The 'BARKING OWL' always has something to say, and like the feathered version, can be either WISE...............or ANNOYING!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

MillerPredicts! or, MillerLobbys!

Just in case next week's theme for the Group Blog Experience: 2 happens to be "Percy Faith and his orchestra playing A Summer Place", I will be getting the first poster award!  This is my all time favorite piece of music!  (Haven't I already admitted to being a simple guy?)

This live recording by the orchestra  on some kind of rough sound stage and with a real audience may not be the best version out there (in fact it seems to play a little too fast) but it is extra enjoyable for me to see the violin bows running up and down, the fingers plucking the strings, and the french horns in action.   I hope you like it too!  I even like it more than I like blue jay music!
BTW, if "Percy Faith and his orchestra playing A Summer Place" is NOT next weeks theme assignment,

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What WILL You Do With That Tree?

Let's say you were out hiking in the hinterlands of Whereveropolis. Nobody goes there, but you had found your way in through a narrow chink in the cliff and then somehow scrambled through a scratchy hedge and climbed up a wallish hill until your way finally opened onto a peaceful grass covered plateau. You expect to hear Sister Maria singing something about the hills being alive, when you turn around, and find yourself in the deep shade of a mighty money tree!

The trunk is wide and tall. You can tell that it has stood there forever, undaunted and solid. The sun behind can not possibly shine through the thick foliage because the branches and stems are myriad and overwhelmingly rich with leaf! As you are awestruck at first by the very proportion and abundance of this tree, you are not yet ready to recognize the 'leaves' for what they truly are, but the impossible begins to dawn and you see.

Now your neck is craning while you study and confirm that actual paper bills cover every branch! Yes there are bills of every U.S. denomination that you know, and some you've only seen in pictures, but there are also paper pesos, and rupees and shekels. Some you might recognize like pounds or euros or yen, but many more you've never heard of like cordobas and won and zlotych and riyals fill the branches. A light breeze comes up the hill and the paper currency flows toward you while the dangling coins of silver and gold hidden in the background suddenly fill the air with rich musical tones of affluencial delight.

You have discovered THE actual money tree. But now what will you do? Now that the shock is wearing away you can look closer at the trunk. Yes it is massive and solid, but you find a narrow way that you might follow, climbing directly into the lofty branches to reap the harvest of your dreams.

And yet, you hesitate. Somehow you begin to doubt your own senses, and start to apply old proverbial poultices to quell the vision before you: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” comes to mind, and you keep hearing your Dad's voice saying “Money doesn't grow on trees you know!” But it's right there in front of you and more than a few of the single dollar bills are falling and lying on the ground at your feet. You pick them up indeed, but strangely, surprisingly, you start to back away, deciding to go and fend for yourself.

What is it about the possibility of all wealth, even all provision, actually in hand, that causes us to turn away? Why would we so often, rather “do it my way” than God's way? Why believe the self-help gurus who tell us we (even WE?) are divine instead of giving in to the real Divine? The Gospel is not hidden in the nether regions where only the few can claim its promises, but is widespread and offered freely to all. Whereas the money tree is attractive for its mythical wealth and dream fulfilling capacity, it represents the true lie whose leaves are more often poisonous. After all, money is merely a tangible transactional symbol of one's output. Looking for a money tree is like searching for an exercise tree. It is only as fruitful as it is fed.

Waiting and hoping for the money tree to pop up in one's yard only distracts from the necessary application of true wealth producing hard work, but there is another hazard, far worse. Ultimately we must all give up on the MT quest, and that frustration may lead us to forsake our even deeper desire to find, and pluck from, God's greater and very real gift; the Salvation Tree.

I hope that the seekers among us will keep their eyes wide open, as they look through cracking walls of societal consensus, crawl through brambles of scoffing and mockery, until they are even willing to climb past the treachery of disbelief and find their way to that bridging cross. That 'tree', where the ultimate provision has already been offered, and accepted, is waiting.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Not Quite a Money Tree, But Priceless!

 While I continue to mull over the 'money tree' photo theme we have been given to blog about this week, I thought I'd show a few pictures of the 'PRICELESS TREE' growing in my yard.

