Thursday, December 29, 2016

[The Beginning of] the Beginning of the Story

The whole "baby in the manger" thing has me thinking. What in the world are we supposed to do with an infant whose birth was heralded by angels, visited by sheep herders, lauded by wise travelers? It makes for a great story, except there's no closure at the end of our Christmas holiday. That Baby, no matter how special and holy, can't do anything. It's great that He came, but...

My dad used to travel for business, and he'd sometimes bring special gifts home. When he went to Alaska, he returned with photos and explanations of a large retaining wall for which his company had supplied the interlocking pieces. Oh, and jade necklaces for my mom and me. One of his early trips to the east side of the state, he witnessed tumbleweeds blowing across the highway. I was thrilled to take a real tumbleweed to school for show-and-tell! (Side note: I had to wrap it in newspaper so my classmates wouldn't guess what it was. Ha!) Looking back, I enjoyed the stories as much as the presents.
my completed moccasins were something like this

And then, on a jaunt to Arizona, he picked up a moccasin kit so I could stitch up my own slippers. No story, but something representative of the place. I loved the idea of having my own moccasins. But the kit, by itself, was only a beginning. It was what came after, the process of putting them together, that would make them useful. Only after that would I be able to wear them.

The baby in the manger is kind of like the moccasin kit. In order to really get something out of it -- Jesus, that is -- you have to involve yourself in a process. There's the first part of His story, understanding that His birth and His very existence is amazing. As an adult, He did things and told stories and taught lessons that should have our attention. But then... then there was the whole "end of story" part when He was killed -- but He could have gotten out of it. What? Yes, Jesus could have opted out, but He let them put Him to death as a religious criminal. And then, after He was proven to be dead, He was resurrected and reunited with His followers before returning to the right hand of God the Father. The point of all of this was to pay the penalties for all of our misdeeds, so that we could also be with Him forever.

So, celebrating the miraculous birth of the Baby is like opening that moccasin kit. It's exciting just to see this beginning, but there's much more to come if you carry it out to the end. Read and follow the instructions, as it were, to receive the real joy and fulfillment.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Does This Derny Make Me Look Dorky?

Maybe it's just that I was tired when I started watching, but the Olympic sport of Women's Keirin was such an amazing spectacle.

It starts on the steeply banked velodrome track, riders' feet buckled onto their pedals, embracing the men who are their handlers. Waiting for the start. Waiting for... the uniformed guy on a motorized bicycle to come around the track behind them, making the turn, riding on the inside lane.

This guy is sitting very upright. None of the hunched-over streamlined posture for him. His helmet is the round, nerdy type. He wears khakis and a polo shirt in the Rio Olympics colors. And he's not pedalling.

So the best funny thing is this dorky guy -- riding a thing called a derny. ("Hello! You're in the Olympics? What's your athletic event?" "I drive the derny." Silence.) He doesn't have to look athletic. He doesn't have to be athletic. He just has to ride around the track, five and a half times (if you don't count the first half lap before the official start), sitting straight up, looking straight ahead, increasing his speed only incrementally through each lap.

Finally, after watching this measured procession around and around and around the track, the derny pulls out and the sprint ensues. This is when the cyclists get down and dirty, jockeying for new positions, sizing up the field, knowing when to push to the head of the pack for the lead. This is when all the strategy they've had in their heads comes to fruition. This is the action. Two and a half laps of all-out, adrenaline-revving sprint riding. "He's gone! Let's go!"

The photo below is not from this year's Olympic event, but I love how this dernyman looks a bit like a traffic patrol officer. All business. Do not exceed the speed limit. Period. This portion of the race is not. a. race.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Eagles in the Tree, Snails on the Fence

I went walking... by the river, where the eagles live. Mama eagle was posing for the paparazzi, but they all had four-foot-long megalenses that made me feel like I'd rather keep walking and see what I could see on my own.

Who knew that snails climb fences? Maybe to keep away from the nesting geese? There was a tiny narwhal-bird in the top of a nearby tree. And I love that Indian plum is one of the very first spring bloomers.

Some thoughts on my shyness. When I feel self-conscious, I lose most of my social graces. Sure, I can put on an act of warm effusiveness, but that takes effort and brain-energy. Those are the times when I lose people's names, or forget that I just greeted this patron five minutes ago. Ugh.

On the other hand, shyness lets me explore on my own, looking for the ordinary extraordinary details that are often overlooked. Like a snail on the fence, or the hummingbird in the tree just a ways down from the giant eagle.

Therefore, being introverted is a blessing and a curse. But mostly, a blessing. And I'm grateful. Mostly. Because I do enjoy noticing the little things. Thanks, God.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Penthouse Real Estate in Heronville

I went walking near home today... and even though I'm not ready for spring to start, it's clear that other folks are more than ready. Here's the local heron rookery, sizing up the nesting situation and occasionally bronking at the neighbors. Amazing to see so many herons at once. That's part of the beauty of winter, you know -- no leaves on the trees, obstructing the views.