A Day with MC Escher: A Lingering Love and Linear Logic

 

MCE -DrawingHands

“Drawing Hands” — MC Escher 1948

Last month I took my son and his young friend to see the MC Escher exhibit at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh as part of our homeschool experience. First thing I noticed: THE ENTIRE PARKING LOT WAS PACKED! Hundred of parking spaces and not a single empty space. Wait, what? I’m at an art museum and having to drive around and around just to find a space? THIS IS AWESOME!!

We finally parked and purchased our tickets. I soon learned this was the largest exhibit ever in the world on display of MC Escher’s work in one place. It was certainly the biggest traveling museum exhibit I have ever attended. We spent hours looking, but I could’ve spent days. Easily.

In my photography club I’ve been learning about the Elements of Design (line, texture, shape, form, pattern, color). With Escher, he effortlessly expands on those elements and adds things like:

  • logic
  • precision
  • pattern
  • reflection
  • perpetual motion, still life, and sometimes a blending of the two

Perhaps what attracts so many people to his work is his unique gift of mathematically capturing concepts such as:

  • the finite and the infinite
  • the abstract and the obvious
  • symmetry
  • the proof of geometry

These are all awesome. But my favorite? Gravity Tricks!

Escher doesn’t create illusion, so much as bend converging realities. I keep studying how MCE defies gravity in his work. I study Drawing Hands where 3D and 2D overlap Hand or Circle Limit IV where the infinite is captured precisely by proportionately repeating patterns that grow ever smaller around the perimeter of a circle. MCE shows us in in Metamorphosis I how objects morph from collective to individual with no discernable delineation. Time seems fold in upon itself as large becomes small, then large, then small again. How do you even think like this, much less accurately draw it?

I look around. A beautiful deaf gentleman and his sweetheart are beside me. He is smiling, and tearing up and overcome with emotion. Their hands are fluttering in a beautiful synchronicity that speaks of a wisdom and secret language open in plain sight I don’t possess and am not privy to, though I wish I was. They never stop talking. In this beautiful space called silence, they are the loudest people I’ve ever seen! I mean, they just won’t shut up. They can’t. They have delved deeper into this than I even I get to go. It makes me want to cry.

My kids with me have finished up before I have. That’s okay. They are immersed in thoughts on a bench and are silently sketching their own thoughts–their own dreams and realities. Art is such a beautiful thing.   I keep perusing.

Seeing photos of Escher as a young man, a young husband, as well as his self-portraits in spheres and mirrors really moved me.  In this one, he kind of resembles Picasso I think. In this one, he kind of reminds me of Coldplay’s Chris Martin. No wait, I think I see some of me in there. Yeah, that’s me–if I were a man I think.

I look at his self-portrait in Hand with Reflecting Sphere which reflects both himself and the room he’s sitting in. But upon closer inspection, it reveals both reality and non-reality.

MCE Hand_with_Reflecting_Sphere

Hand with Reflecting Sphere” — MC Escher 1935

Those hands!! I look at mine. My goodness! Those are my hands! He has the same creases on the same life line. How is that possible?

 I look at the dates of his work.  I try to recall the history of that time. This one is dated 1924. I envision flappers dancing the night away and families gathered around their radio to hear President Coolidge speak.

Oceans away in Rome, Italy, a young Escher meets the love of his life, Jetta Umiker. While America was mass producing Model T’s, Escher was quietly drawing the beautiful towns and landscapes of Viterbo, Abruzi, Corsica, Calabria, Amalfi, and Sicili.  MCE loved Italy, but then Mussolini came to power. Escher found his fascist ideals deplorable, so he moved his family to Switzerland, and then Belgium and then ultimately settled in the Netherlands until 1941 when WWII broke out. He remained there until his death in 1970.

When he sketched, what was his work environment like? Did he hear music in his head? Did he sip some Italian vino as he drew? How does one so perfectly capture the essence of an ant or a beetle? How do you freeze in your mind the stillness of something so small as if the tiny creature had posed for a portrait? How many hours and days and weeks did he spend when he so meticulously captured the landscapes of Italy?

What must it be like to silently appreciate every detail in the vastness of a city by the sea like Atrani, Coast of Amalfi or smaller landscapes like Street in Scano to the intimate portraits of his father George. Even as his father lay dying, Escher’s portrait seems to capture every hair on his head, a visual reminder for himself and others to not forget the beauty of his father’s soul.

