Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mighty



It’s been awhile since I’ve been on here.  As some of you know I was participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) throughout November, which roughly translates to me spending every possible scrap of a second trying to write fifty thousand words of a story before midnight on the thirtieth.  Suffice it to say, I have emerged from the self imposed prison victorious.  The sky never looked so blue.    

But what did I find when I returned to civilization?  Newspapers bleeding red and headlines shaking their fist in rage.  I saw mud flung from one side to the other, missiles of blame aimed at parties, people, and ideas in response to the continuing groans of a world simply staggering under the weight of sin, of brokenness.


But through the aching and the dissonance I caught the haunted strains of a familiar joy stubbornly weaving its way through the tears.  Frost dancing, splintered diamonds in the morning sun.  Evergreen sprigs studded with holly gems of red.  Lights strung throughout darkening streets.  Stockings, and crinkling paper, and laughing fireplaces, and all wrapped around by the heartbreaking melodies of carols that cry, “Love has come!”  Christmas is here once more. 

But sometimes in the whirlwind of traditional preparations, doesn’t something about it strike dull and hollow?  For certainly the cries of the starving and the iron-crush of evil seem to grind away at the merrymaking, to call the bluff of the voice that sings peace on earth and goodwill to men.  Is it foolish to dance joy on the surface of a planet decaying under the tread of violence sown with disease, and hunger, and lead?  Is joy to the world merely a desperate myth perpetuated to stave off the raw truth beneath the hem of Santa Claus’ robe?  
  

One of the oldest known Christmas carols was born over five hundred years ago, and the familiar lyrics begin, “God rest ye, merry gentlemen.”  Unlike the official church hymns sung in Episcopal Latin at the time, this was carried by the laymen, the common folk and sung in their own speech.  However, the layers of years have since eroded the language of the time and overlayed the words with new meaning. 
  
When we hear “merry,” we are tempted to think gay, happy, and carefree.  But a truer translation of the original term would be “mighty.”  Thus Robin Hood’s merry men were called as such not because of their lighthearted nature, but because they were warriors, they were mighty men.  Digging deeper, a full decoding of the first verse of the carol would run something more like this: 

God make you mighty, gentlemen! 
Let nothing you dismay! 
Remember Christ, our Savior,
Was born on Christmas Day
To save poor souls from Satan’s power
Which long time had gone astray,
And it is tidings of comfort and joy! 


But can it all be true?  Is this joy tangible, is it real?  To some it might look as though we’re merely binding glittering tinsel around a grievously gaping wound, as if sprigs of holly and a few greeting card sentiments of good cheer were enough to staunch the flow of blood just long enough to pretend we aren’t really dying.  As one recent newspaper even put it, “God Isn’t Fixing This.” 

The truth is that the sixteenth century poor might have known better.  We are not dismayed, because the love of a perfect and infinite God came to this earth to wrest all dominion from sin, and pain, and death.  It is great joy, because Christ came.  And it is tidings of comfort, because it is true.  God came; He did fix it.  And Christmas is a time that we set aside to actively remember, to cling to it, and to let grace hold the hurting in nail-pierced hands. 

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “The joy of God has gone through the poverty of the manger and the agony of the cross; that is why it is invincible, irrefutable. It does not deny the anguish...but finds God in the midst of it...what matters is the joy that has overcome. It alone is credible; it alone helps and heals.” 


The heart of the undismayed does not bear the mark of naïve optimism, but rather their laughter is a measure of their merry faith—of their mighty faith.  For the true foundation for joy is not mortared with optimism but hope.

Joy always exists in spite of something else; that’s what it means to live in a fallen world.  But we can embrace the hope and peace of Christmas even in the midst of immense suffering, because the unbreakable truth is that the power of God is strong, it is present, and it is mighty!  Hear the good news, He has come and his love alone shatters the fetters of bondage, and only the death and resurrection of one who fully knows our sorrows can heal the scars of darkness with the light of his presence.    

Peace be with you this Christmas, and may your burdened soul sink down beside the manger, where God came not to ignore the heart-rending tears of sin clawing ugly gouges across the world, but to embrace it, to feel it, and to take it upon himself so that it might be swallowed up forever by his fierce and unfathomable love.  God make you mighty this season.  Repeat the sounding joy now and always, walking in the assurance of the greatest and truest reason for joy that ever has been, ever is, and ever will be again. 

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place
Like we true loving brethren,
Each other to embrace,
For the mighty time of Christmas
Is coming on a-pace.
And it is tidings of comfort and joy. 



Note:  History of “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentleman” found in the book Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, by Ace Collins.

Images via: tumblr, remodelista, 

All Work Subject to Copyright by the Author.  Use by Permission Only.  2015. 
 
    

           

Friday, October 23, 2015

Cheese on That?

