holy week

This is a week in the calendar year like any other. Same days, same hours. Only what is remembered makes it different. Sets it apart. Passover. The remembrance of what God did for His people. Easter. The remembrance of what Jesus Christ did, for all people.

Irrespective of any religion. Or political position. Or persona.

Think about Adam and Eve. God created them after He had created everything else. They were not of any faith. God created them out of His love. And they were not created with strings or pre-programming. They had freedom. To enjoy, to choose, to be obedient. The serpent did not force them into a decision. He made a case for disobedience, presented it and Eve bought it. She chose to disobey God. Then she presented a case to Adam. He chose to disobey, too.

They did this out of their freedom. And subsequently the rest of us have been born into what they did, their failure in obedience to God.

So Jesus. He came, God in flesh. A Man with physical, temporal and spatial limitations yet God. He lived with us, ate, laughed, talked with us. He healed, performed miracles. Yet He had chosen to do something else even we could not do for ourselves. Take our sins, our sinfulness of then, now and future to Himself, a sinless, perfect God-in-flesh man. He was not a victim of the hatred for Him among the Priests and the indifference of Rome. He knew what would be because God’s love offered Him for this. And He chose to obey God, out of His own love for us.

Nothing we can do or offer or say can achieve what Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from that death does.

So we, too have a choice. We can choose to live our lives on our own sufficiency, without acknowledging Him, our need for Him which each of us has and we exhibit this need by attempting to fill it with many other earthly things… achievement, drugs, athletic prowess, friendships, status, name it, if it’s there and we think it’s important, we use it and it becomes an idol.

Because we, like it or not, believe it or not, were created by a loving God with a need for connection to Him. And Jesus is this connection for us. For all of us.

We can never, even if we don’t do anything wrong by human standards, become truly connected with God, our Creator. Not on our own. We need Jesus, who He is, what He did for us out of love and because we can’t.

And so each of us has to make a decision. Beyond what we believe is moral or right or truth. There is a truth beyond our laws, our beliefs, ourselves and we need Him. If we don’t choose Him we have still made a choice. Maybe we don’t make a choice today but we will have to someday and the sooner the better because none of us knows when our last moment, our last breath, the end of ourselves will be.

So this is what this week is about. Whether we choose to remember or not.

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squirrels

My dogs truly completely hate these creatures.

I am beginning to feel the same, the way these fluffy-tailed rats dig up my seed beds, planters and flowers to bury… what? There are no acorns yet. Maybe they are burying the sunflower seed I put out for the songbirds. They hang upside-down munching away while the birds wait their turns in top tree branches.

Then the hounds are loosed.

Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu streak out the back door, flat out the entire 25 yards to the feeders while the squirrels nonchalantly swing down from their posts of fatness to idly climb the nearby trees. They know Lily and Lulu can’t follow them up there. No sooner are the dogs back inside than the squirrels are back at the feeders so we loop this circuit over and over until the squirrels finally give up. The birds resume their feasting until the squirrels come back again, which they always do.

Where I moved from there was a neighbor I was told a couple of blocks away who used squirrels for target practice with a BB gun. He was a lousy shot. I replaced 3 windows in the 5 years I lived there. Four, if you count the side window that was lost to a neighbor’s fireworks misfire.

The late Bob Ross, the television landscape oil painter/teacher had a rescued baby squirrel he sometimes carried in his shirt pocket on tv as he painted. He named this squirrel Peapod. Well once you name something you have claimed it for your own, which he did. Evidently this relationship was congenial. I was not a regular viewer of the program but the times I did see it when Mr. Ross spoke of this squirrel or had him on he never mentioned that it bit him, scratched him or did any other squirrelly things.

Not likely but I do hope my dogs do not ever catch one. Pretty sure husky-mix Lily would make quick work of it. Terrier-mix Lulu is more likely to want to play with it, I think, but I hope she never catches one all the same.

The other day as we wound up our nature park walk we came across an adolescent (?) squirrel lying on the path ahead of us. At first I thought perhaps he fell out of his nest as they sometimes do and was stunned. As we got closer I saw he had no head. Likely some owl or hawk got him and was too eager to begin its feast before dining properly atop a tree branch or electrical pole and dropped the remainder of him. Just as glad I saw it and retrieved it before the dogs did.

Drama of nature.

transparent

I am no physicist, nor chemist.

Now that that’s out of the way, I love that water has skin.

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Its surface, unlike human skin, is easily penetrable. And it is transparent, usually. You can see beneath whether it is deep or if it’s shallow, whatever lurks in its depths.

