Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Just a little follow-up on the previous. 

Grandma passed on the early morning of July 3rd.  Through a series of unforseen and hardly predictable events, the family decided to have a graveside gathering on Wednesday July 17th.  I was asked to bring a little something to say.  In attendance were my mom, my two uncles and one aunt, my sister and her husband, my brother and his wife, a niece and one of her children, my daughter and two granddaughters, and my wife. 

In the middle of Florida National (Veterans) Cemetery in Bushnell Florida, we said prayers, we shared memories, we laughed, we were reminded that here in this world we have no continuing city and that we are looking for something eternal, we sang, we said good-bye and we were glad.  Then we went to have lunch.

What really took place was that we were reminded that life is not over when someone stops breathing and slips quietly from this world.  It continues in the living remembrance of all that person did and gave.   We live our lives in community and in a network of relationships.  Proper remembrance is not in some personal office space in a quiet moment between duties.   Proper remembrance and gratitude is in community and in a network of relationships. 

May we each be so remembered.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet
Michael W. Smith, Leesha

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In the Valley of the Shadow

My grandmother is dying.  

She is 97 years old and she is at the moment facing the last days, perhaps the last hours of her life.

I cannot tell you how many days I remember as a child waking up in her little home to the sound of the train next to her house and to the smell of fresh brewed Eight o’clock coffee as my grandfather prepared for work.  I recall pulling stalks from her giant rhubarb plants in the back garden and eating them raw with her.  I remember an always full cookie jar in the kitchen, countless Thanksgiving dinners with the whole family and the aroma of Mogan David wine set at each place for us to celebrate another year of abundance.  I remember going to church on Sunday mornings and the huge cottonwood trees around the house that would greet us as we entered the drive in the afternoon, and evening walks up the hill to her one-armed father-in-law's little vegetable plot.

For the last two years, her memory has been failing, such that she could not recall her grandchildren when she saw them and with a bit of a jog could recognize her daughter and son when they came to visit.  In a manner of speaking, until 4 months ago, she was healthy as a horse and clueless as to where she was.

I grieve the conclusion of her life.   Everything I recall of her dealings with me were actions of love and tenderness.   She always claimed privately that I was her favorite grandchild, but frankly I’ve always had the suspicion that she said that to each of us.  Part of the heartbreak right now is that if I called her, she wouldn’t know who I was.  And even worse, she might probably mistake me for her late husband, an unintentional deception for a poor old woman who has been left with nothing in life but a walker, a corkboard full of pictures she can’t identify, and a bed in a nursing home that isn’t really hers.

Especially, I grieve that there will be little remembrance of her life.  Soon after she flies away, her body will be cremated and what is left will be buried in a veteran’s memorial plot in northern Florida.  No memorial.  No service.  No “to-do”.  No family gathering to celebrate a life well-lived, and given in love and simple duty.  No formal pause to reflect on the certainty that we live in the same valley, the same shadow.

I hate this modern day that treats death of a loved one as just one more interruption, one more inconvenience to have to live through until we can get on with whatever we think is more important.  "No big deal" made of a passing on because "we just want to remember them as they once were" or "they wouldn't want it".  The fact is, WE don't want it.  It strikes too close to home.

Family secret:  my grandmother got pregnant with my mom in 1930 when she was 16.  She never talked about it.  It took us years to winnow it from family genealogies and slippery conversations.  No abortion, no release for adoption.  No one knows the whole story.  She simply decided to have my mom and figure out how to live.  My grandfather married grandmom and adopted my mom, then they had two more together.

I love you Grandma.  Thank you for all the joy and love you gave me.  Thank you for your gardens and your little home.  Thank you for your quiet faithfulness and your quiet faith.  Thank you for the gentle heritage you handed off.  Thank you for this gift of life.  I will miss you.  May God remember you in mercy.
Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Elizabeth Elliott, In the Shadow of the Almighty
Gabriel Faure, Requiem
3 cups of Eight o’clock coffee


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Exhortation . . .

When tempted to quit, give up, retire, resign, get lazy or any other of the subtleties that would derail me from usefulness while there is life in my body . . .

           The woods are dark and lovely and deep,
            But I have promises to keep,
            And miles to go before I sleep,
             And miles to go before I sleep . . .

                             ~ Robert Frost

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
David Darling, Darkwood

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Some Reasons Why "Gay Marriage" is Foolish

As of today, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering arguments on the matter of “gay marriage”.  Aside from what the court decides, here are some fundamental reasons why “gay marriage” is not only an absurdity, but downright foolishness.

1.       Gay marriage fails to recognize the obvious male-female structure and function of all the other living species (plants included!) on the planet.  Any clear thinking observation of the rest of the biological order reveals how fruitless the gay mindset actually is.  It frankly amazes me that the scientists don’t speak up about this.  If survival of the species is of prime concern, how actually does gay marriage promote that?  Thus, gay marriage attempts to redefine "normal" with something that is in the ordinary arrangement of life clearly not.  Biologically, the entire gay mindset is a dead-ended aberration.

2.       Gay marriage short-circuits the importance of male-female refinement in committed relationships.  In terms of personal development, there is a real distinction between the female perspective of the world and the male perspective.   Neither is more correct than the other, both are needed, and each needs the other. This is amplified and intensified in committed heterosexual marriage because each of the parties must work out their differences to the benefit both (or all, if they have children). Gay marriage stunts the parties involved, and is therefore of no real benefit in terms of relational development.  If anything, it is a major step backwards.

