Heartland

The Canadian family television series Heartland has certainly worked its way into our hearts. And, as per our typical pattern, we are watching it for the first time a full seven years after its release (thank you, Netflix).

We are in the first season (2007). And since the show is still being produced in 2014, we have a long way to go to catch up.

But Heartland has drawn us in. So, the remaining seven years of shows does not seem daunting; rather, a welcome distraction. We look forward to them.

Starring Amber Marshall, Michelle Morgan, Shaun Johnston, and Graham Wardle, the series is loosely based on the Lauren Brooke novels (ghost written by Linda Chapman) which first appeared in 2005.

The TV series is set in the beautiful mountains of Alberta, Canada (although the original stories were set in Virginia, as I understand it). And if you are not one who is enthralled with the west, wide open spaces, cattle ranches, and the romantic life of the rugged cowboy – don’t bother to engage.

I am. Enthralled, that is. With The West.

Our move to Arizona in the summer of 1963 exposed me to the intoxicating lure of The West. And my time living in Montana in the mid-1970s sealed the deal. I am hooked. I expect to die with one boot in The West; if not physically, then mentally, for sure.

But the longer I live . . . and the more places that I live . . . (the list is embarrassingly long), it occurs to me that what I truly love – in any and every place I have resided – is the wide open spaces. The mountains. The woods. The valleys. The lakes.

Open terrain. The wilder – the better.

As my Minnesota friend, Randy Stinchfield used to say, “I need a horizon.” Me, too, Randy!

The truth is, there is a bold and unmistakeably profound statement made when one is in the presence of pristine wilderness. I am not going to try to tell you what that statement is in this blog entry. Sorry.

What I am going to say is that I am touched deeply in my heart when I am there. I am properly humbled. Right-sized. Appreciative. And awestruck.

The human heart. The place where the mind is truly connected and in concert with human emotions.

There is a reason why we have created expressions like these:

  • “get to the heart of things”
  • “the heart of the matter”
  • “change of heart”
  • “take it to heart”

Your heart is where one can find what is really true about you.

It may be hard to get to your heart, because it is covered with so much armor and protective coating. But when you do get there, all there is – is true.

Each performer in the Heartland story has his/her own issues, his/her own back story. And it will be interesting to see how it all gets worked out. Or doesn’t, as the case may be. One thing is certain: the characters will be successful in their varied relationships in direct proportion to their genuineness of heart, i.e. their ability to see themselves and others as they truly are.

If there is subterfuge in the heart, relationships will suffer.

Maybe the writers and creators of this Canadian program intentionally named this Heartland because they knew that creating a place, a ranch, a terrain, a land where the heart is central would give them ample subject matter and call out to the part of us that aches deeply and smiles deeply.

Ya’ think?

You may not be enthralled with The West like I am. And the mythical cowboy and ranch life may not appeal to you in the least. Or the TV show may not catch your eye for one reason or another. No matter.

What appeals and calls out to every human who breathes a breath . . . are the issues of the heart. Your heart.

When the new website http://www.heartdepot.org emerges later this summer, it will be addressing issues of the heart; derailments that get us off track and leave us in destinations we do not want to visit. Addiction, grief, disappointment, anger (to name just a few).

Are we destined to live our lives in a land that keeps us arms length from that for which our heart longs the most?

Or . . . is there truly a Heartland?

IvanOnChicoInMT

That’s me sitting on 4 year old Chico, in Clint Goben’s front yard, Anaconda, MT, circa summer 1973.

Posted in Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The New Normal (Riding the Pipe)

Just over 13 months ago, on Easter weekend 2013, my wife and I began a new venture – we bought two iPhones. And ever since then life has not been the same.

For one thing, we ended up doing away with our land line and a phone number we have had for almost 20 years. Out of habit I still check for voice messages on the now absent digital message machine that used to sit near the front door; a flashing red light used to inform me if anyone had called. Old habits are hard to break.

