Posts in Category: Sunday

Snow Fence. Happy Sunday!

Snow fence along a beach house access road. Kennebunk Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

This little stretch of snowfence protects a corner in an access road for a group houses on our local beach, where the wind across the marsh might drift the snow across the road. As you can tell from its condition, it has stood there at least since I moved here over 20 years ago, and I can’t honestly remember it looking any better then. This is after about a foot, maybe 8 inches right along the coast, within the sound of the surf, of fresh blowing snow. We expect another 12-24 inches in next 24 hours, a real nor-easter. The snowfence does its job, more or less. There is, every nor-easter, a sizable drift in front of it. Because, of course, that is the way it works. It is not so much a snowfence as wind fence. By slowing the passing wind, it causes the snow to drop out on the downwind side. In this next storm I expect the snow will backfill to cover all but the tips of the slats. It does not prevent drifts so much as to encourage them to form somewhere short of the road. 

I like the line and curve of it against the snow, and what the wind does with the surface of the drift…the carving, the light and shadow, and in this shot, the brooding bank of cloud and the touch of blue sky above. 

As I started to post this image for yesterday’s Pic for Today, just because I like the beauty of it, the whole concept of erecting a snow fence to fence out the snow…or a wind fence to tame the wind…stuck me as having a spiritual dimension, and I decided to save it for the Generous Eye today. 

Now that I reflect on it a bit more, I not sure what to do with it. The wind, in the new testament, is, very often, the spirit. They are the same word in the language Jesus most likely spoke, and, if I remember right, in Hebrew as well. Jesus, speaking to an honest and devout Jew come to inquire of him, said “No one can see the Kingdom of God who is not born again.” When the questioner questioned the possibility of anyone being born twice, Jesus went to to say, “Turely I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of the wind (spirit). You must be born of water and the wind. Flesh is born of flesh, but wind is born of wind.” (Or flesh is born of flesh, but the spirit is born of spirit.) “Don’t be surprised that I said you must be born again. The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound of its passing, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with anyone born of the wind…born of the spirit.” That, of course, only confused the questioner more. And that, of course, was Jesus’s point. He was saying that something has to happen to you, before you can see God’s Kingdom…before you can see God at work in the world and in eternity. Something has to change in you. I am pretty sure he was also paying the questioner, who had already admitted that he saw God and God’s presence in the things Jesus was doing and saying, a compliment. He was telling this honest, devout Jew, that if he saw God in what Jesus was going, he was already born again…born of the wind, born of the spirit…whether he knew it or not. But that is straying pretty far from snowfences. Or is it?

My first thought was about the futility of trying to fence out the snow, or the wind. At the very most, all we do is slow the wind and reposition the snow. It is equally impossible of course to fence out, or to fence in, the spirit. It is an odd thought, but building a church, or establishing a doctrine (building a fence) might slow the spirit enough so you get a drift on the down wind side, a congregation or a denomination, but it does not stop the spirit from blowing where it will. And I am not at all sure I want to be part of the drift. If I am going to be snow in this metaphor, I want to be the snow still blowing in the wind…I want to part of the movement, the force, the power and unknowable purpose of the spirit. And maybe Jesus was telling his devout Jew that too…not to settle in the drift, behind the snowfence, but to get up into the wind again and get moving. The Kingdom of God is not a place, it is a movement like the wind…a way of being suspended…lifted out of yourself and part of the great wind that is God acting in love in the world. You have to be born of the wind, born on the wind (I don’t know if Jesus had that pun to play with in his language, but we do in ours ๐Ÿ™‚ Our mother’s carried us in a womb of flesh…the spirit carries us on the wind of loving creation. Born of and in the flesh and born of and on the spirit. 

So yes, when I look at this snowfence I see beauty, but I am also amused. A snowfence? As though anyone could fence in the snow. A wind fence, as though anyone could fence in the wind. And who are you in this metaphor? I know who I want to be. I want to be God’s creative love in action. I want to be a particle of snow, a paricle of water, a particle of flesh, born on the mighty breath of God in this world and eternity. Happy Sunday!

Cardinal in the bush. Happy Sunday

Northern Cardinal, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville Florida

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

It is hard to resist attempting a shot of a Northern Cardinal when one sits less than 6 feet away. And sits while you stand there looking. The fact that it is buried in dense leaves and twigs, and, if it were not so bright red, would basically be invisible to the naked eye, should not stop you…at least if you have manual (and selective) focus on your camera. My Sony has an interesting feature called Direct Manual Focus, which allows you to set one of the control rings on the lens barrel to manual focus, while keeping the camera in auto focus. Then, when you use the ring, the camera automatically switches to manual until you stop moving the ring. It also has a “focus lock” button that allows you to lock in the focus once achieved. When I use it, I get the focus close with DMF and then let the Auto focus do its work, which it does nicely, and then lock it. And you get an image like this: Cardinal in the bush… with highly selective focus. 

