Headline News January 27, 2022

The biggest news today, to start things off, is that you are alive today and have a tremendous opportunity ahead of you to live your life! What others are doing may have some impact upon you, to a greater or lesser extent, but in all cases you have freedom to react as you wish, and you are still in control of your attitude! This makes today a very interesting possibility!

On to other news: some folks got angry today, and several grew impatient and frustrated and vented at one another. But others found peace today, and these folks enjoyed several simple pleasures: the joy of breathing the fresh air, and the warm joy which filled their breast and made them smile as they looked with love at the world around them; these folks let others act as they wish, and refrained from judging them or criticizing them, and they just went about their own business today and looked for the things that would nurture goodness.

Luka, the little brown dog who lives in Mukilteo, followed his owner around the yard this morning; and the little dog was thrilled to meet somebody new and to smell their pants and stare expectantly up into their face. You might imagine that he went bonkers when that person chased him playfully across the back lawn, and you’d be right! He made a new friend! His new friend stepped in a pile of excrement that Luka absentmindedly left behind, but no harm was done. It came off easily enough.

In Woodway, later in the morning two little kids followed their mom up the driveway, anxious to get back indoors because the weather is quite cold today. Even though the sun has come out and the blue sky is a real treat for everyone. It seems very likely that those two children will be enjoying grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch; and it’s been said that their mom makes the very best ones around. And cheddar goldfish crackers are also on the menu. That’s a lot of cheese kids! Remember to eat your fiber too!

In sadder news there was an animal laying still on the side of the Mukilteo Speedway this afternoon. However, upon closer inspection it was actually a stuffed toy animal. So no real animals were harmed. This was a relief to everyone who passed by. Hopefully someone will take the toy animal home with them and put it in the washer and dryer.

Recently, someone has been blowing enormous bubbles at the beach in Edmonds, to the delight of everyone around. Many afternoons one can see huge bubbles, some the size of a person, or even larger, floating through the air across the waterfront, and even over the tops of the nearby ferries—their shimmery skins translucent, and yet afire with all the colors of the rainbow, reflecting light and shining against the gray sky as they go. For a moment you might think you’ve been transported into another world, one of sublime beauty and filled with strange and surprising occurrences. It is worth seeing!

We’ve heard rumors of wars, and lots of murmurs about diseases and other scary things. However, while these things are worth noting in passing, most of these things are well beyond the average person’s control, so we won’t bother much about these, other than to briefly mention that a number of folks are fairly caught up with them. One great thing to report is that God, the creator of all things in this world, is still in control, and for those who desire to trust in Him, they don’t need to worry too much about all these things. They are freer to enjoy the gifts He desires to share with us.

In Kingston, there is a red-twig dogwood that is just about bursting with new buds. As one looks at this large shrub it appears as if an army of tiny archers are aiming a thousand little arrows at the sky, all poised and ready to let them fly. One imagines that when spring comes, this tiny army will advance, and all the buds will erupt; and God be with the sky, as a flurry of new foliage unfurls and overtakes it. If one looks closely one can see this same phenomena taking place all around us, in many of the shrubs and trees. The natural world is poised on a knife’s edge, it seems, and the tension is palpable. We expect that not long from now, nothing will be able to hold this back any longer, and an Armageddon of floral color and foliar beauty will be unleashed all around us, with great mercy.

 And that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you for looking to us for your news. This is “All the News That Matters!”

Until next time, be well, be loving, trust God, and don’t take any wooden bitcoin!

~FS

What is Truth, in Our Age of Confusion?

Truth doesn’t reside in facts, and it can’t be found in data or information. We have all seen and know by now, how skillfully facts and information can be manipulated, by anyone with a desire to do so. And yet, we still want to believe that pure information has the ability to give us truth, and that it is somehow insulated from the people involved in culling that information. This is why our so-called Information Age is actually an age of vast confusion. We are living in an age of bewilderment brought on by our trust in statistics and data, and by our hope in information which has become unhinged from the foundations which can make it useful and able to yield understanding and give direction in our lives. 

Undergirding the level of information is the place of the heart, or the inner man. This is the place inside each of us where we find our center, our soul, and where we connect to the Spirit of God or to other spirits. Out of the heart springs forth all the issues of man, we are told in scripture. And so it is, that good and bad, right and wrong, love and unlove, all of these issue forth from our heart. From our heart spring forth the passions, the vices, and also virtues. And from these are the things which drive our use of information, and out of which we assert various ‘truths’. 

A greedy man will seek and find information that supports his greed. A prideful man will support ‘proofs’ which explain why his pride is natural. Data which tells a lustful person why lust is good, will be used by that person to support their ‘truth’ and combat those of other persuasions. What we find then, as humans seeking truth, is not any objective truth in information, but simply information that supports the orientation of our individual heart. A chaste person will read the information they get through a lens of chastity, and the humble person will interpret the world and its facts by their humility. And in this way the prideful and the humble see different things, the greedy and the generous understand money differently, the lustful and the chaste interpret human sexuality differently. And so it is with all the vices and virtues which turn each person this way and that. Each of us using information to support our positions, and to reinforce the orientations of our heart. 

It appears to me that many of us consider truth to be something that can be worked out, much like a math problem. I suppose some truth can be found this way, but I doubt any of it is truth as it relates to mankind and the complexities of our life. Truth for mankind is not figured out so much as it is discerned, and it is very much a matter of, and an act of faith. It flows out from the beliefs we hold in our heart. This is why Jesus Christ told us that He is the Truth. The real truth, the truth for humankind is to be found only in God, only in the foundation that is Christ. And the closer our relationship to Christ the clearer our vision of truth, and the deeper our understanding of what is real and what is true. Jesus tells us to seek Him first, and then He and the Spirit of God will come and dwell in our heart. This indwelling of God in our heart is how we can come to the knowledge of truth. Knowledge of God then will give us better discernment, and clearer understanding of the information and data that confronts us. 

None of us can know the truth perfectly in this world. As St Paul says, we are all seeing things in this world as if through a glass darkly, and only partially perceiving the truth. And yet, any of us can know truth better, and can free ourselves from this Age of Confusion by seeking God, and by drawing closer to Christ, and desiring that He dwell within our heart. In this way the wellspring waters of our heart are clarified because He dwells in us, and as His Spirit transforms us, then out of our heart will flow clarity and discernment of what is true according to God, and by Jesus Christ, the foundation and embodiment of truth. 