Of course, all of these devices are a far cry from the ones present when I was a boy. The phone number I learned as a young boy in Chattanooga, Tennessee was MA4-2410. I still remember it (as you can tell). Many numbers since then have come and gone . . . but that one sticks in my memory. If you didn’t answer when someone called . . . well . . . they didn’t get to leave a message; all they heard was a repeated ring, ring, ring until they hung up their phone.

When I was a child we were fortunate to have a private line, and a black rotary phone with a thick cord that was connected to the wall; you could not disconnect it at will like the modern wall connection phone cords of today.

A great deal has changed.

Now we have no land line, only two cell phones. No one even dreamed in the 1950s of having a phone like the one I hold in my hand today. No dial tone when you prepare to make a call (that was the first thing you used to listen for before dialing a number). If you needed a phone number and could not get to a phone book there was directory assistance, but certainly not an internet connection where you could search online for numbers.

How we found websites back then I will never know! Hey . . . wait! There were no websites! Inconceivable, I know. But somehow, we muddled through.

Now I hold a tiny computer in my hand, or carry it in my pocket wherever I go. At a moment’s notice I can find road directions (and even have them read aloud to me by a really nice – albeit stern – sounding woman), find any phone number in the galaxy, play music with high fidelity (oh how that used to be a buzz word), pay bills, keep a calendar, read the news, and send a text message to anyone I want.

It is (to borrow a phrase used by my eldest daughter) the new normal.

In The Sacred Journey (1982) Frederick Buechner describes his father’s suicide one Saturday in the fall, and the BEFORE and AFTER reality that was born from that experience. He was just 10 years old. But it was at that point in his life that “time” really began for him. It is a story that he fittingly begins with the words “once below a time.”

A new normal.

A woman gives her life to raising her two children. They grow up, make her proud, then leave home to begin their own lives. And she is left to find her new place in the world, her new vocation (whether she wants it or not). She must adjust to the new normal.

A man retires from a long career in the business world. No longer does anyone come to him for wise business advice, or seek his counsel when making a big company decision. He was indispensable before, but . . . now . . . he is gardening in his yard. The biggest decision of the day is where to put the marigolds. And like it or not, he is in the new normal.

The fading pencil marks on the kitchen door jam, recording the incremental increase in the heights of two girls, remind the woman that she once was a successful mother. And the gold watch on the mantel pays homage to the business prowess and tenacity of the man. But no one seeks him out now.

The new normal.

I really like my new iPhone. It is truly amazing. Alvin Toffler warned me about it, though. I think we are beginning to see some of what he prophesied about years ago in Future Shock and The Third Wave. But the wave is so strong, I don’t know if we’ll be able to safely navigate out of its wake.

Life is made of countless transitions, changes and developments that have the power to undo us, or to embolden us.

We master a skill. Then, if we are not careful, it masters us.

We give our lives to a worthy cause. Then sometimes . . . that cause threatens to take possession of our lives.

There will always be a new normal awaiting us. Just around the bend.

A woman lives with a man for 40 years; he is sick for a few months then dies with cancer just after his 61st birthday. And she steps into the new normal.

A young couple goes into church work, wanting to be a help to those in need. Then their 9 year old is sexually abused at the church where they serve. They find themselves in the new normal.

A childless young couple, six years into marriage, begins the long and grueling process of adoption, then they are given a baby boy to raise. He becomes the highlight of their lives, and they cannot hardly imagine a time when he was not with them. The new normal.

Whether positive, or negative, the new normal demands its own brand of surrender from us. It brings with it both a blessing and a curse. And it is up to us to find the blessing and avoid the curse.

The iPhone 4s that we purchased last year have already been supplanted, of course. And I understand that the new up-and-coming iOS 8 operating system may not work in an iPhone 4. Well, I guess we will hold onto the “old” normal as long as we can.

So, how are you handling your own new normal? Is it your undoing? Or have you discovered the navigational secret that makes it possible for you to ride the waves rather than be engulfed by them?

But maybe you aren’t in an emotional position that allows you to ride the waves. That is so often the case, isn’t it? What then?