Not so with people unless we decide to be transparent. Then we give from whatever it is beneath our surface. Behind the smile, is it joy or hiding something?

Water, you can tell. People you can’t always tell.

And gelatin has skin. Sort of. It’s viscous though… its skin is basically the same all the way to the bottom and sides of the bowl. And it’s transparent, but it has nothing but gelatin unless you put fruit or something in before it jelled. But if you touch it you leave an impression. And if you break the surface unlike water it stays that way.

With water you can look at the surface if it’s still, undisturbed and see your reflection, but not yourself. Sometimes with a person you can see your reflection in their eyes, and sometimes see yourself as well. You touch the surface of water and your hand comes away with part of its molecular structure. You touch a person, maybe a few cells get stuck but only if the connection is in a heart or in a mind in understanding, empathy you have a part of who they really are. And they you. Like with gelatin. An impression is made. Sometimes we may not like what we see. Sometimes we may misunderstand what we see. People change. Their thoughts, their hearts, their hopes.

And life changes people.

It’s just something you know

Sometimes.

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vignettes

Colder, wetter weather is said to be coming this way soon so this morning, though much cooler, I bundled rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and myself into the car around 6:15. It usually takes 10-15 minutes to drive the 7-8 miles to the beach but this morning there was no traffic and the lights were with us so we arrived a few minutes before the sun broke over the horizon.

There were the usual ragged groupings of people– college students standing rigid with arms deep in their jacket pockets stamping against the cold impatient for the sun to appear, 2 or 3 people huddled under blankets or beach towels on benches and scattered across the beach and a few others.

Just as the sun sparkled over the water I heard a tiny >shriek!< to my left. Pretty sure it was someone excited the sun appeared and now they could go get someplace warm I looked over to see a young man down on one knee, holding a small glittering box in his hands and a young girl in front of him (the one who shrieked) now beginning to sob. I felt a bit embarrassed witnessing such a private moment until I saw a lady not far videoing it with her phone. A friend, capturing the moment for posterity (or youtube).

We walked on a ways. A young man with an elderly dog at his feet. The person, taking pictures of the sunrise and completely ignoring his faithful friend below. The dog took no notice of my lovely two and almost with a visible sigh walked back a few paces, picked up his ball-throwing toy and dropped it at his person’s feet. Waiting patiently.

We moved on. The tide had just turned so a few rogue waves were still pushing their way up over the tide mark, making their impression before the full moon caused them to relinquish the surge. Enough though to wet our feet and cause us to dance up onto drier sand.

A few joggers, one or two braving the morning chill from the island hotels. As the days move on more and more return.

After about a half hour or so of walking, Lily, characteristic of her willful self, reached up and grabbed the leash from my hand with her teeth as if to say, “Ok, I’ve got this, let’s go!” and bounced the other way back toward the car.

The happy couple had disappeared, as had the college students and other odd groupings. A few more runners, a shell seeker or two.

A very special morning had broken.

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perseverance

When I was much younger I was easily discouraged. I guess like many baby boomer children so much came so easily. Our parents for the most part had not only seen a World War but likely had grown up during the Great Depression and wanted to protect their own kids from so much deprivation. Not so much my parents. They knew what it meant to appreciate anything, to repair things or as the New England saying goes: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Even if this lavishing of everything was not what my brother and I experienced, knowing my friends got everything they wanted and then some must have affected me then to some degree, unfortunately. I remember the girl in 5th grade with a pair of sneakers to match every dress or pair of pants she wore. Honestly, some of those colors? Her mom must’ve dyed them. Those colors just are not mass-produced. Or the friends who had so many dolls or toys leaving them out in the rain to be ruined meant nothing to them. I guess I was jealous.

My dad used to complain when I was in high school and dodged another of his pesky challenges that I would just pack my lance over my shoulder and go home.

Wish he were here now.

Funny how we grow up and suddenly everything our parents tried to teach us makes sense. Earlier this week rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I took an early morning walk on the beach. This being March the winds raged and sand blew everywhere. Poor Lulu is a Jack Parson/Boston terrier mix so being close to the ground she likely swallowed more than a few grains of sand. But I noticed the ocean

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The wind was blowing from the west, sending showers of spray back off the crests of every wave, yet the wave persisted forward. Nothing stopped the waves from crashing to shore, no matter how hard the winds blew. There was enough force to propel the wave on its course. Somehow with people sometimes, whether by ingratitude, satiety, or indifference that impetus fails. The wind blows and someone just sits back down. Whatever captured their sense of purpose has met resistance and they stop.

