Thursday, June 8, 2017

Stardust

My mom died this morning.  It is hard to believe.  I no longer have a person on this earth that I call mom.  Hopefully she is in heaven.  Or maybe she is in the heavens.

Alan Sandage, quantum physicist wrote,  "Every atom in our bodies was once inside a star."  Maybe mom's atoms have been released into the heavens and are again part of the stars.  I would enjoy looking at the stars and knowing that mom is part of them.

Mom grew up on a farm in the 1930's.  Life was not easy on a farm in the depression.  They had little to do for entertainment.  I am sure that she and her siblings sat on their porch at night looking at the stars, wondering about the universe, wondering about God, wondering about their lives and what would happen to them when they grew up.

I hope that mom's life turned out the way she dreamed it would as a child.  I hope that as the darkness was closing in during her final moments, that she remembered the stars.  And I hope that as her atoms were taking flight to the heavens, a child, sitting on a porch somewhere, saw the stars grow suddenly brighter.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A New Day

Each day is a new day.  Unlike any other day.  Yes, the sun comes up in the east, but as it rises there is a newness about it, as if it had never risen before and I am seeing the sunrise for the first time.

Each day I am reborn.  Reborn with the new dawn.  Reborn as the rays of the sun run slowly across my yard, piercing the darkness of the dark woods.  Reborn in the light.

A new beginning.  A chance to be made new.  A new day to get it right, to say the right things, to walk the path of righteousness.  A new day to show the love and forgiveness that I did not show yesterday.  A new day, a new gift from God.

The possibilities are endless.  As this new person, on this new day, I can choose anew.  I can choose to be different.  Old habits are fallen away.  All things are made new.  Old problems can now be seen in a new light, approached from a new angle by this new person that I now choose to be.

Old relationships can be made new.  Forgotten friendships can be renewed.  Words never spoken can be spoken.  Frowns can become smiles.  Rejection can become love.

And as this new day progresses, I am either a force for good or a force for bad.  I am a stillness or I am a movement.  I am a scratchy noise or I am a symphony.  I am a shout or I am a calming hum.  I am the warmth or I am the cold wind.  I am a unifier or I am a divider.  I am an encouraging word, or I am the voice of destruction.

At the end of the day, do I find myself at peace?

As I watch the sunset, am I inspired by the promise of a new day?


Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Garden of Love

All of my adult life I have planted a small family garden in the backyard.  We normally plant tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and peppers.  I have occasionally planted corn and beans, but have had no great luck with them.

I love a garden most when all the work is done and I can stand in front of it and look at the neat, weedless rows of plants; all of them green and growing.  The soil is still loose and fresh from tilling.

But as the summer progresses, the weeds begin to grow, the soil becomes packed, and some of the plants begin to show signs of stress.  So, I put on my gardening clothes and shoes, get out my tiller and till again between the rows, being careful not to till up the plants.  I get down on my hands and knees and pull out the weeds that seem to grow purposely intwined in my plants.  I fertilize the plants that are struggling and then I water everything.  All this is done in the heat of a summer day.

When the work is completed, I stand again tired, covered in dirt and sweat, in front of my garden looking at its renewed newness, filled with a sense of joy and love.  That is the only way that I can explain it.  That is my only justification for spending my time in this way.  I love my garden.

The reward for this work are vegetables that are soon ready for picking. There is nothing better than a tomato sandwich made from a tomato just picked from the garden.

The saddest time of gardening is in September when I am hoping against hope, but my plants continue to fade, the vegetables are few, and the weeds are almost unweedable.  I know the end is near.

I close my garden in October.  I pull up all the stakes and pull up the plants that are now dead and diseased and dispose of them.  A sad ending to a glorious beginning.

But a true gardener lives in the promise of the year to come; when the soil is freshly tilled, and all plants are green.  And everything is growing in neatly planted, weed-free rows.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Looking at the Stars

Studies have found that the average working person spends 92% of their time indoors. Children today play an average of 30 minutes a day outside.  I believe that we are not meant for this kind of life. And because we will not open the door to our homes and go outside we suffer with seasonal affective disorder, insomnia, anxiety, vitamin D deficiency, a higher risk for obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, and depression.

There is something calming about the outdoors that the indoors does not offer us.  If our stress levels are high, all we have to do is go for a walk and we will soon be back to normal.

Somewhere along the way, we lost our way.  It wasn't very long ago that President Kennedy was challenging Americans to take 50 mile hikes.  Today, this kind of challenge would be considered a cruel joke.

Not only are we suffering physically from living a life indoors, but I believe we are suffering spiritually.  It is easier to deny God's existence inside.

And after a lifetime of staying inside we may actually view the outside with scorn and lose our ability to see the wonder of God in nature.  A rainfall is a nuisance.  A waterfall becomes a power source, and a mountain range an obstacle.

Years ago, when my daughter was 2 years old I was unbuckling her from her car seat one night.  I gathered her in my arms as I maneuvered myself out of the car and began my walk up the driveway to our home.  Erin looked up into the night sky, her face close to mine, and pointed her finger upward. 

“Look, Daddy,” she said.  I looked up.  I saw nothing.

“Look, “she said again.  I resumed my walk after looking and seeing nothing, again.

“Lights” she said in wonder.