A former student of mine recently posted a video on Facebook. It showed expert surfers who were able to surf the pipeline of an ocean wave; impressive, to say the least. The video showed them encircled by the swirling torrents of water that make up the massive waves typically found in Hawaii. They were surfing inside the roll of the giant wave itself.

I think that sometimes navigating the new normals in our lives can be like that ocean pipeline; that is, if we search for it, there may be a way to stand in the very midst of the onslaught of the tidal wave and remain unharmed.

And eventually . . . if we are patient . . . calm, order, and peace return. The new normal.

Posted in Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Sense and Sensuality

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s first published novel, 1811, (beautifully portrayed in the 1995 movie starring Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Kate Winslet), is one of the many successful stories that have made her one of the most widely read writers in the English language.

Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her work on the screenplay; and critics deem it well deserved.

Of course, some book/movie titles just have that ring to them, don’t they? That sometimes alliterative and arresting name that just sticks with you, or compels you to investigate further.

Comedians often make use of familiar titles and expressions, adding a syllable or taking away a letter, thereby forming a whole new word or phrase that reminds the listener (or reader) of the familiar expression while at the same time providing a new twist for their minds to entertain. A comedian might tell the story of “The Pee Little Thrigs,” for instance. Or Archie Bunker might talk about “the sperm of the moment.”

And that is exactly what happened to me Friday night as I sat (and sometimes stood) at an open air, country music concert, surrounded by thousands of country music fans; Bud Light and other variations on a theme by Dionysus were in the hands of many. Dirty dancing was engaged in by countless individuals, and women were adorned in a way that would entice even the most pious (and puzzle authentic country/western people no end).

As country music star, Jason Aldean, proclaimed from the stage, “country music can make anything sexy: tractors, pickup trucks, and drinking beer.” A truism indeed.

My daughter and I were standing at the top of the concrete steps where droves of persons had to pass to enter the amphitheater. A young man went by us carrying a tall can of beer topped with a plastic cup, and as he did he said, “I love you guys! I don’t know you yet, but . . . I love you!”

And the night was still young. Not sure if he came to the show slightly pickled, or if he was just anticipating how he would feel once he got loosened up a bit.

Beer. Loud music. And thousands of people all mashed together in an enclosed space.

Sounds like a recipe for combustion, doesn’t it?

That may be why numbers of security personnel were traversing the grounds all night, sifting through the crowd, scanning the sea of country music enthusiasts, sniffing out pot smokers and other infractors.

Now let me be clear. I love country music. I love having a good time. As a musician I also am impressed with musical excellence and instrumental prowess. In addition, I am an ardent fan of great beauty. And I like the taste of beer and wine.

But something odd happens when large groups of people drink alcohol, listen to loud music, and dress a part. Articles on crowd control theory and crowd management abound. So, I will not labor to present the basics of that field of study. Let it suffice to say that is is a phenomenon well documented, fraught with predictable results. Often negative. Or to borrow (out of context) from a favorite writer of mine, they become “incompetent groups of competent individuals.”

What caught my attention at the concert is a subject I have been mulling over for some time.

Sensuality.

Sensuality: “relating to, devoted to, or producing physical or sexual pleasure,” according to Merriam-Webster.

As human beings, we are hardwired with the ability to enjoy physical pleasure, sexual and otherwise. The desire for pleasure is a mighty force within each of us. Learning to keep our gratification gyroscope (if you will allow me to use that expression) upright is a part of our maturing process.

The absence of sensual parameters and boundaries is the very definition of licentious. All license – nothing disallowed or banned. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? In the fantasy world it most certainly is; but in the real world it loses its luster (sorry for the pun).

And it prompts me to ask the question: what sense is there in sensuality?

Although I thought I was being original with this apparent contrasting title, Sense and Sensuality, there is a book published in 2010 by Ravi Zacharias with this title (providing an imaginative dialogue between Jesus and Oscar Wilde), and a number of blogs and/or articles where authors have availed themselves of the same expression.

So . . . I will join the crowd (so to speak), and become one of the many, I suppose. For I feel compelled to point out that sense and sensuality seem to be at polar opposites in the human psyche. Are they compatible?

