Tag: loving

The Caged Finches of Perkins

Maya Angelou – “I know why the caged bird sings.”

“A small bird will drop frozen from the bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.” – D.H. Lawrence.

The other day, we went to visit my grandma and my aunt in Perkins Pavilion rest home. In the lobby, they have a glass-enclosed cage that is full of finches. Birds provide a sense of comfort and a spot of nature for the residents, many of whom rarely go outside. These finches are of several species, and they always make me think of both Darwin and captivity. When Darwin visited the Galapagos, he was more interested in geology, and had tasked another with cataloging the many bird species on the islands. At the time, cataloging meant shooting them and taking them back to England. Once back in England, an ornithologist realized they had different beaks to open the shells of the nuts they found. Different nuts for different islands, apparently. This led to sub-species that were better suited to each micro-climate.
Once I begin thinking about adjusting to micro-climates, I wonder if it is difficult. Do we not, in fact, do that all the time? Don’t we have to “read the room”, “feel the mood”, or “know your audience”? Matter of fact, instead of developing a specialized “beak” for social interaction, we have developed an “all-purpose” interface so we can get along with the greatest number of people possible.
The Finches of Perkins seem happy. They do seem upbeat. They do appear to be content. But are these not human emotions? I have a sneaking suspicion that all they care about is that there is a steady supply of food. Their swift and nimble travels between the straw nests they have built and the seed boxes placed throughout the enclosure brings joy to a watcher. Though mostly dull-colored birds, they have an unmistakable vitality.
As I consider these sweet birds, I draw a parallel to the human residents of Perkins Pavilion, a full-care retirement facility. Grandma and Aunt Rosemary live there. My dad refers to them as “the sisters”. They eat every meal together, just like when they were kids. They are happy, although they both wish for better health. I wonder if they feel trapped. I wonder if they long for the wide open farmscape of their youth, or their fertile gardens so lovingly tended, or the open road at vacation. Do they remember the sweeping pastures of the flint hills? Do they remember the stink of the hen-house? Do the dream of the chilling winters, the searing summers, or the perfection of a spring evening before the mosquitoes have hatched?
I know Grandma has said she is ready to go on to heaven. It is not that she hates living, it is just that she does not feel well, misses Grandpa, and is not having a ton of fun during her days. She appreciates her family and loves keeping up with friends, grand kids, great-grand kids. She still looks at pictures, reads cards, listens to my dad read her letters and keep up with all the news from our extended family. She still prays for all of us. She turned 100 years old last November. We celebrated both her birthday and my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary with what amounted to a family reunion. The most that had gathered in several years, in fact. Grandma not only made it to the venue, she stayed for several hours. Her clear and evident joy at seeing her people together was worth any amount of miles driven, plane tickets bought, schedules re-arranged. Her prayer at Christmas Eve dinner this year had all our eyes stung with tears – words, just a few, of humility and grace. In part, she said “we need to forgive, to love, and to care for each other”. Forgiving each other for our hurts – how we wish we could master that.
Aunt Rosemary does not remember too many specifics about all of us, or where she is living, or where she used to live. She is really happy, though, and always has a smile on her face when we go to visit. She enjoys hearing about our few chickens and can tell a story about when she cared for chickens back on the Gfeller farm. Although Rosemary does not go out (except for medical appointments), she loved hearing about the gathering for Grandma’s birthday. Even when she is not feeling well, she still smiles when she says where it hurts. Smiling through pain – how we wish we could master that.

I believe the finches daydream of wide open spaces and trees to roost in and nuts to crack and bugs to catch. I believe the sisters have a lifetime of memories to sustain them through the slower hours of their days.

I do hope the sisters – do the finches? – know what lessons we learn from them about contentment in life.

Do the sisters – and the finches – know how much joy they bring us still?

Pearls are always meant for somebody.

If we aren’t supposed to throw our pearls before swine, then who ARE we supposed to throw them to?

We can’t just keep the pearls to ourselves, because how does that benefit the kingdom?

On the other hand, there comes a point when we just shouldn’t bother to get through to people.  You know, when you keep trying to explain what you are talking about, and you get the same stare back?  The one that says, “I hope he finishes soon, because I want to go do something else – how soon can I split?”.