~FS

The Rainbow

What is a rainbow? In the spirit of our current age we might be most enamored to discuss its physical attributes; to describe its optical characteristics—the refraction of light, angles, measurements, molecules, water, air, and then add in some surprising statistics which render it malleable to our technological proclivities. But in all our scientific jargon, have we come any closer to knowing a rainbow? I suspect that in our modern sensibility we might congratulate ourselves at least—in this description based upon our present knowledge of physics—for leaving behind the spiritual or metaphorical meaning of the rainbow; these other meanings, which we might now term as mythological, or call a fantasy, befitting a more primitive time and a more primitive people. But since we are enlightened now, we must speak of things in scientific terms, believing that this, somehow, is the only way that will get us closer to the truth; self-satisfied in our very rational response to the supposed errors of the past. But we are simply making new errors in the present; worse errors if we forget the root of all things as residing in God, and if we continue along alone without this understanding of God as the basis of all things, we walk forward blindly with only our humanistic and technological perspectives to guide us.

Originally, from the Bible, we learn that the rainbow is a covenant. It is the sign of a relationship. It represents, in tangible ways, the love of God for humankind and His love for the creatures of our world. It is a sign of His mercy, and His forgiveness for the transgressions of humankind, and a symbol of a new start—redemption—and fresh opportunities for us to return to Him, and to rekindle our relationship with our Creator. From the book of Genesis: “And God said, ‘ This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations; I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.”

A rainbow is a sign of God’s love for us, and His covenant with us. This is the meaning of a rainbow, and its most central and important aspect. Interestingly, in this passage God calls the rainbow, ‘His rainbow’. It is the sign of His covenant, and he gives it as a sign to us, but He doesn’t give us the rainbow itself; He retains it and calls it ‘His’. So when we appropriate it and use the rainbow for anything other than as the sign of God’s covenant with us, it seems that we are stealing what is God’s for our own human purposes. It is yet another act by humankind of rebellion against God, and a prideful assertion of our autonomy in defiance of God’s loving mercy. Certainly God will allow us to do this, for a time, but just because we are free to do something is it the right thing to do? As children of God we must reassert God’s meaning and His purpose of the rainbow as a sign of His covenant with humankind and all created things, and we need to reclaim what has been stolen in this realm of symbol, as it pertains to human life. God’s rainbow should not be a symbol of mankind’s pride; nor should it be used as the logo and the brand for a way of life that is in direct rebellion against His Word, and against His will for us. We cannot stop people from using it as such, God’s way allows for human freedom and as children of God we also allow and respect human liberty. But we can reclaim the rainbow, there are thousands of years of precedent for it as God’s sign and covenant, long before man thought to use it to represent something counter to God’s design.

This is what we need to do: remind ourselves and the world that the rainbow is simply and beautifully, and only truly, God’s sign, and it only truly represents His covenant with us. Use it always in conjunction with humility, with obedience to God, with self-emptying of our prideful desires. Proclaim the rainbow to be the love and beauty of God, raise it as a banner which acclaims God and worships only Him, and reduces humankind to the lower place as creation. Make the rainbow repugnant to the forces of human pride and rebellion, by reasserting it the symbol of human love for God and for His authority over us. Make it our covenant back to God, He who fashioned us and from whom all things are given.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that symbol doesn’t matter. Why would companies pay hundreds of millions of dollars to brand and market themselves in just the right way, if signs mean nothing? In the battle for hearts and minds—which this world is—symbol plays a central role. We as children of God must fight to regain the ground we’ve conceded through deception, and by our complacency, fear and laziness; and reclaiming the rainbow as God’s sign is an excellent place to begin.

                                                                                                  

The Master Builders of Scandinavia (or ‘How My Church Was Finally Built’)

I have recently had the great pleasure to befriend a band of tiny craftsman, a family-clan of master builders long-forgotten by history, with whom I have developed a working relationship. They are a fiery folk, hale and hearty, but small. I first met them on the road to Inverness. They were sitting by the side of the road and looked to be a ragged and tattered bunch, much beleaguered from their journey thus far. Surprised to see them, so colorfully attired in their traditional garb, I stopped my car and made it my primary objective to refresh them with hot coffee and a muffin, which I just so happened to have on the back seat. As they ate and drank, I gathered the courage to inquire from where they had come, and to where they were travelling.

One of their kin replied that they were from the northern forests of Scandinavia, half-way betwixt the Baltic and the Berent Seas, and just ten kilometers shy of equidistant, as the owl flies, between the Norwegian and the White Seas. Another of their group interjected that they had arrived at our shores upon a small sailing vessel made by his-truly and his brother and several cousins. They were all now in the midst of fleeing their homeland for undisclosed reasons—but along the way, they had suffered a surprise shipwreck, wholly unexpected, which was the reason they were now traveling by land, in search of a new home.

As they made their way through my muffin, I decided to ask the glaring question that most intrigued me, but the one I also feared might cause offence. “How is it that you all are so very small?” I asked. For none of them were taller than my shin, and I’d bet good money that none of them, even the tallest, could touch my kneecap on their tippy toes, nor even if they jumped with all their might.

A young lass stood proudly and exclaimed, “We sir, are The Podes! ‘People-Of-Diminutive & Exceptional-Stature’!”

“Oh yes, like Lilliputians!” I returned enthusiastically.

“No!” They all cried out in unison. Those are islanders from the South Pacific. We’re Podes from Finland!”

I considered this silently for a moment. I had never heard of such a people. “Fascinating! So you’re all…Podes. Okay. And what will you do now?”

“Vitta, sir.” The girl answered. “That’s our surname, I’m Analie. Analie Vitta! We’re carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, and painters, anything you like. We build churches. That’s what we’ll do.”

I was astounded. Church builders, I never would have guessed. Maybe doll-houses, but nothing quite so grand, or so large. “Fantastic! I’ve always dreamt myself of building a church. That was my dream, I would love to build a church. Though I never thought I might.” I answered.

“Then you shall build one with us!” They declared as one, with a raising of their mugs and a cheer.

I was flattered. I did in fact have a design for a church that I had created in my earlier years, and secretly, I had always hoped to bring that design out from the world of mere fantasy, out into the wide world of reality. Perhaps they could build my church. I wanted to ask, but sheepishly I kept my hope hidden, deciding to wait for a future moment to expose my secret to them.

After coffee and muffin, I invited them home and set them up in our spare room. When my wife came home from work, she was as surprised as I had been, when she first saw them—about twenty or so little people tucked into our guest bed. They were charming and great conversationalists, even considering English was not their native tongue. They won her over, though later that night she asked me quietly, how long they planned to stay. She was dismayed to hear it might be indefinitely. But she cheered up when I suggested they might build the fence I had never gotten around to, and that we may even ask them to remodel the master bathroom.

