Thursday, August 23, 2018

I See You

Sermon - Lectionary 13 B, SAP 5, Sunday, July 1, 2018- V2
No way out. No way forward.
Crushing despair.

Two people found themselves in this condition in the Gospel today. Two people who, despite the risks, decided to take a chance on the mysterious healer from Galilee and in doing so found healing and redemption.

The most interesting part of the miracles in today's Gospel however are not in the miracles themselves but in lives of those who sought them and the way they were changed by them.  It’s so easy to simply stop at, “Jesus was filled with Godly power and healed the sick. Therefore he is God. Therefore he is legitimate. There for believe in Him. Amen.” But I think this Gospel story is so much more powerful than that.

As these event’s begin, Jesus has just come from exorcising the Gerasene demoniac we often know as “Legion.”  You remember the story, when Jesus cast out all the man’s demons into pigs who then promptly said, “No way, this isn’t going to work,” and through themselves over the cliff?  

No good deed goes unpunished though, because the townsfolk there, while amazed at the deed, were then pretty sore about losing all of their swine and promptly ran Jesus out of town.  This is why he was on his way back over to the other side of the sea of Galilee.

A deed of that magnitude, no doubt created quite a buzz and word spreads fast.  The great healer had done it again and into that buzz our two individuals found themselves in desperate need, having exhausted all of their options.

The woman, whose station is so lowly that we never even know her name, had come to the end of her rope. Most of us remember the part where she had been hemorrhaging, bleeding for 12 years.  A reproductive issue that made her first miserable, and secondly ritually unclean. But what we less often consider is that this had the effect of essentially destroying her personhood, because she was not allowed to take part in daily life with other people for fear that her uncleanliness would taint those around her. This made her life nearly impossible.  It disqualified her from so many opportunities that others surely took for granted. No doubt, her life experience was one of being the loneliest person in the world, even while standing in a crowded room. Life all around her, yet passing her by.

But that’s not the worst of it.  People took advantage of her unredeemed position.  They sold her pathways to normalcy, pathways to restoration, but a false ones.  Much as today we cling to fad diets, snake oil salesman, and the latest gadget on TV to lose weight, or grow more hair, or look more beautiful; or as the terminally ill patient seeks the help of a charlatan who is only so willing to help as long as their fee is paid in full  before their, “cure” is administered, people took advantage of her. They took what little she had with promises of deliverance and ended up making her worse. It is at this moment. This lowest of lows, when she had hit rock bottom that we join her story and she embarks on a risky, desperate attempt to encounter Jesus, a holy man, who by the morés of her day she should not be contacting. She should not even be near, him.  To do so would be a heinous act of disrespect, insult, and religious assault, one that would have consequences for anyone who she touched, one that might get her killed if she were caught.
There was also Jairus.  Jairus could not be more different  than the woman. He was an important man.  A leader in the Synagogue. He was a man of means.  He was no doubt pious and proper. He had it pulled together.  We don’t know that he was “wealthy” per se, but he was surely like that person that we all know that has everything put together, who has enough in the bank that they never really worry about money. His 401(k) was surely well balanced and he checked the stocks in the paper every morning. People looked up to him.  People sought him out for wisdom and advice. He was doing everything by the book. Doing everything right. He could afford the doctors that ministered to his daughter. Everything would be fine. No worries.

And then, things took a quick turn for the worse and it looked as if his daughter was going to die.  How could that be though? He had done everything he was supposed to and yet it wasn’t working. There was nothing left to do, nothing more that anyone could do. But what is a father to do when his child faces certain death.  The playbook was failing him at this point.

In Star Trek III, (You knew I was going to get that in, right?).  In Star Trek III, when Spock’s newly reanimated body is brought back to Vulcan, his mind still trapped in Dr. McCoys head, T’Pal, the high priestess, asks what is to be done. His father, Sarek, asks for, “the refusion,” where they will use their telepathic abilities to put Spock’s mind back into his body. T’Pal looks confused and says such has not been done for millennia and is then even a legend, and that Sarek’s request is not logical.  Sarek pauses and says, “Forgive me, T’Pal. My logic is uncertain where my son is concerned.” He was asking for the crazy, impractical, and uncertain, in order to save his son’s life, much like Jairus was about to seek out the whacko healer from Galilee, who was always stepping on the proper religious rectitudes of the time. This was not behavior befitting a man of station. But, “where his daughter was concerned, his logic also was not certain. “

Both Jairus and the woman were embarking on crazy desperate quests.

