Chasing Butterflies

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🦋  I have a childhood memory of chasing butterflies, trying to catch even one of those stunning winged creatures in a net. It seemed easy enough. Butterflies aren’t extremely fast flyers. Rather, they flutter around flowers and pause frequently in front of a bloom.

Try as I might, I never caught a single butterfly. As a child, I lamented my failure, but as an adult, I actually see the joy in the chase rather than the failure of the catch. Richie Singh has the right idea about the butterfly-chasing experience.

The joy about chasing butterflies is not the satisfaction that comes at the end, but the path that takes you there;

The irony about chasing butterflies is that sometimes you’ll get so lost in the chase, you won’t realize that you’re left chasing thin air;

But the agony about chasing butterflies is that sometimes you will keep on chasing, hoping, that a butterfly would materialize out of thin air.

― Richie Singh

Still, it’s not so bad to hope. As long as I chase with hope, it’s worth my time. I may never catch a butterfly in a net, but along the way, I’ll enjoy the chase and the hope.

Waist-Deep into Life

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Shrink back from the raging waves if you want to. Stand at ocean’s edge and barely get your toes wet. Or wade waist-deep into the ocean where real life happens. It holds its risks and certain dangers. It challenges one’s sense of safety. It risks being overturned and overwhelmed by a huge, strong, breaking wave. But wading in deeply is the best way of living life, a metaphor for life at its most adventurous.

Alas, I didn’t grow up as a risk-taker. Under my skittish grandmother’s care, I became fearful of many things. She forbade riding bicycles down the street. She gave us each only one skate, fearing that to skate on two would land us face down on the pavement. And yes, to this day, I am afraid of deep water.

She raised me to be fearful of going all-in on many fronts. So I missed out on all kinds of youthful adventures. I miss the things I missed. I wish I had learned to skate well on two skates. I wish I had not been afraid to ride my bicycle down a steep hill, feeling the wind in my face.

So now, all grown up and aging every day, I still don’t plunge waist-deep into the crashing waves called life. I stay in my safer place. It’s too bad, really, and maybe it’s time to make a life change.

Here’s to life adventures!

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

– Isaiah 43:2

Seeing the World, Loving the Earth

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“The Earth is not barren, but alive!”

I don’t see it much. There is an enormous, beautiful world that I simply don’t take time to see. I admire those who take nature into their souls, who breathe in the freshness of the wind, who see pictures in the sky, who hear music in birdsong. I imagine that those who know how to do that are emotionally and spiritually healthy. I imagine that life for them is pure joy.

The closest I can get to their experience is to read about it, and then to practice it in the smallest ways. I love the words of Bishop Steven Charleston that describe such a love for the earth.

I looked up, and as if in a dream I saw them, ancient spirits from the mesas, gliding on rain clouds above the desert, flashing lightning as they passed, primal spirits from the forest deep, rising up to dance on the trees, mountain spirits trailing snow white capes in the wind, and the spirits of the sea, moving like a storm toward the land. The Earth is not barren, but alive, filled with the spirits of life, the forces of nature around us, old powers from the time of beginning. God is not constricted to our temple walls, but roams the wild places calling to all who will look up, see the dream, and follow.

Whimsy

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Sometimes life needs a little whimsy. Too much seriousness is bad for the soul. Try blowing a dandelion into the wind. Watch celestial pictures form in the moving clouds. Paint colors randomly on a blank sheet of paper.

It’s a good thing to break up a serious life with some whimsical experiences. It lifts the spirits and makes magical things seem more possible. Plan diversions on a whim. Try some playful things. Do those fun things that are so hard to do for such serious-minded folk.

I love the words of Robert A. Heineken in “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.”

For millennia philosophers and saints have tried to reason out a logical scheme for the universe… until Hilda came along and demonstrated that the universe is not logical but whimsical, its structure depending solely on the dreams and nightmares of non-logical dreamers.

