Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More on "Divine Appointments"

In my previous post, I mentioned, among other things, the possibility of "divine appointments" in which we are linked up with someone who can answer our prayer needs, or may have the privilege of being part of the answer to someone else's prayer. I commented that "When I pray that I might be a blessing to others, the opportunities appear." So I had made a public announcement of being willing, or as public as it gets on this blog, and had prayed, as usual, that I might be a blessing to someone. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by what happened.

My brother, Richard, and I have made it a habit of late to go out exploring one day a week. We've been to many of the small towns in our area, taking in the sights, visiting museums, and browsing through second-hand shops. We've been to Winlock to see the World's Largest Egg and may attend their Egg Day in June. We're looking forward to riding the steam train near Mount Rainier. On the day after my previous post, we were in the little town of Raymond, Washington. We had admired the park and all the artwork along the streets, and thought we would go visit the Carriage Museum. But first we took a detour to check out a little consignment shop that had caught my eye.

There was nothing in the shop that screamed "buy me" too loudly, so we were ready to go. I thanked the proprietor for letting us look, and offered her some of my bookmarks, mentioning that I write children's books.

She immediately became very excited, and said she had been praying for someone who could tell her how to publish the book she's been working on for several years. We must have talked for over an hour, as we discussed all the things that need to happen to get a book in front of the public--editing or polishing the writing, submitting to publishers, publicity, etc. I told her I didn't think I had the expertise to guide her through the whole process, but that I'd be happy to make suggestions and steer her toward other people who could help with each aspect.

By the time we finally got to the carriage museum, it had just closed. Oh well, it will be there for another day.

I spent most of the next day putting together a package of suggestions and reference material. I hope it helps.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coincidence versus Fate

A few days ago, granddaughter Britni posed a question on Facebook: are there coincidences or is it all just fate? In other words, are we all acting out a pre-arranged play, or is it all, in the words of Homer Simpson, “just a bunch of stuff that happened.” I think it’s a little of each.

Humans have an innate tendency to impose patterns on everything they see or hear or experience. Consider the constellations, for instance. Somebody, or several somebodies, played connect-the-dots with the stars, overlaid pictures of familiar objects, and made up stories to go with them. In a world without GPS, this helped people to remember star patterns for navigation purposes. It also helped to figure out seasons, so you knew when to plant the corn. The process got carried to extremes as the “science” of astrology, which was the forerunner of astronomy. Because many isolated groups of people were engaged in this ordering process, it’s not surprising that we have different constellations, and different stories, from different cultures. We see the same phenomenon at work when we choose to see specific shapes in the clouds, in spots on walls, or even in potato chips.

Our pattern imposition, and a strong urge to create order out of chaos, is seen in many of our recreational pursuits, from crossword puzzles and Sudoku to jigsaw puzzles. We teach our children sorting games, helping them to categorize by numbers, color, or whatever form of order is being studied.

Whether or not we consider ourselves to be writers, we also are concerned with stories—our own or other people’s, “real” or imagined or a combination of both. This, too, is part of our need to create order. When we recount an event for an audience, we pick and choose our words, emphasize some details while dismissing others, and generally impose a pattern on what may have been random events. We appreciate the abilities of a “good story-teller” and avoid the ones who insist on dragging in every boring, irrelevant detail. Even if we never relate the “story” to another person, we tend to go over it in our minds, analyzing and polishing, until it “makes sense” to us.

Does this mean that all events are random, only seeming to be related because of our need to see connections? I don’t think so.

As a Christian, I believe strongly in the power of prayer. I believe that God answers my prayers, even those I don’t voice but that come from the yearnings of my heart. I believe He works through people, and that I may have the privilege and responsibility of being part of the answer to another's prayer. Don’t ask me how the system works—I don’t know and I leave those speculations to those whose order-imposing drive focuses on such questions. I can drive a car without being a mechanical engineer, and I can flip on a light switch without having a detailed knowledge of the electrical system. But I have heard about, or witnessed myself, too many cases of people being in the right place at the right time—sometimes as a result of a string of seemingly unrelated events—to dismiss the idea of “divine appointments” or whatever you choose to call them. I have sometimes seemed to suddenly know things I didn’t know before, heard myself say things I wasn’t expecting to say, found myself focusing on certain words or ideas from seemingly unrelated sources, that prodded me to take certain actions. I find these things happen a lot more when I have consciously opened my eyes, my mind, and my heart in a willingness to be responsive to the needs of others. When I pray that I might be a blessing to others, the opportunities appear.

To those who would see all religious belief as just another instance of man’s trying to impose order on a chaotic, uncaring universe, I make no argument with you. I’m a live-and-let-live Christian. “Everyone to their own ridiculous opinions” as my daddy used to say. You are welcome to believe as you like, if that’s what works for you. I think you’re wrong, but I also know that my world view, like everyone else’s, probably contains some flaws. It’s like the poem about the blind men and the elephant, each trying to describe the elephant from the portion he was touching, and all arguing about it.

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More Wildlife

Curiouser and curiouser. Frogs in the morning, mice in the afternoon. Or at least mouse, singular. The last time we had mice in the house, I used canned foam to seal all around the pipes or hoses under the kitchen sink, since evidence in the form of droppings suggested that was their way in. Just to be on the safe side, I set a trap as well. That was months ago.

This afternoon, when we pulled out the trash can to empty it, there was a deceased mouse in the trap. I don't think it had been there too long, as there was no noticeable olfactory evidence.

What next? We've been seeing squirrels, raccoons and deer outside, but I hardly think they're going to come in. Hmmm. We haven't had a starling in the vent pipe over the kitchen stove for a while.

Early Morning Surprise

I had just turned on the water, planning to take a shower, when this dark gray-brown THING leapt out of the drain area and began rocketing around the tub.

I turned off the water and jumped back. My sleep-fogged brain was telling me “mouse” because of the size and coloring, but at the same time arguing “that thing didn’t look like a mouse, and it moves like a…” and I was just getting to “frog” when I cautiously drew the shower curtain aside again and peeked in.

Our little tree frogs have chameleon characteristics—this one had been hanging out in the drain area, mimicking the color of the metal crossbars, but was already well on the way to a more frog-like green. I tried to catch it by hand, but the critter was too excited by now to hold still and I was afraid I would hurt him.

I finally got a wide-mouthed glass out of the kitchen, and a stiff plastic CD mailer out of the office—didn’t think cardboard or paper would do as well in the wet tub. He was a very pale green by then—probably the closest he could get to the ivory-colored tub.

After a couple of false starts I managed to pop the glass over without injuring the frog, slid the plastic under, and voila, bottled frog. I dumped him on the mat at the back door, where he was still sitting when I closed the door.

They tend to “freeze” when frightened, using their camouflage to avoid detection. We get them in the house occasionally, but that was the first in the tub.

I guess he got over the trauma, as he was gone when I looked out later.