Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

Yesterday we passed the tipping point—the Winter Solstice was December 22! What does this mean? It means that from now until the Summer Solstice light will send the darkness into a slow but definite retreat! And that means that by the time we return to Maine—at the end of June—mornings will dawn before 5 a.m. and say their goodnights around 930 p.m.!

At the cabin our alarm clock will be nature’s choir rousting us out of the sack and into a new day! Our cabin will be 14 years old in July, and it needs some TLC. The list of projects continues to grow, but we can’t wait to attack the checklist!

Here in China we have made a lot of new friends and some of them will be our guests on the Penobscot River! We look forward to sitting around a campfire and them meeting our friends, family, and annual group of anglers that journey north.It won’t be long before I will be goading our neighbor, Carol, regarding her confused political leanings! This year’s reunion and wrangling should be even better. Carol and Richard got engaged, so I will have another friendly foe!


Peace On Earth

Strands of glowing twinkling Christmas lights descend from our living room ceiling to form a tree. Their colorful hues drench everything in peace and relaxation. Early this morning I curled up on the couch and appreciated their every slow pulse. From time-to-time I read in the soft ambiance that surrounded me. Mostly, I just let the mottled collage and quietness speak.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Early Christmas Gift

Early this morning I went for a short walk. Brisk air and blue skies diluted by a veil of wispy smoke greeted me. On the horizon a hazy orange sun climbed out of bed and set about another days work. A pair of songbirds cooed like lovebirds. Mourning doves whistled and scattered dry leaves as they winged their way upward to perch on barren limbs. In the distance the raspy chatter of a magpie did its best to grate on Mother Nature’s nerves.

Here in China, a few moments of solitude can’t be wrapped or bought or found in abundance. It is a gift, and I am thankful for the Giver.

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Realignment

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

His Glory was that He laid aside His glory, and the glory of the church is when she lays aside her respectability and her dignity, and counts it to be her glory to gather together the outcasts. ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

I have been trying to reestablish the habit I had for nearly all my adult years . . . getting up very early so that I could have unhurried time to align my physical and spiritual worlds. It is a necessity for me, because if I don’t I tend to forget that in truest reality they are parallel universes, and must live my life in them.

A couple of days ago the two quotes captured my attention simultaneously. The first message came through the medium of music as the refrains of the familiar Christmas song filled the atmosphere around me. The second came through the medium of the written page as I held a book in my hands and read.

In that moment the song and the quote aligned the two worlds I speak of – my physical world and my spiritual world. It hit me profoundly.

I don’t think it is necessary for me to provide a lot more commentary . . .

Realignment

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

His Glory was that He laid aside His glory, and the glory of the church is when she lays aside her respectability and her dignity, and counts it to be her glory to gather together the outcasts. ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

I have been trying to reestablish the habit I had for nearly all my adult years . . . getting up very early so that I could have unhurried time to align my physical and spiritual worlds. It is a necessity for me, because if I don’t I tend to forget that in truest reality they are parallel universes, and must live my life in them.

A couple of days ago the two quotes captured my attention simultaneously. The first message came through the medium of music as the refrains of the familiar Christmas song filled the atmosphere around me. The second came through the medium of the written page as I held a book in my hands and read.

In that moment the song and the quote aligned the two worlds I speak of – my physical world and my spiritual world. It hit me profoundly.

I don’t think it is necessary for me to provide a lot more commentary . . .

Realignment

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

His Glory was that He laid aside His glory, and the glory of the church is when she lays aside her respectability and her dignity, and counts it to be her glory to gather together the outcasts. ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

I have been trying to reestablish the habit I had for nearly all my adult years . . . getting up very early so that I could have unhurried time to align my physical and spiritual worlds. It is a necessity for me, because if I don’t I tend to forget that in truest reality they are parallel universes, and must live my life in them.

A couple of days ago the two quotes captured my attention simultaneously. The first message came through the medium of music as the refrains of the familiar Christmas song filled the atmosphere around me. The second came through the medium of the written page as I held a book in my hands and read.

In that moment the song and the quote aligned the two worlds I speak of – my physical world and my spiritual world. It hit me profoundly.

I don’t think it is necessary for me to provide a lot more commentary . . .

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thankful for Homesickness

Nearly everything we do abroad in China is a first: first anniversary abroad—number 34, first Thanksgiving abroad, first birthday abroad—number 56, first Christmas abroad, and the most palpable case of homesickness we have ever felt. O, and for the first time in our life we regularly walk three miles to buy coffee beans!