Early the next morning we awoke to the sound of our dogs barking. We peered out the back window and saw the whole of them already hard at work. Some were cutting branches from our trees and others were stripping the fallen twigs of their bark. Our dogs pressed their noses against the glass and looked intently at the industrious group as they labored. Already, in one corner of the yard they had a large pile of pebbles gathered, near which one bearded gentleman was crushing lime, adding water and adding the pebbles to create a strong concrete. Just then a group of young men returned from the woods behind our yard dragging several old planks of wood which they immediately went to work on, cleaning off the dirt, and scraping away the outer shell to reveal a very pleasant-colored wood underneath. They stacked the newly minted lumber in rows, organized by dimension and length. Our fire pit had been loaded with logs and a large fire was now burning, into which crucibles filled with metal gathered from who knows where, were boiling and several men were pouring out their contents into molds, creating nails, hinges, and other fasteners, connectors and chains.

It was an extremely impressive show and the four of us, me and my wife and our two dogs, looked on with amazement; though I feared it was hunger our dogs had in their eyes. “No Fritz, Rocco, these are not for eating.” I scolded them preemptively. These are people, we don’t eat them, understand?” They cocked their heads attentively, and then glanced out the window. “Not for eating,” I repeated. They looked up at me sheepishly and I knew they understood me. So we went out to greet our new visitors and I felt confident our boys wouldn’t attempt a quick bite. In fact, it turned out both our dogs were rather frightened by the little people, and preferred to keep a safe distance.

Mid-morning they took a break. My wife brought out coffee, their new favorite drink, and a muffin for them to share. Back home in Finland they drank nettle tea, which was a staple. Sometimes they added pine needles, or spruce in the proper season, when the needles are young and tender and sweet. And for the occasional pick-me-up they swore by birch-bark and peppermint which they ground up into a fine powder and sprinkled over the tea like we would do with cinnamon.

We sat down with them around the fire, and our dogs sat close beside us while warily watching our tiny visitors milling about. Aari Vitta, Analie’s older brother, tossed two morsels of bacon across the fire, one to Fritz and one to Rocco, and they devoured the little snacks eagerly. After that, our dogs viewed our new friends much more favorably. Where he got the bacon, I had no idea. I overheard Analie speaking with her mother about getting more eggs, they would need the yolks to mix with their pigments before they could begin work on the icons for the new church. She was the iconographer of the group, she and her mother who had originally taught her the craft. Though now, at the age of sixteen, Analie had already far exceeded her mother in ability. Her younger brother, Armas and their second-cousin Eero both chimed in excitedly, saying they knew where to get eggs, they had discovered chickens earlier in the morning, in a coop not far away, and they could show us where to find them! Their mother agreed, but reminded them that they aren’t thieves, and they’d leave something of value in return for the eggs they took.

So off we went in search of eggs: Analie, her mother, the two boys, and me with our two dogs. Patty, my wife, returned inside to clean up after the morning snack and to track down a plastic bag that someone requested to use as a tarp. At the mention of the word, ‘chickens’ both Fritz and Rocco grew very excited, and Fritz led the way, though he had no idea where he was going and needed to be called back to the correct direction on several occasions. The chickens were in a coop behind our neighbor’s house which wasn’t a long journey. As we entered the yard, Fritz caught the scent and ran barking excitedly after the chickens. Rocco, with much smaller legs, followed as best he could, with his tail held proudly in the air and waving back and forth behind him as he ran.

We gathered up two well-shaped eggs and Paivi, their mother, pulled from one of her many pockets a beautifully knit wool cap, which she lovingly placed beside the nest where we found the eggs. “We’ll leave that for them, it’s a fair trade, in truth they got the better of it. Back home this cap would be worth a half-dozen eggs.” And I believed her, as I peered down with interest at the finely crafted hat. Though I was hard-pressed to imagine how my neighbor might actually use the miniscule thing. Perhaps he could wear it as a finger-warmer, by pulling it over his pinky, or maybe his ring-finger, but certainly not his thumb. It would never fit, not without permanently stretching the little cap and ruining it.

When we arrived back in our yard the crew were all busy working. I was curious to see the progress so I walked up to one of the elders who clearly was running the show, and asked him how things were coming along. “Good. Good. Very good.” He replied while continuing to scrutinize the activities taking place all around us. I asked him how they all knew what to do, with no plans to follow. And I followed that question up with another, hoping to discover what my role was going to be in all of this. He told me to hold out my hands, and he inspected them both closely while laughing and shaking his head. “Not a callous to be seen! Those are the hands of a dreamer, not a worker. You’ll watch!” But, I protested. I let him clearly know I wanted to help. “Don’t you fret, be at ease my oversized friend. You have a very important part to play. We’re using your church design, don’t you know?!”

I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised. “But how did you know about that? I wanted to tell you, but hadn’t gotten around to it.”

“Your plans are hanging on the wall of your office. I made copies last night. See!” He pointed at a stack of tiny papers on a nearby rock. Peering closely I could see they were indeed my designs, but so tiny I could barely discern them. “I hand-drew them all myself last night,” he continued with a wave of his hand. Before I could reply he held his hand up, “Shush!” He said curtly. “Do you smell that? Wood preservative. Our secret recipe.” There was a pungent but pleasant smell filling the air; something like creosote but with a hint of pine. “Reminds me of pine-tar soap.” I remarked. “Mmmm,” he sniffed deeply. “I love the smell of wood preservative in the morning!”

He turned to me quickly and looked up into my eyes. I think. It is hard to tell what exactly he was gazing at from way down there; but I’m fairly certain he was staring me down, and about to make an important point. “And you should be happy! We’re using quarter-scale for this church. We never do that. We’re exclusively metric you should know; but it’s a concession to you. Your plans are all in imperial.” He rolled his tiny eyes and snorted derisively. He waved his hand dismissively, “It’s fine. You’re welcome. We’ll make do.”

However, I was disappointed. I had been of the impression that they would be building an actual full-scale church, and my life-long dream of creating a real church would come to fruition. Was this then to truly be the fulfillment of my dream, or only a partial, scaled fulfillment of it? I pondered this as we stood beside the fire, as very tiny men poured out glowing hot metal into forms, to create sections of a circular chandelier which would hang over the central crossing of the new church. I stared at the red, molten iron and considered this turn of events and what it meant for my dream. To my right, in the distance, sparks of brilliant white light showered the ground, while a little man welded two sections of the chandelier, which had cooled and were now ready for assembly. Where on earth did they find a MIG welder?! I was dumbfounded by, and admired their immense resourcefulness.

