Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Low Little Branch

For parents of special needs kids, whose reservoirs of patience and love far exceed my own, I want to share some thoughts about this picture I took yesterday [Feb. 27, 2012] while on a walk.

This little branch does not know how far below the others it is growing. They strain far up and away from the trunk, growing old and woody and eventually supporting other branches. Not this one.

It doesn’t care about any of that. The others can extend the tree, draw up the sap, thicken the trunk. This little branch has a different job to do. It remains low and accessible to those walking by.

Yes, it seems a little out of place, and can get in the way. People sometimes have to brush past it as they pass the trunk. But then the clouds part, its needles shine green in the sunlight, and people see the living beauty of the tree, right there in front of them. It is a burst of life, a soft and delicate aspect of the tree not found in the heavy strong trunk, and only distantly visible in the branches high above.

And so the stunted little branch remains, never trimmed, tolerated and admired, as the tree, like your family, grows and reaches for the sky.

—First posted on Facebook, 2/28/12

A mother who read the original post added this thought:

Thank you for the poem and the picture. Someday, when the tree is cut and only the stump remains, its roots still feed the delicate branch. It may grow taller, because it is no longer shaded by the tree itself.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Credit Where Credit is Due

There’s been some fuss on the Internet about a pastor stiffing the waiter for a tip, saying she had “already given 10% to God” or some such self-righteous nonsense. I much prefer the example that one of the preachers from my old church set when he was downtown with a daughter of his, which I heard from someone to whom the daughter had told the story.

Apparently, as they were walking around downtown, this preacher gave some homeless guy the coat off his back, literally. And in doing so, I suspect he taught his daughter more than any amount of lecturing could have done. Not that he hasn’t also lectured, and in a positive way, too.

In one sermon he challenged the congregation to consider whether they would welcome someone into that sanctuary who looked very different (piercings, tattoos, etc.). After an awkward pause, the story goes, he said of course they would. That isn’t to say he wouldn’t also do the usual suggesting of a change in appearance to the outsider after the eventual hoped-for conversion. The point, I think (and I wasn’t there), is that Christians ought to there be no less willing to sit with publicans and sinners than Christ was.

I can assure you that this man would never have told the coat-off-his-back story himself. Tooting your own horn like that is just not something one does from a Laestadian pulpit. That certainly has its positive aspects, and is very much line with Paul’s beautiful confession of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (as is Laestadian ministering generally), but it does make it harder for the preachers to be an example to the flock. So, I’m certainly happy to give credit where credit is due, heathen though I may be. Well done.

—First posted (without links) on Facebook, 2/4/13

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Day of Beautiful Things

This was a day of beautiful things.

Bald Eagle. Cropped from CC-NC-SA licensed photo by Doug Brown.

A pair of bald eagles flew slow and heavy by the road, huge black wings arcing up and down, their tips curving as they swept traces through the air. One landed on a tree, looking out regal and impassive as I stopped the car to gape. Each is bigger than a large cat, with bright shocks of white on head and tail and that sharp yellow beak, curved and deadly.

We two humans, my daughter and I, traced our own paths, ski tracks joining thousands of others in the snow. It was a bluebird day, our forays up and down the mountain taking place above the mat of low cloud that has stubbornly enshrouded the valleys for much of this winter. From a mile high, the hills below us seemed as islands in a vast lake of unsettled white water. But up here, at least, we got to see the sun, and the fine sharp edges it put on the trees.

Several times I had to stop and take it all in. I watched mute and helpless before the grandeur of an earth spread out below me under a dark blue dome, all shades of white dotted with the dark tints of forests, pine needles and gnarled trunks framing the foreground. Sure is pretty, a woman commented as she skied by—whether talking to me, herself, her son, or the universe—I don’t know or care. Yes, it was.

Eventually, as it always does, the sun went down, the lumps in the snow casting shadows. The air cooled, the sky darkened. The last run was over subdued and well-worn terrain, down through layers of pine scent. I will not spend my life in a city, I vowed.

Colville River Valley  [Flickr page]

On the way home, below the cloud layer now, it was dark blue with gathering dusk. Red taillights lit a procession along the length of the highway, a bright and somehow reassuring human contrast to nature turning down the lights for the night. These people were like me, going home.

And just before reaching home, two speckled white horses loped alongside us, riderless. Movement for the sheer animal joy of it, as we had done all day.

—First posted on Facebook (here slightly edited), 2/2/13