Jairus is the first to reach Jesus as he arrives on the shore and tells of his emergency.  Sure enough they go at best speed and the looky-loos are quick to follow. Another miracle is going to happen and the spectacle is something no one wants to miss. There is noise and pushing and shoving.  Everyone wants a glimpse of what is about to happen, after all. Into this melee pushes the “hemorrhaging woman.” Covered and hiding in plain sight. She works her way through the crowd trying to get to Jesus, knowing full well if she is discovered, the crowd could turn on her and kill her.  Just in reach she falls to the ground and touches “the hem of his garment” and is healed.

Then Jesus stops.  But, remember, they are on “an emergency call.”  Jairus’ daughter is in the last throes of death and yet Jesus stops and demands to know who touched him.  She tries to hide and slip away, but Jesus persists. Heavy with guilt, knowing that she had broken every rule there was to get to him,  she then pleads his forgiveness. Rather than rebuke her he says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Often times, this is where the sermon stops. It’s a miracle. Yeah! But there is so much more to what just took place.  Jesus claimed her as his daughter, in front of everyone in the crowd. Not only was she healed of her infirmity, she was raised out of her squalor. She was made a whole person again.  Life had been given back to her. There was a future where before there was nothing. Now there was promise for a way through to the other side of all her troubles. Jesus saw in her the humanity that had been denied her of no fault of her own and gave it back to her.

I love, when in the movie Avatar, (see, another movie reference) the Na’vii greet one another, “Oel ngait kameie,” “I see you.”  That is to say not only do I physically see you, but I see the whole of you. I see your being. I see your personhood. By acknowledging her in public, Jesus had “seen her” when others refused to.  He had made an invisible woman visible, demanding that the onlookers see her as well. Her body was healed and her soul and her personhood restored.

After taking all of this time to lift up this dirty, “nobody” woman, sure enough,  messengers arrive and tell the crowd that Jesus is too late and Jairus’ daughter is dead.  One could easily conclude that the woman had interrupted Jesus and condemned the girl to death, that Jesus didn’t take the emergency seriously enough, that he couldn’t prioritize.  Surely he could have come back for this woman. She was disgusting and unimportant but she was not in imminent danger. Surely the daughter of a community leader on the very edge of death was more important.  But no. Jesus calmly says, “Do not fear, only believe,” and continues on his way to Jairus’s house.

Funerals are a big deal in semitic culture.  They are as over the top about it as Lutherans are reserved about everything else.  Often there are professional mourners that are paid to make a scene, wailing and ripping their garments and when they arrive at his house, this was already getting underway, and Jesus in essence says, “What’s all the fuss for? The girl is just asleep.” People are so shocked that they laugh about it as if to say, “then why are we going to all of this trouble.  You are crazy. And you are too late. Thanks for nothing.” Still, Jesus takes Jairus and his wife inside and tells the girl to get up. And she does. And then just as if she was waking up as normal, he tells them to get her something to eat, as if nothing was ever amiss.

We always get into trouble when we try to time God. God works in crazy and impractical ways we cannot see.  It is not ours to know the ways of God nor how God ultimately moves in our lives to make us whole. Lamentations, today, teaches us how to cling to God, because, God will not let us linger in desolation forever. And the psalm shouts for joy for the same, that we cried out to God to deliver us.  We were afraid. We were wailing and just as God did for Jairus, he turned our mourning into dancing. Our duty is not to figure out how or why God works, but just to believe and trust that God is with us through our journeys.

Jairus clung to Jesus from the moment he arrived, despite the humiliation of going to find the wandering healer, despite Jesus taking time out of his emergency to help someone else, despite the news that his daughter was already dead.  He believed in nothing but Jesus and his faith was rewarded just the same as the hemorrhaging woman.

The most powerful reality here is in Jesus and the difference in these two people:
The woman: the outcast, the defeated, the unworthy, the oppressed and
Jairus: the upstanding, respectable, society man, and one might even say the oppressor since he was a proponent of the very laws and traditions that put the woman in her place.

When everything had been stripped away, when all was lost, In their most desperate moments, Jesus saw them.  He saw their humanity. Nothing else mattered. Not position, not politics, not wealth, not poverty, not holy, not unholy, just the beautiful fragile spark of their humanity.  In that moment, the oppressor was just as vulnerable as the oppressed, and the oppressed just as powerful as the oppressor. Jesus found them both in need and renewed and restored them in that crazy impractical and miraculous way that only Jesus could  and in the way we still find so hard with each other to this day.