When he created, what did he hear? Did he tune out the world’s outer clatter and create in silence or did he immerse himself in the rhythms and melodies found in nature and find hidden symphonies that inspired him?

It’s obvious what inspired him: everything. Escher was not content to draw with flatness, but with depth and dimension. He tapped into his unique gift and learned how to draw in a way that expands and changes the way we look at things.

Escher draws us in to his work with optical tricks but quickly leads us to deeper truths. The longer you stare at his work, the more your mind continuously expands. You can’t help but be blown away when you contemplate the infinite when going around and around an endless staircase or the use of hyperbolic geometry and symmetry as you move from a large central image to an exponentially smaller one in a repeating pattern.   You can feel the deeper truth at work in your own heart the longer you look.

Perhaps it’s the tug of our own inner law of entropy at work: The uneasy awareness that settles in knowing over time, we all become small, then smaller–then gone.

When math marries imagination and memory, well–it’s a beautiful thing. As a person who is often rooted too much emotion and feeling, I feel myself breathe in utter relaxation and find a sense of calm as the linear logic of math and predictable patterns make sense.   Until it doesn’t again. Poof! Mind blown—again!

Like excellent music, I don’t think I could pinpoint a favorite MCE work; there are too many I love! But one that really touched my heart was Three Worlds. MCE explained his goal in this work was to incorporate and connect multiple realities.

MCE-Three-Worlds-I

“Three Worlds” — MC Escher — December 1955

That struck a nerve. Because this is the world where Liz resides! It’s called:

Nothing is Coincidence

and

Everything is Connected

 As someone who enjoys creating, I am most inspired by the way Escher refused to live a life of frustration constipation. (Living life doing the things that don’t interest you or motivate you). He didn’t hold back his art, or deny time for it, he let it out!

Escher seems to understand that when we create art, we leave behind something that resonates in the soul of someone else. One’s work easily transcends the length of one’s life when it has the power to connect with others. Something created can make someone else smile, or cry, or think about people or the world differently. The silence of art brings us both revelation and understanding of both the artist and ourselves.

MC Escher was known for restoring order out of chaos, be it one’s external world, or one’s internal mind. He also was a gifted genius employing techniques of beautiful precision. He found a way to visually articulate the ways that art can be composed of both math and science. Science and logic can beautifully coexist with nature and creation. As a creator, his work to me implies an understanding that he too was created. Perhaps in that vast space that lies between love and logic, vision and creation, he too found proof of God.

Official Site of MC Escher to purchase his work can be found here:  http://www.mcescher.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crave and The Fix

One of my dearest friends in the world sent me King and Country’s  CD recently called “The Crave.”  If every other song wasn’t spectacularly amazing, this one brought it home—

It broke me

        If you’ve ever struggled with addiction or loved someone who has, then listen to this I beg you.  You’ll get it.

See I’m a strong girl.   These are the things I used to CRAVE:

  • Control
  • Stability
  • A Plan (see Control)
  • Having “it” together (family, work, my house, appearance, finances….the list goes on)

And then The Beast came to our home.  To my heart—an uninvited stranger who moved in without warning or permission—and foreclosed on my heart, and mercilessly tried to wreck my life, and that of my family.

We’re still processing and mending.  But above all I’m still believing and I’m still loving.  I’m living through something that nearly took away someone I love so much more than my own life and who all I wanted to do was :

FIX

      Surely, if I craved fixing my addict just a bit more than this person craved a fix, I’d be able to:

  • Convince them
  • Change them
  • Fix them
  • Make it all better

But I failed.  Or at least I thought I did.  Because sometimes human love isn’t enough I was so busy taking on the roles of detective, nurse, lawyer, and defensive lineman often simultaneously,   that it took me a while for me to learn it isn’t all my fault.  And it isn’t all theirs.

Addiction is two things:  A genetic predisposition and a choice.  The choice is the first time.  The addiction is all the times that come after.

I know now it won’t be me that can fix this.  Because THE FIX may be my goal, but it’s not my role.  This is something only God can do as my loved one decides to get extremely intellectually honest or in street lingo: Keepin’ it real y’all! 

