Browse Category: Religion

GETTING OVER IT

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(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

CLICK PICS TO ENLARGE.

“Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…”

Isn’t that what Simon and Garfunkel sang? It’s a very kind gesture for someone to be willing to lie down as a bridge. But may I make one request?

Please! Please! Please, don’t be a bridge that has grating that I can see through! Please don’t be a railroad bridge with gaps between the ties!

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous, blue sky spring day here in New Jersey. In the morning, I made plans with my son, Tim, to go with him to a local quarry to do some photography. He was told that there were eagles nesting there. We planned on going around 5 PM when I was finished working. But the day was prime for exploration and photography. I worked until noon and took the rest of the day off in order to have more time for the adventure. I picked Tim up after school, went home and changed out of my repressive suit and tie, and we headed off for the quarry. Tim’s friends said they would meet us there, in Brainards. It was only a few miles away from our house.

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Many people, even in our area, don’t know that the little town of Brainards exists. Even fewer know that the town was named after a Christian missionary, David Brainaird, who did work among the Indians in the area back in the 1740s. (Or was it named after his brother?) Brainard was sent from Connecticut to New Jersey. At times he spent weeks on horseback travelling to Indian settlements in the Pennsylvania wilderness. He established schools to teach English to the Indians. He preached in various churches. Though at first his efforts to bridge the cultural and religious gaps between the English Colonialists and the Native Americans yielded little results, eventually he had a positive influence in several areas of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To this day, his diaries have been an inspiration to many. He was definitely a man whose name deserves to be memorialized, especially since he accomplished all these things before he died of tuberculosis at the ripe old age of 27.

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We drove over to Brainards around 3:30. We met up with Tim’s friends, prepared our cameras, and started walking. Down a few blocks through the quiet neighborhood we entered the woods and came upon railroad tracks. One of the kids said we had to follow the tracks for a little bit and then go across the bridge to the other side of the river. I didn’t think too much about it when he said it. But then I realized the direction we were headed.

“Wait a minute guys, what bridge? What river? Do you mean the Delaware? The quarry is actually in Pennsylvania? WHAT bridge?”

“Oh yeah, Dad, I forgot to mention, we have to walk across the railroad trestle to get to the quarry. I forgot you were afraid of heights.”

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That’s okay. I’m cool, right? I could walk across that bridge and not look like a sissy in front of Tim’s friends, right?

There were several people on the bridge when we got to it. I think a few were fishing. A few were jumping off. I didn’t notice much detail about that group of people. My full attention was on the fact that the bridge consisted of railroad ties and metal grating, both of which you could see through… all the way down, way down, down, down, down. It was high. No, really high. It was so high that I had to duck for orbiting satellites. Well, maybe not quite that high, but definitely more than high for a dude with a fear of heights.

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We were almost half way across the bridge when Tim turned in front of me and asked, “Are you okay??” Until he said something, I wasn’t even aware of the fact that my body was in panic mode. I was focused on the part of the tracks that I couldn’t see down through. I was walking exactly on the section where the grating overlapped the wooden ties, stepping on the large bolts that secured the walkway. Adrenaline was oozing out of my body and I was breathing in short little breathes as if I was a childbearing woman using Lamaze breathing techniques at the height of a contraction! I was at a height of contraction! My whole consciousness had contracted to the single thought of getting over that bridge!

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Tim said, “Listen to you! Remember what you said in the car about being willing to take risks for the sake of ‘art’ and photography? Well, now’s your chance!” Of course, his friends had to hear this and they started in on me. I had become the sissy and the object of their ridicule right there in the middle of the sky above the river. “Yes, guys, I know how far down it is. Yes, I can see between the ties. Yes, I understand that I will die if the train comes right now.” Ha, ha. It was all very funny… until someone actually stopped dead in front of me. “Look guys, don’t F*** with me!” Never corner a sissy in the middle of a wide-open bridge. He’ll get ugly on you real fast.

By now you have probably assumed, due to the fact that I lived to write this, that I made it across the bridge. I did. The way back wasn’t as bad either. Nobody F***ed with me. I even managed to stop and take a few photos. True to my word, I took the risk for the sake of art. And it didn’t kill me!

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As soon as we crossed the bridge, we were at the quarry area. The place was huge! There were several quarries filled with water. The place is haunted with the relics of old iron machinery and dilapidated buildings. Huge mounds of gravel still stood throughout the grounds, criss-crossed by motorcycle tracks. The place was inhabited by all kinds of birds, toads, turtles and other types of wildlife – including teenagers. There were groups of kids hanging out in several spots. There were girls in tiny bikinis sunning themselves among boys at rivalry to impress them. Kids were jumping and diving off of the cliffs into the green quarry water. Their laughter and casual cursing echoed across the quarries.

We were told that the eagles were at one of the farther quarries, about a 20-minute walk from the bridge. We made our way there, stopping a few times to take photos of old buildings and to explore this strange place. It was like a forgotten ghost down. The old machinery left behind gave the impression that the workers went on break one afternoon and never returned.

