THE WORLD

It’s been pushing fifteen years since I hand picked the trees, bushes, and flowers for my yard. I made sure each one was placed strategically around the yard; front, sides, and back, to make the most of the shade, but more importantly for the tropical oasis that I’d envisioned in my mind – a getaway from the world…

I’ll admit that the selections were a strategic as well as a self serving endeavor. And while I was trying to create an escape from the world, I stumbled into bringing some of the most beautiful parts of this world into my oasis.

The west and east sides of the house, where the morning and afternoon Arizona sun pierces even the toughest dual pane windows, are now massive yellow bells and orange jubilees.

In the backyard, among the same yellow bells and orange jubilees, behind the queen palms and orange trees, is a mixture of bougainvilleas, red and purple, and hibiscus trees.

Hibiscus flowers are my favorite. And I have every color hibiscus God made in my backyard.

For all I accomplished in hiding neighbors yards and road noises, as well as creating an oasis to find solace from the vicious world, probably the best thing I accomplished was creating a home for all the birds and critters that don’t pay rent.

The trees are filled with nests of all types of birds; doves, cactus wrens, sparrows, blackbirds, but mostly my favorites, hummingbirds.

We have hummingbird nests in front, side, and backyards. There’s been more than a couple of seasons when we were flogged by a tiny hummingbird mom trying to get us away from the nest she’d built in the tree under our back patio.

But just like the movie “Field of Dreams”, “Build it and they will come”. The squirrels are winning the battle to take over underneath the spa and boulder water feature. It’s also a losing battle trying to keep the rats from the orange trees. They aren’t pretty, but the baby lizards perform the nighttime dinner show by eating the bugs gathered to the light coming from the windows under the patio.

The pigeons have been in retreat for over a year now since I went on the offensive to rid them from destroying the front of the house. They’ll come back. They always do. I’ll be ready.

Death and destruction are part of this fallen world… and even in a retreat designed for a break from the world, it falls there too.

In Matthew 10:29 I’m reminded that a small bird doesn’t have a lot of value in this world, but they matter to God and He knows when one dies… which means He cares.

With all the birds that live in my yard, I’ve seen many fall. And it reminds me that it’s a fallen world. Children are dying and being abused… evil is real.

We need rest from the world, but even a beautiful oasis can’t bring peace. That only comes from God.

THE HIDDEN TREASURE

Repost from September 2011

hidden treasure

image courtesy of photobucket.com

He was weary from the journey, the unforgiving desert seemed never ending. He couldn’t decide which was worse, the long flat dirt stretches mixed with a smattering of occasional cactus and creosote bush, or the rocky treacherous hills.

The topping of each hill or mountain felt like a little victory in itself but was short lived, only to discover another one following the last. He knew out there on the other side of the hottest stretch of dirt on earth was what he considered the promised land. The hidden treasure. He remembered the land transformed into it’s most unforgiving point right before the magical place.

After what seemed a lifetime, he finally reached the four thousand foot mountain range. He could see for endless miles west from that vantage point. He knew his destination was in reach as he braced himself and slowly made the descent back and forth, cautiously down the mountain. The drop off in spots was several hundred-foot sheer cliffs. One wrong move would mean certain death.

He smelled it before could see it. After a treacherous journey, he could feel the air begin to cool. He could almost taste the cold water as he swallowed, his dry mouth beginning to water in anticipation.

He crested one last hill, not knowing for sure if that was the last one, but alas he found himself looking at the most beautiful place on earth. His aching back and legs now couldn’t be felt.

He beheld the beauty first. Right out of nowhere it looked like his personal Garden Of Eden had sprung up. The vivid green leaves of the well watered cottonwoods formed a tall barrier hiding the treasure below that sustained them.

Below that, deep rich green bushes and vegetation among the cottonwoods spread out and up from the valley. Across the canyon, he glanced a high mesa, “If this were my land that’s where I’d build my home,” he mumbled in a low, barely audible voice as he talked to himself.

He envisioned looking out over the valley from that mesa in the late Fall afternoon. He could picture in his mind the beauty enriched by the long shadows across his perfect canyon.