When Greeks spoke of sensuality in the ancient world they used the word aselgeia. In Plato’s Republic it is used to describe the “sheer impudence of lawlessness.” In the New Testament it is used to describe an attitude of open, shameless, undisciplined, and indecent action wherein the individual is indifferent to the opinion or rights of anyone else.

Sounds somewhat like the venue I was in on Friday night.

By the way, there were some really nice people at that concert. Courteous, patient, respectful, and kind; I’m sure they had a good time. And there was the guy near us who out-of-the-blue offered a hearty high-five to my wife and I; he was joyous, gregarious . . . and inebriated. And I’m sure there were many more who would have acted more decently had they not been rendered inhibitionless by drinking.

A picture of the amphitheater after most of the attendees had left is revealing: a field covered with empty beer cans, plastic cups, dropped food and paper plates (and probably some puke in there somewhere, too). There are no trash cans available, because management knows they would not be used. So, part of the ticket price includes payment for clean up (much the same as you see in the bleachers or stadium after a high school football game). It’s part of the reason public bathrooms are now equipped with automatic flush on the toilets, right?

How many folks woke up the next morning with regrets over the effects of following their need for sensuality?

Never fear! I will not wax moral on anyone. That is not my point at all!

I do not endorse the sanctimonious, the people too good to mix with the crowd, persons who cannot bear to be seen with the masses.

What I am talking about is regret. The regret that comes when I allow sensuality to make sense. When the rudder of my life is the next good feeling, the next fun meal, the next titillation. It fits well with our movie culture, our country music culture, the “no holds barred” and “full throttle” approach to living the good life. But it fails miserably when it comes to family, citizenship, and making the world a better a place for people.

It is almost as if we reserve this tangent, this sensual excursion, this sensory depot just off the main track of our lives. If we tried to actually LIVE there, we know how stupid we would look and act. So, we live elsewhere most of the time . . . but allow ourselves to take a well-deserved vacation to Crazyville from time to time, especially when lots of others around us are going there, too. And the alcohol helps us all get there, of course.

By the way, there is some sense in sensuality; that is, when the sensuality does not govern our lives but merely adorns it. But when sensuality reigns supreme – LOOK OUT!

Posted in Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Finding God in the Dark

To many, Barbara Brown Taylor is a leading theologian, an accomplished speaker, and an excellent writer with over a dozen books to her name. The TIME MAGAZINE cover for April 28, 2014 features an article about her life, and about her interest in “darkness” as a means of finding God.

To me . . . she is a very approachable professor at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. She taught my eldest daughter in a World Religions class about a decade ago, and I can honestly say that making her acquaintance was a delight. It pleases me to see her featured in TIME, and so highly acclaimed in the aforementioned article where she is put on the same footing as my favorite religious writer, Frederick Buechner, and others of great renown.

I certainly agree with her assessment of “darkness” and its importance in finding God. But I do not wish to cover once again the ground she has most ably covered in her writings (her latest book is Learning How to Walk in the Dark).

All I can offer is my own experience with darkness.

And it is one which began at a very early age.

As far back as I can remember I have found personal engagement with darkness very satisfying. Possibly this is because I had a penchant for escaping the light where I could be seen and compelled to do things I did not want to do. Darkness offered a cover for me. In addition, it quelled distractions which would have captured my attention in the light.

In the darkness I felt safe. Secure. It was like a blanket of protection around me. In the darkness I could be myself. Or . . . I could pretend to be anyone I liked.

In the darkness I was . . . free.

There are few things more enthralling than laying on the hood of a car (or on the ground) and staring up at the night sky. If the night is clear your eyes focus entirely on the light from the stars. And the longer you look, the longer you allow your eyes to acclimate to the dark screen in front of them, dotted with tiny specks of light – the more stars you will see. It is fascinating. An area which was formerly only a black space soon reveals a host of shining lights.

As Thomas Carlyle said, “The eternal stars shine out as soon as it is dark enough” (a quote mailed to me from my mother many years ago).

Darkness is the precursor to light, the necessary backdrop upon which light makes itself known. In the ancient Hebrew scriptures that describe the state of things before creation, “darkness was over the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2).