And I am thinking that the generous eye has to have its own DMF…its own highly selective and intentional focus. We go through the world, too often, and too many of us, on auto focus, allowing circumstance and our inner mood to determine what we focus on. Too often we are distracted by the bright leaves and the tangle of twigs (and thorns) that this world presents, when, in fact there is a Cardinal in the bush, waiting to fill our souls with beauty, if we can shift our focus to see it clearly. The generous eye requires conscious decision, especially while we are developing it (and in this world we will always be developing it). If we are going to be full of light, we need to choose what to focus on. God is good, and often makes what will nourish our souls both bright and beautiful, like the Cardinal, so it is had to miss…but miss it we will, too often, unless we take the time to focus. 

I could have walked right by this bush and not seen the Cardinal. (In fact it was pointed out to me by someone who had seen it wriggle its way in there.) I could have decided it was not worth the effort, buried as it was. But the generous eye both sees and takes the time to focus…and is always rewarded with beauty. 

Of course, what nourishes our souls is not always bright or even apparently beautiful. Sometimes it is very subtitle. Sometimes it is just a glint of light among the shadows. If we do not take the time to practice our selective focus when something as bright and beautiful as a Cardinal is found in a bush…then we will certainly miss the more subtle presentations of God’s beauty and that light the generous eye finds buried in the shadows of this world. 

I would like to think that the focus of the generous eye will become automatic in time, and that I will one day walk in a world where everything I see is beautiful and full of light. I am confident I will. But while I walk in this world still, I plan to practice selective focus until it approaches automatic…so that I don’t miss God’s beauty and light when it is right there in the bush beside me. May your eye be generous and your focus deliberate, and may you be presented with many opportunities to practice today and every day. Happy Sunday!

Water dancer. Happy Sunday!

Snowy Egret, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Snowy Egrets dance on the water when hunting fish. They lift off just enough so they can flit from spot to spot, just touching their feet on the water to pursue fish across a pond…and then pounce when they catch up. It is a fascinating and beautiful action to watch, the white birds with bright yellow feet (yellow slippers we birder’s call them), slim and graceful, dancing across the water.

Walking on the water is, of course, one of Jesus’ more famous miracles. He did it in a storm on the Lake of Galilee while his disciples in a boat feared for their lives. The gospel says “walked”, but I wonder, with the Snowy Egret in mind, if “danced” might be closer. I wonder if Jesus danced with the waves of the storm. I hope he did, graceful and wonderful as the Snowy Egret.

One of things about the generous eye is its willingness to believe in miracles when they happen, “right before our eyes,” and the tendency to see the miracles in even in the common happenings in this world. Isn’t the Snowy Egret dancing on water a miracle in its own right. I certainly can not analyze the physics behind it, or image how it is done from a mechanical and aerodynamic stand-point. I am amazed every time I see it. Amazed and delighted. I like living in a world where Snowy Egrets dance on water. It is good to remember, when the politics and stormy troubles of life in the world get to be too much, that once upon a time Jesus walked on water in the storm, and somewhere, even now, there is an Egret dancing on the waves. 

Happy Sunday!

Cherry Chickadee. Happy Sunday!

Black-capped Chickadee, Kennebunk Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Just yesterday I posted about the acrobatic Chickadees at the feeder, and yesterday they were back, along with Titmice, Goldfinches, Nuthatches, Juncos, and Bluebirds, to continue their show around the back deck feeders. There is nothing more cheerful than a Chickadee. They are bold enough so my presence on the deck while they are feeding does not disturb them and it certainly seems as though nothing can get them down. Always busy. Always active and alert. Always poised and confident. Always, to all appearances, cheerful. 

With all that is going on in the world right now, I feed the need to channel the chickadee’s cheerfulness. In fact, I woke this morning full of hope…full of good cheer. I don’t know exactly why, but I am certainly thankful. My Day Poem yesterday was about the Woman’s March protests that took place all across the country, and, while I do not agree with some of the things espoused (Choice is much too complex and troubling an issue to put up on a placard), I did and do appreciate the energy…the “pro” in protest, and the testimony to good will and generosity that the movement exemplifies. 

If I were to make a protest sign it would be something like this.

I choose life
(and life for all that lives)
I choose hope
(hope that carries us all toward good)
I choose joy
(in service to my fellows and all that lives)
I choose love

While that might be a bit heavy, philosophically, for a chickadee to carry, it is what I imagine the chickadee’s sign might also say. It is a cheerful message. Poised and confident. It is a “pro” message, not an anti message, and is, therefore, right in the spirit of true protest. 