“The others”–the ones what have walked this journey of one day at a time for some time now,  through shared experience, accountability, and unconditional love, will have to help my loved one pick up the pieces that I could not.

      This is what it’s like for the addict and the family:  Excruciatingly painful.  Isolating.  Really scary.  Exhausting.  Sometimes you feel judged or are misunderstood by those who haven’t ever been exposed to this.

But the suffering is also something more.  It’s redemptive.  Beauty shines brighter thru wet tears.  Appreciation for now comes when you lose so much and almost lose—well, everything.   Every other problem becomes so small.

And now I know people, too many, that have lost this battle.  People that suffer silently.  And I won’t be doing that any more.  My battlefield is becoming my mission field.

For I am not ashamed of the one I love who is getting the help they need.  I will forever be their:

  • Advocate, but not their enabler.  I will speak the truth, but in love.
  • Cheerleader, because encouragement is the seed that can blossom into confidence.
  • Prayer warrior, because the biggest battles are won on our knees, and the biggest war is fought for our hearts and mind.  If you think you don’t have an enemy bent to destroy both or either, you deceive yourself.

So devil take warning:

  • I am unmoved by you.
  • I am undeterred.
  • Above all I am not defeated—not now, not ever.

Because I have the King of kings on my side.  You have already lost.  For I have tasted The Cure .  His name is Jesus.  He is not just our Saviour, He is also our Saver and Redeemer.  He really does save the lost.  He really does comfort those who mourn and are crushed in spirit.   He does this not only because we first believed, but more importantly because He first loved us. 

Without faith, it’s not only impossible to understand this; I think it’s impossible to see the everyday miracles that God decides to bless us with.  Life is a mystery. It’s full of both joy and suffering, sometimes simultaneously.  Deserving neither, we experience both as a gift of opportunity to question everything until finally we reach the end of our limited human understanding.  That’s where we end, and God can finally begin.

       And to the families touched by addiction?  You are not alone.  You do not have to walk this journey alone.   May you find the courage to find a support group and attend meetings, find a supportive and empathetic church, and/or a close circle of true friends who get it, and may you come to believe and trust in a loving God who already has the power to heal all that ails you.    After all, we could all stand to take a hit of a drop of grace. 

Hope.  Love.   Believe.  And you shall live.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Support possibilities for you or a loved one who suffers from addiction:

http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

http://al-anon.alateen.org/?gclid=CImZo7jw5LsCFa9lOgod2kcAkw

http://www.aa.org/

http://www.narconon.org/

http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/addiction_hijacks_brain.htm

 

       

The Big Bang Theory — According to Liz

Big Bang Psalm 8.3 and 4      Once upon a time in my life, a big crisis came.  BANG!   It was big.  How big?   Big enough to rock my world, and tilt my universe.

But you know what?  It didn’t kill me.  Though I thought it might.  It certainly had the potential to.  I thought I didn’t have the strength to go one more day.  But the next day, the sun rose again, and my feet found the floor and moved forward.

I didn’t think I could handle it.  And I was right.  In my own strength, I couldn’t.  I didn’t.  And I’m not.  But with God, all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26) That’s what’s engraved in the cross around my neck, and even more it’s invisibly etched in my heart; it’s the fiber of who I am.

See when you experience your BIG BANG moment, chances are it’s going to be one of those things that makes you question everything:

  •       Why did this happen to me? Our family?  The person I love?
  •       If God is good, why didn’t He PREVENT this?  Or FIX it?
  •       Or for God’s sake, allow me (us) to AVOID it all together?

I’ll tell you why.  Because none of us are spared.  In this world, you will have troubles…..

   You know it all too well.  If you’ve suffered, you know John 16:33 by heart by now.

We don’t get out of life without our share of sorrow or suffering.   We also don’t get out of life ALIVE.   It’s true.  We have to make our peace that we are but a blip on the timeline known as eternity.  And in so accepting, making peace with the question:

Okay then, what does it all mean?  What’s the point of anything in life?

You have to find the answers.   In the midst of the worst struggle—the most aggressive cancer or disease you are sentenced to live with, the scariest nightmare realized, the worse fear come true, or the harshest experience ever endured,  you have to CHOOSE: 

       If I never get the WHY of my questions answered, then how do I incorporate this into my life without being bulldozed by it?  How can I choose my suffering so that I can thrive, not just survive?

