Saturday, July 26, 2014

QOTM...*: Martin Luther on Fishing

(*Quote of the Month)

With a shout out to George Gershwin and Ella Fitzgerald, it’s “…Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…" Since I’ll be heading to the Northwoods in the next couple weeks for some easy livin’, and very likely to hold a rod and reel in my grip for some portion of that time, my daydreams have turned to fishing. Note that I say ‘fishing,’ not ‘catching,‘ but that’s all right with me. In fact, it’s all good, because I’m a firm believer in the ancient Babylonian proverb: The gods do not deduct from a man’s allotted span the hours spent fishing. And since I do far more fishing than catching, I may live forever…

OK, so I’m a paragraph in and have already quoted two sources other than whom I had intended. Forgive me, though I have warned you before that naturalists can go on and on about the simplest of things. Luther on fishing is what I said I’d get to, so let’s get to it then.

Martin Luther -- the Great Reformer of the 16th Century, the founder of the Lutheran Church, the debater of long-held theology, the rebellious monk standing up to the monumental powers that be, the writer of what may be the most brilliant and well-rounded catechism in the history of Christian discipleship, that guy –once met up with his friend, Phillipp Melancthon, perhaps the greatest systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation. Melancthon, ever the heady intellect, wished to lay out the day’s agenda with Luther and announced:

“Today, Martin, you and I
shall discuss the governance
of the universe.”

--Phillipp Melancthon

Luther replied:

“No, Phillipp. Today, you and I
shall go fishing and leave the
governance of the universe to God.”

--Martin Luther

~~ Get Outside, 
RGM, July 25, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blowin' in the Wind: Inattentional Blindness...

Blowin’ in the Wind is a regular feature on my blog consisting of an assortment of nature writings – hymns, songs, excerpts, prayers, Bible readings, poems or other things – pieces I may not have written but that inspire me. I trust they will do the same for you.

Last week I put up that photo of the nearly invisible whitetail fawn at rest in the grass we came across while leading a nature hike, and the story surrounding its discovery. In my essay, I also briefly alluded to the spiritual issue of failing to see the things that God desires us to see, or hear the things God desires us to hear.

I always appreciate it when either friends or people unknown to me comment, lets me know that somebody is reading these things and enjoying them! Sometimes comments come direct to the blogsite, more often to my Facebook reminder post, and most often via a personal email or face-to-face encounter. Quite quickly after posting last week, I heard via email from a good friend, Monty, a pastor here in Colorado, who happened to be preaching the next day on the same subject. I thought it might creatively expand last week’s spiritual subject. Here is what he said (permission was granted!):

Enjoyed your Naturally... just now.  Reminded me of the many times someone forwards something like that drawing that either looks like an old hag or a beautiful woman, depending on how you look at it... I’m speaking Sunday on the Parable of the Sower and focusing on Jesus' very specific urgings to "Listen!" Here is my intro, after which I segue into ‘inattentional’ deafness:

"Last week I read a blurb about a research group that was studying something they called “inattentional blindness.” They say inattentional blindness occurs when “people fail to become aware of objects unrelated to their current task.” In other words, when we are busy doing one thing we will likely not see or notice what is going
on around us.                                                                                             

"The researchers clipped money on a tree branch overhanging a path about head height and then observed the reaction of the passersby. Here is what happened. 396 people were observed walking down the path. Most failed to see the money, but 94% of those who missed it were distracted by their cell phones... Some of these did not even see the branch until it whopped them in the face.

"The researchers concluded that “becoming aware of an object generally requires focused attention.” I think that means you need to be looking for something in order to see it… When people look at a tree they expect to see leaves so they see leaves… not money. So when they are not intentional, or are ‘inattentional,’ they cannot see the money for the leaves. If they had been told there was money hanging on a tree branch when they began their walk down the path, they would have been looking for it. But because they were not looking for money they did not see it. Inattentional blindness…

"We generally see what we are focused on seeing or expecting to see, but inattentional blindness is exacerbated when we our attention is focused on something totally unrelated to what we are doing.

"Earlier this week I looked across Agate Lake, the same lake I looked across last year. The same stand of dead trees I saw last year stood in a gap between the greenery along the opposite shoreline. But this time, in the morning sunlight I could see what looked to be an old white house with four windows… in the five years we have gathered there in that same spot no one had noticed the house hidden behind the stand of dead trees. Suddenly we could all see it because now we were looking for it. Otherwise we had been inattentionally blind to it.

"I wonder if there is also such a thing as inattentional deafness…"

Thanks, Monty. Couldn’t agree more. Even stumble along in that blindness myself sometimes, so I wish I could have been there to hear the rest of the sermon!

~~RGM, July 16 2014

Saturday, July 12, 2014

POTM...*: Now You See it, Now You Don't

The saying tends to be: “Now you see it, now you don’t.” But I want to turn that a bit differently with my blogpost this week and say, “Now you don’t see it, now you do.” Take a look at this photo and see what you can see.

No doubt some of you see it, especially because I have asked you to look at it, and your senses are piqued to perhaps study it a little more intently on account of that. But what if I hadn’t asked? What if I had just posted the photo with no request to look at it? You may then have asked, “What in the world did Rick post this photo for?”

