Opening Thoughts for July 2010

In an effort to further prime the pump for blog writing, here is my latest installment for the church newsletter:

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Most of you have been going to the grocery store long enough to know that “Contents May Settle.” As a result of this settling, there are so many more raisins at the bottom of the box than at the top. Raisin Bran is what I’m talking about, in case you didn’t know. (Yes, here’s another opening ramble from the breakfast musings of your pastor.) And these aren’t just regular dried grapes; they’re raisins that have been sweetened to the point of rendering them almost candy. Wow! What a difference there is between both the taste and the nutrition content from the top and the bottom of the cereal box. Could somebody check my blood sugar, please?

You’ve probably noticed the same thing with other products. When you buy potato chips, you get half a bag of free air as a bonus. The chips huddle at the bottom and scrape their salt from one another, creating an oily, salty slick of crumbs that could cure meat.

This type of gravity-induced retreat from the mouth of the eater happens in many products, including some which aren’t even food, like laundry detergent. That’s why dry contents are measured by weight, not by volume.

What method, would you say, do most Christians use to measure their contents? …by weight, or by volume? That’s a throwaway question really, because talk about “most Christians” does not help us get to a point of personal faith impact. What we really need to consider is how we measure our own content. Weight is a matter of substance, how much stuff is really there. Volume is a matter of how much room you take up. Volume, also, is a matter of how loud you get (another way of filling space).

How are you measuring the contents you carry? And has the shelf life of your contents caused a settling that maybe compromises the real value of what is there? It’s just a question…I need to go brush my teeth.

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Published in: on June 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm  Comments (4)  

Hello

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A lot of time has passed quickly. Writing has been difficult. Actually, time allotted for writing has been difficult; the writing itself has been little attempted. Several other good pursuits have been happening. I’m beginning to learn to play guitar, something once attempted in my very early teens. My Orange Crush bottle collection has been supplemented and reorganized. I’ve been distracted by prime numbers, having accidently discovered one (7,129) while doing some recreational math in my office one morning. Two consecutive weekends of cooking barbeque at the church and playing on the new softball team have also occupied me. The Carolina Bird Club meeting, over which I presided, was excellent in Williamston, NC. And plenty more, some of it lovely and some of it perfunctory, has naturally flecked the consist of 2009’s first quarter canvas.

I do love this blog community and have missed it. Thank you, again, for reading and for adding your comments and thoughts when you can. The weather is warm, now, and in some upcoming time off I hope to put the kayak in the water and bring back some photos of where I’m finding myself. Peace to you in the meantime, with sunshine and new leaves!

Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 10:14 pm  Comments (6)  

Help with Insect ID

I had been at the church this afternoon, watching the children’s ministry activities. As I walked back to the house, I stood by the field, enjoying the air of autumn. A movement caught my eye over in one of the piles of hickory firewood that the men use for their barbeque cooking, and I went to investigate. What I found was confusing, and that excited me.

Is this a cricket or a wasp? …Odd creature, having characteristics of both. They scuttled around quickly and with agility over the wood pile. The face and antennae were particularly wasplike. Their abdomens had the shape and coloration that I associate with wasps, and they flew like wasps, their wings producing an audible hum. But those hind legs look like they would belong to a cricket. And so does the shield-like carapace over the thorax. Their encounters with each other were aggressive. And there was a whole lot of mating going on.

I’ve checked some internet insect sites, but no matches have come up, yet. What do you think?

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More photos are at my Flickr site. Click any picture above to go there. Image quality is poor, but should be sufficient to give an accurate impression.

Published in: on October 5, 2008 at 11:33 pm  Comments (4)  

Sunday — Good Paddling

August 24, 2008 — Winchell Lake to Long Island Lake

Gentle ripples and quiet air met us Sunday morning. Reprieve had been given in the night, and the atmosphere seemed angry no more. Our group had rested and was eager again to find the rhythm that brought the North Woods to our bow. When humbled by a force like yesterday’s barrage, humility continues within the gift of new permission to move, and gratitude for it is a specifically holy event.