He suspected a place that beautiful would likely have some dangers. He thought about the serpent in the Garden Of Eden he learned of as a child. His head locked straight ahead, eyes squinting at half mast, trying to focus as he searched for any movement. Even more troublesome would be the two legged animal. He’d come to realize it was easier to guess what a wild animal might do than it was a desperate human.

As he slowly continued along the far ridge, he caught sight of the very source of life that turned that place into an oasis. Making its way through the golden crust and sand, he spotted glimpses between a few cottonwoods of the dark blue shimmering water. He could see the sun brilliantly reflect off some of the bigger partially wet boulders flanking the creek.

He’d seen the beauty many times… He got close so often but never got to touch or drink the cool water or sit in the shade of the heavy cottonwoods with his toes buried in the golden sand.

He was moving too fast… He had a schedule to keep, he had responsibilities. He was caught on the hamster wheel just like a rodent… He could only look at the beauty and study it by slowing down to 70 miles per hour as he passed by on the interstate.

Those were the dreams of his youth… Those were the dreams of yesteryears…

The road to the big city was the on-ramp to life in the fast lane.

He remembered the verse from the Bible, “Be still and know that I Am God”….

He wasn’t very good at that one…

He is me…

CAULKING

I read somewhere that no matter where you are on earth, you’re within about five feet of a spider. Kinda creepy to think about. Especially ’cause it’s probably true. Caulking is sorta like that, but only if you’re in or close to a structure created for shelter.

Everybody knows about caulking, most have dabbled with it, but we don’t give it a lot of thought. That’s the whole point; it’s created so that nothing stands out or catches your eye that’s not supposed to.

I liken caulking to asphalt filler. When we’re sailing down a nicely paved, or repaved, road we don’t give it a lot of thought. Some of us with heavy feet syndrome tend to give in to our disease…

It’s not until you get on a crummy street that has cracks and potholes in it that we tend to pay attention to where the jarring and damage causing crevices lie waiting to take out a precious tie rod.

I pay a little more attention to finish details and design than other folks, due to my being in the business and all. When the areas around the corners of windows aren’t caulked properly they stick out like a sore thumb. Same with the tops and the bottoms of baseboards; if they’re not properly caulked that dark line grabs my eye like a drowning chap grabs a life preserver. You can add the side of a cabinet where it attaches to the wall to that list as well.

The genius design of that simple sticky mixture that we call caulking is that it hides the imperfections that exist in every structure ever built. And like riding a bike; most of us can do it, but some folks, especially the ones that do it for a living, do it a whole lot better.

There are a lot of things in this world that are similar to caulking. A lot of women won’t leave the house without their caulki-, I mean, makeup on. I don’t tuck my shirt into my pants anymore… untucked somewhat hides what used to be ripped. I don’t smile as big either. I quit wearing my retainer after I got my braces off when I was a kid…

Most of us have issues we like to cover up, or not draw attention to, like caulking at the top of baseboard to fill in the voids between the trim and wall.

It’s peculiar how we use invisible caulking to hide our hearts… Since none of us are perfect, it’s easy to assume that we hide behind a facade of invisible caulking from time to time. We hide what we want to say and do, but just like every structure has flaws… so do we… but we can only hide them from others… not ourselves and not our Maker.

I think true craftsmanship and beauty are about the foundation and structure… not the color of paint and makeup that hides what’s really there…

NO LOITERING

Mundell’s was the hot spot for teenagers to hang out at in our small town back in the day, back when my oldest brother was finally driving legally. Mrs. Mundell was the owner of the drive in style fast food slash shake shop.

She was a dark haired woman that was old enough for her hair to have gone grey, but it was still just beginning to color at the edges, sorta like a leaf at the beginning of fall. Her reading glasses were perched permanently at the tip of her nose as she’d take the orders, mostly fountain drinks, from rambunctious teenagers. She’d never frown, but she’d never smile either. And her monotone voice matched her demeanor.

There was a faded sign under the metal awning where the cars pulled in on an angle and the four tabled patio, opposite side of the bathrooms, that read, “No Loitering”.

