Flighty Art, Sidewalk Chalk, and Loving Your Neighbor

Hummingbird

Hummingbird at Feeder, photo credit, Caleb.

Hummingbirds fascinate me. They’re so small and yet their wings beat so fast, approximately 80 times per second! I am unceasingly amazed by the rapid thrumming of their wings as they fly past or hover nearby. Leaves will flap back and forth from the downdraft and the little hummers can even fly up, down and backward! And their colors are wild iridescent greens, blues and reds to oranges and even whites.

Hummingbirds are wonderfully crafted pieces of art with wings and large appetites. They are an intentional part of God’s creation (see Genesis 1:20). I can’t fathom that they are any kind of an accident; it’s hard to believe that cosmic accidents would produce such delicate and amazing beauty. And a strictly utilitarian God would, in my imagination anyway, favor drab functionality over exquisite, shimmering beauty. They certainly serve a functionality in God’s over all ecology, but they are unquestionably beautiful as well. I think that’s because God is both/and: He’s both functional and artful. God is the Creator after all, and if we spend time looking at nature, or at telescopic images of space or microscopic images of the molecular world, we’ll recognize that God is indeed artful in incredibly complex and miraculous ways.

Chalk art

Caleb Chalk-art

This brings me to chalk art, even if it’s a Matchbox car highway scraped onto our driveway. Such art exhibits the creative imaginations of children; but they also exhibit our God-given innateness to create beauty ourselves. Art and artists abound. We have flowers, trees, mountains, galaxies, and all kinds of creatures, even ones inhabiting the deepest, darkest depths of our oceans. We also have sculptors, painters, musicians, writers, actors and more; working in all sorts of mediums from oils, to acrylics, to metal, to glass, clay, ceramic, and unlimited bits of tactile art. Yes, art can be used to cast ugly images and ugly aspects of humanity, not unlike some of the hostile artifacts we find in nature such as poisonous bugs, killer weather, and even sunburns. But by and large, most art is in one way or another, beautiful.

So the next time you’re out for a neighborhood stroll and come across a young child creating their art with chalk on the sidewalk, stop and admire it. Let them know you appreciate it and quite possibly fan the flame of a future artist. Doing this you will show love for your neighbor by encouraging the heart of a child. You will also be acknowledging the gift from a wonderfully creative God working in the hearts of the very youngest among us.

Mount Ves-bubblus Erupts!

Bubble Mtn.

No, this is not Mount Vesuvius, it’s…it’s…it’s Mount Vesbubblus. With no warning, it rapidly appeared in my bathtub the other night. It just sort of came out of nowhere and then, bam! there it was; growing so fast I thought the entire bathroom was going to be consumed in its bubbly slickness.

Okay, it didn’t actually come out of nowhere. It actually came out of, well, one of my wife’s, uh, bath bombs (now don’t touch my Man Card, just hear me out!).

It all started when I came home from work on Tuesday.

“It was bit of a hard day today,” I said upon entering our home while flexing my shoulders in an effort to release the tension.

“That’s too bad,” said Janey. “Why don’t you take a bath and unwind a bit. I’ll take care of dinner.”

Sounding reasonable to me, I said, “Okay, that’s a good idea.” And then turning to head upstairs, she called after me:

“You can use one of my bath bombs if you like. They’re relaxing.”

Relaxing. Hmm, okay, relaxation’s not a bad thing, so what the heck. She told me where they were on the tub, even though they weren’t hard to miss sitting in that large glass bowl. In that bowl were three softball-size “bombs.” They were so big I thought maybe they opened up to reveal smaller ones. But no, these were softball-sized bath bombs. The brand appeared to be French because I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce it; but since the Tour de France is going on, how can it hurt.

Dutifully, and with great difficulty, I finally extricated the bomb from its hermetically sealed plastic tomb, tossing it into the bath as it was filling. Soon, a soothing fragrance of lavender infused the air and I began to feel my shoulders loosen up to finally stop touching my ear lobes. I ever-so-slowly settled into the hot, fragrant water and turned on the jets.

logo_mrbubbleIt was like a Mr. Bubble box exploded, bubbles started erupting out of the water. Bubble boulders were mounting up on top of each, higher and higher, sliding down to the water, heading right for me. Then Mount Vesbubblus started spilling over the side, soaking the bathmat. It was a bubbly mayhem threatening to clean everything in its path, leaving behind a swath of soapy scum as far as the eye could see (at least the eye that had bunch soap in it).

Then Caleb, our 10 year old son popped in. Ah, yes, he’s here to save me, I thought. How wrong I was. Instead, that’s when the laughter started. Then he got his mom; she also laughed as Mount Vesbubblus was now sitting taller than me, looming over me like a frothy blob seeking to inhale my head.

In between laughing gasps, she asked me how this happened. I said the jets did it, honest! She didn’t believe me, she thought it was more than that, like maybe the beans from last night’s dinner. But no, I hadn’t had such a bio-experience in the tub…at least not up to that point.

With the bubbly blob lurching toward me I finally gathered enough sense to turn the jets off. Ha, that did it! Mount V stopped growing. And once the laughter stopped, I could hear millions of little popping noises, sounding like little tiny fireworks or ant-sized popcorn popping. Mt. V was dying, never to come back again.

Needless to say, I am swearing off of bath bombs altogether, I;ll just let Janey enjoy her bombs by herself!