Everybody is different.  But for me, well a little time on the carpet, the vinyl, the place where the dust bunnies frolic is the best place to start.  On my knees.  Looking up.  Reaching out.  Trusting.  Hoping.  Knowing that to be true, which I can neither see or prove:

That there is a God.  And He really is faithful, involved in this, grieved by this, moved by this, working on this behind the scenes,and loving each of us thru this in so many tangible ways:

  • The prayers of others
  • The kindness of friends and strangers
  • The peace that sometimes comes and surpasses understanding

The wisdom to know that when fear creeps in, He is bigger than all of this and returns  the moment I ask for Him to.

      I took a picture of the moon tonight.  At first glance it was just a white dot in a black background.  I shot it from multiple exposure values: aperture sizes (determines the amount of light let into the lens), and shutter speeds (how long the shutter remains open).  You know what?  Despite subtle differences, the pictures looked pretty much the same.  Dull.  Listless.

But once I opened it up in my favorite photo editing app appropriately named LightRoom, I pulled the lever labeled “Clarity” over to the right about 100% to be exact.  And voila!  Stars appeared.  Stars I didn’t even see with my naked eye when I originally took the picture.  I zoomed in on the moon to enlarge it a bit.  More detail popped out, though somewhat hazy still to my eye.   You see I am limited by the lens through which I view all this.  Not just my camera lens, but also my human optical lens.

   Life is like that.  We see our circumstances through the lens of our own understanding.  And thus we are born into a life of pain.  We sometimes don’t get to see the diamond that is being cut out of the roughness of our life.   But God, with his infinite all-seeing eye, who created the moon, the stars, the earth, all the solar systems, and the entire universe, can always see all these details that we can’t.

We feel bitter tears slip from our eyes, but He only sees stars.  It is here, He best sees into us; He looks deep into the windows of our soul, and plants a new vision.  During our trials, is where God best plants the vision of hope, endurance, peace, and someday—joy.

       Life, like photography is about perspective.  It’s about vision.  It’s also about clarity.   There’s contrast involved—we can’t know light (goodness) if we don’t have darkness (evil) to compare it with.   We see our life thru a macro lens, up close and personal.  But God sees our lives (the big picture) from a wide angle lens that makes the Gran Telescopio Canarias (it has an aperture of a whopping 409 inches!) seems like the width of a gnat.  He also can see very detail up close, as if using an electron microscope, seeing the detail of our cells not even a billionth of a meter wide.    He can see every speck of us—perfectly.  And He can see within us, what others can’t and sometimes what even we can’t see in ourselves:  Our hurts, our dreams, our fears, our desires, our hopes, our passions, our purpose, and most of all:  our potential.

Sooner or later in life you may have one of those cataclysmic events that can only be described as The Big Bang.  The rest of the world hums merrily along unaware that you nearly lost your hearing, your vision, your sanity, and quite possibly your life as this cosmic collision internally implodes in your life.

But hold fast.  Trust in a God big enough to swallow your fears and your doubts.  Through applied pressure, extreme heat, and gravitational pull, know that God is forging something, better, refined, and new.   He ordered the universe outside of you; He can certainly order, rearrange, or repair if necessary,  the micro verse within you.   Wait upon Him.     Something beautiful is being made from all this.  Trust in Him to reveal it all at exactly the right time.

BANG BANG!  Now pray!

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (NIV)

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”   Rick Warren – “The Purpose Driven Life:  What on Earth Am I Here For?”

Poison and Wine — The Power of The Words We Speak

POISON AND WINE – By the Civil Wars

This song simply says it best of all!  Such a talented duo!

      It happened again.  That thing that hurts me to the core.  And out of this raw place in my heart, my words came tumbling out.   Sometimes our words speak love and all that is good and lovely and pure and true because it comes from the fullest part of our heart that is content and knows what it means to be loved.  These words are a sweet wine, a pleasure to taste as they slip quietly into the ether landing in the soft pillows of your ears.  Like a chain reaction, your eyes light up and meet mine and for a moment in time, we are one.

      All too true, is that sometimes out of the darkest corners of our heart, the mouth speaks.  It’s a battle as old as time itself.  It’s the words that are born in a place where loss and fear of loss is never more than a whisper away.  It’s the trigger button that provides instant recall of something so painful or so scary that when the words come, they don’t self-edit or seek the brain’s permission:  Is this a good idea to say this now?

