The three birds flew through the cloudy skies of northern California due north on that brisk January morning. The three friends; a Crow, a Pigeon and a Blue Jay, would have made a strange picture had anyone with a camera and telephoto lens had the mind to snap a shot. Much higher in altitude, hundreds of Canadian Geese flew in perfect V formation in exactly the opposite direction.
“Hey,” squawked the crow, “there is another group of Canadians flying the wrong way. Why do you suppose they are so confused?” He tried to point upwards with his right wing, but in doing so banked quickly to the left ramming the pigeon.
“Papa, can you tell me about Christmas?” asked the five-year-old granddaughter of the man whose knee she was perched upon at that moment.
“Sure honey, what do you want to know?” was the confident reply of Papa.
“Well first, what’s the difference between Santa and Jesus? And do Mary and Joseph live at the North Pole? And, at Sunday School we learned about the three Wise Men, but at school we sang about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Was Rudolph at the manger with the Wise Men,” were the initial round of questions blurted out by Katie, Papa’s granddaughter. “It’s all getting jumbled up in here,” said Katie pointing to her head.
“Well we don’t want things getting confused up there, now do we,” said Papa. “You could end up like Uncle Fred, but that’s a whole different story.”
Papa settled into the recliner and snuggled Katie close in. There was a lot of explaining to do, as Rickey often told Lucy. “First you asked about Christmas, so let me tell you about that. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus; the son of God. That is the main reason for all the decorations, and the lights, and the funny blow up snowmen at your Daddy’s house. We have a party on your birthday right?”
On Christmas Eve of 1914 in a field in Western Europe, German and British soldiers sang Christmas songs, exchanged gifts of pudding, games, and simply enjoyed each other’s company for a short while. It was a cold and muddy place, but the miracle of Christmas sought them out, bringing happiness to most, if only for a moment. Because less than 36 hours after the Christmas truce had started, which had been suggested by Pope Benedict XV, the warring Armies of WWI resumed their horrifically bloody battle of the trenches, replacing songs with death, and laughter with tears.
That night in Europe demonstrated with extreme bias the dichotomy that exists in our world; where good and evil, or right and wrong, exchange positions in an unlikely way, creating either grief or joy, depending which side is supplanted. Goodness found its way into a very bad place by the actions of a few great men and women; actions we often see as a requirement of the job. Continue reading →
Nate was a bully, and a braggart; he pushed his way into every conversation or meeting in the village and then always set out to prove his opinion was the only right one – which it rarely was. His height alone was intimidating at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, but add in broad shoulders and narrow waist; Nate was a man that you wanted to avoid being at odds with, but just couldn’t. He wouldn’t let you.
One day God spoke to Nate while he was saying his morning prayers. God asked him to do something that would be very important to his village and all the people in it. God said, “Nate, I have chosen you to be my instrument of change, to do something of great importance.” Nate was astonished; not really, he always thought God needed to consult him on big items.
When Seth Mooney was born a healthy beautiful boy his parents thanked the doctors and nurses who performed the delivery, the attendant who pushed Mom’s wheelchair to the waiting car, and almost every neighbor who stopped by the next week to give their congratulations. They thanked the Pharmacist, their grocer, the nice lady at Target who sold them diapers, wipes, lotion and a dozen other necessities for young Seth. They even thanked the mailman who delivered the letter and packages from family and friends across the country. But they didn’t thank God for the most amazing miracle ever to happen to their young family. The Mooney’s are not unbelievers; they’ve been to church. No the Mooney’s are part of the growing minority of people who thank their friends for a miracle from God.
Every Saturday morning, just after our second cup of coffee, Lea and I make a list of what we need to accomplish before sleep overwhelms our tired and spent bodies late Sunday night. The staples are always present: laundry, mow the lawns, grocery shop, and clean the pool. We rarely list the fun things; movie, dinner out or play time with the grand kids, because we don’t want them to feel like a chore. Fun, although well planned, should be spontaneous by design. When we complete an item on the list we check it off with pride. Often on Saturday afternoon we review our list together to assess our progress. If we have done something not on the list and completed the task, we add it to the list so we can check it off. Our system of measuring weekend accomplishments has taken decades to perfect and has managed to successfully keep full blown OCD at bay. We have considered teaching classes on our method, but so far have decided against it. (However, if it ever makes the list we will do it). Our weekend ritual of making and checking boxes for work activities is both functional and enjoyable for us, but I wonder, what else in my life has become a ritual of checking the box?
As a normal course of life, we are asked to routinely trust a diverse array of situational commands delivered by people we have never met, or machines we never wanted to. Yet we accept these often life changing commands as routine because we trust the source. More precisely, we choose to trust the source.
“In an emergency, the bags will drop from the ceiling above your head. Simply pull on the chord to start the flow of air. The bag may not inflate, but (TRUST ME) air will be flowing.” We are asked in an airplane emergency to trust that lifesaving air is actually in an empty bag. I’ve never heard anyone ask, “I don’t trust you – prove it.
You are driving your car towards a busy intersection, and the green light is shining in your direction. Other cars are approaching in a perpendicular path, but they SHOULD have a red light. You TRUST that the other cars will stop. We TRUST that the light is working properly and the other drivers see the light, know the law, and will obey it. We bet our lives on that scenario every day.
One more from the airlines. “In case of an unplanned water landing, use your seat cushion as a water floatation device.” My seat cushion is barely the size of my seat, and only two inches thick. I believe it will float in the Pacific Ocean, but I am to TRUST that the cushion will float with me holding on to it. Really? Yet here I sit in aisle 4 during a flight back home, TRUSTING that the aircraft, crew, and the Laws of Physics that we will land safely.
Gorda entered the Room of Past Knowledge from the south side of the complex, where the morning sun shone the brightest of the day. It was hot, passing 140 degrees as he turned the key to the massive iron and wooden door. He moved through the threshold of gold, iron and cheesewood, meant to keep evil spirits from entering this room, into a much cooler, very ancient place. Gorda wasn’t sure if evil spirits existed, or if their reported existence was a way for the old chemist to keep the townspeople afraid and behaved. He did know that evil was real; he had fought against it for decades, so he allowed the use of rare Cheesewood for a door frame. Besides, evil, in spirit or not, could not be allowed into this room.
The group of thirty people, mostly men, a few women, and one lone boy standing off by himself, shuffled their feet to hold back the morning cold while they gathered at the base of the trail leading up the mountain. From their vantage point, everything in existence appeared to be up, and in reality, they were right. The mountain ahead was not significantly steep, but the trail was narrow and held many twists and turns, so getting lost was a real danger. The air was crisp, and the beauty of the mountain was stunning; striking rock formations of red and beige surrounded by dark green trees of massive proportions, interrupted by an occasional deep blue twisting line. It should have been a painting; maybe it was.
The apple fell to earth as the couple ran from the garden, landing with a small bounce allowing a lone seed to loosen from its fleshy white home and touch the fertile soil. Now free, the seed burrowed deep into the earth, past topsoil and roots which might compete for life giving nutrients, toward the safety of rock and clay. Here, in the moist and cold darkness of life’s foundation, the seed waited for the renewal of light into its world.