It’s Just One Word

Written October 30, 2016 

    It’s just one word.  There is no head scratching involved in it, as if someone spoke something in specialized language only a few would get.  Simple.  Precise.  It is clear as a mountain mirrored in a lake.  In our travels through our towns, villages and cities we see them planted like ancient trees, yet from wood they are not made.  I once heard one shaking and rattling like a noisy gong near a stop on the Canadian prairies, wind blowing fiercely.  Other than unlikely noises like that, they stand silent, solemn.  

     Stop signs.  What does one do when they see a stop sign?  Stop, of course!

     Unless you happen to be out for a walk.  Or, in a neighbourhood we used to live in, when children play hide and seek. That’s when the sign makes for a convenient home base, where the one who is It closes her eyes and counts to 100; where those who are not, can streak by and touch so they won’t be: It.  Some years back my family, along with a few of our musical friends, started a song writers group we called more than gold. We had the notion that not every song is fantastic, yet the practice of regularly writing is a fantastic discipline.  Our first song theme was the stop sign at the end of the road.  As we visited our capital city, I saw a flock of birds sitting about, the kind that flies on cue and in sync perfectly tuned in, not ever bumping into one another.  I wondered how birds would view a stop sign.  They’d probably see it as some kind of weird branch.

     Birds don’t need to stop at signs that tell them to.  The only ones who need heed what stop signs tell, are people in cars; and then only the drivers of such need listen.

     I have been driving cars for nearly 40 years.  I am convinced that stop signs are too often wrongly placed.  For example, stop signs have no place in the middle of parking lots.  That is just my opinion, though.  I have seen drivers treat stop signs like Yield signs.  Stop signs are not yield signs.  That one word is a command.  Stop!  It doesn’t mean slow.  I have been one of those drivers who come to the intersection, see the way is quite clear, and roll right on through.  

     It doesn’t say roll right on.  Other signs on the road side have the word “stop” but no one but bus drivers need do.  

     I once attended a mental health workshop that had as subject the ways our minds, and habits, get us stuck in destructive patterns.  One of the ways to handle such negative thinking is first, notice the circular currents and second, challenge the thought.  That is, say, “Stop!” to the thought.  That stop sign of the mind is very practical (it has a name: called Cognative Therapy).  It is good to put a stop to such, and live in more health.  The struggle however, comes when saying stop and actually stopping seem about as possible as staying dry while walking through rain busting out of a cloud above.

     Stop signs slow us down as we valiantly speed through life.  Stopping starts a lower heart beat.  It brings a peacefulness for those always in a hurry.  It gets us noticing what we often miss.  Stopping is good for you. 

     A Scripture in the Bible holds up a stop sign for those caught in the hurry and flurry and fury life can bring.  It’s a quote. The speaker is the God who is There, With us. He it is that says, “Stop already!”  Be still, and experience, that I am God.  There’s a stop sign worth listening to.  It is worth entering in.  It is worth slowing down for, and entering into a peace that is soft and comforting and kind.  It is a stop sign  that hands out strength freely.

     Sometimes it’s just hard to stop, as if suddenly ice has formed and we slip and slide and away.  Learning how to stop, look, listen and pay attention, is a fantastic practice to do.  

     What do you do when you see a stop sign?  


Strange and Wonderful

Strange and Wonderful

Written Monday October 24, 2016

     I have driven over that bump, over the hump of a railroad track trucking on through, many times.  There is, I know, a “warning” telling of a heave up and down ahead.  Through experience, however, I had learned to block that out of my mind, that is, I did not react by slowly approaching that place on that stretch of highway.  So, I didn’t.

     I heard a weird sounding lurch as I drove over the spot.  Immediately I looked up at the rear view mirror.  There was none there.  So I twisted my head to take a peak back. It was gone.  

     I was driving the flatbed truck we call the 450.  It’s a favoured of mine because of the standard gear switching.  One of the features of that bed was that all around the edges there were holes for slots.  Wooden boards with metal attached at both ends slid into those holes become slots when you positioned them just so.  The back board with the metal had got up and wandered off.  It was gone, gone away.

     I turned aside off the road.  In my mind I replayed what happened.  I knew something was off kilter, but couldn’t quite place what it was.  It was like a routine motion had decided to change the order of moves made.  I thought maybe I would need to go for a walk myself, back to the scene of the wandering wonky board.  As I was considering this, the replay showed me a blank screen.  I didn’t remember seeing a board taking a flying leap, crashing and smashing to the pavement.  At that very moment I rounded the corner of the rear of the truck, and what I saw was strange and wonderful.  It shifted me into awe.