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As it turned out, the “eagles” were actually osprey. We were slightly disappointed at first. Then we saw how beautiful osprey can be when they soar overhead. We were able to get within 50 yards of their nest, which was on the top of an electrical pole that stood in the water. The birds were a little upset when we got that close and flew in large graceful circles around us. We were delighted and worked our cameras like paparazzi in Hollywood. It was exciting to see these birds in the wild. One of the kids commented how cool it was to see such a thing when we live in New Jersey. People think of New Jersey as nothing but highways and chemical plants. New Jersey actually has many, many beautiful and scenic areas. (Okay… technically the quarry is in Pennsylvania. But, after risking my life crossing that bridge, I hereby officially annex the quarry as New Jersey land.)

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The quarry is a place worthy of exploration. It is a dangerous place, no doubt about it. There are plenty of places to fall from, high places, more than just the bridge. There are several bodies of water whose mysteries are hidden beneath the murky water. The danger is part of its appeal. We will definitely be going back soon.

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As soon as I get the courage to take on that bridge again.

THIS ARTICLE IS FOR THE BIRDS

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(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

“HEY! You’re stealing all my birds!”

So said the neighbor (who was kind enough to push my car out of the snow) when he saw me filling the bird feeders this morning.

Upon moving into our new place, we found an old bird feeder laying in the yard, half buried in the snow. I brought it into the house, “thawed it out,” and cleaned it up. I bought a bag of birdseed, filled it up, and set it on the railing of our small back porch. It is just outside of the door where we can watch the birds easily.

It is amazing how quickly the birdseed disappears! That feeder has been empty each day when we come home. We are wondering how early in the day it is actually all gone. The birds must be spreading the word, bringing all of their friends around for lunch at our place. Looks like we are feeding the whole neighborhood now! There is a increasing number of bird tracks daily in the snow. In order to keep up with the demand, we bought another feeder and a suet block. Both of these are now hanging in a tree in the back yard.

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While unpacking, I found my book on birds of the eastern United States published by the Audubon Society. It’s a nice book with tons of photos. It’s very helpful when attempting to identify birds. Now we are keeping this book handy. It is becoming common to see us peaking out the back door, whispering, while passing the Audubon book back and forth.

I inherited my bird watching tendency from my mom and my grandmother. When I was young, they both often pointed out different birds. They both seemed to appreciate the abundant variety of birds, with all of their different sizes, colors, characteristics. As a kid, I learned to appreciate these things too. My grandmother lived in the country. There were birds everywhere. I had a bird book back then too, a small one with photos of birds for the northeast area of the States. I was eager and determined to spot every bird in that book.

Several years ago, an interesting thing happened to me in relation to a bird. It was shortly after my wife and I split up. I was driving the “Blue Bomb” home from work one day. I was very depressed. There was a scene playing over and over in my head in which I imagined my wife with a different man, happier than ever. At that time it was a tormenting thought. It was a hot day in the summer of 1997. I was driving down the highway, deep within my imaginations, when I saw something coming straight for my open driver’s side window. It was coming down out of the clear blue sky – not flying across the road or down from a tree. Suddenly I realized it was a bird and it smashed with a sickening sound into the frame of the car window just behind my head. It was a sparrow. It left blood and feathers stuck to the car. Immediately, I remembered something that Jesus said:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29 – 31)

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It was almost as if God threw that sparrow right out of the sky and nearly hit me in the head to wake me up! It sure changed my perspective on the situation. I am not one to advocate mysterious signs from God. But this incident was a little out of the ordinary. Any other bird would not have had the same effect. A sparrow simply standing along the side of the road waving at me would not have done it. This one came hurling out of the sky and reminded me that there was something, Someone, bigger than the issue tormenting my mind. I saved a few of the feathers from that sparrow.

Well… So far we have spotted several different birds at our feeders. There have been many sparrows, mourning doves, starlings, blue jays, finches. This morning I was able to get a picture of a downy woodpecker on the suet block. I learned from our book that it was a female because it was lacking a red spot on its head. Another frequent visitor is a bird that I at first mistakenly thought was an oversized chickadee. After consulting the Audubon book, I found out that it is actually a dark-eyed junko. These seem to be the most abundant of the birds right now. I got a nice picture of one just outside our door this morning.

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Actually, I think the neighbor is happy that all the birds are coming to us. He mumbled something about how filling the feeders every day is a pain. We don’t mind (yet). There is something about bird watching that echoes with a primal desire for discovery within us. I am happy to see that my kids share this now. T said we should get more feeders. It is refreshing to see him interested in something like this and excited to learn. This is a good thing. When I see the sparrows at the feeder, I remember good things like these. I smile and I think, “God has brought me a long way since the days of the Blue Bomb! I shall fear not!”

