Friday, May 31, 2013

An Injured Robin ...and God

I'm on the front lawn, adjusting the brakes on my bike, when a sudden flurry appears out the corner of my eye. I look up and take in the situation, but am too slow to react.

One of our cats, a spotted grey yearling, a personal favorite in the household, has a robin by the wing, and is running with it. A second robin is trying desperately to provide a distraction so the captive may escape. If you have any experience with cats and their prey, you know this is a highly futile attempt.

Soon, the cat has run under the porch, and under the house.

I am in conflict.. The circle of life dictates that animals will kill each other. Cats kill birds. It's just what they do. Were it another type of bird, I likely wouldn't care. If I were to intervene, he would probably get killed sooner or later.. and what difference does this bird make over another? The mate to this robin, having flown off as soon as the cat went under the house, is still hearable, crying for it's lost love.. Oh, this is too much. I've got to do something. But what?

I couldn't get under the house if I wanted to.. I try shouting sharply. I try kicking the metal skirting of our mobile home, to frighten the cat into releasing his prey. This also proves futile. I sit down in the shade.. the dog, sensing my mood, puts on a guilty expression. I call him over, pet him, and tell him that he's not the one I'm upset at.

The captured bird cries out from under the house. Silence. Nothing. He calls out again.. Silence.. Is he still alive? Could he survive?

Suddenly, unexpectedly, the bird comes free, flying out from under the house, under the porch, and between the steps on the stairs. He's broken free! Unfortunately, his wing is injured enough that he cannot gain more than a couple feet of altitude. Unfortunately again, the dog, sensing easy prey, chases after him, knocking him out of the air.

This time I act immediately. The dog is rebuked, and backs off.

The robin lays on the drive way, too exhausted to move. I pick him up. He doesn't even struggle. I go inside. For a moment I just stand there, unsure what to do next.

"Is he dead?" someone asks.

I open my hand to show that he is still breathing. He doesn't move.

A few moments later, rested up, the bird makes a sudden break for it. Bam! Into the window. I chase him around the house, moving as slowly and smoothly as possible, to avoid frightening him more than necessary. Because keeping him safe is a higher priority than recapturing him, it takes about 20 minutes.

I decide to call the local wild animal rescue. The person answering the phone informs me that they, the people who run the establishment, are out of town, but that I can hand off the bird to their interns. He is placed in a shoe box with a towel.. I drive off, delivering my "patient" to two girls younger than myself.

It gets me thinking...

There are numerous spiritual applications in this experience.

The first possible one relates to my failure to respond to the situation immediately. It is important that we always remain on guard, not only to avoid being caught by the predatory nature of sin, but also so we can step in on behalf of another who may be in harms way, who's very life, or salvation, is at risk.

Secondly, even though I ultimately had the power to save the life of the robin, by removing him from the threatening situation, only through his own struggle was he able to be saved. Don't get me wrong, he didn't save himself, nor could he. But, had he been indifferent to the plight he was in, at that point there was very little I could do rescue him. The same is true between us and God. He will do what He can to get our attention, or keep us out of too deep of trouble (analogous to my banging and yelling), but we cannot be saved without our own cooperation.

Third, do I ever fail to recognize the true character of God, or those people or things He puts in my life for my protection and salvation, mistaking them for another threat against my freedom and happiness? Do I ever fail to put my trust in Him, who has even more perfect feelings towards me, and a better understanding of the ideal course for my life than I had for the injured robin.. And yet it seems to not be such a good thing for me, from my limited perspective...

The bird who, on seeing the window, thought he was so close to freedom, failed to realize that not only could he not get through the window, but if he could have, he likely would have been killed by the same creatures who had nearly ended his life earlier. Do I ever think I can see through to my own happiness and prosperity, failing to realize that it is perhaps impossible to do so? And whether impossible or not, maybe following such a course would not be in my best interest anyway..

Then there's the way in which the experience has helped me to better understand God's care for me. As much as I wanted to do what was best for the bird, how much more does God want the same for me? When the bird escaped my grasp, I was not upset at him for trying to get away, I wasn't irritated by the fact that he didn't trust me.. I was only sad that he was injured. Does God really have more patience with me than I had for this injured creature?

There's a more sobering lesson as well.. Even though the life of the bird was saved, the damage had already been done - he was already separated from his mate. I'm sad as I realize this, in part because, had I acted immediately, perhaps the bird would have not needed to go to rehab, and could have simply recovered on his own. The lesson here is that going down a destructive course often leads to eternal loss, even if our life is spared.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Crunch Time

I'm now in the month of last minute preparations. Month, because if I put it all off till the last week, I know I'd never get done what I need to.

