Thursday, December 30, 2021
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
I set each foot down with care, remembering childhood walks with my father. He told me of how the Native braves would learn to run silently through the forest. Long ago I learned how to slip through the woods without snapping sticks or crunching leaves. Our fellowship of nine followed our guide single file over the ancient ground.
We were an unlikely party. A Native American, a war veteran, a girl from China, an inquisitive toddler, a teenage young lady who carried the legacy of her people, a white-bread married couple who gave without limits, a recent college graduate, and me. All of us... at our own individual stage in life, somehow converged in this moment to press spirit upon spirit.
We crossed under the barbed wire that marked the property line and pressed through the thorns and honeysuckle. The hillside sloped gently down underneath the cover of oak, ash, and hickory. The guide stones had let us here. This was the ancient artifact. The Shawnee Prayer Wheel.
Stones marked the four winds: North, South, East, and West. Smaller stones crossed the center both horizontally and vertically, forming a cross in the center. This was the traditional form of the wheel. This was used for communication with the One God, the Great Spirit. The Jews called Him Yahweh. The Shawnee called Him Gitche Manitou. Both identified Him as the Creator of all things and the giver of life. This was a place to be purified, to confess, and to be renewed.
Your spirit could be reclaimed here.
I was in need of my spirit to experience a renewal. I considered the scope of history here. The slamming together of perspectives. Here I was, a white man descended from those who arrived on boats, being blessed by the great humilty and grace of a man who was descended from those who had hunted and managed this land long before boats anchored ashore.
The present has an insistent way of slamming together with the past. Directly in the center of this Shawnee Prayer Wheel, verified to be from the 1700's, was a juvenile tree that grew up from its heart. It stood like a sentinel, guarding the Holy site and signifying its presence.
What are we to think of this modern intrusion into the ancient divine? Should it be plucked from the earth lest its presence shift the stones and disrupt the history here? Our wise guide told us that he had long ago considered exactly that scenario. He'd not planted the tree, but he had been watching it grow for the last ten years. While he'd ripped up by the roots thousands of young trees within the proximity of the circle, this one had been something different.
It sprouted up in the perfect center. Its roots gave stability to the symmetry of the overall structure, solidifying the geometry of the pattern, preventing a shift downhill. What seemed a modern day invasion was in fact preserving the ancient ground for future generations. Joseph was recorded in Genesis 50:20 when he said from his position of power over Egypt to the very same brothers who had sold him into slavery years before, “You meant evil against me, but God used it for good.”
I needed time to stop and consider this. God’s ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are bigger than our thoughts. I ponder my own life. My mistakes. My disappointments. And yet, there standing right in the middle of my mess… is God. Like a sentinel. Holding the ground, preserving the good for future generations. His presence gives order and meaning to it all.
I walked away from that place a little changed. My silent footsteps honored my dad and my renewed spirit honored my Father. May I continue to take each step with care, what the enemy of my soul meant for evil, God is using for good.
Friday, October 22, 2021
I am the vine and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit... Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the granary, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.
I am gripped by this realization. My own soul burns with what was once alive and with what needs to die. I am this inferno of past and present, of angel and demon. It all burns together. This is the only way of purification. The dry and dead fuels and heats the green and living. The stuff of the past and branches of the present. It all must burn together to be refined. The smoke causes my eyes to tear and I watch little wisps of what once was float away on the evening breeze.
The past two hours were spent ripping honeysuckle from the earth. This beautiful vine that flowers golden with sweet nectar... quickly spreads and smothers out all other vegetation. Beware. Not all that is beautiful is good. Honeysuckle was introduced to the land here. It grows its leaves earlier than the native plants and then steals the light with its leaves, holding them back as it spreads.
There was something immensely satisfying about gripping this deceptively beautiful plant with my hands, setting my feet firm into the earth, and then ripping it from the ground, roots and all. What was to big to pull would be lopped or cut, with poison sprayed on the stump. Clear out the chaff so the indigenous plants could again grow.
The harvested honeysuckle branches, roots, berries, and leaves were then dragged to the fire.
