Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crashing Rhythms

   I once had a percussion instructor who believed that just about everything in our planet, and our lives had a rhythm.   The speed of the wind blowing….

I started writing this a few days ago, and since then the rhythm that has picked up in our lives hit an unexpected and new fast paced rhythm.  It hardly seems possible that just over a week ago; I was standing in a field with prairie dogs all around, barking and chirping to each other.  Then, we received a phone call that caused heart rates to pick up, and the relaxed rhythm of a vacation to swing into a staccato roll of forward movement.

Hospital… Stroke… Stable… Doctor… 

My grandfather had suffered from a stroke and was on his way to the large regional hospital for care.  Plans changed, we packed our bags, and headed home immediately.

The week to follow has been a blur, fast moving combinations have accompanied us.  Hospital, the tat-a-tat fast paced rhythm has moved to a steady and sweet pulse of caregivers who are seeking to bring healing and renewed strength to my grandfather.  Encouragement has changed the staccato to a steady heart beat, familiar and encouraging. 

Stroke, a new rhythm that is unfamiliar and moves at a speed that is hard to keep up with.  New vocabulary, new tests to understand, research; adrenaline rushed rhythms move into ones that are lagging with tired steps.   Yet, slowly a normalcy of pace resumes, with a few helpful naps allowed for.  The information comes, dropping in place slowly and filling in the syncopated feeling into more of a swing beat.

So many rhythms and changes in tempo have occurred.  In the midst of this, with rhythms that have felt more impacting than ones to be walked along with, I have been having a different rhythm in my head.  It is from a song that I love, “Never Going to Steal My Joy” by Mandisa.  If you aren’t familiar with it, I would highly suggest a quick Google look-up.  It is the strength in the words that I love, the staunch stance that though the rhythms may change or be those which crash in on us quickly and seem overpowering.  And while I think of those songs, I remember standing on the mountain, at a beautiful and quiet peaceful lake, with gentle sweet rhythms. 

In the peaceful movement of God’s rhythm of the crashing waves of life, I am reminded of someone who experienced crashing rhythms of his own.  David, as he penned what we call Psalm 121, was making his own declaration that amidst the rhythms that come at us syncopated, staccato, rushing, and tumbling, that there is Someone who is not thrown by the tympanic changes.

    Psalm 121
    I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
    My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
    He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
    Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
    The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
    The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
    The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
    The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for     

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Dragon’s Breath and Small Towns

The last few days have gone much too quickly, as the scenes have passed the car window.  Fumaroles and steep snow covered mountains have given way to rolling pine covered hills and a new town.  The parks are overwhelming in their grandeur.  The vast sizes of the landscape, where the next turn shows something new and then the next and the next, quickly has become overwhelming for me.  Sitting at Jenny Lake, watching the clear water lap against the rocky shore, and listening to the quiet of the place, I have felt completely overwhelmed as the thought occurs to me, if this is earth – what must heaven be like?
From the quiet of a lake shore to the fumaroles area of a Dragon’s Breath, I was fascinated by the steam moving against the cavern walls with such power that it created powerful waves.  An eco-system in a microcosm exists as the water is pushed out and then is distributed through a series of small chambers and caverns, filling small pools and then draining them.  They are left steaming from the scalding liquids and receiving another layer of mineral wash.  The sound of the water and steam sounds like a heart-beat.  It is as if the earth itself is opening a portal to hear her heart beat, slow and steady.

Leaving the caldera of Yellowstone, we moved through a series of small towns across Wyoming.  It was great to see towns, ranging from a population of around twenty five to nearly thirty thousand, spring up against the cattle dotted landscape.  So many little towns, remaining unknown to the majority of us, are scattered across the country.  They are a back bone of the country, in providing a variety of crops and products.  We saw production areas of benzonite and coal mines.  Cattle grazed among petroleum pumps with herds of antelope.  Beautiful horses ran down a sage covered slope, tossing their heads in the wind.  Post Offices, a restaurant, and  a city hall become the main features in the small areas.  Sometimes, they are all combined into one spot.  A really inventive entrepreneur combined a coffee shop and auto place.  I thought that was pretty well thought out, enjoy your coffee while you wait for an oil change.  Rivers and streams cut through land, helping to feed fields of potatoes and other crops. 