Try this! Sit in the darkness during a thunderstorm. Make sure you are in a room with ample windows, or a glass door. Exhilarating. [My family scolds me for this, because experts say it is not wise to stand near a window during a lightning storm. So I would be remiss if I did not advise you to sit a safe distance away from windows, etc. There! Done!]

Even better is to be on a mountain and watch a storm roll into the valley below (we used to do this in the Catalina Mountains, north of Tucson, Arizona). The light display is unforgettable.

But it is only so because of the presence of darkness.

We live in a world of contrasts. Beauty and ugliness. Good and bad. Light and dark. As my black friend, Richard, used to say to me in Memphis, Tennessee years ago (we worked in a warehouse together, loading and unloading remanufactured Ford parts), “If the newspaper was all white there would be nothing to read. We need both white and black.”

Darkness is necessary, isn’t it?

But when darkness is a metaphor in our lives, a way to describe depression, difficult or unbearable experiences, evil or catastrophic tragedies – it takes on an added dimension. Often life’s pain is so deep it seems to take on a life of its own, or more accurately, it seems to take your life as its own.

Decades ago my friend Landon Saunders quoted the Indian poet Tagore, and his words have brought great encouragement to me ever since:

“Faith is the bird that senses the dawn, and sings while it is yet dark.”

Out of darkness comes light. Out of the depths comes deliverance. Out of the darkest cave comes illumination.

This theme is universal; it spans cultures and periods of time. Its ubiquitous nature is devoid of debate. It is something we all know.

But when we are in the darkness . . . we wonder if we will ever see the light of day.

Caving was never one of my favorite things to do (like it was for my brother, Ron). Caves disorient me; I lose my sense of direction and reference. And I don’t like that. Nevertheless I can say that after being in the dark for a long period of time, the path ahead of me illuminated solely by the eerie light cast by a carbide lamp, I immensely enjoyed the discovery of a small shaft of light which pointed the way out of the darkness.

One time we were in the belly of a cave, so deep in the darkness that I literally could not see the hand in front of my face. Our lamps were extinguished. We sat there . . . in silence for a time . . . then making some quiet conversation. But the weight of the still air was strangely heavy around me; I could actually feel the darkness. It was inescapable. I had no choice but to embrace it.

I have found the darkness in life to be that way, too, at times.

The popular poet Kahlil Gibran (in The Prophet) discussed this issue of darkness and pain with great eloquence, pointing out that “pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” He further said that if you were able to keenly observe your life with a sense of wonder, noting its daily miracles, “your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy.”

Truly, I want to continue to learn how to walk in the dark.

I no longer spend much time in the dark, not like when I was younger. That is probably not to my credit. I do rise before dawn on most days, and that is indispensable for me. But I would do well to be more intentional about my time in the dark, especially in the evenings.

Make no mistake, the metaphoric darkness will, indeed, find us on its own timetable. But our intentional time embracing the darkness can prepare us for those moments beyond our control. And it can serve to assure us that -

“You don’t have to understand anything very complicated. All you’re asked is to take a step or two forward through the darkness and start digging in” (Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words, pp. 73-74).

For when we take a step or two through the darkness . . . we are closer and closer to the light that does indeed eventually come.

And oh, how glorious is That Light!

Posted in Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The NeverEnding Story

One of the most delightful experiences of my life has been . . . storytelling.

I remember as a child those rare moments when we would get Dad talking about growing up as a small boy in Macon, Georgia, or later in the Chattanooga area; sometimes he would enthrall us with stories from World War II, or dangerous exploits of his “insurance debit” (as he called it) on Sand Mountain. Sometimes he would tell tales of his brother, Lee, or his sister, Nellie, his Swedish father, or his orphaned mother.

Mother’s stories were just as intriguing; she described her summers on the farm in Hickman County, TN, staying with her Aunt Ruth, drawing water from a spring, and getting into mischief with her sister, Edna (it was something involving an outhouse). Or stories about her father and his dog, Frankie; or her mother and her piano playing before Alzheimer’s took that skill away. Sometimes she and her sisters would play tricks on their younger brother, John, like the time they told him that Edna was dead and they took him into a dark bedroom to see her (I’ll get in trouble for telling that one, I know).