They wouldn't burn on their own. They were too green and too moist. I looked across the field and saw a pile of fallen pine branches. They were dry and brown. Suddenly I had a thought... a memory of scripture that recounted burning chaff. Maybe in this instance the branches didn't need separated, living from dead.
No, here the dead was necessary to burn the living. What once was good and dead could be used to burn what is now bad and alive. Yes, that was it! The by product of what was once good, could be used to snuff out this present evil. And so I began to stack the layers.
A bed of dried pine branches, layers of green honeysuckle, more pine, more honeysuckle... pile it over and over until it towered at eye level. Light the pine and watch it flash! It burns hot and it spreads uncontrollably, it cannot be contained. It began to consume the honeysuckle. Like the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the fire of God utterly destroyed the false Gods... the purity of the pine reduced the honeysuckle to ash. The indigenous in death defeated the interloper in life.
The land was being purified through labor, death, and fire. I stood in the smoke and considered this against my own journey. I've been through a time of purification. It required hard work on my own part. Self-examination, honesty, and change. It required death to bad habits and dangerous thinking. It required the hot fire of regret, grief, and even despair. Purification and reclamation come only with a price.
We must work for it. We must accept death to the old self. We must be willing to have our past and our present to be purified by fire. Only then are we again prepared for the new life of our indigenous soul to rise from the ash.
Monday, October 18, 2021
|Sterling holding an earthworm, or nightcrawler as we called them when I grew up here.|
She held an earthworm in her hands with a smile on her face, that small life held in her hands. She adored it. Her brother looked towards her, capturing the moment in his own memory as he held an eagle feather. We were all part of a fellowship of Native Americans and white people of European descent, walking the land and learning the history. This was a day of sharing deep history and bearing witness to tangible artifacts in the land. And yet... it was my ten year old daughter who best experienced the day.
Thursday, October 7, 2021
My memory of the story likely comes from my mom's retelling. I was a little guy and I was traumatized, stuck in a tree. This wasn't just any tree, it was my favorite tree in the world. It was a Hickory tree and it dropped nuts all over my railroad truss, triangle shaped sand-box and my tire swing. My Dad had built these things for me and he had crafted both of them with his hands, improving on their design with his own ingenuity.
A typical tire swing simply hang with a rope tied around a discarded and worn tire. Dad's tire swing hung horizontal, creating a seat that could hold three people, supported by three ropes bolted into the tire, cinched into a single knot that was joined to the rope that was secured to the giant branch some 20 feet above the dirt ground.
Rather than a simple tire of sand, Dad had somehow gotten his hands on three railroad ties. These were the giant hewn pieces of wood that ran horizontal underneath the iron rails of the great American railroad. I suspect their acquisition had a tie to his employment with one our our nations great steel mills, Armco.
The three ties were arranged in a triangle position, each about 6 feet in length, providing about 15.5 feet of surface area that was covered by fine sand, about 8 inches deep. My sandbox was a magical place that hosted countess galactic battles, die-cast car cities, and army man campaigns. Sometimes aliens invaded and and even monsters were defeated. The good guys won every single time.
And above it all... I managed to lose my grip while climbing that tree, and wedge my knee into the v-shaped juncture of the two main branches. I was a calm and independent little fella. I quietly began to work my leg back and forth so that I could free it. But it was hopeless... I was stuck.
Pride was defeated, the war was ended, the aliens, soldiers, and monsters had won... I was freaking out. I began to cry out for my mom, who was inside the house, about a basketball court's length away... although to my 5 year old perspective it was an absolutely insurmountable distance! Like the epic moment in a movie when hope appears over the horizon when all hope is lost... my mother suddenly came running out of the back door of the house.
All of my bravado immediately melted into gasped tears and shattered words as I began telling her to "call dad so he can get his chainsaw and cut me out!" I was convinced that my only salvation was the architect of this magic space. The man who had created me a tire-swing that lifted me off of the earth and a sandbox of limitless adventure, he was the only one who could save me.