     This is what I saw: the board was jammed into the hitch apparatus of the vehicle.  This is what I imagined: the board saw an opportunity for freedom.  It leaped for joy when we climbed the bump, the lump of railroad metal rising above the surface of the roadway.  It jumped out of the slots as though manoeuvring around stones on the pathway down.  It landed exactly between the ball of the hitch and into another narrow slot, as if it were quite sure this was where it belonged, as if to say, “Here I stand.  I will not be moved.”

     It took some doing to remove it.  It was stuck in there, as if someone had taken some strong sticky glue and smeared it on thick.  This short lived freedom lasted only a moment, yet it struck awe and wonder, startling, strange and wonderful, delighting in the retelling of the tale.  It was an unrepeatable chain of events, down that familiar road.

Photo: The place where it stuck

     There are other strange and wonderful things in this world.  Many more.  Think on the anticipation we experience when the weird sounding lurch announces we have a text message.  Think on witnessing a man carrying a child close to his chest, and pointing out a sea plane coming in for a landing on the runway that is the bay the ferry is exiting.  He speaks excitedly, with great enthusiasm in a language we can’t comprehend.  Yet the impact of the moment bursts out for all to see.  

     Think of the boundless delight when someone jumps for joy right into the freedom that is theirs; they wander into the person they were created to be.  They blossom and bloom where they land and get planted.  They take root and flourish and discover all the things yet to be discovered.  Ah, how strange and wonderful, this!

     What strange and wonderful thing have you been witness to lately?

On Hope

Written October 16, 2016 

    One of the wondrous sights I see — only at certain times of the year, mind — is placed alongside the highway into town; or rather, the highway was placed beside it.   It is under cover in the summer, leaves cloaking most of the drop down.  Peaking through from the height you can see it, but your eyes need to be directed just so, or at highway speed you miss it.  After a good amount of rain the water gushes and rushes almost in fury, a deluge coming from on high; white foaming and drowning and pounding liquid swift in flight.  It is a sight that produces delight rising up within.
     Rushing and gushing.

     On another highway in British Columbia, another dark thing lurks, shrouded in dred deeds done.  A writer I’ve read describes such a place well: Terror on Every Side.  They call it the Highway of Tears.  It could easily be renamed Highway of Fears.  Foul furies unleashed crying out for justice.  There is evil spewing out there.  We can only hope that inquiries procured will actually bring some restoration to a thing gone terribly wrong.

     If only we could do something to change it all, like so many Canadians who wish they could vote for Hilary, and can’t.

     Even though there is much good going out there, like the sun that peered through the downpour of rain last Friday, too often evil runs rapidly through it.  Murder is one of the more violent voices screaming out.  Slander and deceit seem quite quiet, quickly released, yet the stories told about others and the ways we present ourselves in false ways: such can do damage that ruins reality.  Evil is lurking over there and over here.

     Don’t give me that nonsense, either, that evil is only flourishing in those creating the news headlines.  We are fooled too easily.  We grate horror inside when we read the details about others.  We forget.  Evil is like a wild animal ready to pounce, in us.  It comes out in the same people who notice wondrous sights along the ways we travel.  Everyone who reads or listens knows about the bad guys caught and found out.  We just haven’t been discovered as yet.  It remains hid.  It hasn’t gushed out.  Be careful that what we think of as light in us, is actually darkness.

     Will justice ever come rushing and gushing out?  Will all the wrongs ever be unmade?  Will evil ever stop and go extinct like the bees are busy doing now?  What if the greatest evil of them all, the shroud the hovers over every one; the last breath we exhale?

     There will be a day when all we see is wondrous, all we do is full of thoughtful compassion, all every one thinks is good going out there.  This is hope.  Hope already grabbed is not hope.  It’s already got.  This is hope: that someone just like us can break into this earth and make all things new.  Someone just like us.  Someone who knows because he’s gone through the Terror on Every Side.  Someone who doesn’t leave just when things get rougher than water pounding down on the rocks.

     He is someone who never abandons us.  When things  turn tougher than a last minute goal; when it seems as if evil keeps demanding to be heard and all we can do is try to walk right through it; when all we want to do is give up, in and (walk) away: we will need the strength of the God of hope.  He is the very same as the one Jesus revealed.

     What gives you hope?  What stories do you know of that tell how the bully evil doesn’t get what it wants?  How have you been a part of creating those stories?  What do you do to do the good deed done, with perseverance?  Do you have hope?


Giving Thanks 

Written October 8/9, 2016

       The rain falls as though someone were tipping over a barrel above, filled up with water, fed by a spring.  The grass was not only greener and cleaner, it seemed as if it were about to burst with joy and thanks.  After all, it’s the weekend of giving thanks here in Canada, Thanksgiving weekend, the day traditionally set aside — a holy or holiday — to say thanks for the year of harvest bounty.  When asked, however, what they are thankful for, food rarely gets placed on the plate, as though nothing were there on the table, empty, void of content.