It didn’t seem like Sunday, but I thought the day was mighty worshipful. I wondered about my congregation back home, praying for them before and during their appointed time of gathering. And four canoes steered around a bend and paddled away from the open length of Winchell Lake.

We had done no portages since Thursday, and each one we would face today was remarkable in its own way. The first one would take us from Winchell to Omega Lake. Of 46 rods, its primary feature was that nearly the entire trailbed was made of big rocks and boulders. This made the act of walking while carrying canoe and gear a technical undertaking. It slowed our progress, but I enjoyed the required concentration.

After a little more than a mile of paddling on Omega Lake, we landed again and prepared for the walk to Kiskadinna Lake. This portage of 37 rods went over a steep hill, recalling climbing angles of many of our previous mountain hikes. Not only was it a workout for the legs and lungs, but it was an extra challenge to balance the canoe on shoulders, not banging the bow against the ground during ascent or the stern during descent.

Kiskadinna Lake was a skinny enjoyment of two miles’ length, featuring some breeze, but nothing rude. We spoke to some other paddlers moving in the opposite direction, and they warned us about the portage we had next, being that they had just experienced it. Phil’s map told us it was 185 rods, the longest we would face on our journey. We encouraged each other to rest as often as necessary during the walk — it’s better to be a resting man than a macho cardiac event…or fatigue-induced fracture.

So we landed and prepared to hike across. Along the way the terrain turned uphill, and the climb was higher than expected. Then back down, and up, and down. Except for the final descent, I don’t think these several hills were as steep as the previous portage, but this one did require work. It wasn’t the smoothest trail, either, with big rocks and roots plenty enough to keep us watching the ground. The warning of the other paddlers had become clear. It was time-consuming, someone timing the crossing at 30 minutes under load and 20 minutes on the walk back for more gear. We had lunch once everything and everybody had made it to the shore of Muskeg Lake.

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The paddle across Muskeg was short, about one-half mile, another pleasant cruise. At the other end was a pair of portages that were hard to understand from the maps we had. Phil’s map showed a 20 rod followed immediately by another 20 rod, with a creek or marsh in between. John’s map (which he had me using so more than one canoe would have map support) showed a 4 rod followed by the 20. Either way, marsh was involved and we expected some mud — correctly, it turned out.

John and Phil landed first and walked ahead to see just what it was we were facing. The distance to next water (a navigable creek) was pretty short — I’d say 6 rods — but they determined that putting in there with a load would be impossible due to the deep thick mud. They scouted further up the creek to a place with relatively better footing and chose that as the launch. Since the distance was short (10 rods?), it was thought easier to have four men grab the canoe by the thwarts and carry it to the creek still loaded, instead of hauling everything piecemeal. Somewhere during the first trial of this, John got into the mud and almost lost his sandals trying to come back out. A short time later he noticed blood and found ten or more leeches attached between his toes, inside his Keen sandals.

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We finished carrying and sliding the other three canoes across the tall grass and began the next paddle. Moving down the narrow channel was fun, but it lasted less than two-hundred yards before the 20 rod portage was reached. This was another rocky one, with the beginning being the most inhospitable snaggle of boulders, yet. At the other end was Long Island Lake. (I wish that I had taken pictures of the portage action, especially on this day. My loss.)

Some small wind helped us remember from whence we’d come, and less than two miles later we were landing on the shore of a very lovely campsite, home for the night.

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It was the clearest night of the trip, and Steve and I stayed out to watch. At first two, and later four, of Jupiter’s moons could be seen with my binoculars. A Common Nighthawk hunted insects over the water briefly; when it was gone, some kind of bat did the same. As with Thursday night, when Phil and I were watching, there were meteors, a few satellites, the oddity of a jet, its occupants not guessing any detail of a quiet campsite miles beneath their travel. The red-and-green pulsing star that was visible Thursday was there again, just above the next island.

A loon wailed. Then it wailed again.

Above us our galaxy paled the black, Milky Way’s millions of suns igniting their nuclear portions of universal fury. We know the God who put them there, and we watched, the most absolutely catastrophic brilliance that can be seen by human eyes, softened by distance to the glow of a dream.

