Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Standing still

I haven't had much time lately to be still, which may be why I am really loving yoga lately. It's a time to be still (more or less) and stretch and breathe deeply. As a runner, I've found yoga to be an indispensable way to keep my muscles flexible. As a Christian, I've found it to be a time that I can spend in prayer with God.

I took a yoga class a few years ago at my church, and the instructor (a Christian friend of mine) always closed our sessions with the first part of this verse:

"'Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'" -- Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

I love the way she broke it down:

"Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know.
Be still.

When I start rushing around -- even when it's work I'm supposed to do for God -- I often find myself craving "still" time. My yoga instructor's words, and the verse that inspires them, often run through my head during these busy moments -- a good reminder that if I don't take time to be still, I'm likely to miss out on God's quiet directions to me. And I'm likely to get too exhausted to finish the work ahead very well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"It's a question of discipline."

I was at a Borders bookstore yesterday, wandering through what remained of its store closing sale and fighting off the blues as I mourned the loss of a decent chain bookstore and wondered what would happen to all the store's employees.

I was surprised -- because the store was so picked over already -- to find a 60th anniversary copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince, one of my all-time favorite books, and I simply couldn't resist bringing it home.

If you haven't read it, you should. It'll take you one sitting to get through the whole book, but its messages will stay with you far longer. I don't really think it's a children's book, although that is typically how bookstores categorize it. For those of you who have read it, what do you think: more for children or for those of us who were once children and have perhaps forgotten it? (You gotta read the book's dedication to get that reference.)

In one passage, the little prince is explaining life on his very small planet, where baobab seeds threaten to grow out of control every day. He insists to the narrator that:

It's a question of discipline ... When you've finished washing and dressing
each morning, you must tend your planet. You must be sure you pull up
the baobabs regularly ... Sometimes there's no harm in postponing your
work until later. But with baobabs, it's always a catastrophe. (pp. 15-16)

Get the book, and you'll see from the narrator's illustration the havoc that unchecked baobabs can wreak on a small planet. More important, though, is that we take away the message about discipline and the dangers of procrastination.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Springing forward

The expression "Spring forward" has always bemused me. I'm not a person who leaps from bed each morning ready to greet the day with enthusiasm and energy. So I always find this first week after we change our clocks to be a troubling one. On the one hand, I'm thrilled that it stays light later. But I definitely don't enjoy having lost the light in the morning or the feeling that it's going to take me another month to catch up on that lost hour of sleep. "Spring forward" no doubt is supposed to connote cheerfulness and pep and maybe even dancing through meadows of wild flowers, none of which I want to do at what my body feels like is an hour earlier than my eyes should be open.

What does energize me about this week, though, are the flowers and trees that are blooming. Check out the view I get to see these days as I go about my day:

The picture doesn't do justice to the beauty along this very busy road (I had limited vantage points where I could take the picture while also avoiding vehicles hurtling by at ridiculous speeds). However, in early Spring each year, this line of large and small tulip magnolia trees -- along with some large pear trees around the curve -- make a very busy road much more lovely than it might otherwise be. Following up this showy Spring display, crape myrtles will bloom in the median in equally magnificent fashion.

Isaiah mentions trees -- and other elements of nature -- breaking out in praise:

"For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." -- Isaiah 55:12 (NASB)

The gorgeous profusion of blooms could very well be these tulip trees' way of breaking out in praise and clapping their hands. I'm grateful for them and for their reminder that God does want me to "Spring forward" when I praise Him.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Beware the Tree of Death

My husband ran a trail marathon at our local state park this past weekend, and I went out to cheer him -- and the other runners -- on. The marathon organizers had put mile markers out, as well as other signs of encouragement or warning. The one I saw as I was walking back to the finish line said, "Welcome to Cemetery Hill." You might think that's a discouraging sign or a word of warning, but it's the last big climb before the finish, and an old family cemetery sits at the top of the hill.

After the race, Chris and I were talking about the signs, and he mentioned one that has really stuck with me: "Beware the Tree of Death." Now, before all you Harry Potter fans head out to the park and start searching for the real, live Whomping Willow tree, let me explain.

Trees can definitely be a runner's friend, providing shade on a hot day, a good prop for stretching out, a back rest after you're done and need to sit for a bit, or even a privacy barrier when, ahem, nature calls. But a tree's roots sticking up from the ground can range from a mere nuisance to downright danger, especially on narrow trails like some in this race. That's what the sign was cautioning: Keep your eyes on the ground ahead as you run through here, or you'll find yourself at eye-level with the ground before you know it. Apparently this tree's gnarly roots are such a tripping hazard that they warrant a warning sign.

The Tree of Death got me thinking back to the Bible. There's a Tree of Life at the beginning (Genesis) and end (Revelation) of the Bible, and I'll talk more of that tree another time. There isn't a Tree of Death, though there are plenty of dead or dying trees throughout the Bible.

Isaiah warns of a foolish carpenter who cuts down a tree for good uses (wood to create a fire to warm himself and cook food) but then makes a terrible mistake of carving the remaining wood into an idol.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

You can't do this with your e-reader!

As promised, I'm continuing this week's discussion about paper and my love of it, especially when it's bound together with other paper to form a book. A friend posted an intriguing link to Facebook earlier this week, showing some of the artwork of Brian Dettmer, a book "surgeon." And I was instantly entranced!

"Webster Two Point Oh" by Brian Dettmer

Eugene's Blog beautifully highlights these works, and another blogger followed up yesterday with an interview with the surgeon/artist himself -- showcasing more of his work. Dettmer takes books (and other media) and carves them into intricate sculptures. You can see a gallery of images at Dettmer's site, his flickr pages, or the blogs. It's definitely worth taking time to browse through them.

Looking through his artwork reminded me of a discussion I first had several years ago in a class in grad school (a debate played out over and over in the media). E-readers were a newly-emerging technology at the time, and our professor wanted to know whether we thought printed books would die out because of the new readers. I'm an unapologetic bibliophile, and so the thought of books all converting to electronic form made me panicky then, and still causes a little flutter of concern in me today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Words on doors?

"You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart ... You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." -- Deuteronomy 6:5-6, 9

Writing on your doorposts
A few weekends ago when my husband and I were in the mountains, we strolled through a little art gallery, and there I saw a stunning mezuzah case. Mezuzot came about to fulfill the requirement in Deuteronomy 6 to write God's words on a house's doorposts, and as you might imagine, there are lots of rules about who writes the parchment and where the mezuzah goes. And while the words on the parchment are the truly important part, mezuzah cases come in many different shapes, sizes and styles.

Not being Jewish, I passed up the mezuzah case at the gallery, but I haven't stopped thinking about that beautiful little case and what it will someday contain. I also keep wondering what words my friends and family might say I would be most likely to write on my doorposts.

There's a growing trend in home decorating to put up words as art on your walls. You can even stop by your local Target and pick up some stick-on words that'll go up with ease: big, small, curly or simple, whatever suits your decor. But what words would you choose to put on your doorposts, especially the front door where your friends, family, guests, and even a stray salesman can see? I'm talking about the words that you live by.

What are the words that truly represent what's most important to you? Now: where will you write them?