A Room of Smiling Friends

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(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

I have been finding so many things that have been “out of sight, out of mind” while they were sitting in storage for over a year (mostly books read a long time ago). This is a find that brought back a good feeling as when one remembers an old trusted friend. It is a book called “Streams in the Desert” by Mrs. Charles Cowman, a book of daily readings. This is the third time that I “discovered” this book. The first two times were while in the midst of divorces. I found an old copy of “Streams” on a bookshelf in a little church while going through my first divorce. I fell in love with its encouraging words. Years later, while struggling through my second divorce, I remembered the book and purchased the copy that you see in the photo. This time I have found it under better, happier circumstances. Opening its cover and reading the words for January 21 was like entering a room of smiling friends and being welcomed into their conversation. I am eager to bring my day to a close tonight, sit in the silence of my new bedroom, and “listen” to this book again.

Cynic or Realist?

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

1 son plus 4 impacted wisdom teeth multiplied by insurance carrier hassles squared = $400 out of my pocket up front.

Dang! That’s the deal. My son needs his wisdom teeth removed. He has some pain in his lower jaw. The oral surgeon has had problems dealing with my insurance carrier in the past. So, he wants 20% of the fee paid before he will operate. That is the amount I will probably be obligated to pay anyway. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to pay it all at once.

I was going to rag about my financial annoyances at this point. But I will spare you. We all have them. Don’t we?

* * * * *
Hey! Speaking of financial annoyances… Look who’s coming to town soon! Santa Spud!

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I don’t know… I’m a little suspicious that the beard isn’t real.

Doesn’t he look like he’s being robbed?

“No! Please! Don’t shoot! Take the bag of gifts! Take the reindeer!”

* * * * *
I think Christmas should be a totally spontaneous thing. When I feel like doing and when I have the money, then it will be Christmas. It may happen in December. It may happen in April or August. When I’m in the mood to be generous and festive, we will have Christmas.

It’s not that I’m a humbug either. I like to be generous. I like to give gifts to people and make them happy. I just can’t stand the commercialism and hype at this time of the year. “The Holiday Season.” No. It’s a corporate greed driven stressful time of the year. It’s shitty. And I wish that there would be a law to take away any mention of Jesus at this time of the year because this is not the type of social environment that He would promote. Let it all be about Santa and elves and toys and trees and lights and all the rest. Let it all be as thin and worthless as tinsel. We already know it is.

Am I being a cynic or a realist? Is there a difference all the time?

Posted at 9:30 PM (EST)

Was That About God?

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

Sometimes, when I write an article like this or like this, people want to know who it is about. For people who know me a little more personally, there may be enough clues in the article to cause them to think that they know who it is about. I admit that I do it on purpose to make people wonder. Very rarely do I tell very many people who these articles are about. Once I had an ex-girlfriend email me and ask who an article was about. (One day I’ll have to write an article about ex-girlfriends getting all weird when reading my stuff. Maybe I will even write about one who used a different email address and had me fooled for a short time.)

Well, today someone called me and asked about my recent entry “Sometimes, When It Snows.”

Before I go on, let me say that if you have not read that entry, go read it now before you read the rest of this passage. If you read the rest of this, it might spoil the entry for you. So go on! Scoot on over there and read. I’ll be right here waiting…

So, this friend calls me on the phone at work this afternoon and says, “Hey! That article you wrote about missing someone when it snows… Was that about God?”

Oh man! I nearly choked from laughing so hard! Check out some of the lines from the article and just imagine me saying these things to or about GOD…

“You held my arm so that you would not fall on the steps, then waited for me to open the door for you.” – What? Is God a shriveled up little old lady now?

“Not knowing where to begin or which important thing would mean the most to you, I asked if you were warm enough and comfortable. Maybe that meant the most to you after all.” – Yup! That is exactly what God is waiting to hear from all of us. Forgot about, “Praise You, Lord, for you are so awesome and holy!” Nevermind, “Father, I thank You for all of Your many blessings.” Don’t even bother praying, “Lord, lead us not into temptation.” Just ask Him if He is warm and comfortable.

“I remember periods of time when it was difficult for you to smile and days when you didn’t smile at all. For a time, it was my mission to make you smile.” – Poor God! So sad! If it wasn’t for me, He wouldn’t have smiled at all.

“I guess it was that foolish assumption that you would always be there that left me wide open to the harsh certainty of reality… Even you, you who made it feel like the world had stopped and I could rest for ever when you were near, have gone. Is life designed for love or for sorrow primarily?” – You know… sadly… I think some people really do say such things about God. Or maybe they don’t actually say them, but they feel them. They feel abandoned and alone. Facing the stark, cold realities of life… just like being stranded out there in the snow. Well, I understand that too. I know what that feels like.

But none of these lines were written to God. They were simply written to another person who I was close to for some time. I am disappointed that this person didn’t stay in touch like I thought they would. I feel somewhat hurt. I still miss her.

Posted at 11:45 PM (EST)