Friday, November 26, 2010

Light and Darkness

Last weekend we traveled to Columbus, GA to see our son Josh's art exhibit at Columbus State University, and to celebrate his 28th birthday. Josh is an incredibly talented young man, can master anything he sets his mind to, and is a gifted artist. His exhibit filled and entire studio, yet when you first entered the studio nothing was obvious at first glance. Then, all of a sudden you began to see a remarkable sculpture that captured light, turned the entire room into an optical illusion, and simply wowed everyone who gazed upon it. Time and again we heard people ask him, "How did you come up with this?" Josh's response, "It was just there in my mind, so I decided to bring it to life." People from the art world were taken aback by the work of his hands and creativity of his mind.

Originally, his installation was to be on display for that weekend only, but once it was unveiled the Columbus University gallery director extended it as 3 week exhibit.

After the show we went to "85" - a little hole in the wall (actually a basement) and celebrated our son's birth with a group of his long time friends. The place was rocking. We were surrounded by "electric music - a solid wall of sound," as Elton John's, lyrics blared out in, Benny and the Jets. Josh's friends genuinely like us, trust us, seek us out, and lay their life and thoughts out in plain view for us to see. Never once have we gotten together and had anything less then fabulous and meaningful conversation, and downright fun with the partying crowd of twenty-somethings.

Sandy and I got back to our room at 2 a.m. They were just getting started!

In the morning we went over to the house where Josh and 2 of his friends live. Original plans were to have brunch. Plans changed, and Sandy, Josh, and I were in Josh's room listening to a new CD by John Francis. All three of us were sprawled out across his bed talking and staring up at the white ceiling with the big fan in the middle. In a moment of silence Josh said, "Dad, this was Heath's room."

Heath was a creative 25 year old, loved music, played in a band, and worked at a Christian radio station. One of those guys with a thousand friends-very popular and easy going. Like so many of us who pursue God can identify with - Heath struggled with the complexity and questions that authentic Faith brings with it. On September 7, he came home to grab some lunch and walked in on a home invader. Nobody knows exactly what happened except that the room became a battleground; the scene of a life and death struggle. The intruder had a handgun.

I sat up on the bed and Josh pointed out the bullet holes that had sprayed the room. One over the door. One at the bottom of the door. Two in the walls, and one through the bathroom wall. At some point Heath tried to get out of the house, and as he fled through the front door his aggressor fired one last shot that pierced and furrowed the top of Heath's head. Heath stumbled as far as the driveway, crumbled, and bled out. The police did say that in the battle Heath had beaten the robber nearly senseless. I know Heath had fists the size of cannon balls.

The story just gets uglier, so I will stop.

Light and Darkness . . .

Just hours before we had celebrated the gifted life of our son. His artistic creation was a light bending, spectacular work of art. Sandy and I stood back shaking our head as the glory God had hidden away in Josh came shining through. We listened to the rave reviews and thanked God for his bright future.

Then in a matter of hours I felt like I was being swallowed by darkness. A life had been snuffed out. A beautiful spirit and soul had left this world. Friends and family are still reeling from the devastation of such a senseless act. Another manifestation of the cruelty and darkness - that is never far from any of us - made its despicable presence known.

Heath's soul - as eternal as the God who gave it to him - is accounted for. There has never been any doubt about his final destination . . . Heath took the journey through a corridor veiled by death's shadows. In an instant what was once only seen by faith came into focus. What at times seemed like an illusion became a place bathed in the purest of light. Heath is so much more than any of us can really imagine. God thought him up and brought him to life! Though his life on earth was cut short, it is wildly celebrated in The Presence and on display for all eternity . . .

Friday, November 5, 2010

Duck And Cover

All the islands up and down the river belong to the Native Americans, and hunting season began in October for the Penobscot Indians. Birch Island is directly across from the cabin. As I sat in my red canvas chair writing my head snapped up, and I instinctively went into a semi-crouch when a series of three rifle shots cracked loudly in rapid succession. So undiminished was the sound, I expected to see the shooter when I began scanning the island not 300 yards from where I sat. It also occurred to me that I could actually be hit by a stray round, so I got up and went into the cabin!