I think I’ll just drop the logical for a day or two. A little mirth and whimsy will do me good!

Our Huge Bread Bowl

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For as long as I can remember, there was a huge pottery bowl in our kitchen. I call it my grandmother’s bowl, although I don’t really know that the bowl had an actual owner. I can’t remember when it appeared or if anyone purchased it. It was just always there. The bowl had a singular purpose, mixing and kneading big loaves of sweet bread, Vasilopita, and Greek cookies called koulourakia.

In my mind, bread simply could not be made without that smooth, shiny pottery bowl. It was very heavy, so kneading the dough was no problem. When the dough was ready, smooth and elastic, my grandmother would use a big knife to cut a cross in the top. Now the dough was ready to rest in a warm place for two or three hours and magically rise. Those hours seemed endless to us, and we must have asked dozens of times, “Is it ready yet?”

The dough always did what it was supposed to do in that bowl. It was covered with towels and we always watched the towels rise far above the bowl’s rim, telling us that delicious New Year’s Bread, called Vasilopita, was not far away.

Our bowl always promised an adventure in our family. It made a home out of a house. The dough inside it held many handprints because everyone helped with the kneading and shaping — my grandmother’s strong, skilled hands and our tiny hands, barely able to make the smallest dent.

Each year, the bowl was used by either my grandmother or my Aunt Koula. The baker might have changed, but the bowl and the bread was always the same. And the family experience of baking the bread never changed.

Through some act of pure blessing, the huge bread bowl is now a part of my home. It sits on a shelf waiting for New Year’s Eve when the bread-making begins. Our bowl is a family treasure, an ordinary object filled with warm, sweet memories of years gone by.

This blog post is dedicated to my brother, Andrew, and my cousin, Tasia, who love the bowl as much as I do.

A Strange and Wonderful Concept

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What a strange and wonderful concept . . . Running toward something instead of running away from something. Ten athletes without a country will compete in the Rio Olympic Games. They are refugees. They have persevered after losing home and country, some after losing parents.

These ten refugee athletes will act as a symbol of hope for 21.3 million refugees worldwide and bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis when they take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

One of the refugee athletes, Yusra Mardini, is a swimmer. About two years ago, Mardini was swimming to save her life and others. She was one of 20 refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea in a boat when the motor stopped running.

Mardini fled the Syrian war in 2014 with her sister, who was with her on the boat. They dived into the water with one other passenger and pushed the boat to the shore. Everyone on board was saved.

She will compete for the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) – the first of its kind. They marched proudly into the Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony immediately before the host nation, Brazil, waving the Olympic flag.

How important a lesson we can learn from these athletes! How to survive in crisis. How to find strength and hope in the midst of loss. How to thrive after losing home. How to keep trying when others might have given up.

I am moved by their bravery, their tenacity and their resilience. I pray for good things to come to them. I pray that the world will be inspired by their example, to lift our eyes up to hope, to move forward into brighter days, to always strive to be the best we can be.

Fly with Your Wind

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While a friend of mine was driving through the plains of Oklahoma, he marveled at miles and miles of vast rolling plains of grasses and the strong winds that were making them sway. Then he noticed something else every few miles: trees in perfect rows. And he wondered why the trees grew in almost perfect rows. As he contemplated the phenomenon, he realized that when the trees seed, the seeds are blown in the direction of the wind and thus the trees are growing in the direction of the wind. The wind shapes the vegetation and literally shapes the landscape.

Our lives are guided by winds, too. Winds of change. Winds from storms. Gentle, refreshing winds. Winds of bitter cold. Winds that blow in the heat of summer. The breezes change us, challenge us, and sometimes restore us.

We become who we are as the winds blow across our lives, leaving us different than we were before. I enjoy the writing of C. JoyBell C.

I don’t believe in fighting the wind. You go and you fly with your wind. Let everyone else catch their own gusts of wind and let them fly with their own gusts of wind, and you go and you fly with yours.