“Let there be goblin hordes, let there be terrible environmental threats, let there be giant mutated slugs if you really must, but let there also be Hope.  It may be a grim, thin hope, an Arthurian sword at sunset, but let us know that we do not live in vain.”  (Terry Pratchett)
   


The Hobbit made me do it.      

Once upon a time a fatal page of fiction transformed me into a nerd, and this means that I quote J.R.R. Tolkien, I named my Jeep after a Batman vehicle, and I keep a waterproof notepad in my shower (amusingly, this is often where book inspiration usually strikes).  And if any of you somehow happen upon my browsing history just remember, I'm a writer, not a serial killer.  But despite my affinity for fantasy, I sometimes I look back and wonder where all of this authorial madness started.    

Most writers begin their journey at varying stages of life.  For some, it wasn’t until a college professor wrote glowing remarks on their term paper that they picked up the proverbial pen.  For others like myself, it generally stemmed from the reading of fairytales as a child.  But I didn’t actually set out to become an author until the advent of what I at the time perceived to be a gross injustice.    
  

Television was a limited and monitored commodity in my house growing up.  At eleven years old my favorite TV show was a quasi-anime series about teenage superheroes battling for truth, justice, and the last slice of pizza.  I’d never seen anything like it.  But…in a cruel twist of fate, said show was put up for parental review, found to be somehow unwholesome, and subsequently banned.  I was crushed. 

I don’t remember exactly what went through my mind at that point except that my imagination refused to relinquish this well loved story, and so I did what any irritated pre-teen would have done.  I created a superhero universe of my own and starting writing a book. 

This first “novel” was written in faded pencil and madly scrawled in a cast off green notebook with half its pages missing.  And if I had to describe it in one word it would be:

CHEESE. 

Pure, unadulterated, melting-off-the-pizza cheese. 


This book had it all, egotistical villains, impractical costumes, a mouthful of clever quips and one liners to wittily toss at the bad guys, and (because I was an eleven year old church goer) Christian clichés.  Somewhere inside, I still felt a deep yearning for a super human world I could fully immerse myself in, and in creating something of my own, I felt like I was building an even better dream than the TV show had ever been, something braver, something deeper, and something true.  

Twelve years and many many novel drafts later, I still have that notebook.  I take it out and flip through it when I need a good laugh, and I and a dear friend of mine still write short stories involving the same characters in order to unwind and keep our creative juices flowing.  Because despite my cringe-worthy child’s writing skills crippled by pre-teen angst, I find myself still in need of a little of that cheese.  I think deep down we all do. 

You see, superheroes and fantasies are indispensable to our lives, because underneath all the cheese lies a refreshing simple question, good versus evil.   In a culture so woven with a discordant and complicated tangle of gray, it’s difficult to make out the threads of truth weaving a hidden hope in its midst.  When flipping on the news tempts our minds toward cynicism, faith is numbed.   When watching political debates makes us want to put an angry and hopeless axe through the TV screen, we become jaded.  This leads many to pursue that allure of fiction and fantasy.  


Now, people often criticize the escapism of books as creating an ultimately false reality, but I don’t believe that’s accurate.  As Bryan Davis puts it, “Fantasy is not a lie, because it doesn’t pretend to be true.  It is a vision, the mind’s dramatic sketch of what we were meant to be.  Good fantasy is a blend of survival and worship.”   

Now I know what you may be thinking.  Why take serious advice from someone who once wrote a college assignment titled Ode to the Cliché? (Note:  For all the haters out there, it was a smashing success by the way).  While not everyone may share my nerd’s affinity for Star Wars and Spider-man, I still maintain that we need those kinds of narratives to be present and active in our culture, now more than ever before. 

What models does our world hold up as exemplary?   What kind of stories typically make the evening news?  “Politician caught accepting bribes!  Reality TV star admitted to hospital for drug overdose!  Quarterback arrested for DWI!”  It’s an army of fallen angels that demands our adoration, marching to the drums of wealth and self.  When these things garner more press and viewer response than starving children, is it any wonder that we find ourselves yearning for something more? 


We live in the age of the antihero, the jaded cynic who’s supposed to make us feel better about ourselves by being relatable.  I'm not referring simply to a flawed hero, a fallen man that chooses righteousness in spite of himself, because short of Christ, we are none of us perfect.  Instead I'm calling out the fence rider, the entertaining and morally ambiguous character who is held up as the new role model, a good guy for the postmodern viewer.  We like to sit back in our seats and breathe a sigh of relief as this protagonist lies and slides his way to the end of the film. 

Showdown. 

Shoot out. 

Villain dies. 

The End. 

The “hero” ultimately makes the right choice, and we pat ourselves on the back, because really, we’re not such bad people after all.  We don’t need to try so hard.  Why strive to be Captain America in a Kanye West World?   