Over the course of the next six to eight weeks work on the church moved along swiftly. The Podes wasted little labor, and even less materials; they were very efficient, and yet they seemed almost careless as they labored. But as I think about it, they weren’t so much careless as they were effortless. They all worked together with an easy joyfulness that diminished setbacks and erased annoyances and frustrations which might have gotten the better of many of us larger folk. That popular saying: “Don’t sweat the small stuff” came to my mind often as I would watch them working together. And they certainly didn’t. For the Podes it was all small stuff, quite literally. That thought made me chuckle. And they seemed to know when something matters and when it doesn’t. For instance, they gave concentrated focus on making sure the building foundation was square and plumb, since everything else follows from this first, most consequential step in the building process. But they gave precious little attention to small errors in cutting, or smudges to finishes and things of that sort. For example, one afternoon two cousins were working on setting the top plates on several exterior walls, they were using dimensional lumber for this, as you might expect. It soon became clear that the wall heights were off, with several walls slightly taller than the others, so that the plates running along the tops wouldn’t match up properly. The cousins stopped their work and stood silently contemplating the situation. I’ve seen this scene play out before, on human jobsites, and it is often turns ugly, with yelling, cursing and stomping about. But not on the Podes jobsite. As time went by, the two cousins were soon joined by three brothers, an uncle and a grandma. The small cohort stared at the walls, disheveled and out of proportion, and one of them began to smile, and then another let out a guffaw; soon the whole group were laughing together, and slapping one another on the backs, and commenting upon the stroke of good luck this mishap presented. One of the brothers grabbed a round log and tossed it up on the taller wall, another brother grabbed a longer log, but slightly larger in diameter, and tossed his up on the shorter wall.  The larger diameter on the shorter wall made up the difference, and the smaller diameter log on the taller wall came level with the other and evened the walls out. Soon everyone was grabbing logs of various diameters and lengths and setting them in place along the tops of the entire perimeter of the building. When they had finished, the building now had a beautiful architectural feature not originally intended; the logs became the upper edge of all the exterior walls, lending the building a natural and organic beauty that it had previously lacked when using the dimensional lumber alone.

I called out to the workers; “I thought you had made a mistake! But I guess I was mistaken!” I grinned.

“No! No mistake. Just happy accidents!” One of the brothers called back to me.

“Ha! You sound like Bob Ross!” I laughed. “You know who that is? A famous painter, he always said that very same thing!” And then it struck me suddenly, I don’t know how I hadn’t seen it before, but all three of those brothers looked the splitting image of Mr Ross, only much, much smaller. They all had same Afro of curly reddish-brown hair, and the complementary beard. All carried the same happy-go-lucky smile. “You guys even look like him!” I exclaimed. “Maybe I can call you Bob, Bobby and Bobert!”

I found that mildly amusing; but you would never believe the effect it had on the entire group, but especially the three brothers. They all erupted in laughter and began pointing at one another. “You’re Bobert!” “No I’m Bob, you’re Bobert!” “I’m Bobby!” “Bobby! Ha!” They all erupted in laughter again, one even falling to the ground while holding his side. “Bobert!!!” “Ha!!!” The grandma was in tears, and several additional Podes ran over to inquire what was so funny, and after they had been filled in, they too erupted in laughter and added their own insights, pointing to each brother in turn: “He’s Bobby. That one is Bobert!!!” “Ha, ha, ha!” “And you’re Bob.”

“Bob, bob, bob.” The cousins sang out rhythmically while beating on their bellies like a drum. A little boy and girl marched grandly around in a circle, as the cousins jovially continued to sing. Eventually, the uproar died down and they all went back to work. It was a delightful explosion of merriment, wholly unexpected and seemingly out of proportion to the inherent humor of my original statement. But that made it all the more charming. And I reflected upon this joyfully, again and again throughout the day, as I recalled their surprising reactions.

As their work with me drew closer to completion I inquired where they intended to go next once they were finished building our church. “We are always moving towards Eden,” one of the older women replied. “Ours is a journey, constant and ever in the direction of paradise.”

Analie Vitta, the young iconographer, chimed in and further explained, “We build churches out of wood and stone, it is true, but more importantly we build churches within our own hearts, churches not made by hands, but by the spirit. This also is true.”

“All things must be done and made from the heart,” the old woman continued. “This is the way of the Podes, this is Podalism, and how we manifest our faith in the God of all, the Christ who saves us.”

“What exactly is Podalism?” I asked.

The old man who sat next to the woman who had been speaking up to now, cleared his throat and answered, “Podalism is our way of life, my friend. It is the essence of good living, of good design, and of good creation. It is Paradise Oriented Design. Podalism. All things done with love, everything made with good thoughts in our mind, and with nothing negative, all actions made with the inner energy and motivation of obedience and humility. We design and build towards Paradise, always towards God’s kingdom. That is the only way. Perfection is not in being perfect, but in loving God; and beauty, the highest form, is not in the absence of imperfection, but in the love of imperfection. Love covers all things and makes them beautiful.”

“I understand.” I was impressed and moved by what he said. It made me think of something else I knew a little about so I made a comparison, “Imperfect design, beauty in imperfection, these things make me think of Wabi-Sabi, is it like that?”

“No!” They all cried out in unison. That is an aesthetic philosophy from Japan. Podalism is rooted in love for God, and trust in his guidance. Look at the birds, how they build their nests, or the beavers and how they build their lodges and dams. Look at any of the animals and how they follow the patterns set down by our creator. Podalism is the same, it is our loving relationship to the material world, and our humble and receptive manner of living and creating in response to it.”

I considered this silently for a moment. “Fascinating! I think I would like to live like you Podes.”

“Anyone can,” Analie Vitta answered. “Just as you please, sir. Follow your dream of building churches, and never stop building the church of your heart.”

~FS

Several photos of The Podes completed church:

Christ Is Here For Us

When all the world is like shifting sand,

when we cannot find a foothold,

when our neighbors do not know us,

and our leaders are against us—

There is a refuge to turn in to,

there is a firm foundation,

there is a friend to trust,

Christ is here for us.

Christ is here for us,

He is here all day for you,

He’ll be here tomorrow too,

Every day there ever was, and

every day forevermore—

He’s the one to trust.

The smoke and mirrors have stung my eyes,

and my mind has grown confused.

This world’s lies have discouraged truth,

and have corrupted paradise.