Passion should never fail. Nothing short of reasonable legal, moral and ethical bounds should prevent a heart from driving onward to its vision. I realize many people– my brother is one (doctor), my son another (graphic design) –know early what they love to do and want it badly enough to stop for nothing in their pursuit of it. There needs to be so much more of this. I also realize technology is now such an enormous aspect of life, yet we still need thinking, reasoning people, with hearts of discipline and compassion to continue building for good.

So maybe we all don’t know what to be when we grow up but there is always hope. For any and all of us.

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understanding

Some weeks are long. Like this one. It started when the newspapers didn’t show up. I only get them on weekends. I get 2 different subscriptions. Neither arrived.

Then a notice saying one of my important tax forms would be reissued, corrected. So if I’d already filed 2016 taxes (I hadn’t) I’d have to amend them.

Then my brother and his wife decide to exclude half the family from our annual week at the beach. That was tough to swallow.

Then a kitchen cabinet door fell off its hinges. Just fell. I opened it and it came right off in my hands. So I took one of the hinges to replace them to the hardware store but it is the wrong hinge.

Then a rose thorn I’d unknowingly stepped on (I have pretty tough and calloused feet from years of walking barefoot) decided it would become infected. That took some work to find and remove.

So walking rescue dogs Lily and Lulu this afternoon, a thought came to me. A memory really… my dad lived the remainder of his days in a tiny southern town because my mother had liked the name– Clover. Guess Dad though it would be good to live in Clover. Anyway some years ago before I began my odyssey of searching for the perfect job and still lived relatively nearby, one weekend I drove over to visit Dad. He had a caretaker at that time who told me he’d gone shopping down at the Food Lion that afternoon so I drove over there.

I wandered the aisles figuring I’d find him and there he was, in the canned goods, eyeglasses propped above raised eyebrows as he carefully read the contents of a can of green beans or corn or some such. I started down the aisle toward Dad and just then, eyebrows still raised he looked up over that can and his whole face brightened into such happiness it made me so glad I’d thought to visit that day.

I can’t visit him now, he passed away 11 years ago next month. But that memory erased all the little nagging challenges from this week. Someone who is so glad that you are alive can truly make all the difficult, unhappy, awkward, or mean things just vanish.

And I began to see things differently. I came out from under that cloud and saw so much good. My two dogs are healthy, I basically have all I need or want, I am healthy, my son is happy and in a job he likes, spring is almost here and flowers are beginning to burst out in vibrant color here and there. Camellias, azaleas, daffodils, hyacinths, Bradford pears, saucer magnolias. Nothing ever stays the same but it sure does wonders to have a memory like that when things are a little bumpy.

Dad loved to make things better. Just talking to him helped. Sometimes he’d tamp down a smoking pipe and slowly send tendrils of sweet smoke, like thoughts, in the air. He could absorb and process almost anything. He stopped at whining, laziness, self-pity or meanness. But anything else he could help you through it. And he didn’t fix it for you. He made you think, look at the thing from all sides until you came to a good solution. He might have to prod or help a little with a suggestion or two, but he always left you thinking it was your idea.

So, all in all, I guess things are pretty good.

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Garden

Most everyone likes a garden. Whether they enjoy getting their hands deep in rich soil, sowing seeds, or simply admiring someone else’s toils, flowers are pretty.

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Working in a flower bed is like cultivating a friend. Some think if they want to move a flower they simply grab its stem and yank it out by the roots, dig a new hole and put it in.

Not exactly.

You need to consider what it comes from. What if it’s a bulb? a rhizome? a root system, large and well-established or a taproot? What if it has bulblets, or plantlets sent out on separate shoots? You need to find its foundation first. You need to gently work in and around the soil and its roots taking care not to break or injure them. Tenderly help the roots release from the soil, watering now and then as you work.

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As it comes away from its former place prepare a new place digging in the soil larger than the plant root system. Place the plant centered on its base carefully filling the soil back in loosely so as not to pack too tightly or suffocate and cramp its feet. Continue to cultivate it with water, nourishment, pruning where it has useless, dying leaves or stems. Encouraging the healthy plant to grow.

Friendship is the same. You meet someone you would like to befriend. The friendship is nurtured carefully, fed with interest, attention, and observation. Laughter, listening. Thoughtfully tended. The foundation begins with kindness, gentleness and warmth. Water with love, consideration, grace, peace.

And prayer.

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