I looked up.  This time I saw them.  The sky was full of brilliant, shimmering stars.  I had not noticed them.  My mind had been so cluttered with worries and problems that I could not see the miracle that was just above me.

Holding her close, we stood there, looking at the stars.    






Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sitting in Sunlight on a Cool Morning

Life if full of striving.  Striving to find the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect neighborhood, the perfect car.  Striving to be promoted.  Striving to be better at something.  Striving to grow. Striving to shrink.  Striving to impress.  Striving to raise children.  Striving to earn.

I once heard a woman say the she and her husband lived in the wrong zip code and would have to move soon if they wanted to succeed at their jobs.  I remember a time when all of our County Commissioners attended the same, large, prosperous church; as if going to the "right" church was a political necessity.  I also remember a man who attended church for the purpose of selling insurance and when he had tapped that congregation for all he could squeeze, he move on.  I overheard a student talking as she walked with a friend about how her father could not succeed at his job because he did not like to schmooze.  In her words he did not have his "politics together".

And where has all of this striving gotten us?  Are we better people now than we were 1,000 years ago?  Have we had fewer wars and conflicts?  Do we know the secret of world peace?  Are fewer people starving? 

Georg Sheehan, in his book Running and Being, quotes the philosopher Teilhard de Chardin as saying, "We are all seeking not to enjoy more or to know more, but to be more."  Well, I think we may have failed on all counts.  After all these hundreds of  years of striving, we are not one inch closer to solving the large problems that face humanity.

So, instead of striving, why don't we make time to just sit in the sunlight on a cool morning and enjoy the sound of the birds, smell the freshness of the air, drink that first cup of coffee and watch the steam rise from the cup.

And on a morning such as that, how could we be more.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Finding Home

The first time I saw the mountains I was 12 years old.  I had dreamed of seeing them years before I actually saw them.  As far as I know, I had always wanted to go to the mountains.  Being from eastern North Carolina, we were beach people.  My dad always rented a house at the beach for one or two weeks each summer.  I liked the beach, but deep down inside me, I loved the mountains, without ever having seen them.

And when I saw them for the very first time, I knew that I was home.  At last, I was home.  Something in me was at peace.  Something in me was somewhere very familiar.  I was in a place where at last I belonged.

We did all of the things tourists do in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We went to Ghost Town.  We listened to blue grass music.  We bought apples at a roadside stand.  We toured the Cherokee Indian reservation in the town of Cherokee.  

But all I really wanted to do was stare at the mountains surrounding me and breathe the mountain air and make each day we were there last forever.

We never vacationed in the mountains again.  But I knew that I would return.  I learned about Appalachian State University during college night at my high school.  When I heard the representative say they were located in Boone, North Carolina, I knew that is where I had to go.  So, I applied; the only University to which I applied.  And I was accepted.  But I had no money to go.

Walking home from my high school graduation at the nearby baseball park (I just felt like walking and being by myself),  I stopped by the railroad tracks and asked God, "What's next?  How am I going to get to Boone?"  There was no immediate answer.

But the next morning around 7:00 am, the phone rang.  A friend of mine wanted to know if I wanted to help him paint warehouse roofs that summer.  I had nothing else to do, so all summer we painted the tin roofs of the acres of tobacco warehouses in downtown Rocky Mount.  On the last day of the last warehouse, as we were climbing down the ladder, a voice from below called up, "Do you have a driver's license?"  I yelled, "yes", to the voice below.  "How would you like to drive for the tobacco buyers down in Georgia?"  And that is how I earned enough money to pay for my first year of college in Boone, NC.  

As my parents drove away, leaving me in Boone on my first day of college life, I felt the same feelings that I had felt when I was 12 years old.  I was home, at last I was home.  And I breathed a giant breath of mountain air, knowing that I was in the place that I belonged.  




Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sermon on the Mount, Day 40 of 40: Living the Teachings

Matthew 7: 28-29
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.


The Sermon on the Mount contains the best known teachings of Jesus and it contains the longest teaching by Jesus in the New Testament.  It is one of the most widely quoted sections of the New Testament, and contains the central tenants of Christian discipleship.  St. Augustine regarded it as the perfect standard for the Christian life.  Jesus, himself, said these teachings were to be the rock on which we are to build our lives.  Yet, it is regarded by some modern scholars as the least understood of Jesus' teachings by Christians.

When the scribes taught, they were very careful to cite the references of their teaching; this rabbi may have written and taught this, or that rabbi may have taught that.  This way of teaching was not a way of showing deference to a scholar as much as a way of name dropping and showing off one's education.

Jesus, when He taught, said "Verily I say to you."  He taught as one who was saying things for the first time as if he were speaking for God.  And the people were amazed.  

So, this teaching, this Sermon on the Mount, is straight from the heart and mind of God and it is meant to be a teaching around which we should center our lives; lives in which we are to be concerned not only with our outward actions but also our inward thoughts; lives in which love is our sole motivation; lives that embody God's mercy, grace and forgiveness not just to those we know and care about but also to those who are hard to love, even our enemies; lives that show the world a new kind of righteousness, a new kind of justice, a new kind of love; lives full of joy and peace and humility; lives full of trust in God; lives of prayer and forgiveness; lives built on a solid foundation.


Amen.