Yes, I know, while this is a true story, it is a light-hearted story. Sometimes we just need to laugh a little even as so many things that concern us are going on all over the world.

A merry heart does good, like medicine.

–Proverbs 17:22

 

Mourning, Anger and Compression Socks

 

This has been a weird week, both personally and nationally.

All of the killings that have happened in our nation are numbing and tragic. Regardless of my political leanings, or thoughts on the 2nd Amendment or attitudes on activism; American families are in mourning and in need of my prayers. This is part of how I love my neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). Our nation is in need of my prayers. God help us!

 

The Anger Part

SocksI was on my bike ride yesterday when I was pondering all the mourning. As I entered onto a very busy street with a debris-strewn bike path, some dude swerved into the bike lane so his buddy could stick his upper body out of the window to scream at me. It of course startled me, and thankfully they didn’t hit or grab me, but as they sped away, I started fuming. I even yelled at them, and no, I didn’t say “thank you!” I am glad I kept both hands on the handlebars so I didn’t flail around any hand gestures that could’ve caused me even more trouble.

But as their car faded from view and I started climbing one of West Salem’s many hills, I marveled how quickly I went from mourning to anger. Yes, what those people did to me was dangerous and stupid, but I allowed them to disturb my soul. Then I started realizing how I allow a lot of other things to disturb my soul as well.

Sure, most of what is in the news is bad, but typically, we only see what the news wants us to see. We actually have to work to see the positives in life. But even amongst all the sadness and tragedy, there is still beauty. Just look around and marvel at the joy that surrounds us. Even as we pray for more of God’s presence and peace in our own souls and throughout our nation, we can at the same time be thankful for our families, flowers, birds, bikes, and so on.

 

Now the Socks

I was reminded of a simple example of joy when I started speeding down the hill just described, my feet were more comfortable in my new compression socks! Silly, I know, but also simple and joyful. The socks help message the calves, wick sweat away better and just add more overall comfort. And they were on sale to boot!

Like I said, it’s been a weird week, and I didn’t mention my CT scan (but that’s another story).

Bike Tipping and Humility

Bike cageOne of humanity’s most noble character traits is humility. This same character trait is sorely missing from much of our culture. Even Jesus “humbled Himself” (see Philippians 2:8). But somehow humility seems elusive. I was bluntly reminded of this just yesterday at a stop light.

I commuted to work yesterday on my bike, my brand new shiny hybrid Trek Allant 7.4. Yep, look at me commuting, reducing my carbon footprint and improving my fitness. Ha, I’m not in a metal box spewing emissions; nope, I’m using pedal power. (Forget the fact that I drive 99% of the time!)

 

Timmmmmbeeeerrrrr!

It all started at the last intersection before my building. I’m rolling up to a stale red light at Summer and Union streets. I’m looking at the light hoping it’ll turn green in the next nanosecond. Keep in mind that both of my feet are securely clipped tightly into the cleats on my pedals, and since they are still new, getting my feet out of the cleats quickly is difficult because they’re not broken in yet.

So my forward momentum is all but stopped. Suddenly I find myself desperately trying to uncleat. I’m jerking my right leg in vain efforts to get the cleat to, well, uncleat. Now my bike starts wobbling. But with no forward momentum along with the jerking of my right leg, my brand new shiny bike begins lurching sideways.

Oh yes, that old familiar feeling of losing balance came rushing back as the ground came rushing up. That nanosecond mentioned above was my inglorious tumble onto the curb (ouch!) and grass. And of course it was next to two buildings with a thousand occupants each along with a busy intersection. I’m sure those that saw it all happen thought the same thing as I did, “What an idiot!”

And I’m sure it was humorous. Funny how in mid-tip both of my feet just uncleated and Bike fall.jpgflayed out in different directions; looking somewhat like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the football away from him: limbs flailing followed by a big thud. The big thud was my right shoulder on the grass and my right knee on the concrete curb.

 

Okay, just get up and act like nothing happened

On top of all of these clumsy theatrics, I had to be at a meeting in less than ten minutes. And it was a meeting I was facilitating. So I couldn’t just lie there, I had to get up, get back on my bike, get to work and get the meeting started. So that’s what I did. As an old song lyric states, I got back up and brushed myself off and hopped back up on the saddle.

Well, the meeting was a great success and thankfully I didn’t show up bleeding. My bike received no dings and my knee is only slightly swollen today (I did eventually have to ice it.) And, most of all, my fused neck is still fused!

 

Holier than Thou…Not!

Honestly, I don’t perceive myself to be a creature of self-absorption. But I do have periodic run-ins what that little monster known as ego (aka pride). Even as I was supremely embarrassed by my little mishap yesterday, I find it quite humorous. But it also reminds me not to entertain attitudes of grandeur; what is often referred to as being haughty or conceited.

I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21), that makes me cool in God’s eyes. But this “coolness” is purely because of God’s grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:1-10). Commuting on my bike doesn’t make me cool, neither does my attire or my paycheck. Christ makes me cool. At least to God I’m cool due to faith in Christ (Romans 10:9-10).

So the next time I start thinking I’m all that because I’m commuting, or have a cool bike or trendy new clothes, I’ll remember this bike tipping incident along with the embarrassment and my swollen knee. Hopefully this will help me thwart that little ego monster. But I do hope to remain upright!