Of course, perhaps some of you don’t see anything yet, at least nothing that you can specify. And that would not be surprising because there is something there not easy to see. It would exactly make my point, that sometimes you see it, and sometimes not. Or perhaps you see something but can’t quite make out what it is. So scroll down on this post from here to just below the screen shot and I’ll give you a close-up.


Lovely, isn’t it? Clicking on the original photo will cause it to enlarge, and you might see the precious little thing a bit better. It's just a bit above photo center. Here's another shot from a slightly different angle:

With my apology for doing another photo of the month featuring a fawn so soon after having done another (only two months ago, click to see it), I could not resist getting this up as soon as I could.

About a month and a half ago Gail and I took a trip up north to Minnesota, where I had been asked to speak at a retreat for daughter Sarah and son-in-law BJ’s church, First Covenant of Minneapolis. It was a one-day affair held at the Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center of curiously-named Marine-on-St. Croix, Minnesota, up along St. Croix River, a beautiful NSR (National Scenic Riverway) that here forms the border between the North Star State and Wisconsin. We had a fantastic time among the people of this fantastic church.

In addition to speaking for the retreat, Gail and I were also asked if we might lead some kind of reflective elective, so we offered to do something we love, and led a couple nature hikes during the day. The first got off about 10:30am, and we ambled uphill, up Dunrovin’s long driveway, giving a bit of introduction to the appreciation of God’s good earth. We were headed for a spot where we knew that a trail cut north from the driveway into the woods; Minnesota had struggled with excess rain and flooding this spring, and much of Dunrovin’s trail system along the St. Croix was underwater or muddied beyond use.

We could not have been more than fifty yards into the woods before we came across this little delight not six feet from the trail. As often happens, this little guy’s mama had left it to go eat, would make its rounds and return later in the day. Dangerous? Not particularly. Fawns are relatively odor-free and have an instinct to not move a muscle, nary a twitch, when left in this situation. Further, their two hundred white spots can produce a dappled effect that gives them a better blending camouflage, rather than showing a solid chestnut coloring. And that’s the point: predators can walk right by a resting fawn and not have hint of its presence. In fact, we may have walked right by it if it had not been for fifteen pairs of eyes on the lookout for cool things.

In all my personal trail and forest wanderings, I have come across fawns like this only four times in my life, sometimes in the oddest of places, and so was able to impress the fact upon the participants that unless they spend a lot of time in the woods, this might be the only time in their lives they might see such a wonder. It was a great blessing from God, and they needed to see it that way. They did. And the fawn’s sighting became the buzz when we returned to the larger group back at the center. Imagine our delight when a dozen more afternoon nature hike participants were able to see the fawn still lying there four hours later; it made our ultimate return to the center in a drenching rain more than worth it!

A very small group of us went up again a couple hours still later and got some photos. I thought it’d be cool to take a photo of the forest floor context in which the fawn was lying, and then from the same position, zoom in on it; thus resulted this photo pair. We checked one more time, around sunset, and the fawn was gone, by then its long patience rewarded with an ample meal.

As I have continued to think about this issue of sometimes seeing and sometimes not seeing, something Jesus said occurred to me. He is grieving the fact that some constantly refuse to see what God would love to have them see. Here’s how he says it:

This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, "When you hear what I say, you choose not to understand. When you see what I do, you choose not to comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear; and they have closed their eyes so their eyes cannot see... and their hearts cannot understand and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them." (Matthew 13:14-15)

There is so much in nature to see, but it often takes a special patience. The same is so true when it comes to spiritual things as well. Though God doesn’t tend to camouflage himself, we still can often miss what God longs for us to see, to hear, and to comprehend. Pray with me for opened eyes.

~~RGM, July 12, 2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

From My Nature Journal: Comes the Storm

The trees cowered violently in a brawny storm last night, and this morning the power is out. I woke at light of day expecting to find downed limbs everywhere, but there is nary a one to be seen. I’m a bit astounded to know the beating they took, and yet see no sign of it today. Pretty amazing…

It reminded me of an article I read some time back. In the 1950’s, experimental, human-occupied, domed biospheres were built in the southwest, ostensibly for the purpose of determining if life could be supported in a sealed and contained unit, even used in interplanetary habitation or after nuclear holocaust. Anyway, when they were first built, people expected trees within them to grow inordinately large. Without wind to trim them or knock them down, it was anticipated they would grow unimpeded ‘who knows how big!’ Yet fairly quickly the branches became brittle, snapping and falling under their own less-than-modest weight, in fact much more quickly than in natural environments. It was then widely recognized (what horticulturists probably already knew) that trees need weather’s adversity to strengthen: even light winds create tiny stress fractures in the new, supple bark, small fissures and cracks that fill and heal naturally and allow the tree to fortify itself as it grows. Take away the winds and a tree becomes frail, unable to even bear itself.

…I am strengthened more by the challenges
I face than by those things that come easily.

Is this a lesson on the place of adversity? Perhaps I am strengthened more by the challenges I face than by those things that come easily.

One never knows what can be learned in a storm, God. Make me wise to always let pain do its work.

Consider it all joy, my friends, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
~~RGM, from an earlier journal entry,
adapted for my blog July 5, 2014