       This is the hardest part about being gifted with humanity.  We are more than our instincts.  We are instinct plus feelings.   We deceive ourselves and try to protect our tender hearts, as if hurting the heart of another soul will spare our own.  Except that it doesn’t.  We spew our poison because our anger, our rage, our fear, our sadness, our insecurities, and any and all of our other weaknesses overtakes us.   We get lost in the moment of what we need.  We try to take control of a situation or another person because we know at our core, we actually can’t.  Still we don’t want to go down without a fight.  The poison is out of the bottle.  And it spreads like a cancer.   Once we pour it out, we can’t pull it back in.

         You know.  If you’ve ever spilled words out of the poison bottle, you know.  It’s a bitterness whose purpose is to get even with another; it’s an ill-fated,  ineffective attempt to persuade somebody else that you are right.   But in the end, it is your cup to bear, and you drink it….alone.

          It’s hard to say words of love when we hurt.  When we are afraid.   When we’ve been misunderstood or wronged.   It’s hard to walk away if you always have to have the last word.  It’s hard to stay silent in the face of injustice, inequity, or danger.

       But sometimes, the battle is not ours to fight.  That’s called letting go.  Sometimes we can hold on in life best by intentionally letting go of the need to:

  • Say it
  • Solve it
  • Change it

Inner peace is never found in our external words, but our internal thoughts.  I forget this when I speak, but it becomes pretty crystal clear when I write, work on my photography, or spend silent moments with a loving God who created me.

Poison or wine.  Which words will you choose to speak today?

Just cause I said it
It doesn’t mean that I meant it
People say crazy things
Just cause I said it
Don’t mean that I mean it
Just cause you heard it… Adele – “Rumour Has It”

….For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  Matthew 12:34

Barks at Choppers

soldier-and-dog-580x323Photo Credit:  Globalanimal.org

 

      I can’t help it.  I still miss Josh.  I loved that man like no other.  Josh was more than my master; he was my best friend. 

I must have flown more than a hundred missions with him.  I remember the first time he put me on a Chinook.  I was scared on the inside.  I was trembling.  Even though my training taught me not to fear the chook, chook, chook, of the blades, I still felt fear.  What would happen next?  Did Josh ever feel this inside?

Outside I am a pure eighty pounds of tan and beige hard fighting American glory.  With my titanium teeth and wicked sense of smell I can actually differentiate smells between a battery or the chemicals used as a charge in an IED.  Sometimes it’s more though.  Intuitively, I just know.  Josh is in trouble.  It’s what I don’t smell sometimes that I just know is lurking around the corner, behind a door or a wall.  That’s when I want to bark.  But I can’t.  It would get us both killed.  So I look at him and press against his thigh ever so slightly, in case it’s the last second on earth we ever spend together.  And then he knows.   I know the sound by heart what happens next.  Shelling.  Gunfire.  A spray of sound.  People fall.  Blood splatters.  We made it.  We’re safe again.  This time.

We completed mission after mission together.  I was tied to him by leash, but though he doesn’t even know it, it wasn’t really necessary.  See, he commanded my heart.  “Max, over here!” he’d order.   Josh and I fed off each other when it came to courage.  I’d set out before him, nose to the dusty barren ground,  looking for those damnable PIES (power supply, initiator, explosive, switch) sometimes made with the cheapest of materials, all meant to take us down.   We’d alternate saving each other like the rhythms of the ocean we once visited when he took me home to the States–a place the he and the soldiers always reminisced about.  Me, sniffing out IEDS, putting a paw in front of his foot, being careful not to bark, in case even a sound wave would set off the bomb, Josh pulling down his M16 and eliminating our common enemy.

Why were we here?  How did I get here?  I don’t remember my mother.  I don’t know if I had brothers or sisters.  All I ever remember is Josh.  At night with his ruck sack packed, ready for the next day and parked by his cot, I remember sleeping just a breath away from his canvas cot, his hand draped over and on my head.   We both would fall asleep exhausted like this night after night.  But still, my eyes may have been closed, but my brain didn’t sleep until I heard the quiet rumble of snore that tumbled out of Josh’s throat when he was finally deep in his gift of rest.

