for him.

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