Oh beautiful land, I cannot wait to see what is along the next corner.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Couch in a Field

Yesterday took us from the Wyoming train yards of Cheyenne to the Tetons of Jackson Hole. Passing beautiful scenery along the way, hills dotted with blue tinged sage bushes changed to mountains trimmed in pristine white. Cattle poked along through the sage, munching as they walked. Well, all except one white faced bull, who after finding a good spot on the fence for a chin rub, looked very content. Slowly, the trees became more populous and the pines stood higher, flecked with tiny cones. 

Among all of the sights, smells and views in the middle of the day, a couch sat out in one of the fields. No building were around, just the cows and a couch in the middle of the ranch. Oher than thinking that it was a rather odd spot to put a couch, I didn’t give it much thought.  

When I was last in the Teton area, we were camping. I walked out of the laundry house and looked up at the night sky to see a sky I had never seen before – the Milky Way was spilled across the sky in brilliant color. I couldn’t keep from staring, mouth agape, doing some sort of a happy dance there in the dusty drive. 

My expectations were high coming back to this area; I have been dreaming of that sky. Last night, Dad and I headed out to the National Elk Refuge. Driving past the limits of town and keeping an eye out for elk, we kept looking to the sky. Sitting there with the heater running, we waited as the sun slowly went down. A moth fluttered against my window, and caused me to jump at the unexpected movement. Eventually, the sky darkened, the stars came out. Hello to the starry sky I had missed seeing. It was then I remembered the couch in the field. I have to give credit to whomever put it there. What a perfect spot to star gaze! Free of the glare of city lights, surrounded by curious cows, the view must be spectacular. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Misleading Distances

Yesterday was the first day of vacation, and after putting some loose ends behind us, we headed out on a long drive to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  As we traveled, I thought of the pioneers who moved across the west in wagon trains.  As they were full of hope and tired feet, I kept looking out and wondering what they thought of this land.  While creeks are still prominent and the land was rich for growing crops, I can see them looking at this with a sense of future potential.  Then, farther west, as the cliffs starting cropping out of the lands, maybe it was those who dreamed of raising cattle who saw the land as a place of opportunity. 
I did wonder, as the lands flatten out and distances are misleading, how that struck these travelers.  As they crossed the flat stretches, they would have seen for days in front of them what was next to travel.  But, I wondered if that was a comfort of knowing what was ahead, or a discouragement of perhaps not seeing the hills grow any closer. 
Distance can be misleading.  It can seem that the next turn, (metaphorically now), in life should be right now.   But, there it is way off in the shadowy haze of the horizon.  “How long Lord?” is a question I’m sure many lips have asked crossing through this land, and through life. 
But, the hills are growing closer and last night we even spotted mountains in the distance, rising up out of the plains.  I think I found my song to fit them, “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains.  And the mountains in reply, echo back their glorious strain.  Gloria!”  Gloria indeed for a beautiful land, so diverse as we move through it.  What a beautiful way to kick off vacation, with realizing the diversity our earth has within it.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Music for the Trip

I watched a lovely fall concert yesterday of the local high school choirs.  The kids did a great job, as did their conductors and pianists.  One of the group I was with mentioned something about how people don’t necessarily go through life like in a musical, a.k.a. they don’t burst into song in random public places.  But, don’t you wish they would?

Even right now as I write this, I am finishing my day with “Simple Love” by Alison Krauss and Union Station playing softly in the background.  Music is like breathing, melodies come without thought, harmony without the need for written lines.  My world has always had a component of music to it, and what a journey of music it has been.  High school concerts, it reminds me of my own days of rehearsal rooms and practices.  Don’t really miss the rehearsal rooms, and I greatly enjoy the church choir, (we can be a bit rowdy – I warn you now!).  But, this isn’t the music that is in the scheduled time frames, this is the random music.  I hear the melodies; I hear it in the laughter of those walking by.  I hear it in the flapping of the birds wings, the leaves patter as they fall, the sounds of friends laughing.