And then there was only my mother's calm voice that took over my universe. She was consoling me, soothing me, telling me that everything was going to be ok. I was incoherent at first, continuing to insist that only my father and his chainsaw would save me... but she continued to talk and hold me. She calmed me. She held my wedged knee between the branches, and she lifted me free.
Unexpected liberation. No chainsaw. I clung to her with sobs of relief. She was the hero of the day. My entire world-view shifted. The creator that space was not my savior that day. But the one who saved me intimately knew me. Her rescue was perfect and beyond my comprehension.
This has become a metaphor for my life. So many times there have been solutions in my own head that missed the mark. I was waiting for a chainsaw when the hero in the moment was already holding me, telling me to gently release my struggle. The rescue has already been arranged. It is not by my own struggle. It is not by my own intellect, imagination, or demand. My rescue is simply my yield. My surrender. My acceptance... to the help that has already been provided and has ran to me to provide my salvation.
Come unto me, all that are tired. That was the invitation to us all from a savior some 2000 years ago. The rescue of Jesus is enough. He too was stuck on a tree... a cross. Hanging there for us all. No-one came to rescue him. He died there. He died there to become the rescue for us all.
And he runs out the back door of Heaven, to hold you and to free you. He is the creator of this place of our imagination and our countless stories... He is the architect and He is the one to free us.
Hickory nuts, sandboxes, tire-swings, and heroes... my faith was built in those days.
Thursday, September 30, 2021
The sound of the fountains below my fourth floor apartment provide the music of the night. The new fresh air of these fall nights pulse into my window with a rhythm nearly like breathing. This is the time of day when the busyness yields to the quiet. My body rests as my soul reviews the day and reasserts itself as the ruler of my heart.
My mind has so much to process of the day. I think of my three children and I picture them safe and sound. I shove worry out of my head and instead paint for them sweet dreams as I talk to God about their future. My mind wanders to a lady whom I've known for some time and I pray fervently that perhaps her affections might again turn my way.
The night for me holds hope. The depth of the cosmos on display, lighting up eternity. I can literally see for years, for light years. My eyes take hold of things that once were, are now, and are yet to come. The surface tension of my soul is no less greater than that of the sun, and the resulting revolutions of its gravity pulls all that I love closer to me.
Liminal space. That is exactly where I find myself on this early autumn night. Liminal space, the physical space between one destination and the next, a cosmic way station. A latin rooted word that describes this time between what was and what's next.
"Are we there yet Daddy?"
The liminal space of a road trip. Are we there... yet? And what do we do in the intermittent time? We remember who we are, celebrating stories and memories. We are present in the moment, playing license plate games and seeing who can hold their breath through the mountain tunnels. We talk about our preferred future and we plan our days. We remember that we are in this together. Liminal space... what seems merely transitory, is in fact... definitive.
There is no wasted time on this planet. The in between moments prepare us for our next. The sound of the fountains, the feel of the breeze, the smell of the cool autumn air... it all stills our heart for what is yet to come. This is the still, small voice of God.
Monday, September 27, 2021
The air is perfect tonight. It is late September and a little bit of warm air has returned to let us know that mother nature is not quite ready to yet give up the summer. The autumn equinox may have passed, but summer has an encore! Tomorrow is forecasted a warm 84 degrees and I plan to warm my skin in it's beam. But for tonight... it is a perfectly wonderful landscape to walk with my dog in the glow of the lights of the night, wearing running shoes, cut-off jeans, a simple t-shirt, and my favorite black jacket.
Sunday, September 26, 2021
|And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, |
that thou shouldst look upon such a dead dog as I am?
2 Samuel 9:8
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Saturday, September 18, 2021
This is a phenomenon that I share with my uncle Stephen. It has happened to me for as long as I can remember. Certainly as a child it seriously freaked me out. As an adolescent, I'd turn and avoid it. But as an adult... I've simply yielded to it... and I've had inexplicable encounters.
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Hi Pop. Are you going to talk to me tonight? It has been a while since you've visited. I miss you and I could really use your conversation.
Wednesday, September 15, 2021