3.       Gay marriage fails to recognize (or ignores) the fuller way that male-female marriage nurtures children.  Aside from the obvious fact that gay marriage cannot of itself produce offspring, if the gay couple was able to adopt children it would developmentally deform them.   Enough studies have shown that children develop a healthier self-image, and a healthier understanding of gender, when they are raised up in a stable and loving male-female household.   Gay marriage removes those important gender distinctions and simply confuses them for children.  Those children grow up to be members of society, and by that time, their skewed perceptions are virtually entrenched.  Those now grown up children are not likely to produce a stable society.

4.       Gay marriage treats marriage as mere sentimentality rather than as something which has greater purpose, that is, a greater benefit to the society.  “We just love one another and deserve the same rights as other couples who love one another” is an insufficient and silly reason to redefine all other aspects of a society.  “I just love my dog (or horse or sheep)” is an insufficient and silly reason to rescind bestiality laws and allow a redefinition of social order.

5.       In the final analysis, gay marriage redefines marriage in terms of orgasm (after all, what other reason is there for calling it “gay” marriage?)  It forces the rest of society to abandon the definition of marriage as a life-long committed relationship between a man and a woman for the benefit of the individuals in that relationship, for the children of that relationship, and for the society as a whole.  To accept gay marriage as part of the new normal is to renege the whole of social structure to the aberrant cravings of a few who need affirmation for something which they don’t even feel is normal.

But, heck, we’re Americans.  Trendsetters.  Progressive.  Independent. And we sure don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or rob them of their “rights”.   In the name of generous-hearted tolerance, we’ll be happy to accept the unassailable conclusions of our cultural leaders and drink down the Kool-Aid.  And then we’ll wonder what’s going on when our society begins to unravel.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Charles Darwin, Origin of Species
Morris Kline, Mathematics for the Non-Mathematician
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Monday, July 23, 2012


At least it started like an ordinary day, however much it did  not last.  The toes dampened as one kicked the grass, and sparrows trembled happily in the pools along the wayside.  You could breathe the air without fear because it held the promise of something good or delicious.  Mourning doves sang while here and there neighbors greeted one another pleasantly.

And then the sun in his summer boredom must have decided to wander.  He drew closer to see what there was to see as though to be a consulting partner to everything even though all anybody wanted was for him to be a disinterested observer.   He smiled down menacingly on the busyness of earth. Nary a cloud interrupted him.  He reached out with a finger, flicked the land as if to hurry along a dilatory bug. Hot winds swept the fields and villages. Trees burned, grass shriveled, neighbors retreated to dark cellar rooms, the birds stopped singing, streams dried up.

It could have been an incantation, or some masterful distraction, or business elsewhere that sent him along his way.  It was probably only more bored wandering.  Whatever it was he moved on.  And in the relative cool of the evening, life revived as children, dogs and birds returned to the streets in laughter and play.

Word has it, he'll wander back this way tomorrow.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
J.R.R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf
J.R.R. Tolkien, Leaf by Niggle
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Antonio Vivaldi, The Four Seasons
Conni Ellisor, Blackberry Winter
Michael Hedges, Aerial Boundaries

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Smear of Lights

One of the largest solar flares of the decade exploded out from the sun just last Thursday.  Tons of solar particles shot into space directly at earth, and with that speeding shower came the promise of Aurora.

Aurora!    They never fail to take my breath away.  They are one of the magical and mysterious phenomena of our world.  Solar particles get trapped in the magnetic fields around the planet, and then ionize in those high and rarified regions of the atmosphere to form glowing curtains and waves that keep deep northern and deep southern sky-watchers fascinated for long night time hours.  The resulting fire in the sky is sometimes colored lights that shimmer and stream and shift. 

Reports from this last event were promising.  Even the scientists at the south pole were excited.   Aurora australis is more rare than borealis because of the way the magnetic fields are shaped there.  By Saturday, a brilliant Aurora australis was taking its place above the horizon, holding great promise for a striking borealis in the north.

I've seen northern lights perhaps six or eight  times in my life, and the memory of them is indelible.   I once saw them as far south as the greater St. Louis region, which was my hope this time.   It's been 14 years since my last Aurora and this was a strong enough solar flare to push them into the mid latitudes. 

But alas, the city lamps and humidity were too dominant.   I looked six or eight times at various hours of the night for the past week and disappointedly saw nothing . . . nothing but a smear of high pressure sodium lights against the horizon.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Norfolk Rhapsodies
Lyles Mays, Lyle Mays

Sunday, July 15, 2012

. . . ruthere?

Fog.  Yes, definitely fog.   Drifting in and settling like a thick, mind-smothering film. Obscuring vision, dampening the ears, suppressing the olfactory, anesthetizing thought. Slipping, slipping, slipping into a dumb and useless dormancy.

But it wasn't sun that cleared the senses. Nor a fresh breeze. It was an owl, rather two owls in conversation, during the late evening hours that penetrated the shroud. And a dog over on the next block. And the promise of northern lights (which was a stupid anticipation this far south, actually) while remembering past displays in other parts of the world.

A yawn.  A stretch.  A shake of the head.  I feel like a 25-year-old.  "Huh?  How'd I get here?"

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Cornelius Plantinga, Not The Way It's Supposed To Be
James Blaylock, The Rainy Season
Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique
Will Ackerman, Past Light