Reflections by the Pond

#551: Rising out of the Shadows

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Reflections by the Pond – May 14, 2012

Few things lighten the heart or brighten the aspect more than the songs of spring. After the death-like stillness of winter—a period in which even the few remaining songs are rarely heard from behind shuttered windows—the fulsome chorus of spring is something that reinvigorates the soul.

This time of year we are typically greeted in the parking lot of our church by the heart-lifting song of the meadowlark, especially loud and vibrant in the quiet Sunday morning air. And now, even though there may still be a chill to the pre-dawn air, we happily leave open a window or two so that we might be awakened by the joyous arias and choruses of our early rising, avian neighbors. There is no finer way to greet the new day than by their robust songs of praise.

For that is what they are. Oh, yes, it is true that in a temporal sense the feathered melodies have more to do with finding a mate, calling back a wayward mate, and chatting with each other, nest-to-nest, over the fence. But anything that lifts the soul skyward—anything that illumines or magnifies one's vision of holy splendor—must surely have found its origin in heaven...

#550: Double Sight

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Reflections by the Pond – May 7, 2012

O Lord, what is man...

I was standing outside this morning listening to the insistent yet joyous voice of a wren calling for a mate. He was up high in the branches of the community of oak trees behind our house, flitting from tree to tree, branch to branch, mostly hidden in the clusters of fresh new leaves.

And I thought, how different everything must look from up there. How different must our land and house look from high in the trees looking down, rather than looking up into the trees from the ground. I consider myself to be the lord and master of my realm, but to that tiny wren I am probably just another of the lumbering beasts far below who haven't the gift of flight. How thunkish and leaden humans must seem to a lilting aerobatic, acrobatic bit of feathers who knows little of gravity's pull...

#549: Full Volume

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Reflections by the Pond – April 30, 2012

Back in the very early 1970s, back when television screens were rounded, back when no one had ever heard of cell phones and the internet was still but a gleam in Al Gore's eye, I paid an afternoon visit to the small apartment of our navy band's lead trombone player. Though we played the same instrument, he was considerably older, a college graduate, and a far better musician than I.

It was not long after our band had returned from our all-expenses-paid pleasure cruise in the waters off the coast of Vietnam. During our ports of call in Japan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong most of us had taken advantage of the rock bottom Navy Exchange prices for cameras and stereo gear.

Our lead trombone player had purchased a stereo system overseas—turntable, amplifier and speakers—which was splayed across the carpeted floor of his diminutive apartment when I arrived. As he sat there on the floor studying the back of the record jacket of the classical recording that was spinning on the turntable, I remarked about the low volume of his stereo. Was he just being polite to the others in his apartment building?

No, was his reply, he preferred the low volume. I found it ironic, at the time, that one would spend the money for a new, powerful amplifier and large speakers, only to keep the volume so low. Whether because of my youth or my tastes—probably both—I preferred to turn up the volume: I didn't want to listen for music, but listen to it. Indeed, my preference was and still is to feel music vibrating every atom in my body—to experience it...

#548: The Voice of Truth

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Reflections by the Pond – April 23, 2012

The Christian is surrounded by many voices. There is the thin, vaporous voice of popular entertainment, and the faux-authoritative yet highly suspicious voice of the news media. There is the slippery, cynical voice of politics and the winsome voice of advertising. There is the trustworthy voice of a friend, and the suspect voice of a foe.

Whether they be audible or visible, we are daily bombarded with myriad voices that, each in their own way, work to lead us down a path of their choosing.

We cannot escape the voices. It is a loud and clamorous chorus, with each part imagining that it sings the lead. Short of retiring to a stone cave devoid of electricity or delivery of mail or newspaper, we will not escape the persistent cacophony so long as our feet tread the shifting crust of this earth...