That’s when I would dream.  They say dogs only see in black and white, but in my dreams, oh man, was it living color.  I still remember when we went to the ocean together in the States.  He threw tennis balls into the water and I brought them back to him about a million times.  Good dog!  He’d say.  He was freer then.  We both were.  So much more than here.  

    A beautiful woman he called Claire was by his side on a blanket.  Oh, how I loved Claire and she loved me.  She would kiss my neck, and always had cold hot dogs wrapped in foil in a picnic basket for everyone, but she had a dedicated bag of them just for me.

Claire and Josh had three of the cutest kids I ever saw.  I’d lay down my life for those precious babies.   They’d roll all over me and I’d run and halt and fetch and chase and jump and cuddle with them.  That was the best love I’d ever known.  It’s all I think about when my eyes grow heavy at night.  I always thought we’d go back there together.

When were at this magical place known only as home, I rested like I’d never known.   I saw fire contained in a fire place, not being hurled back and forth between people.    I didn’t have to keep a bug in my ear to receive orders the enemy couldn’t hear from Master Josh.  And best of all, I didn’t have to wear that damnable pack on my midsection that kept my insides alive if the enemy fired at us.  And Josh wore something I never saw before too:  White t-shirts , plaid shorts, and flip flops!  No boots on this beach!   And the smells?  Pure heaven.  Salt and surf.  Hot dogs.  The smell of Claire.   I saw him kiss her once and then he saw me watching.  He stopped.  To pet me!  Can you believe that?   Here was the most beautiful woman we’d both ever seen and loved, but he picked me!

I spent three years by Josh’s side.  That’s a fourth of my entire life.  Sometimes I saw him cry.  It was when we went to those things called memorials where they hang a helmet on a rifle.  I figured it out over time.  It meant that friend wouldn’t be petting me anymore at dinner.  He wouldn’t be covering Josh’s and my back in a firefight.   One by one, sometimes our friends would simply vanish.

     And then it happened.  I wish I knew what the other soldiers were saying.  I had just woken up.  Why was my stomach bandaged?  Why were their small patches of fur on my face missing?  Why do I still smell something burning? 

My blood felt cold.  Where’s Josh It was my only thought.   So many hands patting me.  Their faces were all crying.  Why?  Where’s Josh?!?! 

But life’s not fair I learned.   I went through a series of men over the next few weeks.  I didn’t  go out in any more battles.  I heard words like “retirement” and “wouldn’t respond as well to another handler” and “it’s time.”  And finally the word of my dreams—home.   

It wasn’t long after that.  I was on a C-130 Hercules headed back to the States.  I sat bravely with all the other cargo.  Men in gear, ruck sacks, helmets, guns, water bottles, aviator glasses.  They were strong.  Brave.  Like me.

That’s when I knew.  I smelled him first.  There was a long box.  A box draped with a flag of red and white stripes and white stars embedded in dark blue.   Josh and I used to sit under the stars at night.  He’d say, “Max, when we get home, we’re going to have the best life ever!  You have no idea!”

       Since the first time I first accompanied him in that Chinook, I felt true fear.  I didn’t know what would happen next.  I put my head on my paws and whimpered.  Why don’t dogs have tears?  At this moment I just really needed to cry.

So many hours went by.  And then I saw her.  Claire!   Beautiful, kind, and tiny Claire. She was smaller now than I remembered her.  She was wearing black and hard a firm grasp on Josh Jr.  He was a mess.  All the kids were;  they were crying so hard.   But she smiled when she saw me.   She stooped down.  My intuition started acting up again.  It felt like I do when I had a flea I couldn’t eliminate simply by scratching.   Though I never had the gift of predicting the future entirely, I sensed  together we were going to mend our broken hearts together.  I bolted towards her like my life depended on it.  Because it did. 

I live with the Owens family now.  Josh Jr., Caitlyn and Madeline are my handlers.  My life is good.  But we all have a hole in our heart and not from a bullet hole.  Sometimes when I hear the familiar chook, chook, chook in the sky when a Chinook or a Black Hawk or an Apache hovers overhead, I bark uncontrollably.  I can’t help it.  I just want to see Josh again.  I hope and pray and bark that this is the chopper that’s finally going to bring him back to me, this flying metal savior who will finally bring my Master home. 