The next time someone behaves badly.  The next time someone doesn’t live up to your standards.  The next time someone is awkward to a fault, or disappoints you, can you look at them and “see them?” Or the next time you find yourself wronged, oppressed, made to feel less worthy by someone else, can you look across the hurt, across the chasm of distrust and and see them? See them for the flawed beautiful creatures that they are, hurt and scared in their own way, just like you? That moment of sameness,  that moment where both oppressor and oppressed, where victim and vengeful can lay that all aside and see the humanity of each other is when healing begins. Miracles are born there and from there God can both restore us to wholeness and make a way when there seems to be no way.

Oel ngait kameie.  Amen.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Alabaré a Mi Señor

Alabaré a Mi Señor
Alabaré (4x)
Alabaré A mi Señor (2x)
Juan vio el numero de los redimidos
Y todos alababan al Señor
Unos cantaba, otros oraban,
Y todos alababan al Señor
Todos unidos alegres cantamos
Glorias y alabanzas al Señor
Gloria al Padre, gloria al Hijo
Y gloria al Espiritu de amor

   I Will Praise My Lord
   I will praise (4x)
   I will praise my Lord (2x)
   John saw the number of those redeemed
   And all of them were praising the Lord
   Some were singing, some were praying
   And all were praising the Lord

     All sang happy together
     Glory and praise to the Lord
     Glory to the Father, glory to the Son
     And glory to the Spirit of love

Truly remarkable, totally cute, and heart warming for sure.  These are two Yellow-Crowned Amazons, one of the 30 species of Amazon parrots, which are found in the New World from South America to Mexico and the Caribbean, which makes it fitting that the birds in the video are singing in Spanish. Most Amazon Parrots look like variations on these: mostly green birds with accent colors in different shades and at different locations of their bodies.  Several of the species including the Yellow-Crowned Amazons are among the parrot world's most accomplished "talkers."  I did not use the word, mimic, for a reason.  It is true that parrots are fantastic mimics, and can imitate as sorts of sounds, including words, but I know first hand that even those species that are not known as "great talkers" can learn to use phrases in context.  (If you are interested in those stories, you need to see my other blog, where I talk about owning my birds,  Amazons are known, however, for this other amazing ability that you just witnessed in the video above, singing!

Amazons are renowned for their knack of learning songs that they love and trumpeting them at the top of their voices.  This hymn is ubiquitous in Latin America, and I'm sure these birds have heard it sung often, and they clearly enjoy the theatrical quality of the melody.  Notice, as well, how they trade different bits of the music with one bird singing half of a phrase which is then completed by the other bird.  Truly astonishing.

Watching this caused emotions of awe and inspiration.  I am continually caught in wonder of just how much more fantastical the whole of creation is than we often times give it credit.  All of creation cries out to the creator.  All of creation is a miracle and watching these birds made me think of Psalm 104:

"What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations. Oh, look—the deep, wide sea, brimming with fish past counting, sardines and sharks and salmon. Ships plow those waters, and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them. All the creatures look expectantly to you... "                                                                 --Psalm 104: 24-27 (from The Message)
It would do us all well, to stop, put our human centric vision aside for a moment, and try to take the "wide-angle" view of the world.  All of creation praises the creator.  Perhaps if we take the moment of quiet to listen, we will allow ourselves to experience creations truly remarkable existence and think twice the next time our "dominion" comes into conflict with its wholeness.  We are the gardeners of the great garden.  And what a remarkable garden it is.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Softly and Tenderly

Trust, and love are two of the beautiful gifts that our pets demonstrate to us time and again. Their ability to read us and interact with us betray an intellect that is far more sophisticated than many would believe and that science said was impossible for centuries. Despite the protests of many a pet owner, science insisted that animals (other than humans) were nothing more than machines of response and stimuli. The silly assertions of pet owners were nothing more than intellectually soft and irresponsible anthropomorphizations.
A tender moment between beaker and Jorge
Fortunately this mindset has been giving way to better research and many scientists are opening up to the idea that personality is something that we share with our animal compatriots. That they do indeed have an emotional life and are capable of more complex thought than was originally believed.

Having said that, I would like to relate an incident that occurred between my Blue & Gold Macaw (Ara ararauna), Beaker and myself.

