Choice Time

choiceThe idea is that the moral freedom given to us by God is meant to be used less as an opportunity to experience anything and everything in this world that we can but, rather, it is meant to be more of an opportunity given to us by God to eventually realize and come around to God’s way of thinking. God doesn’t change us without our awareness, permission, or knowledge. Instead, God gives each of us the freedom – to work over time – for each of us to realize that God’s ways are the better ways.

We’ve all heard about the erroneous thinking that some spouses think that their purpose and role in life is to change their spouse. The end of the story, of course, is that rarely can one spouse really and intentionally “change” his or her spouse. Rather, the better way to “change” a spouse is to exhibit love, patience, and understanding all while giving plenty of time and space to the spouse. With time and space and more often than not, two marriage partners will, over time, come to a much better level of relationship.

It’s the same with God. He isn’t going to strike me with a bolt of lightning and change me in an instant. Instead, he gives me love, patience, and understanding along with time to learn and grow to appreciate the ways of God. With God setting the world at my feet, he waits for me to understand God’s ways over time.

Freedom isn’t as much about making choices as it is about taking an opportunity – or not – to come to God’s way of thinking.

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Dry Spell

Bored-bored-bored-baby-budding-politician2Admittedly, being in school takes up lots of time but, at least, I have something to do everyday. I have a schedule, plans, and work to complete. This sounds whiny, of course, but when school is out I feel dry. There is plenty to do around but my days are less structured and they have less purpose, it seems. It’s nice for awhile but after a bit of not having any school around to structure me, I get antsy and nervous. It’s weird.

Today is a nice day out and I’m waiting to connect up with a friend later but other than that, I am honestly feeling like I need to stir up something in order to be engaged and challenged.

“You have a real problem there,” you are saying with snark in your voice and as you roll your eyes. “Must be hard to relax and not be driven by a phone and schedule. Sure, I really feel for you! Too bad!”

Okay, I get it. I’m complaining about something that, not too long ago, was something that I wished for like a Christmas morning. Time off! Not having to think! Not being the tip of the spear! Ah, it all sounded so nice.

But yes, it’s all relative, isn’t it? You do your thing and I do my thing and, after awhile, we all get in the routine and, maybe even, rut and we begin to take things for granted and we figure the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

I’ll survive.

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Spacemusic Ending

spacemusicI was one of the many who first found Spacemusic.nl almost ten years ago. TC in Rotterdam has been producing and publishing his electronic ambient podcasts since around 2005. His shows partly distinguished themselves because of TC’s light banter about cooking, walking through parks in the Netherlands, visiting other countries for vacation or to attend ambient concerts, or riding his bike. TC is not a native English speaker so, while quite a good English speaker, he often would create – for English speakers – some pretty humorous juxtapositions of words. He never became angry about his limited English skills – he actually took on a self-deprecating attitude which was endearing and interesting.

What did distinguish the Spacemusic show was the excellent electronic ambient music TC selected and mixed. I’m not sure how TC obtained the music and artist interviews, but every week was a combination mix of deep, tantalizing, and very enjoyable ambient music. In some shows, TC would do quite a bit of talking but in other shows – my favorites – TC would turn on his music for 90 minutes and not say one word.

I discovered many ambient artists listening to TC’s podcasts and was happy to support the ambient community by purchasing music from the artists over the years that TC played on his shows. One ambient group from San Diego was especially good and I really like them. In the years, I’ve purchased three or four CDs from them. All because of TC.

TC announced a month ago that he was ending his podcasts after ten years. He was almost apologetic but pressed ahead saying that times were different now, he was pursuing some other career options, and he hoped we all would continue supporting ambient electronic music.

This might seem odd but it’s with sadness that I acknowledge TC’s desire to stop his show. I’ve listened to Spacemusic on my iPod and iPhone while on travel, while driving back and forth to work, and I listened a great deal while waiting the many hours I spent in Regina’s hospitals.

