Posts Tagged ‘creation’

Along the west shore of the Susquehanna River, tucked between the Juniata and Sherman’s Creek, almost hidden in the shadow of Cove Mountain, lays the borough of Duncannon. This is where you will find me on the first day of the week. There I gather with others of a similar mind about what has taken place on this day.

Genesis starts off from the beginning telling us how eventful the first day was. We go from “darkness was over the surface of the waters” to “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Needless to say, this move from darkness to light is a significant one.

Perhaps no day has ever been more eventful than one described by the Gospel. John takes us from “they saw that He was already dead” to “the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there” to “on that day, the first day of the week… Jesus came and stood in their midst.” At the risk of understatement, it is quite a move from death to life.

We are reminded again of the unpredictability of the first day when Acts reports that people “from every nation” began to “hear in our own language.” Again, just to highlight the obvious. It is quite a move from isolation and division to community.

So we gather on this day and in this place with expectation. We realize that surprise is always a possibility. We believe the miraculous can occur on any day, we are simply acknowledging a serious precedent for unpredictability on this day, the first day of the week. A day the Trinity has already been extremely active. When I think of what has already taken place on this day all I can say is “wow.”


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I am a traveler in the forest. Winding my way through the dark, through a light snow and through the trees toward the trail that will take me back to the road. I see my breath against the clear sky where a slim crescent moon and a brilliant evening star shine the brightest.

I am one who listens to the night. Waiting for a song or a call in the distance but all I hear is the wind in the branches of nearby trees. Blowing across some of these creates a whistling sound. Blowing against others causes a percussion effect. Tonight’s entertainment is acoustic and instrumental.

I am a weather watcher. I think of Annie Dillard’s comment “We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.”

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What are we to do when we gather as followers of Jesus? Can we begin with a meager “Hosanna!” or “Blessed is the King!” Does the text not tell us the stones will cry out if we do not? Virginia Stem Owens is a writer who enjoys playing with the sciences. I am fascinated by her contribution to this conversation. She suggests faith is always present in creation and that creation has always been more faithful than you and I.

Stem Owens tells us it is our place, our niche, “To give voice to the cry.” The stones are prepared and waiting to sing their praise song if we do not. She goes on “This is our big chance… Still the mute mountains, the dumb desert, the dying stars wait for us to provide a throat for their thanksgiving. There must be a great logjam in the cosmos. One can almost hear it groaning and creaking some summer nights, threatening to give way under the pressure of pent up praise.

What would happen if we stepped into our place? If we fulfilled our niche and gave voice to the cry? Stem Owens asks “Would morning stars sing together as they did when the cornerstone of creation was laid… Would the hidden sea creatures, full of a barbarous beauty, echo from the salted depths, and the innards of earth have themselves in roiling, molten music?”

She goes on “They are waiting – the mammoths metamorphosed into oil among the ferns, the ozone layer hovering like an eggshell over us, the alpine meadows sighing down mountainsides, the grizzlies and mosquitoes licking blood from their snouts – they are waiting to be sprung from their bondage to decay, to lift up and up and up their hearts. They are waiting for us to get our act together. To find out the answer to our interminable question of who we are.”

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It is a good time of year to be in the garden. Or at least to think about it. Here is a garden thought from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now.

I am in the garden, turning soil and mixing compost, planting onions and lettuce. I roll up my sleeves and reach into the earth. I breathe in the smell and look forward to picking vegetables from the back yard. I am thinking about Genesis, where on the sixth day, God rolled up His sleeves and reached into the earth and formed a human, an earthling.

Genesis says God gave the earthling a name and then breath. Genesis says God looked at this breathing, moving, artistic creation and, “behold, it was very good.” It is not recorded, but I suspect He also said, “Wow.”

I find it interesting that God planted a garden and placed the earthling there to cultivate and to keep the garden. Barbara Brown Taylor thinks that while working in the garden you remember “where you came from and why. You touch the stuff your bones are made of. You handle the decomposed bodies of trees, birds, and fallen stars. Your body recognizes its kin. If you have nerve enough, you also foresee your own decomposition. This is not bad knowledge to have. It is the kind that puts other kinds in perspective. Feel that cool dampness? Welcome back to earth, you earthling. Smell that dirt? Welcome home, you beloved dust creature of God.”

I, scooped from the earth, now flesh given breath, am in the garden, turning soil, mixing compost, planting onions and lettuce. I roll up my sleeves. I breathe in the smell. I reach into the earth. It gets under my nails. In my hair. It’s caked on my knees. I call it dirt. But I think about the sixth day when God first formed a human from this stuff and all I can do is say “wow.”

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Chapter One

Once upon a time a world was carved from chaos. The Maker loved this world and talked of how good it was. The world was full of life. Light shined on it. It was textured with deep valleys and tall mountains. Color fell on it and formed beautiful patterns. Life splashed against its shores and blew across its horizon. Life grew along its surface and up into its air. Living creatures flew through its skies and swam in its waters. Others crawled and climbed all over it. And some of these living creatures were special representatives of the Maker. The Maker loved them and talked of how very good they were. These creatures enjoyed the Maker and this world and all that was in it.