 Beaker is a "rescue" bird, meaning that we did not purchase him but rather, took him in via a rescue (Spring Branch Animal and Bird Sanctuary, in Houston, Texas - SBABS).  When he came into the rescue he was around 25 years old and had spent most of his life living with a chain smoker, who eventually died of emphysema (one of the first sounds that beaker made for us was the sound of someone coughing a deep smokers cough).  After this person died, he was given to a relative that had no interest in birds and left him in the cage with little or no attention, feeding him nothing more than seeds.  The neglect and misfortune of his early life were visible in his badly plucked plumage, his "scissor-beak" which probably occurred as a result of bad husbandry when he was a chick, and the white patches on his face (which were stained brown with nicotine when he was finally brought into SBABS).  His state of deterioration was bad enough that the vets that checked him raised the possibility that euthanasia might be the most  humane solution for him.  In spite, of his condition, the director of the sanctuary wanted to work with him and see what she could do.  Slowly but surely Beaker recovered and I was introduced to him.  He took to Jorge and I well and came to live with us.

Since that time, beaker has made a full recovery for the most part, although he already has atherosclerosis, no doubt from many years of bad diet and second hand smoke.  He has however taken more of a liking to Jorge than me.  Which is fine.  I spend much of my time with my animals trying to allow them choices rather than take more away from them.  Empowerment is my game, so if beaker likes Jorge better then thats ok.  In general this means that beaker doesn't want to have that much to do with me unless Jorge is away, then I do just fine as an acceptable replacement for Beaker's favorite person.

It is in those times, when Jorge is away, that I get to have really substantive and positive interaction with Beaker in an intellectual way as well as physical.  He will talk with me, and step up, and ride around the house on my should with bliss (or at other times, just using me as a taxi to take him around the house looking for the person he'd really rather be with).

One thing a new bird owner quickly understands is that a bird's beak speaks loudly of its mood, openess to handling, and general state of mind.  It only takes one or two real good "hits" from an angry, insecure, or reluctant bird to get the idea that a gaping beak headed for one of your appendages means "back off, buddy!" and while even a tiny budgie or parrotlet can inflict a righteous dose of punishment with their little chompers, the bigger bird, the bigger the beak, the stronger and more "persuasive" they can be, indeed.  (In "bird-speak" this can also be a warning for your own good, if the bird perceives that you are in some kind of danger, sort of like a spanking for your own good.)

Beaker issuing a clear warning!

As an instrument, however, the beak is useful for so much more than warning and admonishing.  It is a very sensitive instrument, even though it, at first glance, looks as if it is nothing more than a hard keratinous outcrop.  It is full of nerve endings and is for the most part how birds explore the world (their legs are busy supporting them and their "arms" have become wings for locomotion and little else.  The beak can also be an instrument of great delicacy that tends to the tiny filaments in a birds own feathers as they preen, or that manipulates the individual hairs in a human eyebrow as a bird allopreens it's human companion.

A few weeks ago, I went into the study to check on Beaker and spend a few minutes with him. He was perched in his cage, "chilling" the afternoon quietly away.  I Opened the door and reached in to a very calm and welcoming beaker.  He seemed aware that his preferred anthropod was not available and that I was therefore acceptable as company.  I reached behind his head and ruffled his feathers a bit, searching for pin feathers that I could assist him with dispatching.  His eyes relaxed into an almond shape and he cooed softly with approval making a kind of soft "braaa-a-a-a-a-a--a-" sound that Blue and Gold Macaws make when they are "comfy and approving" of ones actions. Knowing that he sometimes like's his face patches stroked, I let my thumb slip around and rubbed his skin gently and was treated to more "braaa-a-a-a-a-a-a-."

I do my best to let my birds my birds chooose.  There is always room for them to move away and I try not to force them to step up.  I do my best to listen to their vocal and body language.  So to this point in the story, its all about what Beaker wants.  He turns his head to the side a little bit to give me a better angle to his cheek patches and there are more "braaa-a-a-a-a-aa-'s."  More ruffling and stroking goes on for a bit and then Beaker starts to puff up just a little bit and open his beak in a way that I interpret as him being less open to my continuing and that a nip might be in my future.  I start to pull away and sure enough, here comes the beak, but then Beaker does something that warmed my heart and fascninated me.  Rather than nip me, he gently and carefully held my thumb in in his beak with just enough pressure to hold my hand in plance and nothing more, as if to say, "Wait, Wait. Stay.  Don't Go."  I stayed right there, thumb in beak and continued to ruffle his feathers for another minute or two.  Not for one second did he bite down or chew on my thumb or touch it with his tongue.  He was just holding on.  After a couple of minutes, he released my thumb and cocked his head to the side a little to look straight at me and made a little more cooing as he moved away from my hand and we both relaxed.  He quitely added a "Ha, ha, haa, HAAAaaaa as I closed the door on his cage walked back into the kitchen.  I could hear him behind me climbing up to his favorite perch to preen and relax.