I woke with that sign, if not in my hand, at least in my heart and mind. I woke to the realization that no one can take my faith in life, my hope, my joy, or my love. They are my creator’s gift to me, knit into my bones, renewed by faith in Jesus Christ.  And I woke to realize that, no matter what they had on their signs, there are a whole lot of other people in this country and this world who share that generosity of spirit (whether they share my faith or not) and that generosity can not, and will not, be put down. My hope for the next four years is that the movement that embraces Bernie Sanders Revolution, Occupy,  the Woman’s March, the Obama legacy, and so much more, will find a clear voice…a pro voice, never an anti voice…that affirms life, hope, joy, and love. If that comes to pass, then what people will remember about the next four years is not Trump and his silver spoon henchmen, but the way people of good will rose up to take our country, and our lives, back. 

And it begins with the cheerfulness of the Chickadee. Happy Sunday! 

That tree… Happy Sunday!

Pine Plantation, Alwive Pond Reserve, W. Kennebunk Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light.” Jesus

Sometimes it is hard to the that tree, and sometimes it is just too hard not to be. 

To the generous eye it is all one. God is a the God of infinite variety. We treasure each tree in its difference, and treasure the difference in each tree. 

Happy Sunday!

Birds of a feather. Not. Happy Sunday! Happy New Year.

American Robin and Cedar Waxwing, Roger’s Pond Park, Kennebunk Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

I went looking for Eagles at Roger’s Pond Park in Kennebunk Maine yesterday, New Year’s Eve. I saw one there last New Year’s, and, since we had had heavy snow the night before, I had high hopes. Of course, all I found were American Robins and Cedar Waxwings…plenty of both…feeding in the many berry bushes along the edge of the parking lot. Since they were after the same berries, it made for some close encounters. ๐Ÿ™‚ Perhaps because there are still plenty of berries to go around, though the species are about as different as different allows, there was no conflict. They were just busy feeding, close together.

So I begin the new year and this Sunday morning with a reflection on “just all getting along”. If Robins and Cedar Waxwings can do it…certainly we humans can, don’t you think? I know, that is pretty simplistic and we are a much more complicated species, but still, the principle is sound. And in the end, as the birds know, it takes a lot more energy to fight, than it does to feed…and while you are fighting no feeding is getting done. First things first. As long as there is plenty to go around, good bird sense says we just get along.

And there’s the rub. Birds do not have the capacity (we think) to imagine a future where there is not enough to go around. They are supremely confident, each day they find food, that tomorrow there will be food as well…or actually, they probably don’t think in terms of today and tomorrow…they live in the now. Anyway, it is our lack of faith that there is, and will be, enough to go around that drives us to conflict…not, certainly, the actual shortage, but the fear. There are so many stories that testify that when there is actually not enough to go around, very often our better nature kicks in, and we share what little there is. No, it is the fear of not having enough tomorrow that drives most conflict, not hunger but the fear of being hungry. In other words, the lack of faith. I shared recently Jesus’s example of the birds of the air, and how we should be like them, and not doubt that God will take care of us. And, again, the birds can teach us…this time to just get along. And it is based on the same faith. If I know that God will take care of me tomorrow and forever, then there is no need to covet what my neighbor has…there is no need for conflict. We can just all get along.

Yes, that is simplistic, and I might have another attitude if I were actually hungry (though I can hope I would not), but it is a place to start. Have faith. Trust in a good and loving God above all. Like the birds feeding in berry bushes, lets make it our business this new year to just get along.

Happy Sunday!

Under the winter pines. Happy Sunday!

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Wells, Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

It snowed all day yesterday. After clearing the drive (lunch and a rest) I decided to brave the snow covered roads at least as far as Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge headquarters where I was pretty sure I could get in to park and walk in the snowy woods. I was all suited up for the adventure…longjons base layer to high snow boots and a fleece lined parka. I took my umbrella as I hoped to take some pictures and I wanted to keep the camera relatively dry. 

The woods were quiet. I was the only one foolish enough to brave the roads and the unplowed Rachel Carson driveway. The light was subdued. Snow fell steadily, in big flakes, to continue to fill the wood. Every tree and bush carried its burden of white. It was…I am tempted to say “magical”, but I don’t, on principle believe in magic. 

We hear a lot about “magical thinking” today. Many people seem to believe that results can be achieved without effort if you just know the right thing to say. And many more seem willing to believe that our leaders will be able to achieve what they want, and have promised, just by saying it so and waving a hand (or wand as the case may be). And apparently there are those who want to be deceived by slight of hand, for the entertainments’ sake. They find it amusing, and admire the skill of the trickster. If you stop to think about it, magical thinking explains a lot about what has happened recently in American politics. 