Here we have my granddaughter, Lily, approaching the Popple, looking for her Mother, my daughter Victoria.  Why Lily isn't looking up, I'll never know, but she will soon realize that this tree was her Mom's old hangout, and today she has reclaimed her branch.     I am so proud of you Victoria!  You married a great guy just 15 months ago, fully embraced his precious daughter as your own, had a beautiful baby boy not quite 5 months ago, AND, now you've climbed a tree!


You are...PRICELESS!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

First Love Phase Three: “You have forsaken the love you had at first. “

This posting represents my third line of thought, prompted by the “First Love” theme of the “GBE 2: Blog On” weekly challenge. My other two can be found below this one.

The 'First love' line is not in my NIV Bible, but the exact phrasing is in Revelation 2:4 of the King James Version. If you are not familiar with the passage, let me fill you in a bit.

The Apostle John had been exiled to the island of Patmos by the Roman authorities. Little did they know that Jesus Christ could reach him there, but He did. All 22 chapters of this incredible book are John's description of an elaborate prophetic vision given to him by God. Chapters two and three contain seven messages that Christ dictates for John to write down and send to seven prominent churches actually located in Asia minor. In each letter Jesus commends the body of believers in a particular area regarding some of the things they are doing right, and then reprimands their stand or their behavior where it is off track. Only the church in Smyrna escapes any rebuke.

These two short chapters of scripture are of great interest to the modern church because they are written with very specific encouragement and/ or warning, to people just like us. We are so like them, just people who have become Christians after acknowledging the need for a savior, and finding the only One who can forgive us; Jesus Christ. As we align with local congregations and follow the leadership of particular people, we may either be taught well and mature in the faith, or take a misguided path away from solid Biblical teaching (like that foolish group who bring shame to Christ by claiming to follow Him, but disgustingly protest at soldiers' funerals).

The church at Ephesus gets the first letter. The people there are commended for their hard work and perseverance, for their intolerance of wicked people, their determination to test those who would teach them, and for their endurance under hardship. But Jesus goes on to express His great distress that the Ephesian Christians “have forsaken the love you had at first.” He tells them to “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. Do you see what I mean about how powerfully relevant these verses can be to us today? What church, what Christian, what older married man or woman has not in some way forsaken their first love?

Of course the early emotions do wane, and probably could not be healthily maintained at their youthful zeal for the long term; but the real essence of unselfish devotion and self-sacrifice for the loved one should not be allowed to diminish, or be replaced by anything else. This is more true in our relationship with God through His Son, than anywhere else because only God's perfect love for us is pure and unpolluted by ulterior motives. Our love response to Him should not only be exuberant, but absolute.

Do you 'have ears'? Because at the end of each letter to each church, this admonition is given: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

First Love Phase Two: Those THINGS That Make Me Smile

Continuing to list my 'first loves', I will now remember the world of things. In this context, my favorite things are of several types; not just tangible items that recall positive feelings, but maybe activities, or sights or even sounds.  Let's see.

My four older brothers had long since conspired to wreck the full scale train set they had so thoroughly enjoyed as kids, so by the time I was old enough to play with it, all I found was a cardboard box with a bunch (but not enough) of track, a few cool looking train cars (some without wheels) and a big old transformer that was rumored to have operated the whole thing. I remember studying those rather realistic plastic cars. There were box cars and a car hauling car and a flat car and a couple of really heavy (but useless) engines. I never had enough track to make even a complete circle, but I would connect what I had and set the dual sets of wheels ever so carefully on the rails. If one wheel was offset the thing would not budge, but I loved the satisfaction of getting all 8 wheels in their proper place. With just a little push that car would then glide so smoothly all the way to where my imaginary workmen (funny how they looked like little green army men) were repairing the tracks! A train car is no more than a bothersome roadblock when off its track, but when in its right place, fitting and connected, it serves a grand purpose. I still love putting things together successfully. When all the pieces fit, when the light switch actually works or when the pipe's connections don't leak? Gotta love it!