#547: Choosing to Believe

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Reflections by the Pond – April 16, 2012

They were perfect. Utterly pristine. No deformities, no blemishes, no mental or emotional weaknesses. They were without sin. No dishonesty, no guile, no craftiness or secret motives. They were clean before their Maker, and thus free to enjoy His company. Their life was one of unfettered bliss. No worries. No anxieties. No fear.

The man and woman understood who they were—and what they were not. They understood that the Maker was God—and that they were not. Their relationship with Him was based on trust and honesty: they trusted Him, and He was honest with them. Everything was open and free.

But one day the man and woman chose not to believe God. They chose, instead, to believe a lie put forth by a stranger...

#546: After the Cross

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Reflections by the Pond – April 9, 2012

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me."
Matthew 28:8-10

After the long winter months, mowing the lawn for the first time is a welcome and pleasurable contrast to plowing snow. Everything is turning green, fresh new life is springing up all around. Instead of a heavy coat and a muffler wrapped around the face, shirtsleeves are the uniform of the day. The air is cool and invigorating, but the sun is warm upon the skin.

Best of all, the breeze carries the sweet aroma of spring blossoms. And in these parts the fragrance of spring is defined by blossoming lilac bushes. Around this time of year the delicate scent perfumes the whole of our tended property, brightening the spirit as well as the olfactory sense...

#545: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

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Reflections by the Pond – April 2, 2012

This writer, as is usual around this time of year, originally set out to write something profound, inspiring, and reasonably unique for the occasion of Easter. Different angles, fresh perspectives, all ultimately discarded. Discarded because the Spirit of the Lord was whispering (a la Thoreau) "Simplicity!"

Let us, therefore, not clutter the remembrance with creativity or profundity, but let us, instead, set everything else aside and just come before the cross and the empty tomb. Let us reduce out the noise to focus our thoughts and devotion on the two irreplaceable scenes that define our faith...

#544: Rewriting History

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Reflections by the Pond – March 26, 2012

It was an interesting period in the life of planet earth. Many today have probably forgotten (or never been told of) the turmoil, but for several years prior to January 1, 2000, the press laid down a crescendoing cacophony of headlines and stories warning everyone about how the world was going to end at the moment the clock ticked over to 12:01 am. The grisly scenario painted was one of airliners plummeting from the sky, utilities ceasing to flow, world-wide markets collapsing, and people starving to death because grocery shelves would be empty. In 1997 Newsweek blared,

THE DAY THE WORLD SHUTS DOWN. Drink deep from your champagne glasses as the ball drops in Times Square to usher in the year 2000. Whether you imbibe or not, the hangover may begin immediately. The power may go out. Or the credit card you pull out to pay for dinner may no longer be valid. If you try an atm to get cash, that may not work, either. Or the elevator that took you up to the party ballroom may be stuck on the ground floor. Or the parking garage you drove into earlier in the evening may charge you more than your...

#543: Perfectly Reasonable

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Reflections by the Pond – March 19, 2012

Satan is one of the characters in my play, The Surrender. To be sure, it is a small role—and then, only the voice. But it comes at a pivotal moment in the story: Christ's temptation in the wilderness.

Along with directing the inaugural performance of this play, I also took the role of Satan, delivering the lines into a microphone from the front pew. In that production I gave Satan a menacing, gravelly, other-worldly voice, having great fun with the over-the-top interpretation.

It was great fun—and dead wrong.

#542: Unto Your Sons

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Reflections by the Pond – March 12, 2012

"You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up."

Dad never did tell us much of his history. In snippets here and there, in off-hand references we would learn that he left school during the eighth grade to support his mother and sister; raised goats when a youth; a few years later joined the "Three Cs" (Civilian Conservation Corps), one of F.D.R.'s public works projects for giving meaningful work to unemployed young men; and was rejected for military service in the Second World War because of a heart condition (a "bum ticker," as he called it). He told us even less about his father, who was in his youth an immigrant from Europe, and who was—this born and bred Baptist learned more than twenty years after Dad's death—almost certainly Jewish.

And it was not until much later, only a few years before his death, that Dad opened up about God's working in his life...