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The timber rattlesnakes were active in the forest this week. I only know this because I walked up on two of them. Neither of them seemed to be concerned about my presence. These are awesome creatures with their large hefty body and colorful pattern. So large it makes the triangular head appear small. As he moves away from me, it appears to be a strain for this small head and narrow neck to pull such a large body behind it. One of them raised its tail that transitions to a darker color before the rattle begins. I followed it until the cover got so thick that I no longer had a clear view of its dangerous head.

But that was not the most impressive creature I encountered. Walking along a well-worn path I noticed a black tail lying out in the open. Thinking it was a black rat snake I carefully moved closer hoping to get a glimpse of its length. As my eyes followed its tail into the weeds I noticed the body became thick rather quickly. At first I thought maybe it had eaten recently and this was a bulge until digestion was completed. However, this snake appeared thick all the way to its head. There was no visible distinction between head and neck which made the head look large.

When it realized it had been discovered it began to move away. I followed and it turned to see what had disturbed its hunting time. Easily six feet long, this thick body was black with a chainlike pattern that was visible when light hit at the proper angle. Its belly and chin appeared to be white. We stared at one another for a while before it raised its head and flicked its tongue. For a moment I thought it was going to speak “Are you alone out here? What are you doing so deep in the jungle?” Oh wait, I am thinking of the Jungle Book.

The field guide suggests that this is Lampropeltis nigra, a combination of Greek and Latin words that roughly translate as “radiant black small shields.” I had never seen an Eastern Black Kingsnake in the wild before. Interestingly, I also read they are immune to the venom of timber rattlesnakes and will eat them when opportunity presents. Maybe that is what he was hunting for. Perhaps I should have shown him where to look. It is a snake eat snake world out there. I wonder if Kipling got ideas for his stories from adventures like these.

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A walk around Wildwood Lake reveals a wetland full of benefits for the ecosystem, natural beauty galore, and an abundance of habitat for a variety of life. Currently, it also serves as habitat for an exhibit “Art in the Wild.” A lap around the lake includes a number of creations influenced by nature. My favorites are skillfully crafted “Man in the Mirror” and cleverly named “WildWood.” These spark thoughts for my own artistic creations. At the northwest corner there is a bat house where I envision a signal from Commissioner Gordon hanging nearby. Of course, I would call it “Batcave.” The west side of the lake is bordered by the towpath that follows what is left of the Pennsylvania canal. At one point, a fallen log rises from the canal. The end that protrudes from the water is split in a way that suggests the open mouth of a crocodile. I call it “Hook’s Nightmare.”

Keep your eyes open for a small but healthy deer herd at the lake. On some occasions I have found myself unusually close. Expect rabbits and chipmunks running across the trail in front of you. On three separate occasions I have discovered climbing groundhogs. One was halfway up a tree, another had climbed a chain link fence, and yet another was lounging on a limb overhanging the water. One evening, I turned to find a Red Fox following me on the path.

If the sun is shining and the weather is warm, expect turtles, frogs, and snakes to be sunning themselves. The canal along the towpath is the best place to find them. Last week, I watched tiny snapping turtles making their way to the water. There is almost always action at the upper end of the canal, where silver maples and other trees that like wet feet shade the water so that it covers almost entirely with surface algae. Here turtles and frogs become more difficult to find. They emerge from the water covered in algae like a team of Special Forces in camouflage that perfectly matches the surrounding environment. To find them here do not look for turtles or frogs. Instead look for shapes that are different from surrounding shapes. Look for something sticking above the surface. Look for an oval balancing on a log. Those two side by side circles looking straight at you just might be the eyes of a bullfrog. Chances are you will be seen first.

At the bridge that crosses Paxton Creek, look for large carp or a school of bass in the water below. Look for the dorsal fins of larger fish moving in the shallows at the south end of the lake. Look for red-winged blackbirds in the cattails. You may see a Belted Kingfisher dive for food. Wood ducks and mallards and Canada Geese and other waterfowl are spotted easily. But it is the wading birds that may be the signature representatives for Wildwood. Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets can be found all over the lake. There is a good chance you will find a Green Heron and a White Ibis was spotted here earlier this summer.

Listen as cicadas and crickets and thrushes and bullfrogs sing the songs of Wildwood. Taste the mulberries and raspberries that grow along the trail. Wildwood Lake both sounds good and tastes good. And it looks good too, photographers love it. So do walkers and runners and bikers. There are a lot of reasons to love it. I suspect that Macbeth’s witches would even love it. After all, it is a good place to find the type of things they might be looking for; eye of frog, tail of turtle, feather of heron, buck velvet, tooth of fox, wing of bat, skin of snake. Yeah, I think they would like it. I suspect that you would like it too.

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