Things I have done in the last month/few weeks:
-Updated my blog with new pages detailing my trip (if you haven't yet, check it out!)
-Outfitted my bike for touring
-Started riding my bike to work
-Received the borrowed panniers I'll be using
-Test packed the panniers, showing that I should have plenty of space
-Nailed down my route for the first couple weeks
-Re-evaluated my money for the umpteenth time, realizing that my estimates were still correct - I'll be tight, but should be able to survive.. I guess
-Loaned out a few hundred more dollars - it's like money in the bank.. that you can't spend. :D
-Became increasingly anxious over the thought of so soon losing all chance of in-person contact with my favorite people for an indefinite period of time.
-Went canoe camping for the first time (ok, not really related to the trip).
-Decided that, yes, I'll go ahead and take two shelters (hammock and bivy). If I decide I don't want one, I can ditch it or mail it back along the way.
-Made up my mind that, yes indeed, I will get a hair cut.
-Realized, yet again, that verbal conciseness is much preferred to grandiosity, and determined to act on that principal.
-Realized the extent to which ideas of things (unrelated to travel its self) change the closer I get to acting on them.
-Carried on extended conversation with a young man who walked across the US a couple years ago, and one the age of my parents who rode his bike across the US years before I was even born, giving me advice, and old equipment.
-Panicked that I might have to spend money on clothing.
-Realized there was no way I could possibly afford another lens for my camera, leaving me to be content documenting my trip with only a 50mm lens, an 85mm, and my iPhone camera. That iPhone camera could just be what I need, though. Just need to get used to using it..
-Sat in wonder at how amazing it is that the trip I've been considering for nearly two years is now only a month away.
-Continued paring down my list of potential resources, and expenses.
-Surprised myself at realizing the only category of pre-trip spending not already met is the "Miscellaneous" unknown expense category.
-Finished getting at least one half decent candid portrait of everyone in my group of friends - 'though I could still improve on a few.
-Spent more money across more things than ever before in my life. (I've bought single items that were more expensive, but never more stuff, in as short a period of time.)
-Took a last moment to wonder at the weather in these parts - sweltering in 90 degree temperatures one week, everything dry and annoying, to barely breaking 60 degrees a couple weeks later, cold, rainy..
-Drove (well, traveled by car) over some of the roads I'll be riding on - realizing that 1) the shoulders are narrow, 2) their is a fair amount of traffic, 3) the roads are windy, and 4) there are a lot of other cyclists traveling that road, in spite of the potential risks.

That seems like a much more impressive list than I was anticipating. Makes it sound like I've actually done something!

Things I have yet to do before leaving:
-Clean out my room (!)
-Figure out the sort of event I want in which to bid farewell to friends for the next year
-Sell/get rid of things I won't need either during my trip, nor will have a reason to come back to afterwards
-Continue getting in better shape
-Keep working
-Stay out of trouble
-Buy some clothing
-Work on music collection (paper, predominantly)
-Actually keep doing things

That's about all I can think of right now. Wow.. it's almost 4 weeks.. then 3 weeks.. time flies so quickly.. Before I know it my life will have forever changed in a more dramatic way than I can at this point really fathom.

I'm looking forward.. a little daunted and anxious, but excited nonetheless.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What if...?

What if this was my last time?
What if today was the last day I had at home?
What if this was the last opportunity for me to tell someone how much you appreciated them?
What if this was the last chance I had to thank someone in particular?
What if this were the last time I were to see that person?

What if I died tomorrow, and my live came to an abrupt end?
What if my world suddenly changed abruptly, and all I had ever known and loved was taken away?

What if those things I take for granted - music, the out of doors, friends, the internet / access to information, freedom, the ability to make plans for the future - what if this were the very last opportunity I had to enjoy all these things, and more?
What if that person died unexpectedly, and this was my last time to see them?

What if I were to become somehow injured, literally or metaphorically, and made unable to do those things I planned for myself?

What if this were my last opportunity to make things right with God?
What if this were my last time to make things right with a brother?
What if I never had a chance to speak to some person again, by force of circumstances?
What if this were my last occasion to read the word of God, to listen to a dispensation of truth, to be around likeminded people?
What if this were my last opportunity to make an earnest, heart searching, and trusting prayer before some upcoming personal calamity?

What if this were the last time I would be given that advice.. if this were the last time someone would attempt to direct me in a better direction?

Am I taking advantage of these opportunities?

Would I be ready?

Would you be ready?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Favorite Things

"When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I'm feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad..."

After spending the day feeling lazy, apathetic, sad, depressed, frustrated, discouraged, upset, pensive, etc. I went outside for something and got that wonderful sensation that comes from enjoying the still night air.. It's not fully dark, but the heat has gone away. A touch of humidity.. calm, peaceful.. cicadas, crickets in the trees and grass..

So I thought I would take a moment to write a quick list of a few of my favorite things, as follows:
(in order of coming to mind)

Still night air
The vibrance of spring
Friends who are better than me at "everything"
Spending time with such friends
Close friendships
Listening to beautiful music
Taking/developing portraits
Watching ants and other small creatures
Learning that I was wrong, coming to a better understanding
Watching children or animals at play
85mm f/1.8 (the lens it's self, as much as the pictures it takes)
Things that work for their intended purpose
Information - on anything
Cooperative analysis of a subject
Listening to those who get it explain Christianity
Reading an interesting book
Working in solitude
Shade in summer
Warm food in winter
Hot showers
Planning obsessively
A clean kitchen
Feeling wanted/needed
Friendly people
Other people cooking for me (:D)
Internet (!!!)
The ability to process the world around me
A conceptual understanding of how things work
The ability to talk to people over long distances
Slip on footware
The ability to see, hear, feel, smell, taste
The transportation infrastructure (aka, roads, highways..)
Intellectual freedom
Cool water on a hot day
Sleeping in total darkness
Instant messaging/email
The ability to communicate
Creating something

I could keep writing, but ideas are beginning to come slower, and anyway, that's not a bad list.

It would be interesting to do this exercise again in a year and see how much has changed.