I’ll tell you why.  Because black and whites aren’t always as bad as we've been trrained to believe.  And because when we refuse to acknowledge good and evil for what they are, we miss the absolutely crucial opportunity use their stories to create strong soldiers for Christ.  We have more than enough blurred lines winding spider silk around our souls.  We need the boot that drags a hard toe across the sand and says “this far, no farther!” 


 “We obtain comfort by seeing evil unmasked, condemned and destroyed.  We are offered hope through being shown that at least somewhere, even if it is in another world, good has triumphed!” (Richard Abanes).   

We need fantasy, because it inspires many of us toward holiness like nothing else can.  In this culture everyday heroism might look as unexciting and unappreciated as working graveyard at a hospital or relentlessly petitioning the government, or even teaching second grade.  When we struggle to serve it lifts our spirits to enter into the hero’s narrative, because here’s the real secret:  the fight against evil isn’t just make-believe.  There’s a real enemy, an ancient conspiracy, and a hard and honest battle being waged in solemn wars and bloody scraps all over this earth. 

What inspires us to keep wading through the trenches with hope is not the banner of the antihero with his “good enough” catch phrases.  We need warriors that though humanly imperfect, fight against their flaws and continue to proclaim the truth that cuts deep into the darkness of our time and shatters its chains.  Fantasy breathes life into the deep dreams of our hearts, where down in the marrow of our very souls we know that we were made for something more. 


We do not serve a tame God.  He is wild, dangerous, almighty, and—he is good.  So why should we pursue that which glorifies our comfort and safety.  Why should we take the easy road?  We have “relatable” role models in abundance.  They coddle us with their mistakes when they should be inspiring us toward what is hard but ever so much greater.  Yes, there are questions that have no easy answers, and shades of gray do not always harbor lies, but there are also many things that deserve our adamant and unwavering support.  

Defending the innocent.  Standing for the faith.  Courage, integrity, sacrifice, and love stand in stark contrast to this blurred world and we, like Martin Luther King Jr. must solemnly declare, "Despite all this, there comes a time."   There comes a time when men must choose, and when we do not give fantasy narratives their proper place we shut the window that might allow us to foster brave and merciful heroes rather than apathetic and self-seeking hearts. 
       
So go ahead, sprinkle on a little cheese. Flip through your old comic books when the days get long.  Enter your closet and drop into Narnia from time to time.  Escape into that cheesy 80s TV show if you must, but never forget what really makes it good, the reason your heart thrills to know it.  It's the discovery that something so seemingly simple can contain that which is deeply profound.  There is good, and there is evil, so let your heart answer the call to holiness by reentering your own world armed with lessons from the fantasy realm. 


And, I’ll offer you what the film people like to call a Spoiler Alert.  The light is greater, and it does triumph over the darkness.  There is a mighty king who longs to rescue his beloved people.  

He is real.  He is good.  And He is coming back. 



Images via:  wonderhowto.com, myarmory.com, tumblr.com,
All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2015.   





Monday, October 5, 2015

Autumn Wings



The still of morn is hushed with cold, every whisper a curl of mist and smoke
Softly to join the still and fog, that patrols a dawn the light shall soak.  
The last on a voyage over waves of stars, bravely the lanterns glow adrift,
To kindle the day with dragon’s fire, burn away the shadows and the darkness lift. 


The wings of the morning rise on flame to challenge the air and test the seas,
The oceans of heaven toss with wind, and salute the east with songs of breeze.
Light spills over the rim at last, to thaw the dawn turning mist to gold,
The sun climbs high in victory, singing colors to life and dispelling the cold. 


Grounded wings flutter on frozen grass, canvas snaps to life across the field, 
Like marching drums that smartly time the tune of breaths that dragons wield.
From every side and all around, the autumn’s chill by color cheered, 
Flashing red, bold yellow and blue, all hung with ristras, the dragons’ beards.


The roasted smoke of chile and spice, and cauldrons of chocolate seething with foam,
Greet folk of the festival bundled tight, against claws of the winter, of ice and snow.  
All wings take flight, dotting clouds with gems, autumn’s bounty on a table of sky,
 Chasing the winds on dragon flights, a song of life, roaring fire soars high. 


October fiesta at the mountains’ feet, gently the dragons play at dawn,
 A rite of the harvest joining earth and sky, feasting and flying, Fall dancing on.    


International Balloon Fiesta 2015.  


Images Via:  pinterest, flickr, tumblr, newscastic.com, photoshelter.com, isatrip.com.  
All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2015.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When the Days Break




Morning steals softly through the autumn mist.  Tendrils of fog wind through the mountains and settle in the evergreen branches while rain weights the air.  I want to stop here and make time stand still, just for awhile.  To hug the bright flannel tight and wrap fingers around the ceramic embers of a mug.  To spice the sodden air with coffee and spend the morning in peace.