Our trust in man must falter—

when we choose to clear the smoke,

and if we look behind the mirrors,

we see a deep darkness in disguise.

Christ is here for us:

He’s a flaming light, burning bright,

for those who seek to know.

He is the end of fear, anxiety’s flight,

and the death to death’s cruel blow.

He is our purest hope forevermore.

Yes, Christ is here for us.

Are we here for Him?

~FS

Forgotten Neighbors

We effectively have in our society two types of neighbors; and in our churches as well, we essentially have the neighbors that we’ve decided warrant our love, and the other forgotten neighbors that don’t. How can this be, you may ask? That is crazy, you say, that isn’t true. But oh yes it is true, and I will explain so that you can see, if you don’t already see.

For almost two years now we have been told, and maybe have said it ourselves, that we need to wear masks for those neighbors who are vulnerable. We should consider these neighbors and love them as ourselves, and though it is an inconvenience or an annoyance to wear a mask, it is an example of sacrificial love and caring for others. It is Christ’s example we are following. I don’t disagree, wearing a mask can be an act of love.

But what if it isn’t simply an inconvenience or annoyance to wear a mask; what if it is significantly more than that, and is actually the cause of real physical, mental, and emotional suffering? From the very beginning we have trivialized the wearing of masks as only a simple inconvenience and annoyance, so that anyone who might have a more valid significant objection on medical grounds has been forgotten, marginalized or even chastised and ridiculed. So that only certain neighbors are worthy of our love, but not the others. We have decided that we must love the neighbors that want masks, but we have failed to even give a moment’s consideration, not any real consideration, nothing more than a momentary lip-service to loving those who oppose masks.

What might be a legitimate cause to oppose mask wearing? We don’t want to know, because then it makes the whole enterprise much more difficult. So we’ve tossed to the side any honest consideration of these legitimate objections right from the very start, so that our love has been a one way road, flowing only in the direction of those who want masks. Whole populations are suffering true distress, but they are asked to deal with it, and they are even shamed for raising the issues in defense of their suffering. There is apparently no practical love for these forgotten neighbors.

But, you may object, this is because Covid is such a horrible disease, and the vulnerable are at such a risk, so this issue outweighs all other considerations. I won’t disagree that Covid is bad for certain demographic risk groups. But how can we say, right from the very start without any debate, that these other issues are insignificant. Is death by suicide unimportant? Is death by overdose a triviality? Are the growing issues of addiction meaningless? We don’t know for certain what effect mask-wearing has on these things but I think it is safe to say that it hasn’t helped, and very likely has added to these issues. But that isn’t all. I personally know of several people who have panic attacks wearing masks; anxiety increases as well as increased blood-pressure, these are known issues in our society and masks are making these problems worse. People die from these things too.

But not only that. I know of children with autism, or other people with high sensitivities to physical stimulus that are literally tortured by having to wear masks over their mouths. I have first-hand experience with severe headaches and muscle aches that linger for days, brought on by mask-wearing. Loneliness, isolation and alienation are huge mental health issues in our society and wearing masks seriously exacerbates all of these emotional responses.  We can’t see each other, we can’t read each other’s expressions, and we are literally alienated from one another.

I propose that all of these things are not insignificant, and by trivializing all of them by calling them mere inconvenience or annoyance, is a grave mis-characterization, and a self-serving one as well. It allows us to love certain neighbors, to the exclusion of many other neighbors, without a guilty conscience. We’ve picked our winners and our losers and well, those forgotten folks should just pull it together, and try harder to love the ones we’ve chosen. Feeling suicidal, feeling isolated, feeling anxious or panicked by these masks? Get over it, and just love your neighbor.

No, I want the forgotten neighbor to enjoy the same attention as those we are currently loving, and have been loving for nearly two years now. We should be taking these other people’s needs seriously as well. We shouldn’t trivialize their needs. For example, couldn’t we also trivialize mask wearing? There is legitimate reason to think they are little more than a placebo, and they have very limited value against transmission. The argument could be turned on its head: why risk all of these serious negative results (suicide, anxiety, drug addiction etc.) by wearing masks, which have very limited or perhaps no material effect on Covid transmission. I’m not proposing this argument other than to show that trivializing the opposition’s arguments, while effective at eliminating them from our own consideration, does little to advance the cause of love. If we really want to love our neighbor, I think we need to do a better job of recognizing who our neighbors are, and what their needs are; it isn’t enough to forget whole swaths of neighbors, only to make it easier on our conscience as we proclaim love for the select few that we’ve chosen.  

~FS

The Beautiful Orthodox Liturgy

There may be no other more beautiful service of prayer and worship to God than the Orthodox Liturgy. For, as the emissaries to Prince Vladimir once said when describing it, “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.”

Oh yes, so true. I can attest to that as well. It is a gift, it is a gem of praise, and through it we are as though transported to the very throne room of God. It was designed to give us a taste of heaven and it has done this for worshippers for many centuries, with very little innovation; it has remained unchanged for a very, very long time. Because, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as they say. It is based upon the visions and revelations of God’s Kingdom which are found in both the Old and New Testaments. Its intent is to be a manifestation of the heavenly realm here on earth, at least in some small way. Like Christ, who incarnated in the flesh on earth, the Liturgy is a type of incarnation as well; it puts flesh on worship and praise, and makes real the spiritual truths otherwise hidden from view.

The Orthodox Liturgy is also thoroughly biblical. In fact, one can find a scriptural reference for practically every aspect, every moment, everything that is said or sung from its beginning to its ending. All things have been taken into account, every detail has been thought about as it relates to our salvation so that it is a sublime experience. The church space is filled with icons which reflect the perfect beauty of Christ; lamps cast a soft glow of light that illuminates the cloud of witnesses surrounding worshippers. The altar is hidden at first, reminding us of our ancestor’s tragic fall from grace, but then the curtain is removed, revealing the glory prepared for us by Christ’s loving incarnation and His sacrificial love for us. Incense wafts up into the air, it is the prayers of the saints ascending to heaven. Everything is sung; it is like a choir of angels are in our midst. The priest, deacon, readers and servers all wear beautiful vestments, reminding us of the exquisite beauty of God’s Kingdom.

And then there are the masks that all of the faithful wear, to cover their faces and protect them from disease. Liturgy means the ‘work of the people’, it is the body of Christ working together to praise and worship God. So what is the meaning of this corporate donning of masks in the midst of our liturgical work? It is impossible to ignore, it has become a central feature or our worship—as well it should—because, as I’ve already spelled out, everything about the Liturgy has been considered, everything matters for our salvation, every detail weaves into the tapestry of its beauty, its theological prowess, and its representation of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Centuries have gone into making the Orthodox Liturgy the beautiful tradition that it is; it is biblical, evangelical and fully sacramental. While one might overlook the dress of an individual, one can’t ignore when the entire body as a whole adopts a new custom in the midst of the Liturgy; it has become an integral aspect of our work together. So, what can the wearing of masks mean in our Liturgical celebration of the saving power of Christ, and of His victory over death?

Is our mask-wearing a manifestation of the beauty of God; or of our own beauty as humans made in the image and likeness of our creator? Or is it the opposite; hiding the beauty of creation? Do these masks in any way supplement or augment the beauty of the Liturgy, as all the other aspects of it do? Should we embroider the masks, and consider them a new part of the vestments worn by our clergy? Can we make our peace with masks in the Liturgy by considering them as something akin to head-coverings? But, unlike head-coverings, we find no biblical basis for masks. Or should we consider them like the wings of the seraphim; “with two wings they cover their faces”? But we aren’t the seraphim, and masks are not wings; nor do masks represent wings. What do they represent, and how do they fit into the beautiful Liturgy?

Perhaps they don’t, and they never will; nor can they fit into the Liturgy. Despite our efforts to ignore them, to overlook them, to rationalize them, to accept them, masks are not biblical, nor evangelical, nor even sacramental; and they don’t add to the beauty of our worship, nor do they find any place in our traditions. Masks don’t represent anything about God’s Kingdom, and they don’t help to bring heaven down to earth. Nor do they help us understand God’s Kingdom, or His love for us. There is nothing catechetical about them. In truth, there is no place for masks in our beloved Liturgy. Especially not in our Liturgy.

Ritual and symbol have power; our Liturgy has sacramental power. The instruments employed in our rituals have meaning and importance. We have introduced a Trojan horse into our sacraments under the guise of health and safety, which manifests as masks, and is the antithesis of everything our Liturgy represents. We Orthodox love paradox and here is one, an irony: masks are purported to protect us from death, yet they can easily be seen as the symbolic representation of our very fear of death.

Christ is the ultimate victor over death, the beautiful Orthodox Liturgy is our shared work in praise and thankfulness of His victory, and our freedom from death’s snare. We are hard-pressed to honestly and faithfully incorporate masks into this program of praise and worship.

~FS

The Dachshund Stagecoach Saves The Day!!! (A Contemporary Christmas Fable)

Hope springs eternal from the stomachs of dogs. And they are always eagerly on the lookout for their next good meal. Therefore, it was not surprising when the litter of dachshunds clambered excitedly up the staircase to awaken Mr Christianson, to arouse him to his morning duties, calling upon him to satisfy their hopes, and to fulfill their tiny tummies with something good from the kitchen cupboard. 

The old man loved his little dogs and he showered them with kisses; and they returned the favor, licking his cheeks while climbing over one another to get in the best positions for pats and pets. Back downstairs, they pushed and shoved to get the best positions in front of their food bowls, as the old man rained various delectables and delights down upon them—tasty tidbits and scrumptious savories, which they ingested voraciously and with gusto, leading to numerous belches and bellyaches moments later.

Next, they rested by the fire—shiny black and brown bodies piled one upon the other, and laid out prone upon the rug, and spilling over onto the hard wood floor. Their little pink bellies rose and fell as they slept, some snoring, with the occasional fart flattening the air. This was the sight and sound (and smell) of contentment. Mr Christianson watched them happily as he went about his business; his curious business.

The folks in town were perplexed when Mr Christianson first put up his sign for business: “Merrysville’s Dachshund Stagecoach” and then, “Rent us by the hour, or for the day!” Nobody had ever heard of, or had ever seen before, a Dachshund Stagecoach; and they looked at one another quizzically, and with the occasional snort and chuckle. One citizen quipped, “I’ll eat my shoes if he’s still in business in a month!” And that was the general consensus, that a stagecoach business in today’s world, was an anachronism by any measure, compounded and made all the more obsolete by the use of such tiny dogs, rather than horses.

Mr Christianson heard all of the negative remarks but he was undeterred. And within a few hours, he began to prove his naysayers wrong, when he had his first paying customers: a family visiting for the week, on vacation, who were captivated by the strange idea of a ride in a Dachshund Stagecoach. They paid cash for a three hour ride, and waited patiently outside while Mr Christianson went to the back of the building to prepare the coach. Curious onlookers lined the sidewalks in anticipation for their first peek at this new business; and they were delighted when the first pair of little dachshunds rounded the corner from behind the building, with a long chain of dachshunds following.

Mr Christianson made it a very merry sight indeed: with hand-knitted harnesses, knit in colorful yarn, looking like holiday sweaters for each of his pups, and with matching knit caps, and with jingly-bells, which jangly announced their arrival, for their safety of course (they are very little dogs after all), but also for joy. But who could have imagined the sheer number of dogs, for there were ever so many. As they rounded the building, two-by-two, it seemed as if they would never end. The kids began counting them out to each other, as they came rounding the corner, “There’s ten!”, “Now, there twenty!”, “Now even more!”, “There’s thirty!!”, then finally, “Forty!!!” Yes, there were forty proud dachshunds pulling the coach!

There at the helm, Mr Christianson sat, beaming and glowing and calling the names, of his beloved dear dachshunds at the end of his reins. “Pull Courage, Haul Patience, Yank Joyful and Tippy! Dig Justice, and Sloppy, and Prudence, and Hank!” All the tiny, warm canines pulled with delight, their long pointed noses showing the way, and the onlookers cheered them as they rode off into the night.

That was the beginning of something truly amazing in our little town of Merrysville, and as is so often the case, there are things that we never knew we needed, but then we find that we can’t live without. I’ve already warmed to the sound of the dachshund’s tiny feet, pitter-pattering down Main Street several times every day, and the sounds of the little jingly bells that they wear, and the colorful lights strung along their bright harnesses. It is hard now to imagine a time when we didn’t have the joyful presence of our remarkable Dachshund Stagecoach.

But it was one year quite recently when the townspeople realized with even greater wonder and with deeper depth, what an incredible and fortunate thing it was, to have Mr Christianson and his forty little dogs pulling that coach. It began in mid-winter, when a sudden cold chill blew in from the west and descended upon Merrysville, and the surrounding towns. With it came a feeling of fear and of darkness—very grim—like some invisible creature of dread had moved in. Nobody could say for certain what had happened, but everyone could feel it; some blamed this thing, and some blamed that, others said it must be something else, and some said it was nothing at all. But that nothing, or something had an appalling effect on everyone.

People stayed inside and barely ventured out, and they stopped visiting each other; family and friends hardly saw one another at all. Instead they ordered everything by phone and online, and if they did visit, they did so virtually, and never in person. Mr Christianson and his little dogs grew very busy that year, as demand for their services grew immensely, calling upon them to do all sorts of errands, making delivery upon deliveries. Certainly FedEx was speedier, but the dachshunds were much merrier; and no one could resist smiling joyfully, when they showed up en masse at one’s front door, with the groceries in tow, or something from the pharmacy, or just a simple letter from a friend.

The following Christmas was even darker and drearier than the months earlier, if you can believe it; it didn’t get any better at all. Compounding everyone’s ennui, the power went out, the stores all shut down, and even the roads were closed between towns! For a storm had come through and knocked the forest all down. Still, through all of this, Mr Christianson worked harder, and his little dogs were indefatigable—carrying folks to the hospital, or to the diner to pick up their Christmas meal-box—and especially delivering to her neighbors, hundreds of containers of Ms. McCleary’s famous cranberry sauce.

It was Christmas Eve day and Ms. McCleary was all in a tizzy, with so many jars of her famous jelly to be sent, and with all the roads closed, and so little time, she was fit to be tied. But in a moment of wisdom she picked up the phone and called Mr Christianson to get the job done. He arrived seconds later, truly heaven-sent, loaded the stagecoach and lickety-split, off he went.

At the end of the day, with all the packages delivered, he and his dachshunds drove past the town square, and there in the middle was a large Doug-fir tree. It was standing dark and forelorn in the center of the square, and was surrounded by dejected workers and volunteers. It was only hours away from the annual tree lighting party, but all the ornaments and lights hadn’t come; they were lost in transit somewhere along the way, and wouldn’t make it to Merrysville until the next day. What could be worse? But it was par for the course, with the sort of year they’d been having, it was hardly surprising, that something so dire was transpiring.

The workers and volunteers shook their heads in disgust, and the small group of school-children nearby kicked at the dust; what an awful bad year, what more could be done, so they all started to slough off back homeward in gloom. But Mr Christianson had an idea then, and he called to his dachshunds to drive to the tree-side. He unhitched them and raised them into the tree one-by-one, and they clung to the branches as he lifted others still higher, to the top of the tree. One volunteer stopped, turned and then smiled; next he called to the others and they all began to return. All the dachshunds were lit up with the lights from their harnesses, which Mr Christianson had woven into the fibers, and with their bright little sweaters and their colorful beanies, they looked like pretty ornaments covering the tree.

The children laughed and they pointed with glee, “Look! It’s a weiner dog Christmas tree!!!” And with that, they all ran off to tell their friends, to come see! Within the hour most of the townsfolk had come; and minute by minute more arrived, from nearby towns and from the countryside. And then something magical happened—something very needed and long awaited—the clouds which had hovered overhead for nearly a year, they parted, and with them the drear and despair lifted and folks started to smile. A sound was heard in the crystalline sky overhead, and the forty little dachshund noses pointed upwards to see; and folks glanced in the direction of those noses, and to everyone’s surprise a beautiful bright comet streaked on by!

Later that eve, as the townsfolk milled about, sharing Christmas cookies and stories, old Mr Christianson brought his dogs down from that tree. He harnessed them back to the stagecoach again, and offered all the children rides ’round the square for free. And as the colorful, magical Dachshund Stagecoach went about the crowded town square, the townsfolk began to sing a tribute:

“Merry Mr Christianson,

and his forty dashing dachshunds,

set out that dark ‘n dreary year,

they delivered Ms. McCleary’s cranberry sauce,

while spreading their holiday cheer!”

(Refrain):

“Jingle, jangle, jingle,

Pitter, patter, pitter, patter-patter, pit,

Jangle, jingle, jangle,

Patter, pitter, patter, pitter-pitter, pat.

It’s the Dachshund Stagecoach coming your way,

making your tears go away—

It’s Merrysville’s Dachshund Stagecoach ride,

now holiday joy’s here to stay!”

“Merry Mr Christianson,

and his forty dashing dachshunds,

saw that dark ‘ole Christmas Tree,

and they climbed it one by one,

filling it with weiner-dog glee!”

(Refrain)

“Merry Mr Christianson,

and his forty dashing dachshunds,

when everyone said there’s no way,

all the townsfolk moping and having no fun,

then the dachshunds saved the day!”

Yes, hope springs eternal in the hearts of men; someone said that once and it’s true. And while hope springs from a different organ in a dog, we’re not all that different—dogs and men—when it comes to hoping. And sometimes, when our hope is flagging, we just need a little encouragement; and that inspiration can come from each other, or it can come from our four-legged friends.

Just before midnight, on that Christmas Eve night, Mr Christianson finally brought his dogs home. It had been a long and a busy day and they were all ready to sleep. The dachshunds dragged themselves over the threshold and flopped in front of the fire—as he poured out the eggnog and fired up the grill. The smell of bacon filled the air and the dachshunds got their second wind; they shot up from the fire and over to the frying pan, hoping and expecting some fat, juicy bacon! Yes, hope springs eternal from the stomachs of dogs; I don’t believe anyone’s said that before, but it’s true. And there are very few things more worthy of placing one’s hopes, than in the kindly old Mr Christianson, and the sweet, meaty smell of fresh bacon!

The End

~FS

The Master Builders of Scandinavia

(or ‘How My Church Was Finally Built’) Part 2:

Mid-morning they took a break. My wife brought out coffee, their new favorite drink, and a muffin for them to share. Back home in Finland they drank nettle tea, which was a staple. Sometimes they added pine needles, or spruce in the proper season, when the needles are young and tender and sweet. And for the occasional pick-me-up they swore by birch-bark and peppermint which they ground up into a fine powder and sprinkled over the tea like we would do with cinnamon.

We sat down with them around the fire, and our dogs sat close beside us while warily watching our tiny visitors milling about. Aari Vitta, Analie’s older brother, tossed two morsels of bacon across the fire, one to Fritz and one to Rocco, and they devoured the little snacks eagerly. After that, our dogs viewed our new friends much more favorably. Where he got the bacon, I had no idea. I overheard Analie speaking with her mother about getting more eggs, they would need the yolks to mix with their pigments before they could begin work on the icons for the new church. She was the iconographer of the group, she and her mother who had originally taught her the craft. Though now, at the age of sixteen, Analie had already far exceeded her mother in ability. Her younger brother, Armas and their second-cousin Eero both chimed in excitedly, saying they knew where to get eggs, they had discovered chickens earlier in the morning, in a coop not far away, and they could show us where to find them! Their mother agreed, but reminded them that they aren’t thieves, and they’d leave something of value in return for the eggs they took.

So off we went in search of eggs: Analie, her mother, the two boys, and me with our two dogs. Patty, my wife, returned inside to clean up after the morning snack and to track down a plastic bag that someone requested to use as a tarp. At the mention of the word, ‘chickens’ both Fritz and Rocco grew very excited, and Fritz led the way, though he had no idea where he was going and needed to be called back to the correct direction on several occasions. The chickens were in a coop behind our neighbor’s house which wasn’t a long journey. As we entered the yard, Fritz caught the scent and ran barking excitedly after the chickens. Rocco, with much smaller legs, followed as best he could, with his tail held proudly in the air and waving back and forth behind him as he ran.

We gathered up two well-shaped eggs and Paivi, their mother, pulled from one of her many pockets a beautifully knit wool cap, which she lovingly placed beside the nest where we found the eggs. “We’ll leave that for them, it’s a fair trade, in truth they got the better of it. Back home this cap would be worth a half-dozen eggs.” And I believed her, as I peered down with interest at the finely crafted hat. Though I was hard-pressed to imagine how my neighbor might actually use the miniscule thing. Perhaps he could wear it as a finger-warmer, by pulling it over his pinky, or maybe his ring-finger, but certainly not his thumb. It would never fit, not without permanently stretching the little cap and ruining it.

When we arrived back in our yard the crew were all busy working. I was curious to see the progress so I walked up to one of the elders who clearly was running the show, and asked him how things were coming along. “Good. Good. Very good.” He replied while continuing to scrutinize the activities taking place all around us. I asked him how they all knew what to do, with no plans to follow. And I followed that question up with another, hoping to discover what my role was going to be in all of this. He told me to hold out my hands, and he inspected them both closely while laughing and shaking his head. “Not a callous to be seen! Those are the hands of a dreamer, not a worker. You’ll watch!” But, I protested. I let him clearly know I wanted to help. “Don’t you fret, be at ease my oversized friend. You have a very important part to play. We’re using your church design, don’t you know?!”

I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised. “But how did you know about that? I wanted to tell you, but hadn’t gotten around to it.”

“Your plans are hanging on the wall of your office. I made copies last night. See!” He pointed at a stack of tiny papers on a nearby rock. Peering closely I could see they were indeed my designs, but so tiny I could barely discern them. “I hand-drew them all myself last night,” he continued with a wave of his hand. Before I could reply he held his hand up, “Shush!” He said curtly. “Do you smell that? Wood preservative. Our secret recipe.” There was a pungent but pleasant smell filling the air; something like creosote but with a hint of pine. “Reminds me of pine-tar soap.” I remarked. “Mmmm,” he sniffed deeply. “I love the smell of wood preservative in the morning!”

He turned to me quickly and looked up into my eyes. I think. It is hard to tell what exactly he was gazing at from way down there; but I’m fairly certain he was staring me down, and about to make an important point. “And you should be happy! We’re using quarter-scale for this church. We never do that. We’re exclusively metric you should know; but it’s a concession to you. Your plans are all in imperial.” He rolled his tiny eyes and snorted derisively. He waved his hand dismissively, “It’s fine. You’re welcome. We’ll make do.”

However, I was disappointed. I had been of the impression that they would be building an actual full-scale church, and my life-long dream of creating a real church would come to fruition. Was this then to truly be the fulfillment of my dream, or only a partial, scaled fulfillment of it? I pondered this as we stood beside the fire, as very tiny men poured out glowing hot metal into forms, to create sections of a circular chandelier which would hang over the central crossing of the new church. I stared at the red, molten iron and considered this turn of events and what it meant for my dream. To my right, in the distance, sparks of brilliant white light showered the ground, while a little man welded two sections of the chandelier, which had cooled and were now ready for assembly. Where on earth did they find a MIG welder?! I was dumbfounded by, and admired their immense resourcefulness.

(to be continued)

The Podes have added circular icons to the central column structure, as well as the second level of columns, which will support a third level of stave columns, and then a dome of Christ Pantocrator, and finally everything enclosed by the roof structure:

Headline News For December 17, 2021

Now for the latest, most current and up to date news for your day. It has been a most spectacular and wonderful day today. At the beginning, the sun rose! And though the local cloud-cover made some people doubt this fact, it is absolutely true. Even so, we had a beautiful accumulation of various cloud formations which rolled through all day long, and these brought with them some rain, and limitless cause for amazement as they swirled and glided and changed shape and form; providing inspiration in whites and grays unlike anything else we’ve recently seen.

Among the birds, a small flock of chickadees were seen at a birdfeeder in the morning, followed later by another group of titmouses (titmice?). Whatever we should call them, they were all very happy and chirping as they ate, and afterwards they danced off upon the invisible breeze.

Trees continued to shed their leaves and prepare for winter. Quite a few shrubs followed suit and did the same. Many of these were very colorful, and some were less so, yet still of interest.

In the world of humans today quite a few things also happened. We should report that a large number of folks all around the world argued and then blamed one another, many also made fun of the others, and in the end they all pretty much wasted the time they’ve been given here, on grievances and prideful displays.  

Back to more interesting matters; the deer found some good things to eat and were seen itching themselves with their hind legs before bounding off into the woods. They were a beautiful display of God’s great imagination and love.

In other news today, many people availed themselves of the tremendous invitation and opportunity to seek God and pray. Those who took God’s will to heart, made efforts to forgive others and live with gratitude and thankfulness every moment. This occurred all day today, as in fact it occurs every other day as well. Nevertheless, this is big news!

And in the world of humans, on the smaller scale of face-to-face interactions, many kind gestures and happy moments were witnessed, and those who participated in these were enriched. And on the most intimate scale of the individual human heart, some hearts swayed toward the good, and some drifted to the bad, unfortunately. But tomorrow is another day, with fresh opportunity to choose the good.

In the soil today, we have big news. Numerous moles and earthworms were busy aerating. Several new mounds could be seen poking through the surface here and there, which testify to the activity of these subterranean creatures. Another example of God’s love and creativity.

That’s all the time we have for today. We thank you for looking to us for your daily news. This is the news you can trust. We know you have choices and we’re glad you choose us; the place for all the news that matters.

~FS