Garden, May 18

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Since parts of our yard have already flooded twice this season, I’m thinking this is a year to let most of the garden lie fallow. So far I have five annual plantings plus our perennials, and that is likely all we’ll have this year unless I spot a few more garden center plants that are too enticing to avoid taking home.

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May 5

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Both the crabapple and redbud trees are in bloom, but good light for capturing their beauty has been elusive. We had nearly six inches of rain in April, and May could prove to be just as soggy.

By the way, while I was away from this blog, we had a day-long flood in our neighborhood:

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That was the second time our street has been flooded in the past three years. When the waters rise, I am grateful that we have neither a basement nor a crawl space and that we live on top of a hill.

The renewal of my faith that began back in December continues to deepen. Looking back, I feel there was a long prelude to this personal “revival.” The more I learned to cope with chronic pain, the more I felt the urgency of trying to purge myself of ill-will, grudges and envy. I knew that my negative feelings increased my stress, poisoned my relationships and aggravated my pain.

I suppose I was unwittingly preparing for an event I didn’t see coming, or I was too busy worrying about the past, present and future simultaneously to notice that deep changes were afoot. I was no stranger to that ineffable feeling of the Holy Spirit making his presence known within me, but I did not know how to sustain that radical serenity. The first time it happened was about 25 years ago, at a time when I felt lost yet stuck in place, when I was a college dropout doing time in retail purgatory. I had a dream so filled with bliss that I cried upon awakening because the feeling ended when the dream stopped. In the intervening years, that deep peace would return for a few minutes at a time while I was awake, yet I still didn’t know how to call upon that feeling.

Back in December when I first went to the Methodist church down the street, I was overwhelmed with that abiding feeling of peace, bliss and serenity. As soon as I moved into this neighborhood five years ago, I knew I should visit that church. I put off doing so for a very long time, with mental questions/excuses like: Why would a lapsed Catholic join a Methodist church? Do they dress up in the sort of clothes I can’t stand wearing? Will I look like one of the great unwashed to them? Is this an enclave of Trumpists?

Now that I’ve joined that church, I know that the concerns that stalled my first visit to the church were unwarranted. I’ve yet to hear anyone talk about politics before or after Sunday service. The congregation is fairly small and the majority are elderly. Some are accustomed to dressing up for church, others dress for comfort.

I feel a strong presence of the Holy Spirit during Sunday worship service. The sermons are thought provoking and encourage study of Scripture. I so wish I had devoted time to independent study of the Bible before I reached the ripe age of 46, for I can feel the Spirit’s presence when I take time to read the Word, too. Instead of regret, I feel comfort in understanding that God knows each of us well enough to foresee the choices we will make, and he knew that my spiritual adolescence would last for decades.

I’m eager to dig into the Prophets more, though I will admit that some of their metaphors are hard to digest. Speaking of digestion, I like the references to how some of the prophets ate scrolls containing some of God’s revelations to them (e.g. Ezekiel 3:3 and Revelation 10:10). The imagery is so elemental it’s like something out of a vision that’s endured for as long as God has willed people to exist.

I so adore God’s words to Jeremiah when he worries that he won’t know what to say, “Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9 KJV).

I pray that I will know what to say when I write or speak about my faith. May God touch my lips and give me the words.

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Spring Photo Walk, April 22

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I had the day off from work. I tried to resist the urge to document the unfolding of the season in favor of catching up on housework, but I failed, as those who know me best could have predicted.

As I cropped these pictures at home, I decided that some Air Supply songs would be the ideal soundtrack for that task. The name “Russell Hitchcock” floated to my mind, and I considered that it may possible that I have problems retaining new information because of the trivial old bits that have clogged my memory. Wherever Russell Hitchcock is these days, I wish him well and hope he can still hit the high notes in his songs and fit into those Sergio Valente jeans.

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Spring Photo Walk, April 6

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Today I discovered that our woodland wildflowers aren’t blooming yet, but I did see some spring bulbs in flower this morning. I was happy to see the delicate blue and white petals of Puschkinia, a flower which blooms so early in the season that I often miss it.

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Jamais Vu

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Winter has returned for a brief encore, offering me a bit more time to mull over what has been a huge change in my life: my return to church.

The first thing I’d like to mention is a matter that has distressed me several times since my return to church. I don’t like the “Christian right” stereotype which implies that Christians are Republicans by default. There is no political party that conforms to the gospel. Although I’ve renewed my faith lately, I have been a Christian since the 1970s, and I continue to be mystified at how Christians can be exposed to the same text (i.e. the Bible) and develop such different political values. I’ve noticed that the Bible mentions caring for the poor so often that I can’t in good conscience for a candidate that wants to cut programs for the needy. I also don’t buy the idea that helping the poor creates poverty.

Onto why I titled my post Jamais Vu . . . Now I am going to approach my faith from the opposite of the idea of being a Christian for decades. I encountered the concept of jamais vu in the writing of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks. Jamais vu is the opposite of déjà vu, and it is the experience of seeing something familiar as if you’ve never seen it before. Since I started reading the Bible again in December, I have approached the text with purposeful jamais vu: I am going to read this book as if everything is new to me. I’ve discovered that there is precious fruit of the Spirit to be gleaned from this approach. It reminds me of how Christ said in faith we must become like children (Matthew 18:33). The word of God never loses its freshness or vitality; only our ways of reading and hearing it can become stale.

As for the picture I’ve used for this post, it reminds me that it is much harder to suspend one’s familiarity with the physical world. No matter how hard I try, my mind can’t make the buildings in that picture look like something I haven’t seen before.

I feel a consolation beyond description in reading the Bible as if it is new to me, for it would be impossible for someone to read it enough to make it old news. As I read the words of the Bible, it is like the Holy Spirit fills me with the complete opposite of the pain and despair I’ve felt in the past.