I will miss TC’s Spacemusic. Thanks, TC.

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Color Signals

culoursBeing in mountains with colorful fall trees is, for me, one of the most beautiful experiences of the year. Of course, fall is about death and dying in nature – not being a bummer here but it is – but in the ending of a fall season there is always hope for a new season of growth and maturity. Thankfully, this is how our universe works.

Not only do I see the colors of leaves, but I can smell them, sense them falling from high up in the trees to the ground, hear them when they touch the ground sometimes, and taste the fall air that is often heavy with decay. Being in a forest – as I was yesterday – the experience of fall is a full-senses, multi-sensory experience. Along with the leaves and trees, of course, are the animals who are getting ready for winter – the squirrels storing up their last nuts, the deer running about like they do this time of year, the geese that are moving to other places, and, of course, the decline in buzzing insect population. Additionally, the summer always brings croaking frogs around here – but in the fall the nightly cacophony of amphibian harmony lessens and lessens until it completely stops in the late fall.

Somehow and to me, the colors in the trees signal what is coming. It’s like a flare launched up into the sky to tell others to be on the lookout for something. The color signals a profound change that is about to happen – a life-ending, life-beginning, temporary yet sustainable event that reflects and manifests itself, too, in who all of us are.

We are people of seasons. There is no reason why we can’t and shouldn’t look for signals in our seasons of life.

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Icon Progressing

2014-10-23 12.15.15As I mentioned before, when a group of us wrote our icons a month ago, the weather was very humid and our icons were taking too long to dry. As a result, we were not able to finish the icons in the one week allotted. This being the case, those who desired to finish their icons needed to make arrangements to travel to Fr. Mefodii’s icon studio (click on photo to the right) near Palmyra, VA.

This past week, I drove to his studio and spent three hours working on my icon. In a morning of work, I was able to get much done and my icon is looking very nice, I think. It will probably take another one or two trips to finish but I am getting close. When done, it will have been about 50 hours of time spent writing the icon. It is satisfying to know that I am almost done.

The studio is provided by a benefactor and is located on a beautiful Devon cattle farm. The farm was, during the Civil War era, a plantation. The studio was built and used as a one-room school for the slave children of parents who worked the plantation. With a few upgrades since then, the little building is a cute and comfortable place for studio work.

But beyond working on my icon, being able to visit the studio in the morning and, at Fr. Mefodii’s invite, being able to visit St. Maximos the Confessor Skete near Palymyra later made for a special day. Below are some pictures of my progressing icon and several from inside the studio and from inside the skete. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

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Inside the small but cozy studio.

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Inside the beautiful and sunny skete.

 

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Library Remember

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(Click on photo to enlarge.)

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Oh Cheryl

My friend Dave was telling me recently that he had insisted that his wife Cheryl put a certain epithet on his headstone someday but that she was pushing back. She didn’t think it was appropriate plus she felt he was being a bit too humorous and, perhaps, even sarcastic. And besides, she felt it reflected poorly on her a bit so she really didn’t like the epithet at all!

My friend is trying to figure out a way to make sure the epithet gets put on his marker somehow without making his wife uncomfortable. (Or, as he said, maybe even without her knowing!)

So here is the epithet.

epithet

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Gay Tolerance

guysgirlsSo what do you think about gayness and self-described gay individuals?

Am I already offending you and are your personal defenses already up with your moral bastions rigged and armed?

Here’s the thing and I can say this with much anecdotal experience and evidence – many in our younger generations see and have very little issue with homosexuality.  It seems many in younger generations have the idea that – basically – if two people care for or love each other regardless of their individual genders then what is the problem with two people getting together as intimate friends or marriage partners? And besides, they aren’t hurting anyone (which is its own discussion, of course) by publicly professing and demonstrating their love for each other so what is the big deal?