Finishing Well

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PROOF:  Good runners finish well!  My wonderful sister in law Bren crosses the finish line at Boston in 2012!

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

    Here we are again.  America is in mourning yet again after another terrorist attack.  We all watched in horror yesterday as the runners from the 2013 Boston Marathon were crossing or about to cross the finish line, only to suddenly realize a bomb, and then another, had detonated very closely to one another.

    Evil planned it this way.  Evil always plans it this way.  Destroy the innocent.  Destroy the maximum for maximum impact. 

But here’s the thing.  LOVE WINS!  I’ll say it again.  Love wins.

Just like the runners who trained by racing for months and months, the choice to love trains over the course of a life time.  See love is not easily entangled.  It does not falter.   It does not bail because it gets angry or doesn’t get its way.  It doesn’t boast.  It doesn’t quit.  And above all, it never fails.

The runner trains for months and years increasing their strength by going the distance each day.  Two miles today.  Two point four tomorrow.  Twenty six point two a year from now.  A runner increases his or her efficiency by perservering.  A four minute mile when starting out.  Then four point two.  And so on.  Until one is almost running with cheetahs and raking in times like a seven minute mile and beyond!  Runners are a special breed.  They run through pain.  They run through rain.  They run past the point where most people quit.  They run past the point they dropped of exhaustion only yesterday.

For a runner has one goal:  To finish well.  Though trophies and recognition is bestowed upon the one that crosses first, all know the real glory is to run with endurance and to finish well.  One must cross the finish line, and receive the real prize:  The honor and glory of a family who is so proud of you, a photo op of crossing the finish line, and the prize of satisfaction knowing you gave it your all, and you finished.   All your hard training has paid off.

My heart hurts so bad for all those who trained yesterday and never got to cross the finish line because someone or a group decided to ruin something beautiful with a moment of terror.  Here’s how it ends though.  The same way it always ends:

Good rushes in.  Good rushes in to assist the injured and comfort the dying.  Good tries to maintain order in sheer pandemonium.  Good has no fear.  Good seeks the security and comfort of others before one’s self.  Good always outnumbers evil.   Good happens because it first knows how to accept and give love.  And when someone knows that they are loved, it is easier to help or even sacrifice one’s own life to help another—even a perfect stranger.

So many runners trained so hard for yesterday.  They did not get to cross the finish line.  Instead they were learned through shock and surprise to exit the race and to run to shelter. The chance to cross the finish line was stolen.

But the chance to finish well is something no act of terror or thought of evil can claim.  In that respect, all the runners triumphed.  As did the families and friends who awaited with cheer and anticipation and joy to congratulate their loved one.

And the ones who perished?  God is in control.  I can’t claim to make sense of it.  I only know this.  God is just and God is in control.  Always.

I pray for each of these runners the opportunity to renew their strength and nourish their hurting hearts.  I pray each of us can learn to pass by the circumstances and destructive emotions that entangle us and seek a higher power that allow each of us the opportunity to finish well.   For then we gain the good life here and the perfect life for eternity.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:30-31

 

What We Draw Near

Cojoined Tree CIMG3853

     We have a new dog.  So I’ve been taking a lot more walks in nature.  So now it’s me, the dog, my son, and sometimes if I can manage one more thing in addition to a pocket full of treats, water bottles, poop bags, cell phone, and car keys, I bring my camera too.

       I’m finding that dog-walking is actually God-walking.  I’m walking with God as I enjoy all the good things God has blessed me with.

We walk together, my dog, my son, and I– sometimes talking, sometimes quiet, all the while finding amazing things to sniff, pick up, explore, and take pictures of.  I feel joyfulness in nature’s solitude and joy in fellowship with those that I love.  And it feels as if there is someone else with us too.  I can’t see or hear Him.  But it’s more than a feeling or intuition.  It’s just a knowing.   

     On one of our walks I saw this amazing tree.  I was immediately drawn to the tree.  For it is a co-joined tree.  Or at least that’s the term I gave it.  Is it one tree or is it two?  Have you seen one like this?  The base spreads out and out pops another tree, but they share the same roots, the same source of nourishment.  I looked up.  Oh my!  Look son, this tree is holding hands with that one!  Or at least that’s how it appeared.  They are not connected at the branches, but they certainly look like it.