Head still on the pillow, I nurse the wish in my head, waiting for the sharp summons of the alarm clock to smash the dream.  It feels a little bit like prison.
     
Quiet my heart…quiet my heart.  




But then…CRACK!

Where is quiet when the day breaks, shattered by noise that robs the sunrise of its stillness.  Amidst the shriek of the kettle and the cries of a child here I am, still hiding in my bed and grasping for a few more precious moments of rest, of that stillness.

Anchor my soul...anchor my soul.  

But how to hope when dreams stretch to snapping and weariness wears thin the heart that once swelled mighty with trust.  Sometimes it isn’t the final cut that destroys us but the gradual pulling and chaffing that eats away at the soul and chips the bones. When we rise to do battle again and again, hammering at the ghosts that wage war upon our spirit.



Peace to you…peace to you. 

Can we find the strength to pursue peace, the time to hallow even one moment at this maddening pace?  How do we tame the beast that swallows our years with hurry and binds our hearts to the earth?  In a world of day jobs and deadlines and diapers, we are restless.  In a realm hounded by rising and racing, and by fading and falling into bed each night wondering why the hours we had weren’t enough, why we weren’t enough.

Only be still…only be still.

Where can we find stillness in a hurricane of noise?  The lies of the enemy shout from all sides, and many masquerade as music.  Some nights find us wrestling with the angels, throwing questions into the sky’s void.  And sometimes it isn’t the loudness of the world that chokes out the voice of truth but the inescapable noise within our minds.

The thunder of what is fallen.  The never ending notes of the striving.  Again and again I struggle to lay down my hands and make holy the moment.  But I lift my eyes to Heaven, and once more I offer my prayer:

Immanuel…Immanuel.  


God with me, because I am slow to learn and weak to climb.  And when I pass through the waters, I am unarmed, soul-shattered, and swept away by the torrent of noise before I think to fling my desperate prayer towards Heaven.  But a heart filled with the spirit of his presence is life and peace, and his still voice beckons:

Come to me…come to me.

I come because his yoke is easy, and his burden is light, and in him alone will I find rest for my soul.  In the midst of sickness and schedules, he is sovereign.  When I face tomorrow and know I cannot, he is the strength that can.  The enemies lay siege to my soul, but behold, all darkness must tremble for the Lord is near.   The one that fire and stone obey and the winds call Master speaks with meekness and power into my turbulence and whispers:

Though all the earth is mine…though all the earth is mine. 




 Great is the darkness, and loud is its voice.  But the Lord sends light to carve a way through the dissonance so that men may know that there is a God in Heaven, and though he is the author of all that is, we may call him Abba, Father.  In him we have assurance and peace, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.   Sometimes, our souls ache as we lift up our offering again and again, but even in the storm:

It is well…It is well.  

When the days break, my spirit scrambles, burdened by fleeting time and the struggles of this life.  I fear the failure and the not enough.  I ache with the loss of the quiet and the delay of dreams.  The unending noise of a sin-splintered world rides on my shoulders, and my spirit is crushed by the weight of it all.

But his mercies are new every morning, so may he tune my heart to wake the dawn with my song and come into the peace of his presence.  Though a thousand false melodies clamor in my ears, may he train my ears to discern and obey the truth that sweeps the chaff from my mind and the cobwebs from my soul.



Near him I will raise my head in the quiet and hear above the loudness:

Behold…Behold.

The Lord is passing by.      



Images via:  tumblr, goodnightirene.com, play.google.com, yogiapproved.com, bloglovin.com, thegorgeousdaily.com, and stylecaster.com.  

All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2015.   

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thirsty

The Masquerade Part One




 “Your Kings are in deadly fear of the sea because they can never quite forget that in all stories Aslan comes from over the sea.”  (C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian)



Confession:  I’m afraid of the sea.  

Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up mostly in landlocked states and thus haven’t had the opportunity to truly acquaint myself with the wonders of the ocean.  I certainly respect and appreciate it, the enchanting and treacherous frontier of poets and adventurers.  But though I can be easily persuaded to glide upon a few waves and swim the coast in search of mermaids and seashells, the depth of the ocean still frightens me.  


Farther out, deeper still, and what lies beneath my dangling feet?  Creatures of danger or perhaps a breath-starved void that might drag me down—down forever until my life escapes in a million soundless screams that climb skyward as glass bubbles.

But the very fear that gives me pause, allows for my second confession:

I also love the sea. 

For it is that very deepness that tugs at the very fabric of my being.  It has been said that ships remain safe in harbor, but that is not what ships were made for.  In the same way somewhere, stowed down in my bones, lies the undeniable knowledge. that I too was never meant to remain forever ashore. 