Fly with your wind. Sounds to me like wise advice.

Adventure!

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Life is an astounding journey. No straight paths, just circuitous ones. Few smooth roads, mostly rough ones. But what an adventure it is! I love new places, new experiences, new people, new ideas, new endeavors, new dreams.

This quote describes life so well:

“The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.”

That’s what makes life worth living, the deeper truths we learn as we travel the journey. It is the spiral path that is so filled with that deeper truth. It is this journey that inspires us to dream new and fresh dreams. It is the spiral-like journey that allows us to grow and learn and stretch. Life is truly an adventure!

Colors

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Color blankets the world with joy. The green leaves rustle in light breezes. The tall amber colored grasses sway in the wind. The sky glistens with blues, pinks and purples and dancing white clouds. The flowers wear all shades and hues of every color imaginable.

I don’t want to miss it. I want to see every shade of color and be grateful that God gave me eyes to see. I want to always and forever give thanks to God for painting the world. I want to rejoice for the beauty of nature that surrounds me.

Most of all, I want to honor a Divine Creator who looked upon all that was made and said “It’s good!”

It is good indeed! Thanks be to God.

Remembering Uganda

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It was so many years ago, but I remember it as if it happened yesterday. The two of us, my husband Fred and I, stepped off of a plane in the Nairobi airport to begin a new life. As very young missionaries headed to Uganda, we had no idea what we would face in the days to come.

Getting to Uganda from Kenya was a long, dusty ride through the most beautiful places we had ever seen. Through bush country and savannah, through banana groves and rain forests, through tea plantations on mountainsides and the rushing waters of Bujigali Falls, we were getting acquainted with this continent. The terrain was ever-changing, and the way was marked by the majestic beauty of elephants, giraffe, cape buffalo, gazelles, flamingos and Ugandan crested cranes.

We were filled with awe and excitement. But the most moving sight of all was the people, barefoot and downtrodden, wearing rags and carrying heavy water containers. Their country had all but been destroyed by the evil dictator Idi Amin, who orchestrated the genocide of 100,000 to 500,00 Ugandans.

Churches were burned to the ground, schools pillaged and all but destroyed, roads were in shambles. Children were left orphaned in a country of widows. Their faces showed the wear of grief, their bodies the mask of mourning.

They are why we have come, sent by God to comfort a grieving people in small ways. The days ahead would find us digging water wells, distributing agricultural tools and vegetable seeds, giving out books, bibles and sewing supplies, bringing in simple medicines and vaccines.

I can never think of the Ugandan people without recalling Lamentations 5, a scripture passage that was read in a church service to describe the plight of the Ugandan people. As the reader read through her tears, the entire congregation wept, mourning so many losses. I offer the text here in its entirety:

Lamentations 5 New International Version (NIV)

Remember, Lord, what has happened to us;
look, and see our disgrace.
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to foreigners.
We have become fatherless,
our mothers are widows.
We must buy the water we drink;
our wood can be had only at a price.
Those who pursue us are at our heels;
we are weary and find no rest.
We submitted to Egypt and Assyria
to get enough bread.
Our ancestors sinned and are no more,
and we bear their punishment.
Slaves rule over us,
and there is no one to free us from their hands.
We get our bread at the risk of our lives
because of the sword in the desert.
Our skin is hot as an oven,
feverish from hunger.
Women have been violated in Zion,
and virgins in the towns of Judah.
Princes have been hung up by their hands;
elders are shown no respect.
Young men toil at the millstones;
boys stagger under loads of wood.
The elders are gone from the city gate;
the young men have stopped their music.
Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our hearts are faint,
because of these things our eyes grow dim
for Mount Zion, which lies desolate,
with jackals prowling over it.
You, Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.
Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.

Idi Amin was deposed. God did restore Uganda , and those who had lost so much found life again. Their mourning turned to dancing, dancing filled with joyful gratitude to a compassionate and faithful God. Amen.