I am not going to defend or condemn homosexuality here or anywhere. I am way beyond the right and wrong of this thing. So far beyond… Frankly, the rightness and wrongness of homosexuality doesn’t concern me too much anymore. My motivation behind the way I choose to deal with this issue comes from my personal understanding and realization that I live in a real and tangible world where I work with, have worked with, have friends who are, have friends who have friends who are, and spend time in counseling and listening situations with people who all completely acknowledge and, likely, live a gay lifestyle.

So what I have asked myself many times over the years is – what am I going to do about whatever the problem is? Get angry, stand on a box and cast accusations, attempt to deprogram and convert gay people to another form of supposed normalcy, or what? What is my end game by casting aspersions at people or does my end game have a conscionable and morally honorable, decent, and true end? Which works better – bare-knuckling this issue or being patiently understanding? Honestly, I am more inclined to listen and converse and attempt to be a friend with anyone without harsh and unmerciful judgment, being prejudiced, or otherwise being meanly intolerant.

Here’s where I am at and have been for a long time. There are enough angry, thumping, “principled” people out there making various argument points about homosexuality (whether the points be correct or not). I’m not one of them. Rather, I choose to be a friend, I choose to take the time – as much as possible – to listen, and I choose to invest myself in either a straight or a gay person as long as our relationship can be as honest, open, respectable, and tolerant as possible.

That’s where I am.

(After initially writing this article, this came up in my news feed. It is worth the read.)

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Fire Confessional

2014-10-17 19.28.56It was a few evenings ago.  We sit by a comfortable fire together on a cool, fall evening. We’re situated around his fire pit out on the back side of his property. We are hidden by covering trees and heavy bushes so it is a nice, private place but what makes it really special is that it feels like we are sitting isolated out in the mountains somewhere and not in the middle of a busy subdivision. It’s a very unique spot.

We’ve done this, actually, on quite a few occasions through the years. It is something he and I try to do several times every fall. As time goes by and as our lives are further seasoned, I think we both relish the good times we spend together around the fire pit.

I take my lawn chair and a mug of chai over to his house. My friend sits in his chair or on a bench sipping his mug of coffee. His dog pads between us – back and forth – all evening for an occasional ear scratch or friendly tummy rub from each of us. As the dusk turns into a starlit night, we move closer to the crackling, warming fire. Our conversation becomes less animated and more intimate.

We talk about relationships, concerns, things that make us happy and sad, and hopes and dreams about the future. We wonder aloud why God does the things that he does and how we need to react to God’s direction and care. We are amazed at how God has set us down life-paths that we would never have imagined.

Our conversation is spotted with silence as much as it is populated with conversation. Our ideas and emotions need to be said – but felt, too. We are comfortable enough with each other that we don’t fear silence. Sometimes what needs to be said can best be said with silence.

The fire pit is our confessional. It is a safe place.

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Avoiding It

avider
The holidays (and my anniversary) are coming up. This is not a particularly nice time of year for me – or at least it hasn’t been for the last two years. It’s not your problem and don’t worry about it but as much as I like the lights, colors, and sounds of Oct, Nov, and Dec, I kind of wish I could skip through to Jan 1. But, I know it is a special time for others so I wouldn’t deny them their enjoyment.

I’ve felt the last few months that I might decorate up and try to get into things this holiday season but I’ve about decided that it wouldn’t feel right yet so I think I’ll forgo the festivities again this year. I have some concert tickets that I will enjoy and a few other plans with some friends and family, but that will about be it.

I was at a restaurant yesterday with some friends. I knew the waitress and she knew me. Our group was rather large so the waitress was getting the bills organized and sorted and, somehow, I was the one she had missed in her head count. She, without thinking, looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re the one alone and by yourself.” As she said it, she knew what she had done (she knows my story) and she became pretty apologetic. Of course, it wasn’t a big deal but for a few moments there, and for her and me, it all came rolling back. We worked it out and things were fine but…

This is how it is now. I guess I prefer to continue to be an avoider.

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