Blackbirds in the Lilac Bush

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was LILAC. I’ve been doing some serious thinking today and decided to share my thoughts in a story of sorts.

Image by koala0815 — Pixabay

The Lilac Bush

One day a lilac sprout appeared on this earth and began to stretch toward the sun. Soon the sapling attained a nice size and sent out branches, attractive and green, with the promise of a heavenly lilac scent every spring. As it bore larger leaves and spread out more branches people found it a sweet shade from the hot sun.

However, blackbirds passing by discovered the shrub and began using the branches as a regular perch. I suspect they saw themselves as ornaments. Mingling among the blooms the birds even picked up some of the lilac scent. But they were not happy campers, those blackbirds; they tended to be a contentious bunch. Some were especially harsh, constantly picking at the birds on nearby branches.

In time the lilac seemed so dotted with blackbirds that folks hardly saw the flowers. Here and there people may see a purple bloom, or catch the lilac scent, enough to realize there was a bush there. However, all those squawking, squabbling birds definitely spoiled the beauty of the shrub.

People started to say, “It’s ugly! Cut it down.

Others protested “There really is a lilac here and it is blooming. Can’t we rather shoo away those dreadful birds? Why should the world be deprived of the beauty of lilacs because there are blackbirds?

“But they like it so well. They’re always coming back to this shrub. Let’s get rid of it and we’ll be rid of the blackbirds.”

“Are you sure?”

Jesus told his followers that Kingdom of God was like a mustard seed; tiny when seeded, it would grow and become a great tree. So great that the birds of the air would lodge in the branches. (Matt 13:31-32) Over the years many different birds have settled in the branches of this great tree and claimed to be residents of the Kingdom, bringing many different dogmas and and so much strife.

Some years back John Lennon wrote a song about how wonderful it would be if we’d wake up one morning and there’d be no more religion. He was definitely thinking of all those squabbling blackbirds. But really, how much would change?

There are and always will be blackbirds. All-wise and inclined to squabble, many will perch in the tree of religion because it’s a handy shelter. If that tree were to disappear they’d find a different shrub. Race. Ethnicity. Color. Nation. Education. Military might. There’s always some reason to lord it over your neighbors and squash them.

However, don’t most of the world’s religions teach their disciples to respect your fellow man, at least in principle? I can’t speak for any others, but Jesus taught his followers to help those in need, care for the weak, turn the other cheek and live at peace. In spite of the extremists that make the headlines, virtue and beauty still bloom. People do get glimpses of the real tree; a bit of loving kindness still perfumes our air. Take that away and what would be left in this world?

Rusty Nail

A verse reflecting on the death of Jesus

A Rusty Nail

I ran a nail into my hand,
The wound was hard to heal;
So bitter was the pain to stand
I thought how it would feel,
To have spikes thrust through hands and feet,
Impaled by hammer beat.

Then hoisted on a cross of oak
Against the sullen sky,
With all about the jeering folk
Who joyed to see me die;
Die hardly in insensate heat,
With bleeding hands and feet.

Yet was it not that day of Fate,
Of cruelty insane,
Climaxing centuries of hate
That woke our souls to pain?
And are we not the living seed
Of those who did the deed!

Of course, with thankful heart I know
We are not fiends as then;
And in a thousand years or so
We may be gentle men.
But it has cost a poisoned hand,
And pain beyond a cry,
To make me strangely understand
A Cross against the sky.

–Robert William Service

Inimitable

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word this morning is INIMITABLE.

And here are my thoughts on the matter.

Inimitable means matchless; unsurpassed; unequalled.

As far as the actual meaning of the word is concerned, few things in this world are inimitable. Most everything ever produced can be imitated. Forgers have proved this over and over. Is this a real Rembrandt or an imitation? Our countries spend millions of dollars trying to come up with currency that’s inimitable, but counterfeiters can be so clever.

Someone may laud a beautiful piece of architecture, but before long someone somewhere has imitated it. A work of art likewise. Trends are all about imitation. I can recall from back when I was a young teen how “curvy” gave way to “Twiggy” and before long most models appeared emaciated and young girls were dying to look like them.

Cheap knock-offs abound – which is why patents were invented. A competitor can imitate a product but they can’t sell it under the originator’s name, or company brand name. That’s why the Harley-Davidson company patented the unique roar of its motorbikes. No cheap imitation should sound like a Harley.

As to the greater sense of the word, beyond compare or unequaled, there are many things in nature that have no equal; they can’t be imitated by man. One night we watched a spectacular fireworks display, the likes of which I’d never seen before. Yet compared to the northern lights dancing across the heavens, or a night storm with lightning flashing and thunder cannons booming, fireworks look like a cheap imitation. Man may build an impressive dam across a river but it’ll never hold a candle to Niagara Falls.

The human body is a matchless engineering design, with its circulatory system, computer communication skills, self-healing and reproductive capacities, its memory storage, thought processing, emotional and external communications abilities. Medical science has learned a lot about repairing the various functions that break down, but they can’t construct anything like a facsimile.

As the wise Solomon once said:
“As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.”
–Ecclesiastes 11:5

And life once gone is gone forever. My sister gave birth to a perfectly healthy, fully formed little boy, but he’d strangled on the umbilical cord during the birth process and was born dead. Medicine could do nothing to re-ignite the spark of life. That spark of life is truly inimitable.

Ready to Face It?

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is READY. A very useful word that should give oodles of responses.

“Are You Ready to be Well?

The Gospels relate an incident where Jesus met a man who’d been a cripple for many years. Jesus stopped in passing and asked the man, “Wilt thou be made whole?” In other words, “Do you want to be well?”