I loved watching the wandering light beams from street traffic bounce across my bedroom ceiling. We lived on a 'busy street' on Chicago's south side. When a car came from the east, its lights would come in our north facing window to shine on the western wall long before I could hear the car coming. As the vehicle approached I was mesmerized as the light slowly crept up the angled part of the ceiling and then suddenly dashed over, and dimmed going down the eastern wall. Throw in a light splash and spray if the street were wet with rain, and the light show was complete. Simple pleasures for a simple boy.

Only a winter or so ago now, I suddenly remembered that when I was a kid, I loved walking to school early in the morning after a light snow. But only because in that circumstance I could walk right in the tire tracks of the few cars that had been out before me and had left a perfect path. If the line I was following was not going to my school; no problem, another one would have intersected mine so I could readily continue on my way by 'switching tracks'. The best feeling though, was to be tracing a tire tread that turned when I wanted it to, and I could take the curve by leaning into it and providing my own screechy tire noises. Sorry, if you were in one of the cars waiting for that stupid kid to get off the street when you were trying to drive to work, but the only drawback for me was that I got to school so fast on those mornings!

I loved sitting on my front porch on a summer's day keeping track of all the numbered traffic. Did you know that police cars and taxis and city buses, at least in the 1960's, all had prominent four digit numbers posted on their sides? I would sit there for hours with a pen and note book, keeping a careful log of each sighting: Vehicle type and number, direction, time. It was all there.  Buses, of course, went back and forth on 59th street all day, so each one made a regular appearance. Police cars might stay in certain patterns, but diverged at the whim of local bad guys, and taxis never even tried to put order in my records. Now I wonder if my Mom put this whole 'sitting on the porch for hours' thing in motion. I loved the whole analysis thing, but she probably loved it too.

You might be shaking your head already at the weird things that this Chicago kid 'loved',  but it gets worse. When I finally left the city and ended up in a high school seminary boarding school, I found a new love. It's one that still clicks some pleasure node deep in my simple brain. The rural school was isolated in the middle of the thickly wooded sand dunes of lower Michigan's western lake shore, and when I began to hear a sound that I had probably never heard before in Chicago, it made a great impression. I never knew what bird it was, and only years later did I discover that I am not 'supposed' to even like it. But the truth is,  this kid still LOVES all the raucous sounds made by your basic Blue Jay!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

First Love Phase One: The Classics

There are so many ways to go with this week's theme. The first reaction I had to “First Love” was, of course, to look back through the romantic mists of time and try to recall some of the early crushes, infatuations and dreamy fantasies that befell me when I was a young man; but that's the problem—I'm a man, so I don't have any of those silly memories! NOT! I do. I admit it. And I will relate at least in brief, a few of those, though much to my embarrassment.

Another course I thought I'd take would be to list some of the THINGS I remember loving from way back when. An attempt at gathering a few of the things that really made me smile inside, and still do; again, to my sometime embarrassment. Yes, I'll embarrass myself. This is a blog after all, and it is required that we do that to ourselves at least twice a month right?

But you may have predicted that I would find some Biblical route to take with this theme. But I seem to be bent on being preachy. (Much to my embarrassment again? May be.) But I think you'll like this one! But I always think that! But how many sentences in one paragraph can one start with the word 'but'? So, I think I will start with the classic 'first loves' and post those alone. Later this week, I will post again and maybe again on my other ideas.

The Classics

Fifth grade, maybe sixth, I remember going on to the local public school's playground on the way home from my Catholic school. It seems there was a skating rink (big frozen puddle) in there and it was fun to run and slide on. But here comes Karen Greenys chasing me! I was running for my life and Karen was chasing me with arms wide open and screaming my name and making loud kissing noises! I remember being terrified but I don't remember running out of breath, or getting a stitch in my side, or any of the 4 or 5 blocks I passed in getting home! In case you didn't figure it out folks: Karen was a girl! Good thing she disappeared from my school after that year!