So “magical” is out as a way of describing the silent woods with the snow falling. Even this slightly other-worldly “under the snowy pines” scene. We need another word for what the generous eye sees. It has to catch the sense of awe…wonder…the sense that we are experiencing something out of the ordinary, beyond ordinary…the sense we are glimpsing the work of forces and intelligence larger than we are. It has to imply that we are touching the divine. And yet none of the words suggested: awesome, wonderful, extraordinary, supernatural, divine…at least in common usage, quite catch my meaning either. Maybe all of them together, but no one alone. If I were writing this in German I could just string them all together into one long unpronounceable word…or in English I could hyphenate them, or use the modern “/” (as in awesome/wonderful/extraordinary…which basically says I don’t know which word to use.) Though it still is not quite right, as it depends on this contrast with “magical” for part of the meaning, “blessed” or “full of blessing” comes close. The silent snowy woods with the snow still falling in big flakes was full of blessing.” 

But then, everything we see is if we look with the generous eye. Happy Sunday!

Titmouse. Happy Sunday!

Tufted Titmouse, back deck feeding station, Kennebunk Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus 

Yet another shot from my productive moments with the mixed feeding flock at the back deck feeding station the other day. The Tufted Titmouse is the Eastern and New England variety of the Titmouse clan, and a common bird at our feeders all year long. Titmice are perky birds at the worst of times…alert, apparently cheerful, and active. The crest helps with the impression, but there is no disguising the attitude. This bird, small as it is, appears ready to take on whatever comes…confident and hopeful at the same time.

Jesus, as he is recorded in the Bible, only rarely used wildlife in his teachings. But he did use birds…as an example of the attitude toward life we, as children of God, should adopt. And it is exactly the Titmouse brand of confidence and hope, cheerful expectation, that Jesus taught his deciples to value. We should, he said, take a lesson from the birds, who do not worry, but have a cheerful expectation that God will take care of them. He is not teaching, so much, about birds, or about us, but about God. God takes care of the birds. Surely God will take care of God’s sons and daughters…of the children made in God’s image. That is something we can believe, absolutely. It can, and should be, the ground for confidence and hope to take us through our days without anxiety or worry. 

Easily said, and so hard to do! So, today, when you find yourself challenged by all that does not seem to be going well…or dwelling on the potential for disaster this year, and every year, displays…turn your inner, and most generous eye, on the Titmouse. Remember this image, and this attitude. I sincerely hope it will ease your way, and make the day more enjoyable. Happy Sunday!

Serenity. Happy Sunday!

Canada Geese, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge,Socorro New Mexico

The Generous Eye: “If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Early morning light, and two groups of Canada Geese on the Boardwalk Pond at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro New Mexico. (Actually, now that I look at the image more carefully, there appear to be a few Cackling Geese in that far flock as well.) The light, the Geese, both still and gently moving, and the reflections make this, to my eye, a very peaceful image. I have cropped it to accentuate that feeling. 

Peace is among the hardest human emotions to achieve. Joy is often thrust gladly upon us by events. We are overwhelmed with sadness. Pain is something we afflict and endure in about equal measures, but peace we have to work at, we have to strive for, we have to surrender to. Peace rests behind every heartbeat, but too often, just out of our reach.

Part of the reason we have such difficulty with peace, I think, is a misunderstanding about its nature. We think peace is stillness…the absence of motion…the absence of trouble. But just as in this image, peace is motion in balance, the harmonious relation of forces. Peace is the untouchable center which moves through the troubles of this world, and is not altered by them. Peace is not a rock in the stream…it is a twig floating at one with the current. 

This image, while it has a painterly look, is not lifted out of time. It is not a still-life. It is peaceful because of the dynamic it captures, the second when things are just so, that will, if we let it, flow into the next and the next, without disturbing our equilibrium, our balance, our sense of peace. Peace is in the light, is and inseparable part of the light, in our beings when our eyes are Generous Eye. May peace be with you and yours this Happy Sunday!

Geese rising… Happy Sunday!

Snow Geese, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro New Mexico

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Though it is the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache NWR near Socorro New Mexico, it is probably the Snow Geese that keep people coming back. Standing beside a field of Geese when they startle and rise all at once is an experience that inspires wonder and delight in almost everyone who sees it. The Geese are beautiful. The action is spectacular. The sound of the calls and the wings is overwhelming. The energy is undeniable. Once experienced it wakens the appetite for more. I talked to one couple, originally from Cincinnati Ohio, who moved to Albuquerque in part because of their experience at Bosque del Apache. It is that impressive. Impressive enough to change the course of a life. 

And of course, the generous eye is always looking for experiences like the Geese rising…life-changing experiences. Experiences that speak directly to the spirit in us…and speaks the greatness of the Spirit that creates all in love. Awe inspiring experiences. If your eye is generous you will find them everywhere. Bosque del Apache is just a very obvious, and accessible, example. 

So, happy Sunday, and may you find your Geese rising experience today! It just may change your life. 

(I caught this image with the Sony RX10iii and processed it in Photo Mate 3 on my Android tablet.)