Out into beyond, farther up and further in, that is where I must go.  To weigh anchor where the freedom of the sky weds the hope of the horizon.  There might I find depths to quench the terrible thirst in my soul, the longing for something more.
  
This is what I was made for, this communion with the deep, with the wide. 
And what I am I seeking on this voyage?  What drives soul-ships before the wind into the reach of tempest, tide, and terror?  

We are a hungry people, a race of the awe-starved.  We drown in the shallows and flounder on the shore when the healing our hearts truly thirst for is not to be plucked from the water but to be flung farther out to sea.  We are a homeless generation looking for a place to belong (Voskamp).  And it may take years of wandering on the beach before you can scoop up the grains of social networking, cup a handful of endless consumption and see them for what they really are—elements of our masks.  



In a “fakebook” world, we are starved for authenticity and meaning.  Amidst tidal pools of instagram perfection, we thirst for what is genuine and true.  A population saturated with communication remains a barren husk rasping with the pain of loneliness.  

But above all flows an irrepressible voice, a maritime song that salts the breeze.  In our hunger, there is one who says “seek and be satisfied.”  In our thirst a voice beckons “come to the well.”  And in our solitude one draws near to whisper “never alone.”  


“Christ can save me from a soul-emptying addiction to praise and applause…Christ is more satisfying to my soul than likes and shares…Christ is sufficient to save me from an addiction to online, click-bait controversies, curiosities, and celebrity news…Christ alone satisfies the awe-hunger in my heart.

For we’re all made to become really real” (Voskamp).  

Hear the call of albatross, a song that invites all empty souls to embark.  With a hand to the helm and an eye to the sky, steer by the stars and the seabird’s cry.  The shore and shallows will never be enough for the heart molded by the infinite.  For if we are crafted by a holy and boundless hand, then only in the embrace of a holy and boundless God will we find peace and rest for our souls.  And we are duty bound to try and draw as many with us as will come.   


If our people are drowning in apathy, then let us dive right in after them.  And if hearts are chaffed by the siren of impregnable perfection, then let us strip of the scales of our masks and be vulnerable.  If truth and meaning are lost, then it is time to set sail!     
   
The way will be perilous, that is certain, and ships and sailors alike may face the lure of the enemy or the claws of the hurricane, but when the Cross is your mast, then never will you sink.  

As long as you have breath, never stop sailing, never give up swimming.  


Go far. 

Dive deep.
  
Return occasionally to shore, but sail and sail again to know truth and take hold of the adventure! 

Sail until your final voyage at last finds harbor in holiness, where the Father is still calling his children home.  
Images via:  pinterest, deviantart, mobile-phones.com.uk, Lydia O'Neal (mermaid in the desert)
All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2015.  



Friday, July 31, 2015

{A Time to Laugh} The Stream Fishing Dictionary


For those not familiar with the art of stream fishing, today's post takes an unexpected turn in a serious effort to educate the public about the necessary skill involved in this timeless sport.  And, as my brother the Scout has pointed out, Jesus selected many disciples from among the anglers, and that represents something important.  Well...actually my research has yet to elevate that connection properly, but I do know that though we have access to Biblical instruction on becoming fishers of men, it is less well known how to become successful fishers of fishes!

Inspired by the work of Patrick Mcmanus, here is a humorous glossary of fishing terms as defined and exaggerated by fond memories collected over years of family trips.


***



Bug Spray:  A mythological substance provided to Wal-Mart out of an unmarked van at the Canadian border claiming to keep away all members of the mosquito family, but which in fact does nothing of the sort and is actually a spray bottle filled with "snake oil."

Bar Soap:  Slick lumps cleverly disguised as river rocks lying in wait for your inevitable boot in order to ceremoniously dump you in the drink.  This phenomenon is referred to as the stream sit by fishermen in which they who have fallen prey to the ploy of the bar soap attempt to convince their buddies that they, "meant to do that."

First Water:  The first fisherman on the river to perform the stream sit or its more flamboyant relative the cold water cannonball, which typically involves the whole body and is often accompanied by the loss of at least one bag of trout hooks or a half dozen Slim Jims (whichever is more important to the fisherman at the time of water entry).
*Note:  you will never be wearing quick-dry fishing gear at this time

Willows:  A race of anthropomorphic trees who have dedicated their existence to harassing fishermen, snagging their spinners, and denying them access to the best trout pools.

Crunch:  A generic term used to describe any manner of food sustenance while fishing.  This may include smashed granola bars or apples.  Additionally, it is the sound your only pair of sunglasses makes when you sit on them.

Baby Backpack:  A child carrying device exhibited as evidence to prove that no one is too little to learn how to fish.  This is often loudly disputed by said child precisely at the moment the diaper bag is dropped and begins to float downstream.