For eighth grade, I transferred to a different Catholic school 4 blocks on the other side of my house, and guess who was there, oh so eager to ignore her old flame? Karen Greenys indeed, and I believe she truly forgot all about our icy affair. Good thing they assigned me a seat by Cindy Pac in my new home room. She was a doll and I wished SHE would have chased me around the block. I might have been a litle slower to run at that point and I'm sure she would have caught me. Alas, I waited all year for her to make her move. Nothing. Eighth grade girls are so darn mature! Finally, I put a charm bracelet in a book on her desk during the last day of school...and then ran for my life again.

High school? Yeah right. If you looked at my little biography you would have seen that I went to an all boy's boarding school. So you know what that means: all of my embarrassing 'first love' stories happened during the summer months! If you really want to learn about those, you can read this article I wrote this past January.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

To Whom Will You Give Control?

He is very serious.  He has the highest standards possible and knows every right from every wrong.  Standing always on the side of righteousness, he never stands by, simply watching, when he could otherwise intervene to assure that all under his authority are abiding by his perfect judgement.

Who is he?  Not God.

Exercising his authority, he ensures that no laws are broken, no breach of proper conduct endured, and no independent spirit allowed.  He reigns with the power of force and might.

Who is he?  Not God.

In all of his realm, the crime rate is zero, as is tolerance for any and all deviant  behavior.  In fact, deviations from any of the societally given norms are strictly forbidden.  His people are always protected from the unsanctioned callous and cruel; kept safe under his rigorous control.

Who is he?  He is not God.  Rather, he is a Syrian soldier I saw recently in a news video.  He is serving his president by quashing those who would trade in their protected status as Syrian citizens, for freedom.

The video linked here presents a (WARNING) very graphic image of the god that many people think they want: "A loving God" they say, "would not allow serial killers or child abuse, or drunk drivers to kill innocent children."  They start with the idea that a proper god would have their own exacting standards, and then insist that he impose them over the will of all, "to protect the innocent".  This soldier is caught imposing his president's standards.

But this type of control, we people of all stripes, find egregious.  When it is time for you to tell that little white lie, do you want your god to step in and wave a red flag like a line judge at a soccer game, when the ball goes out of bounds?  When you fail to fight fair with your spouse, do you want your god to eject you from the game like a home plate umpire who will only take so much guff?  Instead of intervening with every sin, God is waiting for the official day of judgement to arrive.  At that time and place we will stand before Him and confess (agree) that his assessment of every motivation and intent is correct and true.

The soldier in the second half of the video (if you dare to watch) has a protester tied up and lying on the ground.  He kicks him hard in the abdomen and, according to one translator I heard, is shouting: "This one is for wanting freedom!"

No.  We do not want a God who is "so loving."  Instead, our God lets us hurt, abuse and even kill each other (for now) because he has elevated our free will to the highest place, in the hope that we will use the freedom we have to judge ourselves and seek His help.

When all of our choice making is fully revealed and accomplished; when every chance to confess and repent is ignored and dismissed (in short, when we die); then will come the judgement deserved.  God is not interested in controlling us, so much as He is keen on allowing us to reveal, and then to observe, what we do with the absolute freedom he has given.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Though 21

Though he's my son
Of twenty-one
I call him 'Hon'

(If we were out
And such came out
I'd get a clout)

But he's my son,
I call him 'Hon';

Though twenty-one.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thank You!

40 Followers?  Really?

Thanks to all of you who decided to Follow MILLERWRITES!

I hope I can keep you interested and/or entertained.


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Other Lost and Found

Is there another pair of words that grasp the meaning of “opposite” better than “Lost and Found?” Yes there is; I'll get to that in a few paragraphs.  But in the meantime, when a treasured item is lost, with no more hope of its “safe place” being remembered; and when its recovery from fathoms of water and depths of muck below a boat drifting over an unmarkable spot is merely a forsaken and forlorn dream, the hurt is real. The tragedy is evoked by the heartbreak of reality in the lap! Refusing to face facts may delay grief for a moment, but your 'something' truly is gone forever.

While loss is so real and painful, we somehow move on. With each deficit comes a setback, but then a restart begins. Without this capacity to recover, the compounding losses we face in life would necessarily lead us all into an irreversible death spiral. And yet, we do still survive, and even thrive.