The music woke me up this morning in a softly falling rain.  How I love that sound, gently lyrical as they bring out the fall elements even stronger.  Leave me snuggled in the bed with my book and listening to that rain, or even better on a porch swing listening to the sounds.

Heading out on vacation so very soon, and here I am burning last minute CD’s of music.  I find myself thinking about what music I want to hear when the mountains come into sight.  The only thing I can think of is “How Great Thou Art”.  How could I but look upon that and see anything but the work of the Creator, and His impeccable sense of the beautiful.  The structure of the land, it is musical itself.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vacation Count Down

Two days until vacation, hooray!  I always find that the closer I am to a vacation, the more I need it.  And, this is no exception.  With all the events of the last few months, especially as today is marking the one month of my grandpa’s death, this has been quite the summer.  But, now fall is here.  Fall, with it’s beautiful leaves and cooler temperatures.  And soon, it will find me in the mountains with snow, pine trees with that scent that strikes my nose as so clean and pure, and of course on the look-out for buffalo and moose. 

Vacation, such a wonderful concept, like a longer version of a Sabbath of sorts.  Sunday afternoons nearly always find someone in the house taking a nap.  I am not really much of a nap taker, as much as I may wish I was at times.  Often, I find myself far groggier after a nap than not.  With that said, I still am a firm believer in the need to recharge, to rest and recover ourselves after such busy schedules.  An article came across my desk not too long ago, stating that it really takes two weeks in our busy lives to truly disconnect, let ourselves relax, and then be able to go back to the work environment. 

So I will pack my bags, which are still in the basement waiting for the actual packing, charge the camera and head out the door.  I am looking for buffalo with snow dusted coats, the sound of elk in the dusk, the feel of Jenny Lake on my fingers, and the sound of wild horses running through the plains.  I am looking for a time to relax, breaking away from the daily pace of life.  I am looking for the site of the Milky Way spilled across the night sky in a moment that completely takes my breath.  I am looking for the quiet that only exists in groves of pine trees. 

And in the quiet… in the quiet I am reminded of a different time and a different need for quiet.  I am reminded of sitting in a sanctuary, soaking in words of grace.  The grace of Jesus, the grace that is much more inspiring and beautiful than even that spill of stars, just sitting in the quiet and soaking it in.  I am counting down to a time of sanctuary, of Sabbath, of finding the quiet in the trees, the song in the leaves, the rhythm of the tides, the percussion of the running hooves.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Courage in Small Talk

I met a beautiful young mom yesterday, with a swath of blond hair that was just beautiful.  I admired this young woman, because she did something which to me took a lot of courage.  But, let me back up first and set the stage. 
It was a beautiful day yesterday, clear skies and warmer temperatures.  Yesterday was also our Fall Festival at church.  It is a way to give back to the community for their support over the year, with music, food, games, etc…  The young mom mentioned above came with her two children, a toddler and little boy.  She led them through the games, they ate, they participated.  But, unlike many others who really didn’t know anyone there – she really participated.  She was part, with a running stream of conversation, trying out different activities, introducing herself to others, and helping her children join in with the others. 
I admire this ability to jump into a situation, surrounded by strangers, albeit friendly ones, and make yourself at home.  I think that this is something which demands courage.  Oh, I can make small talk, (the food, the location, hobbies, and weather), the kind of talk that goes no deeper than the food on the table.  But, to stay and really go out of your way to meet people and join in, that is not something I’m sure I would have done. 
It is a skill I admire, and I do equate it with courage.  I think it is a quiet kind of courage, that allows you to jump in like that.  I watched with admiration yesterday, and it was a reminder to myself of how there can be a great joy in making that step.