Game Warden:  An elusive creature who only appears on the one day you forgot your permit in the pickup and also during the moment when you accidentally gut-hook a trout in the "catch and release only" portion of the river.

The Perfect Cast:  A brief glimmer of triumph , skill, and luck which thus ensures that the spinner will not turn properly and therefore attract not a single fish.

One More Pool:  A lie the fisherman repeats to himself that precedes the end of fishing for the day.  This has been shown to extend stream time by up to an hour much to the dismay of the fisherman's buddies, who have already assembled at the agreed upon rendezvous point.  When pressed for an explanation, the fisherman will often resort to a number of excuses and diversion techniques stored in his arsenal including, but not limited to:  "my line got tangled," "I didn't know how late it was," and "lo siento, no hablo ingles."  



Trout Kwon Do:  A rare martial arts discipline invented by Bruce Lee and performed solely by cranky rainbow trout once they are reeled in and hook extraction has begun.  Experts have likened the experience to trying to recapture a soapy toddler who has escaped the bathtub while he repeatedly smacks you with a fly swatter.

Zebconites:  A tribe of nomads generally avoided by members of the decidedly snobby Stream Fishing Purists and so named because of their devotion to closed-reel Zebco fishing rods.  Their camps are located near the riverbank and are marked by tents, loud music, and are guarded by yapping toy poodles.  They are led by a high priest who oversees the site while sitting in a folding chair and wearing a wife beater.

Cell Phone Protector:  The plastic Ziploc bag you forgot to bring in order to keep your fishing license and cell phone dry, in which case you say your prayers as you hurriedly snap iphone shots of your catch (to prove to your buddies that you weren't fibbing) while desperately hoping not to baptize your phone in the stream.

Resurrection:  The glorious moment when your hand emerges half frozen from the water having successfully retrieved whatever item you dropped.
*Note:  Cell phones may be resurrected but unfortunately never revived.

Fly Fishing:  An art form which involves huge graceful casts of the line that swoop back and forth portraying the fisherman as a kind of trout stream Oprah who knows exactly what he is doing and who graces onlookers with both amusing and pensive expressions.
*Note: no actual success is needed in order for the illusion to become complete.  A simple mastery of the motions will suffice in order to convince an audience that you are indeed Kenobi reincarnated wielding "an elegant weapon from a more civilized time," and not performing an exorcism with your rod.



Exorcism:  What you appear to be doing as you wield your pole like a Scottish claymore and attempt to huck your lure out into the deep water with a two-fisted fling and a breathless grunt all the while cursing your old fishing line.   

Snag: Any and all forms of tangled line or trapped lures that take place during or after the casting process.  Excessive snagging has been linked to hikes in blood pressure often leading to anger which later dwindles into a fuming sulk.  It can be somewhat effectively treated by a bag of Haribo gummy bears.

Primogeniture:  The point at which the fisherman's son takes his father's place as king.  In this his powers are passed on to his firstborn son, who then proceeds to outfish his father on all future fishing expeditions.  This causes the fisherman to become at once proud and outraged.  

Duck And Cover:  What you do when a snagged lure comes unexpectedly free and becomes a tri-barbed boomerang rocketing back towards your face.  This often results in the embarrassment of the hindquarter hook.  

Hindquarter Hook:  When a rogue lure flies through the air and buries itself in one's unprotected caboose.  The experienced fisherman will be able to casually extricate the hooks without incurring the notice and subsequent laughter of his buddies.

Screech:  What comes out of a fisherwoman's mouth when she is "positive she saw a snake" in the grass, which leads her to briefly leap onto a safety perch.  

Safety Perch:  The river rock that the fisherwoman thinks will keep her safe until her fishing partner informs her that snakes can swim.


Campfire Stories:  Tales told around the fire at the end of the day, usually under the influence of s'mores.  They fall into the categories ghost and benign.  Benign stories usually elicit harmless laughter from fishing buddies, while ghost stories, once heard, embed themselves in the listener's subconscious only to return to memory when one is hiking back to the campsite alone--in the dark.  If the situation is further complicated by eery elk bugles or rumbling thunder, it is considered acceptable though not desirable to wet ones pants and always leads to some form of hightailing.  

Hightailing:  What you do when you're late to the rendezvous point and your mom has threatened to take the pickup and leave you stranded if you don't arrive on time.  Also usable to describe any and all forms of running, especially if fleeing the vicinity of dog prints imagined to be that of a cougar's.

Undie Creep:   The eternal torture that Hades would have condemned Sisyphus to perform had he known anything about stream fishing.  It involves the slow and tortuous progress of icy river water from the hem of your jeans up to your waistline while you slog upstream against the might of the current.  

***

I hope you have enjoyed this detour. Laughter is the best medicine so excuse me while I short-sheet the Scout's sleeping bag.  Impossible, you say?  Well a sister never reveals her secrets.  If anyone asks, the baby did it.