The tree was at a concrete reminder of what I’m learning in my current bible study.

     Right now I’m elbows deep in another amazing Beth Moore bible study where we are studying the book of James.  James was the brother of Jesus (actually half-brother if you count the fact that God was Jesus father and Joseph was the father of Jesus, his three brothers and unspecified number of sisters).

The entire book of James is the one of my favorites because it is hard-hitting and puts the gears in motion to the words of our faith.  James teaches us about:

  • Not just enduring trials, but rejoicing in the process of the trial because of the way it refines us.
  • Being doers of our faith, not merely hearers of the word.
  • How our tongue is a source of both blessings and cursings and it is the rudder that guides our ship (tell me about it!)
  • How we are to eliminate all prejudice in our life and be active in works of mercy, especially regarding the poor.
  • How we are to yield, not show partiality, do good deeds, and to sow seeds of peace and goodness.
  • There are warnings about judging others, warnings about arrogance, and putting too much stock in “our plans” for our lives.
  • There are also warnings about riches and money.  If we lose our humility, then what good is our money anyway?
  • There is great wisdom about being patient while we suffer.  Oh yeah, who doesn’t want some of that?  It’s okay God, just take your time on this one, I’ve got all LIFE!  Seriously though, like we have a choice during our trials?
  • He concludes his six-pack of wisdom by talking about the power of prayer and how we are to help others who wonder away from the truth.
  • The whole book, all seven pages of it (in my bible anyway) is easy to read, but takes a life time to fully grasp.   But my favorite part might simply be this small nugget of truth:

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

     In this same chapter we learn how we don’t get what we most want in life because we don’t ask God, who created not only the whole universe, but also our tiny little self.  We spend our entire lives as if we want to be remembered like Frank Sinatra’s song:  I did it……”My Way!”  Or we ask God for something, but we ask with wrong motives.   Oh come on, who among us hasn’t chuckled as we identify with the little kitten on Facebook who woefully prays, “Lord if you can’t make me skinny, can you at least make my friends fat?”   Do we not sometimes pray for God to exact our rendition of fairness and justice?

So what to do about all in life that ails us? Inequities?  Relationships that go sour, or worse–end in abandonment?  Sickness?   Lack?  Trials of every kind?   Stress?  People who can’t seem to get it together, understand us, or do what we want them to do in order to get along?    Are we supposed to just totally surrender all?

Well, I read James and the answer is one I don’t like sometimes:  Yep!

But that means the other guy wins, I don’t get my way, I won’t be understood, it will hurt, or I can’t fix this.  Right.  Now you are where you need to be. 

Believe me I can write this better than I always live it out in my own life, but it really is true.  We waste so much valuable time we could be living, doing what we really love or at least finding out what that is, by trying to either manipulate or persuade people or situations to our liking to make life more tolerable.

It just doesn’t work like this.  In an odd sort of way James is a structured way to a sort of Zen-like happiness.  When you can truly rejoice in your trials because you know God’s in it, when you can let go of outcome because you know God will work it to the good (even if not here on earth or in your lifetime)  then you can truly be at peace.  You can be at peace and find joy as you suffer.  That’s what it means to share in Christ’s suffering.    This is how we become “strong in character and ready for everything!”  (James 1:3)

We ultimately have to make peace with our own demise.   I believe God teaches us (by giving us plenty of opportunities) to let go of everything else first.   Control really should be a synonym for futility.

I always say:  We are all just renters here.  At the end of the day, we own nothing, for tomorrow is not assured.

It’s good to lean on true friends and family sometimes.  But some things only God can fix—in His own way, and His timing.  Lean not on your own understanding, we are taught.  We can take it a step further—we can lean into the one who made us and loves us as if we are the love of His life.  That’s because we are.

We are all on a journey in life, trying to navigate through trials, learn a few lessons along the way, experience blessings, and hopefully be one to others too.  Like the trees in the forest, we are each unique with our own family branches and occasional nuts (but that’s another blog) and fruits.  Some of us are in full-bloom and some of us are watching the last of our leaves blow away   But as we each draw near to God, not only does He draw near to us, he draws us closer to one another too.  Like co-joined trees, maybe where we each of us ends, is the place where God begins.  God, our home base—He is at the core of our roots that nourish us and grow us, and when the storms come, though we sway, He helps us to still stand tall.