Afterwards, as I went about my household tasks, I couldn't help but reflect on what had happened at be just amazed at the exchange.  How amazing is it that two different species, separated by so much time and genetic difference, could share a tender exchange, an exchange which saw the use of a powerful and intimidating appendage to communicate such gentleness.  The exchange of trust between the two of us was amazing.  I'm usually bad cop, taking Beaker to have his monthly beak trim or taking him to the vet (one of his least favorite places).  I take the brunt of the nipping and bossing from this bird as a general rule, but in this instant, that was put aside and we both enjoyed each other in detent.  These birds we invite into our homes to live with us, our animals in general are each fascinating and amazing in their own way, from rodent to psittacine.  How lucky are we to share our world with them, to cooperate with them.  While we may never know exactly what goes on in their minds, our pets live complex emotional lives beyond what many would allow.  I definitely felt love rise from within myself during our exchange and if not love, there was certainly major trust demonstrated by Beaker as he let his guard down with his "B" person. I hope that each of you will spend a few thoughtful minutes with your animal companions and marvel at the relationship you enjoy with them.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sunday Matins with Grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus)

As a church worker, my Sunday mornings have little in the way of resemblance to those who are Monday-Friday workaday types. Rather than dream away sleepily about the golf game I'll be playing later in the day, I'm usually up between 3:30 and 4:30 and out the door between 4:00 and 5:00 AM (5:00 is uncomfortably late as this is only 2 hours before people start arriving for 8:00 AM worship). Anyway, as is often the case with early risers it is of vital importance to consume coffee and pastries as soon as possible and on one particular morning at around 4:00 AM I faced the rest of the morning with neither because I'd skipped grocery shopping the day before and I was headed to church before the local Shipley's Doughnuts had opened. That left only one option Walmart (thank you Sam Walton for 24/7 shopping convenience bliss).

Emerging from Walmart, secure in "the feast to come," I took a moment to observe the Grackles that are a regular fixture of the "parking lot wilderness" in my neck of the woods. Literally thousands of these medium small birds had descended from the safety of the trees and begun congregating in large groups across the parking lot. As I looked at them, I became very curious as to what was going on here. While its true that the early bird gets the worm, this was still three hours before even a hint of sun would show itself on the eastern horizon and it was pretty darn cold for houstonians at least. The temperature had dipped into the low forties during the night, cold enough to see ones breath upon exhaling. They hadn't descended into comfy insulting grass either. They were massing together on the cold hardness of the parking lot itself. I thought to myself that this couldn't be nearly as comfortable as alighting in and among the insulted branches of a tree and yet here they were. What could possibly be going on here.

I will pause for a moment in the interests of full disclosure. I realize that what follows is blatant anthropomorphization. I am to be hopefully forgiven for this for two reasons:

  1.  There is no method by which I may simply ask one of these creatures what on earth they are thinking. We don't speak anywhere near the same language. 
  2. Even while I am aware that these delicate creatures are in fact the living decedents of theropod dinosaurs, which separates us by more than twigs in the tree of life ( and even more than large branches for that matter), we do both have brains and we are vertebrates. Might we take a pause to question the hubris that says that we share nothing of our intelligences. We do, after all, somewhere in the vault of history share an ancestor. We humans are a part of the natural world, no matter how hard we try to separate our selves from it. From a biblical or a natural perspective, whether emerging from the foam of evolutionary randomness or as a key player that was and always has been a part of, and not separate from, the biblical creation story, We are part of the same story. Is it to much to believe that we might share more than our backbones? Might not it be possible that the grey matter in our skulls is not completely distinct and that in as much as we see our wildness reflected in the creatures of earth, might not our intelligence be in some way a part of their nature as well. We all come from the same stuff, and while its crazy to imagine that their minds are exactly as ours, can we cut the little creatures of the earth a little slack and at least consider the prospect that they might see the world like us in part?
Full disclosure provided, I now continue.