Now a lot of the kids would break that rule, but not all of them. If they bought a small drink and sipped it like it was poison they could stay all night. And some of them did.

Typical of our generation, the kids would go cruise the small town, sometimes race their or their parents car, ’cause everyone thought their V-8 powered cars were fast, and end up back at Mundell’s.

Occasionally my mom would take my sister and me to Mundell’s for a cherry Coke, before the mega corporation actually made one. It was fun to watch the teenagers, especially their cars, and dream of the day that I’d get to loiter and cruise.

image courtesy of Havasu museum

I saw a sign the other day, I can’t remember where, a gift from time, that was sporting those old fashioned words, “No Loitering”. That’s what picked my mind up and dropped it back in the seventies.

You don’t see those signs much these days. As kids, those signs warning us not to loiter was a good excuse to do just that. I remember a few grouchy shop owners would point to the signs and bark at us, “No Loitering!” We’d chuckle and give them a smart reply, usually something about not feeling like a Loiter. It was kinda fun just to say the awkward word.

The loitering signs went the way of the loud V-8 powered cars and the dinosaurs, not to mention Mundell’s Drive In. After Mrs. Mundell retired the old drive in became a used car lot. Eventually it was torn down and is now a two story office building.

These days a lot of businesses encourage folks to loiter, they don’t call it that, but that’s what it is, at least to us Baby Boomers.

I have frequent business meetings at convenient Starbucks. Unfortunately, sometimes they last a long time. And inevitably when I’m in those meetings there are youngsters, and oldsters alike, with their noses in a book or laptop, loitering. They don’t even keep the key to the bathrooms locked up behind the counter… not to mention the bathrooms are inside now…

Not that everyone in small towns are best friends, but you still know everyone. When I go back to visit the town I grew up in, which isn’t so small anymore, you know when a Home Depot pops up you’re officially not a small town anymore, I still run into people I grew up with. We know each other a little more intimately than folks who had more people to interact with…

And because we loitered under the signs that said, “No Loitering”.

TEACHERS, BOOKS, AND MISTAKES

I like old adages. They’re sorta like a Proverbs, well some of them anyway, they use just a few words to make a big point. There’s wisdom in that, maybe genius. The whole point is that they make us think, or at least that’s the intent.

After finishing my post last week and before I hit the “publish” button, I texted my mom and asked her if she could send me a picture. I wanted to post a picture of my first Little League baseball team. The team that I was on that lost the championship when I got tagged out trying to steal home base.

My mom couldn’t find the picture, I knew it was a long shot, she’s got a zillion photo albums. But she did find some other pictures. One in particular I’d forgotten all about. It was a picture my brother took of me jumping off a cliff in Crystal Beach, a spot north of Lake Havasu where the Colorado River runs swift.

That picture made me ponder old adages. Here’s what I came up with after seeing that picture;

“I learned much from my teachers, more from my books, and most from my mistakes.” Anonymous.

It was a different world then. We grew up fast. There was no such thing as “helicopter parents”. Our parents trusted in the Good Lord to send His angels to protect their reckless and foolish offspring.

At the time of that picture my brother was about sixteen. I was ten or eleven. My brother was crazy, everyone in town knew it. I was dumb and that probably wasn’t a secret either. He was smart enough to watch from below and take the picture for posterity’s sake.

That’s me flying at the upper right hand corner.
My brother took it from a lower cliff.

Everyone makes mistakes because none of us are perfect. There was only One. And all of us have regrets. Mistakes and regrets are the necessary ingredients to learn wisdom. It’s not a matter of living in the past, it’s a matter of learning from our mistakes. And if there’s no regret or remorse there’s no fuel to learn.

I like the NIV translation of Job 12:12, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

A lot of us are lucky or blessed to be able to tell the tales of our sordid past. I think it’s proof all by itself of the Divine intervention of God in this world.

So this post isn’t a rejection of last week’s, but a clarification of it. I think we should strive to have joy in this life like we had before the days and years left our senses tarnished and calloused. But with the understanding of God’s grace that delivered us from the days of teachers, books, and mistakes.