Today, as we walked three miles to buy coffee beans we talked about our homesickness! No, we didn’t commiserate—that can be absolutely demoralizing—especially abroad. Instead, we concluded that our homesickness is a good thing. Actually it is a blessing. “Our homesickness is good. We are homesick because the holidays are filled with so many precious memories. You remember and the miss good things—not bad things. I am thankful for that.” Sandy said. Also, in China there are few reminders that, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Such a setting helps us focus on the true meaning of Christmas, not the commercialism that has displaced it.

Earlier in the day we ventured off campus and found a little hole-in-the-wall store that sold twinkling Christmas lights. We bought seven strings. Now in the corner of our living area there is a twinkling tree. Our tree of red, yellow, green, and blue blinking strands hangs from the ceiling. The frame of a broken umbrella spreads them into the conical shape of a Christmas tree.

O.k., I know what you’re thinking, “You might be a Redneck if you make a Christmas tree from a broken umbrella and twinkly lights.” It was a lot of fun

As I write, Christmas music is playing in the background. Amy Grant and many different artists are singing their rendition of the classics. Amy is our favorite. To us, there is a spiritual quality to her music. Maybe it’s because she has experienced so much brokenness, and the grace of redemption and restoration the Savior came to give. Let’s never forget that’s the reason for the season.

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chasing The Wind

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don't have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless--just chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 6:9

Outside the walls surrounding SIAS is the the citizenry of Xinzheng, China. By U.S. standards the aging population has little by way of the material. Most have a roof over their head, and food enough to keep them alive, but not enough to make them fat. I can't see into the interior of their being, but their persona projects a happy, contented, friendly, and peaceful demeanor.

Over the last several years Sandy and I have been moving toward a lifesyle some would consider more Chinese than chasing the wind of the "American Dream." My six figure income is gone. The beautiful house is gone. Our combined salaries are yet to reach a five figure income. When we return to the States we will live in our cabin with no running water. No electricity. Our "bathroom" is a little outbuilding that sits in the shade of a dense hemlock.

Here in China, as we did in the States, we are up weekday mornings by 530 a.m. We drink too much coffee, and we talk. To be candid, some sunrises are blackened by dark spiritual thunderheads, and we feel socked in by an emotional fog as thick as pea soup.

In this post I have included two pictures. They are visuals that remind me of at least two choices such moments present. First, metaphorically speaking, like my kayak I could stay on the beach and live with the fear of being capsized and losing one of my few but highly valued possessions.

Another option is presented -- I can choose not to worry about rough waters ahead, and enjoy the glory and magnificience of every swirl and current of the River of Life.

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Living Life Backwards

“At some point in life we all stop measuring time from the beginning and start measuring time from the end. It shifts from thinking about, How far have I come? To, How much time and opportunity do I have left?” ~ Anonymous

In preparing for a special presentation tonight for SIAS students a broad outline was given me to guide the lecture. In the content I read the quote at the top of this post. It resonated.

How far have I come? Well, if the mile is the standard of measurement, then I’ve come a long, long ways! From our home on the east coast of the United States to China is halfway around the world! Of course that is not the intent of the question. How about this instead? How far have you come spiritually? Has your soul grown? Have you left lesser things behind to pursue greater things ahead?

How much time and opportunity do I have left? I have never articulated in such a concise way how to pace our sojourn, yet for some time that question has been the catalyst for a massive overhaul in my thinking. The results: High points and epic personal struggles. “A man’s thoughts will become the way a man lives.” Said an ancient sage.

Unquestionably so.

In less than two months I will be on the backside of fifty. Call this a midlife crises or whatever you want, but an unmistakable mental and spiritual switch was flipped in 2005. Standing on the soil of Laos along the east bank of the Mekong River I knew the time had come to live my life backwards.

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Immortality

There is no white picket fence with a swinging gate and no arched trellis that serves as a kind welcome and open invitation to wander through the rose garden. Now, even though they were once as patterned and colorful as a kaleidoscope, they are quickly becoming beige in color and bland to look at.

A virtual maze of hedges surrounds the few bushes that stubbornly stave off the onslaught of winter. Their thorny stems grow darker and sicklier. Waxy leaves, once vivid and healthy, are blotched and spotted and curled. Each day dull orange rose hips displace the brilliance and blushes of the petals that once crowned them. The flowerbed will soon be their deathbed. Deep winter is only weeks away.

But this morning, before the droplets of dew that covered them disappeared, I captured their fading glory in the lens of my camera and gave them immortality.