As I watched these spirited little beings milling around each other.  There weren't a lot of pecking at the ground and foraging.  There was more of a community of sorts happening.  There wasn't a lot of motion either.  Instead there rose from this gaggle of birds, a sustained mass of sound as they gathered together.  Not surprisingly this reminded me of church, as I was about to get into my vehicle and head to a church of my own.  This image struck me as a particularly beautiful one.

This was Matins.  What is Matins?:

Matins is the monastic nighttime liturgy, ending at dawn, of the canonical hours. As standardized in the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, it is divided into three Nocturns. The name "Matins" originally referred to the morning office also known as Lauds. When the nocturnal monastic services called Vigils or Nocturns were joined with Lauds, the name of "Matins" was applied at first to the concluding morning service and later still to the entire series of Vigils.[1]

Here was this large gathering of grackles, beginning their day by calling to each other and coming together as a group, just as we come to church as one and with one voice call to the creator.  The Sun had yet to rise and these birds were beginning their day in a way reminiscent of how, perhaps, we should all begin our days, in community with the creator and each other.  It's a stretch I know, but for that moment, early on a Sunday morning, I joined in with the grackles and experienced Matins, my morning prayers, with the whimsical, tenacious, and curious grackle.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Of Birds, Music, and Creation.

What on earth is this blog?  What do Birds, Music and Creation have to do with with each other?  These are my three great passions.  They are the things which define me as a human being.  They provide the context for my life and the lens through which nearly all of my relationships exist.

Of Birds , I say,they are extraordinary creatures that we so often overlook and take for granted.  In a world full of mammals, they posses a quality that is so alien and ancient.  They are the great survivors, the dinosaurs that beat the odds, that looked at the tough road through history and said, "Yes, we can."  They are beings, large and small, that are both magnitudes more intelligent than most would ever assume and uncommonly warm and affectionate.  They posses the remarkable flexibility to allow us, their predators, into their flock and show us in new ways about living and loving.  The are both hunter and hunted, vicious and gentle, resilient and fragile.

They are mysterious creatures that, upon close examination, the uninitiated mammal might guess were from another world.  They have strange barbs that poke through their skins, growing long and sharp before being split open and burst forth with iridescent feathers, which themselves are extremely delicate while being immensely strong all the same.  They have a respiratory system that is so ingenious and complex by mammalian standards that it is hard to imagine how it might have ever evolved.  Cellophane-like airbag structures positioned all around their bodies extending into their bones, gather clean air and receive stale.  Lungs that are little more than densely fibrous tubes through which air only flows one way, always clean and fresh for maximum efficiency, turbo charge their bodies with oxygen, allowing some birds to cruise at altitudes higher than most airplanes.  All of this, running without a diaphram, using instead a keel bone that swings in and out to create low pressure inside their bodies.

They have an amazing capacity for gentleness and forgiveness; for trust, and for empathy.  Their eyes are large and full of soul, pinning openen and closed like a camera lens each time they are enthralled in you or a toy that fascinates them.  Their eyes are windows into an old soul.  You can see them processing information in curious and thoughtful ways as they gaze into your eye.  They express affection by allo-preening your hair or your beard, or even your eyelashes.  Creatures with powerful beaks gently and deftly fussing with each tiny hair, setting it in just the right place for you.  They are protective and jealous, chasing off rivals for your affection and shielding you from perceived danger.  A good friend of mine owns a Catalina Macaw named "Sheerah."  Upon first meeting Sheerah, she was perched in front of her owner on the owner's arm.  As I neared, she threw open her wings and leaned across my friend's chest shielding her from my "attack" with her own body.  Remarkably, they know of that kind of selflessness that is difficult even for humans to embrace sometimes.

Of Music, I contend there is such a vast body of work that has already been written that I should not even begin to believe that my few lines of prose here could add add much of anything to expand our consciousness of its power and wonder.  It is a language of frequency, that seems to transcend culture, species and time. Carl Segan hoped even solar systems as music was one of the largest components of the gold plated records he made sure were sent along with our Voyager probes which are now on the verge of reaching that great perpetual abyss of interstellar space, messengers to the stars and the future that may well bear witness to our existence, like epistles to the cosmos, eons after humanity has long since passed into the ages, along with all of the other creatures that have bowed their final performance on the earthly stage.