I never thought I had any stories worth telling on my own. But then when my girls were little they needed bedtime stories, and it fell my lot to come up with something. Out of necessity I created two characters, Gus and Phil (see www.gusandphil.com for more on these CDs for children), and night after night they went on adventures and engaged in activities that my two daughters found exciting and helpful in their own young lives.

Eleven years ago I became an entertainer at Stone Mountain Park, Georgia; I was hired as a singer and guitar player. About two years into my job there I began to fill in some as a storyteller at Christmas time. And then a few years later I became a storyteller who sang and played guitar in the spring, summer, fall, and at Christmas.

I could never have imagined that transformation a decade ago.

Few things have brought me as much joy.

You see, the storyteller holds the audience in the palm of his hand. Only he knows where his story is going; only he knows the exact moment when the main character will do or say the thing upon which the story pivots; only he knows the way things will turn out in the end. If done correctly, his storytelling will transport the listener into another time and place, and then minutes later leave him or her changed either in emotional disposition, intellectual intrigue , or both.

It is, in many ways, like being the god of a small universe . . . for a brief moment in time.

Whether I am telling the story of Pecos Bill riding a tornado, the story about The Greenhorn and the Mule Egg, the classic tale called The Three Apples, the true story of The Hero of Stone Mountain Park (I actually wrote that one), or any of a host of other stories – I feel sort of like the Pied Piper luring listeners away with the sound of my pipe (except that my intention is not to lead them away never to been seen or heard from again) . . . bad illustration. Sorry!

Stories are enthralling, aren’t they? That premise was a major part of the creation of this blog almost two years ago (see my very first entry in the blog, or listen to the one minute audio http://theloststory.org/about/output-1-2-3/ or watch the short video explaining its purpose http://theloststory.org/2013/03/27/the-lost-story-what-is-it-all-about/).

My grandson is 3 years old now. And he loves stories. We all do, don’t we?

It could be Jobs (the movie about the creator of Apple), Harry Potter, Little Red Riding Hood, or Journey to the Center of the Earth.

It could be family stories like the story about my wife’s grandmother who used to pick the worst meat at the butcher shop. One day someone asked, “Florence, why do you always pick the worst cuts of meat, and not the better ones?” To which she replied, “Well . . . someone has to buy them!”

It could be homespun humor like the stories of Garrison Keillor, Brian Regan, or even the late Jerry Clower. I grew up listening to Bill Cosby, too.

But the list is endless. Because we love stories. Funny stories. Sad stories. Encouraging stories.

Stories.

My grandson went to the doctor for his 3 year old checkup today. She “checked me out,” he said. He was asking her all kinds of questions about what she was doing, what was making this sound and that sound, then he got his blood pressure checked for the first time ever: 90 over 60 something (you could sell that kind of blood pressure, couldn’t you?). He is now old enough for his first dentist visit, the doctor says.

He has a new story to tell, doesn’t he?

And what about you?

Each day of life is a precious gift, another page in your story. Another leaf that will be turned whether you want it to be or not.

The new job. A move to another state. A new relationship begins to form. Someone you love passes into eternity. The pages turn. And turn. And turn. [Any reference to Pete Seeger's song, made popular by The Byrds, is completely unintentional].

You may not think much about it today, but . . . one day a young child . . . or a close friend . . . or someone else who values your life . . . will sit at your feet . . . or in a chair beside a coffee table . . . and they will listen to you as you recite from heart one of the pages in your storybook.

And they will listen.

Because one thing is certain.

The pages of your storybook are filled with stories worth telling.

Where your story touches another person’s story – there is the continuation of the never ending story. The tale of which we are all an integral part.

Posted in Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Return To Sender (Birds & Blooms)

Elvis Presley put it this way in his 1962 hit song, didn’t he?

“Return to sender. Address unknown. No such person. No such zone.”