Images via:  mybelowi.keep.pl, newartcolorz.com, fisheyeguyphotography.com, uvmbored.com, wallpapercave.com

All work subject copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2015.  






Friday, July 3, 2015

To: Morrow From: Yesterday



Remember mailboxes, those treasure chests of hope topped by a bright red flag?  Remember what it was like to receive a letter, to feel bare feet going slap slap on the sidewalk, as the little postal truck trundled to a stop in front of your house?  A hand offered you a stack of envelopes for your mom—and a smile.  

I love letters.  I love words.  And I love to think about Time, in all its great faceted mystery.  And as I was sitting and wandering, somewhere between memory lane and the distant future, I tumbled one word over and over again in my mind, rolling it until I’d felt all the edges and really measured the weight of it.    

Remember. 




So much could be said about this word.  But often I simply feel as though struggles or doubts in my life might have been avoided had I only remembered.  And in the Bible I found a similar theme repeated.  God’s people are continually exhorted to remember his goodness, remember his promises, remember their mistakes, remember his provision, remember his word, and ultimately to remember Him.  Stones were set up as memorials so that generations to come might not forget, that they might know what had passed and so learn from it.  

But Israel’s mistakes shed their ugly skins only to be reborn in own time.  We too are creatures of spiritual amnesia.  We forget the Lord and in doing so we doubt his love, his power, his grace, his sovereignty, and we forget what we have been rescued from.  

Time is a strange and perilous power, a beast bridled by the hand of God alone.  And among its untamed magics are the veils of distortion and the enchantment of the present.
    
As Time stretches our memories it often alters our perception of the events that occurred.  Whether difficult times are remembered as easy or facts are repeated falsely, the spell of the now imposes our own current state of mind upon the past and often veils the truth.  If not carefully monitored, this spell becomes a curse.  It dooms events and mistakes to horribly reincarnate, and it can keep us from truly bearing with one another as disciples.  



This particular manifestation of distortion seems to take effect as we age.  Our patience might run thin with children because we’ve forgotten what it meant to be a child.  We may flippantly hand out “fix-it” scriptures on joy, because we’ve forgotten what it felt like to suffer.  We may judge new parents who are struggling when we forget what it was like to be young, to be afraid.

I don’t see the mailman anymore, and we don’t have a traditional mailbox.  The Captain and I live out in the boonies where the hope of decent cell phone reception has dwindled to a mere myth.  But I wonder what our former postman would say if I could jump back in Time just for one day, pierce the veil and make my body as well as my mind truly remember.  Would he notice anything strange if I handed him a neat stack of letters addressed simply:

To:  Morrow
From:  Yesterday

Hindsight is perfect, as they say, and there is probably no one who does not harbor an ugly memory or a hasty word that they wish they might undo or take back.  But what I often wish, is that I could remember the past more perfectly, in order to better understand the present.  Without excessively dwelling on the years behind me I want to compose letters to my future self, memorials of paper rather than stone standing beside a Jordan flowing with ink instead of water, reminding me not to forget.  

Dear Grown Up,
Remember dreams?  Remember stories?  Remember fun?  Age and wisdom will stretch your sight until your gaze is no longer that of a child’s.  You cannot stay here forever, but do not forget this time!  Tuck away this piece of your soul--brave-heart, childlike, forever young.  Remember me when you play with children, when you read to them, when you construct cardboard castles on grass stained knees.  Until the day your broken body is laid in the ground, remember this gift of time and joy.  

Dear Adult,
There is much you’d rather forget about these moments.  Confusion, fear, loneliness, emotion.  A girl’s heart and body stretching painfully to fill a new skin, the frame of a woman.  Grace and wisdom were not often your teenage gifts, but do not lose this feeling even so.  Fill a bottle with a little angst and let the rest go, so that you do not forget what if felt like to grow, or how very  very much you needed Him and so need Him still.

Dear Graduate,
Your college years were a battle, daily skirmishes in enemy occupied territory, where your only thought was of escape, to leave the war torn fields behind you.  From the lies of the evil one to the darkness of your own wayward soul, this time drew blood and tested you.  But in your weakness, your God was greater, and in Him you rose in victory.  Bear your scars in memorial, and have compassion on those still down in the trenches.  Many are fighting hard battles, even if you do not see. 



Dear Wife,
Marriage is hard, as well you know.  For love must be remade each day.   It is renewed and kneaded by the continual action of sacrifice, by the pruning the growing and the blooming.  But in your wisdom do not sap the joy from others who have not yet climbed to your vantage point.  Time has shown you trial, but it has not stolen the truth from your heart.  The cynic of age has only buried it under a stack of struggles.  Remember hand holding?  Remember love notes?  Remember innocent smiles?  Remember how it felt to be a young bride. Treasure those moments of sunshine, and temper your gift of age and wisdom with love. They are the Lord’s, and though marriage is not built upon feeling alone, you only tear down when you snuff out the joy of others with your dose of discouragement. 