The man was lying by a miraculous pool where an angel troubled the waters occasionally and the first one in after the turbulence was cured of their affliction. Many folks had gathered there, hoping for a cure, and this particular fellow had been lying there for years. He explained to Jesus how he could never get to the pool fast enough when the water started roiling. Someone else always beat him to the cure.

Jesus question seems very odd, but I see a number of undertones here:
“Are you ready to be well? To face the real world?”
Are you ready to leave behind all these friends you’ve been commiserating with for so long?
Will you give up the sympathy and charity of folks who pass by and start earning your own living?

There are many kinds of sickness and dependency in our world, and perhaps physical ailments are probably the easiest to say good-bye to. It may be hard to see the sympathy of friends dry up, but how wonderful to be able to move and breathe and function. No wonder people who’ve been cured are ready to sing and dance for joy.

Folks can get in a rut that’s uncomfortable or painful, but what they can see over the top looks pretty scary, too. One day a friend was lamenting her dependence on tobacco. She admitted that it was a costly, controlling habit. “It’s got your life,” she said. “I just can’t make it without my smokes.” Being a believer in prayer, I asked her if she’d like me to pray with her that God would give her the strength to quit. “No, I guess not,” she said. Either she didn’t believe God could help her leave this habit — or she was afraid He really would!

I think Jesus’ question is as relevant for us as it was back then. If medical science could come up with an amazing drug that could instantly cure people of substance dependence — replace all that dopamine the body’s lost so the person could truly start fresh — how many would accept the cure? Leave their old life, their friends? Or would the real world be too scary? As fellow blogger Martha K said not long ago, “You can’t get a person into rehab. If they don’t choose to go in of their own free will, it won’t do them any good.”

That First Step

We all have issues we put off as long as possible because they’re hard and will likely have unpleasant consequences. But finally we’re ready. We’ve circled this hill too long. Crossed the bridge emotionally dozens of times and still aren’t over. So we grit our teeth, square our shoulders and march forward.

Health issues. Quitting a habit, starting a diet and sticking with it. Undertaking a new and possibly risky treatment. Deciding what to do about your parent or child in a coma. The doctors are pressing for a decision.

Moving. All that packing and loading, unloading, rearranging! Moving away from home, having to stand on your own two feet, maybe having to support yourself financially. Moving elderly parents. Sorting out a lifetime of stuff. Moving an unwilling elderly parent. Facing the prospect of physically removing a parent with dementia from the home where they think they’re coping perfectly well. Taking away Dad’s driver’s license and/or car keys.

Tackling and finishing a project. Mending a fence when you know someone’s upset with you. Making that apology you know you should make. Backing up. And so on.

What “first steps” have you taken lately?

Seal of Approval

Are you old enough to remember this corny knock-knock type joke…
What goes “ark ark” at Christmas time?
Answer: A Christmas seal.

Even though “snail mail” is rare these days, Christmas seal are still around. The idea started in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1903, when… “a benevolent postmaster named Einar Holboell was inspired to create the stamps to help children with tuberculosis (TB).”

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word today is SEAL, which brings to my mind the thought of real seals as well as royal seals…and of course Good Housekeeping’s Seal of Approval. Did they ever use a real seal in their ads?

Googling, I discovered that the first Good Housekeeping Seal was issued in 1909. You can read about its history here According to their website…
This is Good Housekeeping’s LIMITED WARRANTY: If any product that bears our limited warranty Seal proves to be defective within two years from the date it was first sold to a consumer by an authorized retailer, we, Good Housekeeping, will refund the purchase price or $2,000, whichever is less or, at Good Housekeeping’s sole discretion, repair or replace the product. This policy covers you, the consumer, whether you bought the product or it was given to you (by the buyer). Products that bear the Green Good Housekeeping Seal have been assessed by Good Housekeeping in accordance with Good Housekeeping’s environmental criteria and are also subject to the limited warranty if proven to be defective.
Read more details here.

People who believe the Bible know there’s an all-important Royal seal God places on a believer, one that says, “This is my child.” This seal admit his children to enter those pearly gates someday.
Simplifying Ephesians 1:10-14:
“we have obtained an inheritance..who trusted in Christ…in whom after ye believed, ye were sealed by that holy Spirit of promise…until the redemption of that purchased possession…”
“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
Eph 4:30

Creations in Stone

Stone RDP.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was STONE
It happens that blogger Keith H posted photos he took while visiting what’s left of the English Castle of Corfe. If you want to see STONE in large quantities, hop over to Keith’s Ramblings and have a look. Not just the castle, but the whole town is well blessed with stone.

As an artist, I’m very fond of drawing and painting stone. Artists as a whole love textures and stone gives us lots of opportunities to paint, carve, and design.

Image by Ulrike Leone — Pixabay

We’re fond of clouds and waves for the same reason: these things offer so many textural possibilities on which we can work out our creative urges. Quilters love finding new patterns; those who work with yarn aren’t content to produce same-old flat fabric, but work in a variety of ribs, knots, cables, shells, fans.

It also happens that on one of our calendars this month there’s a picture taken in the U.S. Grand Canyon. No lack of colourful rock there!

Image from earlofoxford — Pixabay

These stones tell the story of water gushing through that land with tremendous force, carving channels in the rock, creating canyons. As these torrents gouged through the soft stone canyon walls, they made fantastic layered textures before settling into a peaceful river. Today visitors look down at the river snaking among the canyons it created and they marvel at the things water can do.

I’ve held feathers in my hand and studied their complexity of colour and texture; I’ve looked through a wildflower book and marveled at the many leaf and petal shapes and colours. From thorny wild roses to fluffy dandelions and fat, fleshy sedum, I find such variety!

Fur, feathers, scales, limbs, horns, tails…shapes and colours galore decorate our world. All these tell me that our Creator loves textures, too.

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11