Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

Hang out with the old preacher by browsing my blogs.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Garden spook

Our garden is very limited in tillable soil. Most of the back yard is cemented patio. There are two circles of soil, edged with brick, that have yielded almost all of our produce this year.

One of these circles now contains a jungle of tomato greens. There are a few green tomatoes still struggling to turn color, but at this point in the season it seems to me that we need to pull out these shrubs. The Romas were left to spread on the ground, and they did this with a vengeance.

The fauna of this region include a calculatedly diminishing population of snails, grasshoppers (both small and green and very large and brown), and some mature garden spiders. Just the other day, however, I started to reach into the heart of this jungle when I heard a decidedly threatening hiss or buzz. I quickly withdrew my hand, and began to wonder whence this spooky sound emanated.

At first I thought a Farrel cat might be down there, but quickly dismissed this idea. For one thing there was not enough room in that exact location without him making some rustling escape. It could have been a nasty opossum, but I haven't ever seen one around our new home. Then I though of a gigantic mutated killer spider, but I immediately realized that was my bizarrely dark imagination overworking. But then I was puzzled. The only realistic answer I gave myself was that it must be a noise made by the grandpa grasshopper. Have you ever experienced such a thing?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birds, part 2

It is only fair to tell you that the former post does not reflect our total experience with birds. We also have birds around our house, and they are more friendly. We have (had?) a hummingbird feeding from our front porch. At least we used to have one. I think I made a batch of glucose that was extra rich on our first experiment. When our bird discovered it he became voracious until it was gone. You may say it was more than one, and you may be right. But those cute little beasts are very territorial, and it is just as likely that all other birds were frightened off by his intimidation. You know bullying takes place among birds too.

I have discovered that it is no compliment to tell someone that he eats like a bird. If you care to insult a glutton, maybe you want to say that, but those babies really know how to chow down. When he drained our feeder of all the liquid, I quickly refilled it with a more conservative dose of glucose. We haven't seen him since then. It's possible that he died, but it seems more likely that he got used to the "candy" I put out the first time and he is boycotting the new batch.

In our back yard we have a conventional feeder with six holes to forage for the seeds. It's fun to watch when I first mount the feeder because they really go berserk. They have no daintier appetite than the hummingbirds. You're going to ask me what kind of birds, and I frankly don't know. They are mostly grey, but some of them have a little dusting of ruby feathers in the head. I figure whatever variety they are, it is the males with the color. Isn't it always the case that it is the men who must dress with class if they want to get the woman they crave? But we were talking about birds, weren't we.

When I ride my exercise bike,the birds gather on the power lines above me and stare. I can hear them thinking, "Okay, Buddie. Hurry up and finish so we can get a meal!" Every now and then a very hungry dude will grab a few seeds anyway.

We even set out a second feeder. It's much smaller and lower to the ground. The birds never eat from this one. I was concerned that the seed might mildew or rot, so I poured them out into the open feeder, and they were promptly devoured. You don't suppose that feral cat lurks for them at the more accessible feeder, do you? Nah. They sometimes come to the ground to eat fallen seeds. I'm sure the cat spooks the birds, but he can't be in our yard constantly.

But these birds (finches? wrens?) do not meet in convention as the pigeons mentioned in the former post. I'm not afraid for gang activity here. Nor do they seem to be plotting a nefarious scheme of terrorism. Instead, they (and my thinning hair) remind me of Matthew 10:29-31.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Birds

There is a corner near our house where birds congregate. It is an intersection over which lights are suspended by corner poles with arms that reach out over the intersection. There must be 8 of these arms, and on at least two of them are perched a dozen or more pigeons. They seem to follow some strict code of order because they are spaced about six inches apart, all facing the same direction. They never randomly disperse themselves, but seem to prefer crowding onto one or two of these perches. A few stragglers are seen on other poles, but by far the main concentration is found on two of these poles/perches. The stragglers appear to be suffering a shunning discipline for some offense to the flock.

Are they attracted by electrical vibes that create an ornithological comfort zone? After all many creatures in the animal kingdom are super-sensitive to stuff of which we are not aware: magnetic poles, impending earthquakes, supersonic sounds for example.

Are they merely waiting to scavenge after careless diners at the nearby Weinerschnitzel stand? I even consulted a blog about pigeons and problems that develop from citizens attracting flocks by feeding them in the back yard. It is definitely not courteous to neighbors who would like to picnic next door.

Are they competing with one another to see who can splatter the most moving targets below? I guess we all know that it happens!

Most of the obvious answers seem to be eliminated by the fact that they do not perch on light standards that are identical to these but located at other intersections.

If people were to congregate in similar droves at the intersection they would probably be arrested for loitering. They would poise a threat to patrons of the three gas stations on opposing corners. Most of us would suspect some kind of gang activity and take our business elsewhere. But these birds seem to hang out with impunity. I think they are planning some terrorist act. Yes, I remember Hitchcock's classic movie. Now I'm sure this will play out like a Stephen King scenario. Beware of the perching, gawking pigeons. They may be agents of him who is the prince of the power of the air.

Actually it is not fanciful to paraphrase Scripture by saying, a pigeon does not perch without your Father in heaven.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Opinions about truth

I remember a cartoon where two teen-agers are sprawled on the floor with an open Bible in front of them and pencils in hand. Apparently the parent just entered the room, and the kids explain, "We already know what we believe on the subject, but we are looking for proof texts." Isn't that the trouble with far too much of our Christian knowledge? It's a tad blatant in these kids. We adults have learned to be much more subtle.

I can recall a minister who was strong on man's autonomous free will, being confronted with Romans 9 simply said, "Oh that's a Presbyterian text."

And speaking of predestination, I can say I have found that doctrine relatively easy to prove from Scripture, and I have used it to beat fellow Christians over the head for the fun of proving them wrong. I know I have a gut reaction to revival hymns like "Softly and Tenderly" when it says, "Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, Pleading for you and for me?" Jesus is the sovereign Lord. He is the God who has predestined our coming to Himself (John 6:37).

And yet I still believe it is better to let Scripture modify my theology rather than have my theology modify Scripture. Of course there is an important place for the analogy of Scripture to help us understand any isolated text. If we are reading a text that seems to flatly contradict a well documented truth of Scripture, we need to go back and read it again, asking God to show us how we fouled up the exegesis.

I guess what I have in mind is the idea of the doctrine of predestination fostering in me the notion that Jesus does not plead with sinners to come home. When I first grasped the doctrine as biblical, my concept of God briefly shifted from a loving, caring God to something akin to a giant cosmic computer, cold and calculating. A little more reading of the Bible helped me see that our God does indeed have everything planned, and that nothing can happen outside of that plan. This is a good thing. But the Bible also shows God with a loving heart, making an emotional plea for sinners to repent. "Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18:31) And we are cast in the role of Jesus pleading when we are told, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (II Corinthians 5:20) Dear friend, there is emotion in that text and I for one do not want to forget it. God does care, and He does beg sinners to be reconciled to Him.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hero to goat

Watching the playoffs, I felt so bad for the second baseman who made three errors in the same inning. That's enough to be engraved in the record books, but who wants to be remembered that way? My memory took me back to my baseball days once again. I was going to say "glory days", but there were far more ignominious shame days. Like the time I went from hero to goat in about 20 minutes.

We were facing a "junk" pitcher and my team preferred fast balls. I was more intimidated by fast balls, however, and seemed to have little trouble hitting curves and other squiggly things. Well, I did hit his squiggly thing into right field and it was tailing away from the fielder, so I made it to second base. I had knocked in a couple runs and my team made a lot of noise for me. It felt great to be a hero. That doesn't happen very much in the average Joe's life, you know. The next half inning I was playing left field when the other team loaded the bases and this buff looking black kid came to the plate. My center fielder was well experienced in the league, and apparently he knew something about this kid because he beckoned me to move back. I did move back several steps. He kept motioning me to move back, but I felt I was too deep already, and I hoped to be able to catch a lazy fly ball over the infield, rather than allow it to fall in which would let them score one or two runs. Then it happened. This black kid (I wish I knew his name because it wouldn't surprise me a bit if he had made it to the majors) crushed the ball and it was heading my direction. That solid sounding bat immediately tells the outfielder that he better go back for the fly. As my perspective saw the ball rising higher and higher I knew that meant that it would be way over my head by the time it reached my location. I turned my back on the infield and ran top speed, hoping to make one of those circus catches you see on baseball replays. It was a vain hope. We were playing on a field that was built adjacent to another field so that our left field melded into the right field of the other diamond. This ball landed about shortstop position on the other field and one hopped to the fence. By the time I retrieved the ball and tossed it to the relay man, all four runs scored. When the inning was finally over and I came to the bench, not a soul spoke to me. Hero to goat in 20 minutes!

Our team was Southern Pacific Railroad, and our league was dubbed an "industrial league". I'm not sure what that meant, but I think you would call it semi-pro. They tell me that some guy on this team was signed by a major league scout the year before. I had the dubious privilege to be low man on a good roster. I was what you call a utility player. I usually played second, third or outfield. Maybe I played a little short, but not much.

I remember the game when they needed me to play third. That is not my favorite position in hardball. It really is the HOT corner. Early in the game someone hit a scorcher right at me. I'm afraid I looked bad because I turned my head. After all I didn't want to mar my beautiful face. But my glove snared the ball from the ground and I threw him out. A couple innings later here comes another threatening grounder. Again I turned my head, but my hands handled that one too. Once again a nasty ground ball came bounding my direction. Once again I turned my head, but this time the ball skipped instead of taking its expected bounce and passed right between my ankles. I heard the crowd moan in unison, and I cringed. I never looked good at the position, but I was getting the job done up to that point. Now I really looked bad.

I remember when I played American Legion Baseball I made the last out of the season, and the coach cried.

My wife talks as though I was a great ball player, but it seems as though all I can remember is the gaffs. It wasn't a sterling career.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


There was panic-or at least deep concern-in the city of San Pedro this week when an explosion was reported somewhere in the complex of the Clarion Hotel. The police were called. A car in the parking structure was discovered with its glass broken out and a hole in the door. Police called the bomb squad, and because of the ever-present thought of terrorism, the hotel was evacuated. In fact several nearby buildings were evacuated and the main street that runs through San Pedro, Gaffey St., was closed down for a few blocks. The bomb squad sent their robot to investigate, and when they had determined that there were no other bombs in the car, they took a closer look. They determined that the vandalized auto was unrelated to the explosion. While owners were away someone had broken into the car and rifled through it. But it was only discovered now because of the bomb scare. At some point it was determined that someone had set off an M-80 (a giant firecracker) in the parking structure which amplified the noise. The residents were allowed to return and the street was reopened. Several of the displaced families were actually in town awaiting to embark for a Mexican cruise (on the same ship which recently hosted us on the same cruise route). A bus came to transport them to the loading dock.

The whole incident jarred my memory bank. When I was a naughty teen I dropped an M-80 into the mail slot of an apartment building, and I remember that the noise echoed in the hall to the insidious delight of this teen boy. Boys like to blow thing up, you know. Only later did I think about the human effects and hoped that I wouldn't read about a heart attack at that address.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Religion, sweet and innocuous

Yesterday I read about the blessing of the animals. In honor of St. Francis of Assisi (who spent much time showing kindness to animals) there is an annual blessing of the animals. Bring your horse to church, and he will never throw you again. What self-respecting atheist could find objection to something so innocent as blessing the animals? Surely this is not the religious activity that makes activists scream about separation of church and state. The event was held at Marine Stadium in Marine Vista Park, and no less than eleven clergy persons from various churches were on hand to convey those blessings. Cats, rabbits, dogs, a boa, a miniature horse, a bobcat, and a chinchilla all were there to benefit from religious silliness at the expense of the belittling image of religion that was thereby reinforced. Can you imagine the offense and outrage if a real Christian stood up to quote the apostle Peter who referred to "natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed"?

I thought I was finished shaking my head in disgust at the embarrassing things that are done in the name of "religion" when I picked up this morning's paper to see an article about the hundreds of people who gathered in Huntington Beach for the "Blessing of the Waves"! The surfing priest was quoted as saying, "We find that the ocean can bring people of all faiths together." How sweet is that? This ecumenism casts a very wide net. There were representatives there from the Roman Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Islamic and (get this) Zoroastrian faiths present. The estimate was that this event attracted 3,000 people.

While this was happening at the beach just a little south of us, we sat in church, hearing a simple message of how God is calling us to buy wine and milk without money in 55th chapter of Isaiah, and how Jesus fulfilled that promise. He said "If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." The rich blessing that Jesus alone can convey is not for animals or waves, but for poor lost sinners who repent and look to Him for grace. How sad that there were only a couple hundred there instead of the 3 thousand who are attracted to the surf and the tomfoolery that took place.

God always blesses his animals and gives His surf for the pleasure of the just and the unjust alike. Clergymen add nothing to the wonder of His creation by "blessing" it.