Dear Mother,
Remember tiny fingers and little toes?  Remember that hand crafted face blooming for the first time framed by baby-fine hair?  You fought, trembled, and cried to bring that precious one into this world, and never before had you known such fierce love and also tremendous fear.  Remember when all was fresh and new, when danger lurked behind every unknown?  Do not forget, for if you do, you will not know how to comfort young moms, how to catch their tears, hold their crying little ones, and embrace them with simple words of love and understanding.  

Remember too how that precious one snuggled into your chest, how he grasped tiny fistfuls of your shirt as he drifted off to sleep, secure in your love.  Your heart broke in that moment, as joy came down and met you, new mom, wakeful at midnight and wondering if you were the only creature not asleep.   Love whispered your name as you mouthed his.  Only for a moment is he yours to hold.  Treasure it, cast it in gold, press it in a beloved book.  Give thanks for each new day and remember.  
    
If wisdom could transcend Time’s boundary in such a way, I would be tempted to write a few notes to my future self, to seal thoughts in envelopes, trap feelings in the paper, and send them stamped with love to the future me.  For remembering is an action of memory, the will to look back over Time’s shoulder and choose to see truth and the will of God arching over all. Know that the one whom Time cannot touch is on the throne, and hide his word in your heart.  Do not leave behind or abandon the lessons of the past.  Hold tightly to memories of joy, and carry all with you into every tomorrow. 

Remember.    



All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2015.  
Images via: ohhellofriendblog.com, shape.com, almanac.com, charmofthecarolinas.com, fineartamerica.com, 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

In Bloom


It's springtime once more, which brings me to a wonderful time of year in which tiny brave shoots of green rise from the grave of winter's earth.  And on many days my hands are creased with mulch and my fingernails are manicured with half moons of good and honest dirt.  

As the world comes alive again, I am reminded of the one who not only authored such beauty but who shows me that new life always emerges from the dark places.  The flowers mirror the truth of the resurrection to a world simply covered in the fingerprints of a loving God who clears away the cobwebs and dry dead-fall, nourishing and pruning both the garden of my hands and the thirsty soil of my wayward heart.    


In Bloom


What is a flower?  What’s in a name?
What grows a stem either terrible or tame?
Is a rose just a bud bearing scent so sweet,
Or bloody where York and Lancaster meet?


Consider the lilies—be they maidens or flowers?
Perhaps trees where fairies dance by the hour.
But come Easter morning, white stars bursting ‘round,
In place of palm leaves on past Sunday’s ground.
Hosanna!  Hallelujah!   He is risen, our King.
Rejoice and be glad, let all voices sing.
And Solomon, king-wise, in his glory days, 
Was not clothed as these under gentle sunrays.  


Tulips cup the essence of new,
Harsh winter beds now anointed with dew.  
Gray April rains then slowly give way,
Oh those violets and daffodils dancing in May.
King’s robe, king’s gold, that last of fresh spring,
Heralds to summer in the grass glistening. 


Splashes of joy made of color set free,
Melodies of bare feet, of grass, and of trees.
Sunflowers, freesia, chrysanthemums all,
Iris, hydrangea, untouched by the fall.
Blossoms unfold in a blushing oath,
Vowing their fruits and berries in growth.
Flowers, oh flowers, in earth under sky,
Tread the dance of beauty, creation’s cry!



Humble violets and Orchids fair,
Wild columbines in the mountains rare.
Petals strewn down a wedding aisle,
Bouquets for love traveling o’er the miles.
With candy and cards gently pleading “Be Mine,”
A crimson wish for a valentine.
But is a rose still a rose by another name?
Its scent would remain as Shakespeare would claim.
Yet the grace of the flower in her grass-slippered feet,
Beckons beyond what the eye can meet.  
Invites you into a union with grace,
To know the composer of beauty, to look on His face.  


A fierce deep red for love so wild,
Red for a people reconciled.  
A pure linen petal, so tender and white,
For hearts of the cleansed now walking in light.
Brave blooming yellow, denouncing the dark.
Grace drops of blue in a world gray-stark.  


Creation cries out, are you listening?
Do you hear the song that the flowers sing?
Proclaiming the victory over shadow and death,
Dispelling decay with sweet cleansing breath.
Crescendo of color, the symphony of love,
To the earth below from heaven above.    


Images via:  stanroseimages.com, bloglovin.com, barefootblonde.com, dailymail.co.uk, tumblr.com, buzzfeed.com, restored.nl
All work subject to copyright by the author.   Use by permission only.  2015.