What I love about God is how easily he can stir our hearts to Him.  How quickly we can go from comfortable to agitated, all because He needs us to do something for Him.  Like go talk to a friend we just walked by and ignored.  Like call someone who we got a sudden thought about.  Like ‘facebook’ a friend who we haven’t checked on in a while.  That stuff, those feelings, are from God!  The Holy Spirit part of God that needs us to be aware of our people and make sure that they are ok!

This story I love.  Last Wednesday at the high school service our new leader, Scott, sensed the tension and agitation in the room.  He changed the whole service around to be obedient to God’s nudge.  At the end, the pastor made time for those kids who were hurting, or lost, or confused, or upset, or dead inside, or angry, or all of those things to just come up and be bathed in prayer.  So MANY kids needed to feel God that night!  I praise God for being there!  God softened hearts by the handful that night, and we got to be there to see it.

I love God’s grace that lets me stumble into His presence even when I am not paying attention.

Do We Ever Say No?

Do we ever say no to a person loving us?  Can a person love someone with agape love (agape pronounced “ah-gah-pay” and meaning selfless love without family or sexual ties or overtones – pure like Jesus loves us),  if they don’t know Jesus?  Matter of fact, can they love with agape love if they don’t know Greek? or what the definition of love is?

My great friends and I had a brief discussion tonight about perfect love.  Specifically, what is the driving force or motivation behind loving someone perfectly?  I was late to a meeting-slant-bible study, and the question/answer session was already started.  The gist of the question was this:  “Can a person love perfectly if they don’t know Jesus Christ?”, at least that is what I heard.

The short answer, of course, is no.  We can’t fathom a love bigger than ourselves without having the life and sacrifice of Jesus to provide an example for us.  The neatest thing about Jesus is that his brilliance doesn’t depend on human emotional/rational understanding.  We RECEIVE his grace whether we can explain it or not.

I brought up, though, my friend who loves people, his family, his life, and sets high standards for himself and his behavior.  He doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ.  (Yes, there is a big discussion about where his moral compass comes from, who defines right and wrong, what happens when he fails, etc.)

However, my question is this: do we accept or reject love from a person who doesn’t know and live the “Jesus way”? I just can’t think of a situation where I would refuse love/kindness/grace from a well-meaning person offering it.  Of course I only mean love in the vein of what the Bible describes as Agape love.  I think people can ‘stumble into’ God’s will, or I guess be used by God, even if they don’t believe in Him.  After all, haven’t we heard the story where a guy says, “Oh, I don’t believe in God”.  And the other guy says, “That’s alright, He believes in you.”

Can they unknowingly model ‘agape love’?

I mentioned CS Lewis who wrote, in The Chronicles of Narnia, about a horse or donkey who loved purely, but had never heard of Aslan.  Lewis’ contention is that love like that is still Godly love; it just hasn’t been explained to the giver yet.  I can’t find the reference so I’ll have to re-read all seven books (good idea, anyway).

Again, rephrased, do we have to UNDERSTAND God to love the way he tells us to?  We love Him; he loves us way better. We don’t get why.

But it doesn’t matter.

What we owe each other

As our kids grow up, and we grow together, my wife and I were just wondering out loud to each other, “What do we get out of these obligatory relationships?”  We are crazy about our kids, crazy about each other, and even crazy about all of our relatives/extended family.  Really!  We are truly blessed to avoid almost all of the awful stories you hear/read where families just scream at each other.

Still, it takes a LOT of WORK to keep a family moving in a direction that is healthy.  After we (meaning me and Ang) get through our ceaseless chore list and are reasonably certain that the house won’t fall apart/burn down/get repossessed/rot/flood/mold, we STILL have relationships to foster.  If we give our best effort at work, and the kids give their best efforts at school, what do we come home to?  What do we have left when we finally get to the house, pull up the drawbridge, and lock ourselves in our castle?  This world is exhausting!

My almost constant prayer these days (and believe me, I’m no holy man deliberately setting an example), is that we five people who live in this house can just LOVE each other.  So simple but it takes a mountain of resolve and a pile of good intentions and a vat of grace to see past each other’s unvarnished humanity and take care of us – better or worse.

Is it just us or is it tough for everyone?

P.S.  Remember the story from The Mexican?  Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts?  “How much is too much?  When do you say enough and that the relationship is over?”  “NEVER, Never is the answer.”  (or at least something like that)