     I wonder why we forget our daily bread?

     One of the more profound and spiritual responses to what we’re thankful for, came from a co-worker who is swiftly becoming  a friend.  He looks at the life we live here in North America.  I think of a nicety I enjoy like apple pie, doing what I am now: my feet propped up in my chair of ease.  It’s not enough to place feet firmly on the floor while sitting.  It simply is not as comfortable.  Propped up, propelled into the air is the way.  Now think right in  to another world all together.

     Haiti, swashing out from ocean pouring into homes, like a barrel filled, and the rain also, and the wind knocked out of them by a literal hurricane hurtling hurrying through.  Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, buckets filled with bombs dropping, destroying the structures, demolishing human beings, mowing them down as if their flesh were grass growing green.  Wars, rumours of them, reality for too many.  “Bombs are raining from Syria-led coalition planes and the whole of east Aleppo has become a giant kill box,” Doctors Without Borders director of operations Xisco Villalonga said in a statement (September 30, 2016, Middle East Eye).  And the kill box soldiers on.

     One of the more profound Scripture I know observes it in a question: what do we have that we have not received?  And since we have received it, why do we brag as if it wasn’t a gift?   I work hard with physically demanding tasks wearying me.  Who gives me the strength for doing this?  It comes from the food I eat surely, and I work hard to eat in healthy, wholesome ways.  Where does food come from?  It comes from the earth, from the soil where lays the grass, grown green from the buckets of rain pouring down.  The grass cleaned, crying out in joyful thanks.  And who sends the rain?

     We give thanks on this weekend set apart, Thanksgiving Day.  I thank my God, the Creator, the one from whom I have received every good and perfect gift.  I thank him for my daily bread, and ponder in wonder at why I get to live here, feet propped high, off of the earth of which I am made.  It seems to me that one reason why we have forgot the tradition for this weekend is because we have neglected to stay planted.  Years ago I remember smirking when hearing of inner city children discovering the milk coming out of cows, and not out of that corner store near them.  Food, so basic to living well, is a great gift to celebrate.  It doesn’t come from the supermarket.

      It is well to be thankful for everything we’ve been gifted, and on this weekend it is best to give thanks for the harvest.  Thanks living is a also  an healthy lifestyle choice to work hard for. And what are you thankful for?


A Herd of Elk

Written October 2, 2016

     It was in my imagination. I was driving past the fenced garden, to the lane way, onto the street. I arrive at the stoplight just meters away, and it was not red. I had a green light. I’m thinking, “Here is a sign of blessing. My way has no trees to swerve around.” And then, “What if my way had been blocked by a herd of elk; or even just one elk (have you seen how large they stand)? Then how would I be? Would I be feeling euphoria then? Is getting the green truly an indication every thing is right ?” I did not think so.

     This was what I was thinking one morning as I prepared for the day of work. I have had it that while moving toward a destination every light was red. It’s a gouge in the eye to get one red. But a whole row sometimes results in a release of air from the lungs. Sometimes words escape like a spewing eruption, as if the health news was worse than first thought.   

     How are we when that light is an outstanding sheen of green? How are we when our way doesn’t go the way we expect? What happens when we don’t get our way? How are we then? How are we when there are others surrounding us, the ones we don’t know very well? How are we when we don’t get what we want, and the dearest and best we’ve been given are right in front of us? How are we when we are alone, and the stuff we were hoping for gets stomped on like some giant foot blocking the way?
     And why are we different, the way we are, depending on the present company?

     Others have observed it. We live in a resume culture (David Brooks, The Road to Chacter).  The greater the achievements, the higher the scores, the more we can wow: people will be impressed. Mostly it is like Houdini, however, since what you see is not quite what you think you see. It fails to ask how we we are when we achieve. I have read biographies of successful business people. They had made it in life. A lot of green lights got their way, because most often they forced the lights to be that way. Talk to people who worked closely with them, and admiration fades like a white greyish cloud blocking the sun.  The real concern, observes Brooks, is what people will tell of you as a eulogy.

     It surely is wonderful stuff to get green lights all the way along. In my experience we become better when those elk crowd in. How we are tells totally different stories, especially when we struggle through, like a person hiking up a steep hill who have not done so for a time. I have found a yearning of late when such blocked passageways come, to not want to be right, when I am wrong. I want a rightness that is not mine, a received right that is beyond my reach, yet so very available. This gives freedom to be wrong, and admit when I am; when I really am.

     So, how are you when those lights are red?