“Found!” creates opportunity for a restart as well, but with the extreme opposite of a setback in place. “Found” begets rather, a head start; an unexpected recovery with rejuvenation of hope and joy! Not only is the pain of loss canceled out, but recovering what was even thought to be lost raises the value to the point where its mere unlost state seems to be an extreme enrichment, like a surprise bonus to the portfolio.

Another set of dichotomous words comes to mind, which may equal the bipolar sense of “lost and found.” These are, “Life and Death."  Curious that we place these pairs in contrary order. Certainly we do experience loss before finding, and life before dying, but perhaps we would benefit from the longer view if we recognized that death is not just the next step, or the final step. But if it is indeed followed by a continuing, eternal life, we might rather refer to matters of  "death and life.”

This eternal life which so overwhelms our present minimal life and makes its generally happy appeal fade until losing it, for a presence in God's Kingdom would be like dropping a penny in the tall grass; not worth bothering about. Such a life can only be had by the forsaking of this broken life. Just as obtaining a brand new free appliance can only be done by returning the failed one before the warranty expires.

The work of Christ on the cross essentially provided us with the extended warranty of a lifetime; not an unnecessary insurance that may or may not fully cover a possible product failure, but an absolutely needful redemption of an already devastated and doomed bio/spirit system.

Why do so many despair of finding good in life? Because when problems accumulate, both externally and within, we sense that we are lost. We know that we cannot save, or even find, ourselves.
Why did Jesus Christ endure the agony, the terrible Loss, of Death on the cross? Because of “the joy set before Him!” He wished to see us be Found! And rejoiced in providing the only way to real Life.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Ladders of SUCCESS!

[LADDERS OF SUCCESS post starts HERE]  I heard that somebody was having trouble getting a picture onto their Blogspot site, so I thought I should see if my advice was any good.  Then it turned into a collection of pictures chosen by their connection to ladders (for no good reason), and now this experiment has transformed  into a successful (if I have to say so myself) essay relating to the GBE 2 theme of the week:  SUCCESS!

Each picture relates to a job I completed in recent months that required a ladder.  CLIMBING THE LADDER OF SUCCESS (NOW do you get it?) has long been the challenge for people everywhere.
What they generally forget to mention is that ladders sometimes slip out at the bottom, or slide off to the side, or just plain crumble and drop you like a tool belt laden rock!  See those two suckers, I mean guys, up on the roof in the snow?  Once in a while, the successful  guy (read: smart guy) is the one on the ground taking the picture (me).

This is the starter ladder for toddlers and preschoolers who just can't wait to step up to that first rung!  Like the in-vitro babies listening to Shakespeare through abdominal walls, these kids have ambition!  My partner and I put this swing set together and two kids were climbing on it and banging their noggins at the top of the ladder (should not that be a warning in itself, to all wannabe executives?) before we could even pack our tools away.  Their Mother, to her great credit, said "shake it off" and the little guy did just that; he shook his head a couple times and went on to tackle the slide.  Endurance required, for success.

Here we have ladders in the sand. The bad news is that the ladder's feet can slide away from the wall if it's not steep enough.  The good news is that you can easily use your hammer claw to dig nice big pockets for the ladder's feet to snuggle into.  Once you get the two feet dug in evenly you're good to go, as high as you want to.  To ensure success, build your house on a solid rock, someone better than I has said.

This is another view of the giant picture at the top of this post.  I had to enlarge that one a million times so you could tell that this picture was not taken at the flea circus.
That's me up there remembering the time a mere 8 foot ladder I was standing atop of, slid off the roof.  The good news was that after I landed flat on the sidewalk below, the ladder landed next to me instead of on top of me!  Success sometimes benefits from a bit of luck.

My favorite ladder picture is below.  And the really amazing thing is that I have a favorite ladder picture!  I mean, who prioritizes their ladder pictures?  Is your file of ladder pictures ordered according to aesthetic appeal?  Didn't think so.  Anyway.  You've heard of Goldilocks and her quest for the 'just right' bed?  Well after trying the red and the blue, Graylocks here finally settled on the yellow one!  Actually, any indoor finish work ladder, no matter what the color, is THE ladder of success!