But that is not exactly how I felt yesterday when I opened mail from the magazine, Birds and Blooms, mailed to my mother at this address. Mother has been deceased for 20 months now. But the magazine was offering her a greatly discounted subscription.

I will not venture a guess as to what level of consciousness or awareness the dead possess right now; what they can see, fathom, or feel in the great beyond. Hades, the unseen realm, holds mysteries I have yet to understand with much clarity (although the story in Luke 16 seems to indicate there is keen awareness). But I suspect that if mother wants to read Birds and Blooms in her present location she can get a rate far better than the one offered down here.

I cannot imagine her not reading. She was an avid reader. And she loved beauty.

Unlike the woman described in Elvis’s unrequited love song, however, I will not return the mail to its sender saying, “Address unknown.” And I will not state, “No such person. No such zone.”

I know her address (I am sure a designation of general delivery is adequate); I know there is, indeed, such a person. And I know there is a zone in which she now lives (even though the exact zip plus four may not be available). At any rate, Dad is there with her, and . . . he used to work for the post office years ago, so . . . they’ll get their mail.

Passover began this week. And Easter is almost upon us.

And although I am careful not to make this blog one in which I deal with many spiritual matters (if you are interested in my attempt at honestly discussing spiritual matters, please see http://www.thegodstory.wordpress.com), there are times when the overlap is hard to avoid.

In a few days we will hide plastic eggs in our yard, and our 3 year old grandson (along with our grown and married children) will hunt for them. Then we will be joined by other family members, eat a delightful breakfast (intentionally not avoiding nitrates for a change), and celebrate resurrection.

Now here is where some of my readership may be tempted to “click” off this site, and move on. But I hope you do not. Because my intentions are far from intrusive. Let me explain what I mean.

Every year at this time we witness the rebirth of plants: trees blooming, flowers budding, grass sprouting. The pollen which frustrates so many of us plants itself all over everything in hopes that there will be a chance at germination, and new life. Our word “spring” is a reflection of this resurrection motif; that which appears to be dead and lifeless now gushes, surges, blossoms into living color.

Right now the dogwoods are in full bloom, and the azaleas are dazzling. I am particularly fond of the redbuds. Petunias will make their debut, and countless plants of astounding beauty (like the rose, the hyacinth, the iris) will enthrall us with their matchless visages.

In the moments when I can lower the handkerchief from my face, take off the mask that protects me from pollen . . . I am undone. Impressive is hardly forceful enough. Flabbergasted may come close. Astounded. Enthralled. All are attempts at describing the inflation of the heart, the rapture of the soul, the boundless appreciation that results when you witness something of exquisite and incomprehensible beauty.

And it happens every year. Just like clockwork.

The Bradford Pear trees announce its coming, and are almost always frozen back into place before spring actually arrives (like they didn’t get the memo). And the daffodils follow suit, taking their cue from the misguided pears, and join in the apparent false alarm. But . . . then it comes. It finally does come.

I cannot imagine my mother and father no longer existing any more than a scientist can imagine matter no longer existing; matter may take a different form, but it does not cease to exist.

“For out of it (the ground) you were taken;
for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
(Genesis 3:19b)

Resurrection, resurgence, is part and parcel of our lives, too; not just the plant world. We fall down, and then we “stand up” again (Greek, anastasis); we are defeated, but then we “rise.” Our hopes and dreams die, but then . . . they are revived.

Without new life, new beginnings – we would all be utterly miserable, and in despair. But built into life itself is this fascinating and rejuvenating phenomenon, this revitalization, this – resurrection (if you will).

That is what I see when I look at the spring! Life!

Again!

As the Apostle Paul stood and made his defense before the Jewish King Agrippa many years ago, he made a curious but insightful statement as he attempted to counter the political charges brought against him. He said,

“Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”
(Acts 26:8)

It is not incredible at all. For we see the natural pattern of it demonstrated every year at this time.

Amazing? Yes!

Incredible? No!

Rebirth and renewal is “in our DNA” (so to speak).

Observe it.

Celebrate it.

Claim it.

Posted in Aging Parents, Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments