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Posts Tagged ‘scattered thoughts’

Virginia Stem Owens has written an interesting little volume And the Trees Clap Their Hands. The subtitle is Faith, Perception, and the New Physics. These things are discussed but this book reads more like a confession, Stem Owens reveals she is a spy. She is busy ransacking the world for secrets. She stuffs them in her pockets while going about her business undetected. It could have been titled A Handbook about Being a Spy. In this book it is her intention to pull the reader into a spy story.

She has been verified in the last census. The house she lives in, the clothes she wears, the food she eats, the cars she drives do not distinguish her from others. She disguises as an ordinary citizen, making her contribution of children, taxes, and casseroles while all the while she is up to something different. Stem Owens strikes a trail and sticks to it. She spreads her senses wide and pulls them back in to see what she may have snared in the wind. She is on a stake out, waiting in unlikely places “ready to pounce on reality should it choose to reveal itself.” She stalks and ambushes, wrestles and gouges whatever meaning she is able, “You must be ready when it comes flying at you.” Readiness is in contrast to self-indulgence. Self-indulgence is fatal for spies. “To ring bells and go barefoot is self-indulgent, and would only call attention to yourself.”

There is danger in this vocation. The greatest is not to be discovered or even to be tortured. The greatest danger for the spy is to forget the mission. The worst thing that can happen is to forget who you serve or to begin thinking that Babylon is all there is. The danger is real. She knows this because she is surrounded by many who have already defected. She is surrounded by others who have forgotten or even renounced the mission. The danger is real. The spy spends so much time and effort learning the language, adopting the customs, and practicing the habits of this land that gradually she becomes her cover. It is easy to forget what one is about.

She knows her way around. She does not need a map for where she lives, but one is necessary for what she hopes for “It is buried treasure that needs a map.” So she slinks out the gate with map in hand. She is disguised not by her own skills or cunning but by the blindness of those around her. She understands the constant danger. But if she winds up like John the Baptist with her head on a platter, she will not blame Herod or the headsman. They are only issuing the known penalty for those who commit such treason.

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Be honest, when you first heard about this relationship it sounded so innocent. When your son first told you about his new friend (we will call this friend X), you were just glad to see him so excited. He told you X was involved in many activities, some of them educational, and had a sense of adventure. You had heard from others that X was  creative, stimulating, and could even help with problem solving. When your son told you how popular X was with his friends, you did not want him to feel left out. You did not know much about X, but set up a play date anyway. Early play dates appeared to go well, your son was enthusiastic about what he and X were doing. He even seemed to enjoy telling you about what they did together. You did not always understand and it wasn’t always interesting to you but your son enjoyed X so much and you were glad he was occupied. Eventually you invited X to stay.

It wasn’t long before things began to change. You were uncertain as to what it was exactly, but things were not the same between you and your son. In fact, everything about him seemed to be changing. He was spending less time with you and family and friends. He became uninterested in things he used to enjoy. He began staying up at night, preferring time with X over sleep. He lost his appetite, preferring to spend time with X rather than eat. X had convinced him that riding bikes was boring. So was sledding and playing in the creek. Even team sports were now considered boring. You did not know why X was so controlling and when you tried to help, your son snapped at you. Every time you tried to talk about X things became so intense. Soon you began to talk badly about X.

You responded by establishing boundaries. Your son would be allowed to be with X only so many hours a day. If he refused to comply with this request X would not be permitted to stay. Your son became angry, claiming you did not understand, even saying things that sounded hateful. At some point, you can’t remember when, your son began to care more for X than for you or his best friends or his favorite hobbies. He became depressed. When you told him you wanted to help he replied that the only way was to let him spend more time with X. When you allowed him more time with X, you missed him. When you tried to spend time with him, he became angry because you were keeping him from X.

When others his age were competing in sports or interested in driving or creating memorable moments or dating, his relationship with X became more serious. This is not the way you saw his life going. These are not the plans or goals you had in mind. These are not the memories you had hoped for. It is difficult to remember that when you first heard about this relationship it seemed so innocent.