Published in: on September 5, 2008 at 12:31 pm  Comments (1)  

New Readers

A few church members are finding out about my blog, and I welcome them — and more — to these pages. I don’t say much here about my work. Sometimes I mention it, but the general absence is intentional. This is a personal journal of some items and events that help me stay focused on what is really important…or what makes me wonder. It is not a blog by Rev. Patterson, but a blog by Steve, a Jesus-follower guy who loves life and real people. I hope my new readers will find something here that touches real places within them, and that they will add their commentary when it feels right.

Come in. Have a seat. Let’s immerse ourselves in something profound, or funny, or silently, incomprehensibly Christlike between us.

Published in: on July 29, 2008 at 9:55 pm  Comments (5)  

O’er the Tumult

Each month I write a column for our church newsletter. I call it Opening Thoughts. Once or twice I have lifted some of my Balance entries to use there; this time, I’ve reversed that flow, and below is my July 2008 Opening Thoughts.

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Packing to go. What will I need? There’s only so much room, but I don’t want to be unprepared. What if there’s no store nearby? I know I’m going to forget something. And I can’t remember if I was supposed to bring my own sheets and towels. Wait a minute…this is a camping trip…of course I need towels, but there are no beds for sheets. What was I thinking? And then there’s a completely different context in which I might ask, “What was I thinking”! Of course, I can’t leave until I write that newsletter article, and I have NO clue where to start. Caladryl – that seems like a good idea; somebody will get bitten by something or take a tumble into poison ivy. Chiggers and mosquitoes and ticks, oh my! Why can I never find that flashlight? Craziness! There’s a fire extinguisher in the truck already. Binoculars. Frisbee. Bible. I guess we’ve got enough food. Three teenage boys and myself. If we run out, we can always come home a day early. Or eat whatever Matt catches from the river. I wonder what’s been living in the tent since it was last upright. If nothing slithers near my hands or feet, I should be okay. But that is a good smell – tent sweet tent! It used to be okay to cut firewood, but now you have to bring your own. That’s good, really. Low impact, leave no trace type of thing. Good practice for camping, not so good for faith. Stealth Christianity wasn’t what Jesus had in mind, I think. He’d prefer we made an impact, left more than a trace of what he’s all about. These boots really are heavy, but I’ll be glad for them if the trail gets rocky tomorrow. Or if it rains – oh yeah, better take my weather radio. I think I won’t shave, see how much gray is in my beard, now. How old was I the last time I slept on the ground? Tylenol! And a pillow – that’s what I always forget. That truck is going to be tight. Two axes should be enough. Two axes, but no computer…somebody pray for me.

I hear a truck in the yard. It’s time to go. Which always seems more momentous than time to stay. But it’s not. Just a different momentum, blessed by the same Lord who stayed and left, who walked and slept on the ground, who prayed and packed everything necessary into the short time he was allotted.

Published in: on June 27, 2008 at 3:16 pm  Comments (8)  

Again to the Island

Last year around this time, my church held “the greatest youth retreat in the history of youth retreats.” It turns out that they wanted to do it again. I get to lead 74 people in a four-day life immersion that centers upon our faith. What an exciting thing! Worship. Teaching. Play. Crazy fun. Pilgrimage. Rest. Food. Discussion. I have titled the weekend realize.

To realize is more than to just notice, or come to understand. To realize is to make real…real-ize! In a world of ever-deepening artificiality and fake substance, it is essential that faith and all that surrounds it be real. I wish for no one to settle for a faith that is anything less than scandalously real.

In addition to myself, two other pastors will be teaching, and four college students and another adult will lead workshops. Our topics, as they relate to Christian living, are realize faith/salvation, realize faith/purpose, realize justice, realize forgiveness, realize dignity, realize friendship/yourself, realize integrity, realize holiness, and realize love.

Thank you for any prayers that add to this weekend’s impact on the youth and adults who gather at St. Simons.

Published in: on June 4, 2008 at 12:17 am  Comments (5)