Silliness of Mythical Proportions

There’s something irresistible about being INSIDE a tree. I knew that early. Reading My Side of the Mountain, I met my kindred spirit, Sam Gribley. At age twelve, Sam ran away from home and survived winter in the Catskill Mountains by living inside a giant hollowed-out hemlock.

My early reading also included Greek myths featuring un-kindred spirits. For instance, there were the Dryads, a form of nymph who lived inside trees. Even Christianly literature, like The Chronicles of Narnia, would harken back to the animation of trees. Mr. Tumnus warns Lucy about the Dryads: “The woods are full of her spies, even some of the trees are on her side.” And then, you have to admit… trees are pretty special in the Bible, from beginning to end.

For those reasons — and because I’m part Scottish (my excuse for strange excess) — when I see a giant hollowed-out tree, it still tugs at the little boy brain in my old man body. That happened yesterday. The question was inevitable: “Can I get inside?” One disturbing picture — that I’ll spare you — says, “Yes, I can get inside.” After removing my daypack, I was swallowed whole by an ancient tree at White Rock Lake.

Reviewing tree-related mythology, I encountered a Slavic myth: Leshy.
Judge for yourself if Leshy is also a kindred spirit.

I am INFLUENCED. How about you?

I am just about finished reading an EXCELLENT book by Brian Loritts: Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All. I expect to write more about this book later, but here is a graphic that came to mind while reading this morning. In part, the graphic reflects my gratitude for Loritts’ skillful enlightenment, but it also reflects an insistence on probing deeper for the causes of what Loritts describes.

While Loritts hasn’t touched much on polarization yet in the book, I do think polarization is affecting how readily we embrace one sin or another: if “our side” is for it, then we aren’t going to bad-mouth it, are we? If “our side” is unsympathetic to the suffering of others, then maybe we’ll be just fine with an unloving attitude. If “our side” is for downplaying sexual immorality, then maybe we’ll make sure we aren’t the kind of prudes who are repulsed by sexual immorality.

Reflecting on Loritts’ book also prompted this comment to a friend (how the comment relates to the above is something I haven’t worked out yet, but AM working on!):

I’m trying hard to understand the intersection of Kingdom and culture. That is, which kinds of thinking are RIGHT (aligning with the Kingdom of God), which are WRONG (driven by Satan’s purposes), and which are merely DIFFERENT (benign cultural preferences). In this regard, [name] and I have both found Jonathan Haidt very helpful.

– email to a friend

I know this is undeveloped thinking, but I welcome interaction with friends (and not-yet friends) who would like to reflect on their own journey of self-inspection. How are YOU finding yourself influenced by good, evil, and the indifferent benign*?

*Different from Camus’ “benign indifference?” Let’s think about that…

Cat Proof Plant Propagation

Every year, I take my beautiful begonia next door for my neighbor to prune. Why? Glad you asked. Don Miller (my neighbor) is a nationally-known begonia expert. In fact, the begonia in question is one that a friend of Don’s hybridized and named in his honor. It’s called the “B. ‘Don Miller'” (or I believe some are now calling it the “Frosty” for its silver leaves). This year, he put the trimmed-off stems in a mason jar and assured me that I could easily propagate his plant. We’ll see about the “easily” part.

Here’s the challenge. The cats in my house go bonkers for begonia. If I leave my office door open, one will go over on my right side and distract me by juggling oranges or singing an aria from La Traviata (riveting!) while the other sneaks by me on the left and chows down on begonia leaves. They’ll take turns doing this (or something like it) until all the new leaves are gone. I say “gone.” Actually, the bulimic cat burglar runs out of my office and vomits on the rug as quickly as possible.

So, here’s the plan this year…. I made these three hanging shelves, suspended from the top of my glass office door using 1/8 inch all-thread. The shelves themselves are made from vinyl gutter downspout. At the ends, they are sealed off with 2″-thick styrofoam that I saved from an Ikea shipping box.

my plant propagation perch

The trimmed begonia branches were given a sprinkling of root starter (my idea, Don may laugh) and planted in little jiffy pots. Way up there, in their propagation perch, there is absolutely NO WAY the tender new plants will be discovered and destroyed by my wicked cats. Soon, the begonias will be ready for regular pots, and I’ll give them to regular families, preferably families who don’t have cats. That’s the plan.

Oh yeah, the part about Don Miller is true. Scroll down for a photo Don forwarded to me. But first, here’s a video I just found (sorry, it isn’t embedded; clicking will take you to YouTube):

Don Miller Video

B. ‘Don Miller’ growing at the Bellingrath Gardens near Mobile, Alabama

Sparking Joy. In Whom?

This morning, while cooking breakfast, I noticed how beautiful the cooktop is. Last night, Susan must have carefully cleaned it, as she often does. A clean, uncluttered work area is delightful to her. In the words popularized by Marie Kondo, it sparks joy in her. As I look around the kitchen and living room, I see objects that were given to Susan by sisters-in-law and other girl friends. These ladies are world-class experts in sparking joy. They learn what Susan likes, what colors she uses in her decor. They pay attention to what is delightful to her. Over the course of the year, they purchase or make things that match what they know about Susan. Then, on her birthday and Christmas — sooner if they just can’t wait — they give her these joy-sparking gifts. She does the same for them.

Am I learning from my wife and her friends? Do I keep my eyes open for things that would spark joy in Susan? In my own friends? In my boys? In my Savior? By God’s grace, I do occasionally spark joy in others. But, looking around the kitchen this morning, I want to do better. After breakfast, I think I’ll clean off the cooktop. Again. Better than last time.

Observations

Like I always say, “Like I always say…”

People without a sense of humor shouldn’t kid themselves.

Anything worth doing right is worth doing in a timely manner. This is what people sometimes forget when they say that anything worth doing is worth doing right.

Blood is thicker than water. Nevermind how putrid the blood or how sweet the water.

Blood is thicker than water. So is sewage.

There’s plain old thoughtless lack of communication and then there’s malicious lack of communication.

My brain is like Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lacunas. That’s “lacunae” for the more affected.

When a man is arrogant, and insults everyone around him, then everything he does is liable to criticism.

A preacher who never ponders will likely be ponderous, but never deep.

Adding “so” to the end of every utterance does not make you a man of consequence.

He had bested the berry by popping it in his mouth
This he initially thought.
But within a year the berry vines had taken over
The farm he thus had bought.

I’m like a genius in disguise.

That was almost professional.

A preacher must love The Word more than his words, The Manuscript more than his manuscript.

The fellow in the next cubicle is a hunt-and-peck typist. But his thumb always knows its position. Between each word, his thumb pounds its one key with authority. The result is a staccato rhythm that interrupts my thought.

Mixed metaphors are like when the fly is in the pudding.

At the top of a leader’s priorities is making sure that the people who work under him have everything they need to be productive. A man who does not take care of that cannot be a leader.

Learning a New Language

I ran across this Ted Talk on language and it confirmed some of my notions about language learning. I have been frustrated ever since I attended Seminary and saw how little the language professors availed themselves of our natural aptitude for language. If Greek and Hebrew were taught as languages to be used in CONVERSATION, I bet a lot of us would have picked them up and retained them far better than we did. Instead, we were taught merely to read, write, and parse the languages. The enormous resources that God gave us for language learning were barely harnessed. One of the lame excuses was that we don’t know how NT Greek was pronounced. WHO CARES! So what if we pronounce it incorrectly!