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I have been rereading The Fellowship of the Ring and can’t help but be drawn to the odds against the company sent out to destroy the ring and defeat the evil Sauron. The task must be done and yet it appears the wrong team has been chosen to do it. Tolkien gives an interesting adventure. As necessary as this adventure may be, success does not seem likely when we look at a company that consists of a dwarf, an elf, a wizard, two humans and four hobbits. The task is great, the company appears small.

I read Tolkien and think about the church. Sometimes you look across the congregation and wonder, considering the task at hand, if we will be able to meet the challenge. We are surrounded by evil. Our strengths seem small. Yet the task remains and we gather, little more than a dwarf, an elf, a wizard, two humans and four hobbits, and we step into this adventure. A company set out to change the world.

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Not far from my present office is Wildwood Lake. Its proximity allows me to visit on occasion. Wildwood is not a traditional lake; it is more accurately a wetland. An ecosystem that provides food, water, shelter, and space for raising young. Wetlands are an overall excellent habitat for wildlife.

The swamp like feel feeds the imagination and causes me to wonder if an ogre might live there and if creatures gather for karaoke at night. More realistically, it is good to know that wetlands act as a natural sponge. The muck and variety of plant life absorb water and help prevent flooding. Wetlands act as a natural filter, trapping debris, silt, and other pollutants. Wetlands like Wildwood may look to some like a no good swamp, but they serve significant purposes in the larger system.

I walk around Wildwood and I think about the church. The church may not fight pollution or prevent flooding but is a place of sustenance and for raising young. And like the wetlands, it may not look like much but plays a significant purpose in the larger system.

 

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Does the following excerpt from Prince Caspian reveal a wilderness spirit in C. S. Lewis? Do each of us have an similar desire for adventure?

To sleep under the stars, to drink nothing but well water and to live chiefly on nuts and wild fruit, was a strange experience for Caspian after his bed with silken sheets in a tapestried chamber at the castle, with meals laid out on gold and silver dishes in the anteroom, and attendants ready at his call. But he had never enjoyed himself more. Never had sleep been more refreshing nor food tasted more savory, and he began already to harden and his face wore a kinglier look.

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In Genesis 12.1 God tells Abram to “Go” so we may not be surprised to read later in verse 4 “So Abram went.” Suddenly we find ourselves in a travel adventure “And they set out for the land of Canaan.” When we arrive at verse 6 we find that “Abram traveled through the land.” And at verse 8 “From there he went toward the hills east of Bethel.” In verse 9 “Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.” By the time we arrive in verse 10 “Abram went down to Egypt.”

These travels have meaning for us because we are told that wherever Abram goes in chapter 12 he goes as the recipient of a promise. This promise is given as a plan devised by God that involves a partnership between God and His chosen people that will be a blessing to all the people of the earth. After getting directions to his location in Canaan “as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh” (such directions may cause us to want to stop and ask Miss Belle for some of her sweet tea). With the promise in mind it is worth noting that in Canaan Abram “built an altar there to the Lord.” It would not be a stretch to say that he practiced the promise among the Canaanites. Then again, in the hills east of Bethel “He built an altar to the Lord.” And again, we might say he practiced the promise while there.

Yet something entirely different takes place in Egypt. Perhaps Genesis wants us to know there is something opposite to the promise. There are plans not devised by God that are intended for self-survival and personal blessing without concern for others. Here Abram makes a plan to maximize his chances for personal blessing and survival. While he does survive and is treated well, Abram has no concern for others and the Egyptians are not blessed. In fact, they are afflicted with serious disease instead of blessing. Genesis wants us to know from the start that the Lord is serious about this promise. God is serious about this plan and the partnership with His people.

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We are created for adventure. Our soul longs for it. Yet, it is our tendency to partner with culture and settle for domestication. Somewhere along the way we are convinced to accept an agreement that things are ok as they are. This may leave us somewhat unsettled. That is our soul talking. Our soul rebels against such an agreement. The soul rebels against boredom and all other attempts to tame it.

The soul instead longs for something grand; it desires an adventure that makes us want to say “wow.” The soul longs for an adventure that sparks thought and imagination. We are made for a journey that explores mystery and wonder. We may find a kindred spirit in C. S. Lewis “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” The soul desires something different than what is served up by society.

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