I am back in my red canvas chair now, but I am wearing a blaze orange hunting vest, and glassing Birch Island with my binoculars! My heart is still thumping at about the same speed as the woodpecker's rat-a-tat-tat as it drills into the ribs of a dead oak tree to my right. But now that my upper body glows like a Jack-O-Lantern I have decided to venture down to the rivers edge to write. Seated on a large gray rock, with one leg tucked under me, and the thigh of my other leg as a writing surface, I am ready to once again enjoy the serenity of this very special place.

Surprise! Surprise! Coming down the river is an aluminum boat piloted by a man in a red jacket. The bow of his 14 foot vessel is bobbing and making a slapping sound. "Beautiful day, huh?" He says. "It sure is!" I respond.

Finally it is quiet again, so I moved to another rock more ergonomically designed for the particular shape of my posterior. In between the two writing locations I walked along the shore with a long thin stick that a beaver had stripped of all its bark. I used the stick to flick away debris and turn over the gravely riverbed, so as to give attention to unusual stones. My eyes were drawn to some unique ones that were pure white, translucent and luminescent. Remarkably, they resisted being stained by the tea colored environment where they lay submerged most, or all of their existence. I slid them into the front pocket of my wranglers. I picked up another kind of stone. This one - smooth, flat, and round - perfectly fit my hand for skipping. I stretched my arm a bit to get it loose, leaned my body, so that my arm was on the same plane as the river surface, and I slung it!

Splash. Plunk. Not so good . . . I think the stone was defective.

Later on the same day I told my brother-in-law about the gunshots. He told me it was probably duck hunters firing from the cover of the island . . .

O . . . a shotgun is not considered a rifle.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


My journal, 5 3/4" by 4" is called, The Big Little Notebook. One of the "Rug Rat" characters dons the cover. He has orange hair, purple square glasses, and is wearing a crew neck pullover sweater with a planet on the chest. A thin crooked line - with the exception of two buck teeth - is the artists idea of a mouth. I left my own journal back in South Carolina, so I am using this child's notepad to capture my thoughts; at one time it was Meg's camp journal. For the next 4 days I will be in Maine, and at the cabin whenever I can. My brothers and sisters and I are gathering to put together a plan to care for my father and my mother. Mom and dad are no longer able to maintain their home, so we are securing elderly housing for them and making financial, medical, and legal arrangements for events yet future.

It is not a common occurrence to be able to sit outside in summer weight clothing late in October in Maine! But here I am seated in my red canvas chair taking in the Master's masterpiece, and listening with a spiritual ear for God to speak through the natural world. Great is the change in scenery since I was last here in July. Leaves are fading from brilliant to a blush. Like raindrops hundreds of them fall silently around me. Sweet grass that once swayed and danced with summer breezes along the river's edge look beige and tired and discolored. Beech, oak, maple, and birch once clothed in lush emerald hues look beggarly and scantly clad in bits of tattered rags. What's more, strong winds and driving rain have stripped some trees of all dignity and glory - nothing but their bony skeleton remains. Since I was last here the river has widened its boundaries, picked up its pace, and with impressive determination and outspokenness is heading south. In a rich baritone voice it sings its own compositions and musically flees from the coming winter. Old Man River will forever be an explorer on the move. Today he is excitedly running at full speed. further along he will peacefully meander through meadows and marshes. But he never makes a clean getaway. Frigid winter temperatures chase him down and clog his veins with ice - stranding him frozen solid in his tracks.

Spring and summer and fall disappear have disappeared like a ghost, and now the ledges to the northwest are more visible. Though bland in color - drably gray - they symbolize the beauty of strength and staying power. Neither the angry floods of spring, nor the freezing breath of Old Man Winter, nor tons of retreating ice - so powerful it often carries away islands and splinters massive trees into toothpicks - can so much as nudge the ledges from their subterranean moorings.

I love this place. . .

It speaks to me of change and the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

It speaks to me of things that do not change, will not change, and should not change.

I constantly need clarity in both . . .