Music has that slippery quality, that Heisenbergian rebelliousness that refuses to be, to function one way.  It is both logical and illogical, rational and irrational, emotional and stoic, tangible and intangible, objective and subjective and this can all apply to the same composition.  It is the quest of the young, the aspiration of the amateur  a tool to the successful, the hobby of the masses, the career of some, and the subject of true mastery for only the most dedicated and brilliant of our species.  It is appreciated by many species other than ours and forms the rudimentary form of expression for many birds, mammals, and even insects.  Watching my birds dance to a particular piece of music that they enjoy is proof enough for me of music's almost magical qualities that allows us to communicate in some way across the great divide of time to those flighted creatures that have not shared a common ancestor with us for millions and millions of years.  It is perhaps its in-concrete nature, its resistance to the transmission of discreet ideas that makes it a universal language, touching the hearts and minds of creatures of every kind.  How they perceive it is anyones guess.  It is even hard to deduce what meaning each individual human derives from a single piece of music, much less another species.

What I'm positive of, in regard to music, is that it has the power to transform.  It can soothe the soul.  It can transmute emotion and bring us into a state of frenetics when we were calm just moments before.  It can reform the frown into a smile.  It can lift the heavy burden of living and allow the soul to soar when once it was held down by sorrow.  It can be a vehicle for theoretical exploration.  It can be an unequaled canvas for expressing mastery and creativity.  It is perhaps one of the deepest forms of divine transmission at our disposal, allowing us to commune with God in a way more dependable and immediate than almost any other.

Of Creation, I continually find myself frozen in wondrous contemplation.  That such a wondrous thing could be for us to explore, enjoy, and care for is a miracle of miracles.  At every level one finds wonder.  From the vast galactic web that stretches to the edges of the cosmos, to inner workings of the atom itself, there is an entire universe to explore and at which to marvel.  That such complex systems can carry on effortlessly, as if the simple machinery of a wind-up toy, will leave one in stunned amazement if one stops for a moment to ponder that wonder.  All manner of substances and creatures, rocks and water, dirt and air, birds and fish, insects and worms, lions and buffalo, dogs and cats, humans and leeches, butterflies and wasps, bees and ants, iguanas and spiders, all filling a niche in the machinery of existence.  All just as unlikely as the next.  Each as remarkable as anything in the universe.  The storm bands of Jupiter and the Rings of Saturn present no more wonder than the common cold and the mouse, all of them remarkably complex systems displayed as the simplest  of inevitabilities, belying the extraordinary complexity that makes each of them possible.

Creation is the testament to the creator, the wisdom of the ages, the manifestation of the wondrous power of God. That is not to say that the earth was created in seven days, or that it was created over billions of years.  The truth is that humans today can't make concrete statements about anything that happened more than a few years before their own lifetimes.  Whether God created the heavens and the earth in seven days, or set the mechanism in action billions of years ago, it doesn't change the miracle of it all, for even being able to conceive a creation that unfolds over such vast amounts of time and with the unfathomable number of possible variables is truly a task of divine proportions in and of itself.

Pondering creation need not create a conflict between religion and science.  Ultimately, science unravels the immense complexity and unimaginable cleverness of God's handiwork.  Science is our window into the mind of God.  To understand creation is in someway to understand God, if for nothing more than to reveal the truly divine otherness that separates humanity and God.

We live in a time when the relationship between humanity and the divine creation is more important than ever.  As there becomes more and more people on the planet, we place the entire system in strain and imbalance.  We must be innovative and resourceful in how we go forward into the future, to preserve the life that still shares our home with us and honor our charge to be the gardeners of the garden.  Important questions will be asked of us by that very creation in the future and we must be ready with answers.  I believe that one of them is reconciliation ecology, which seeks to reweave humans into the fabric of creation.  So often we separate ourselves from the natural world around us and try to preserve it with that same separation.  Reconciliation Ecology seeks to bring us back into the fold as an integral part of the natural system, not by going barefoot and living as hunter gatherers once again, but by finding ways to make our current reality one of productive coexistence.  It seeks to end the haves and the have nots of ecology.  It seeks to have cake and eat it too.  I will doubtless be speaking on this topic on this blog along with the other great loves in my life.

So there you have it.  I've tried to spell out the spirit of what is to follow in this blog.  My posts will reflect these values and will cover these topics.  I hope that together we can explore the wonders that surround us everyday and learn to live in a state of perpetual gratitude and blessing, respecting all those people and creatures that surround us, lifting them up and praising the Creator of all this wonder.