Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pellets, Power and Pony Tails

Brennan Manning in his Ragamuffin Gospel recounts a story about the old Rabbi Abraham Heschel. Heschel speaks from his weakness after a heart attack, "Sam, never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me." Manning goes on to say "a Philistine will stand before a Claude Monet painting and pick his nose; a person filled with wonder will stand there fighting back the tears." The paragraph caught me up short: do I notice the wonder of God around me? Have I gotten so busy with living life that there is little life in my living? So I paused and said a prayer myself: "God, I've asked for everything Heschel didn't ask for and didn't get the measure I was expecting, which has been a good thing mostly. I too often failed to live life with a sense a of wonder. Would you please grant this to me, at least in ways I might see it and thank You for it?" So here are a few things that have captured my imagination, my sense of wonder, curiosity, and at times even awe. They are no doubt small things and I hope to see greater wonders but maybe being able to see a few wonders in small things is a wonder itself. Pam and I were leaving Sonic after a night on the town, especially a night when the burgers are half price, when I saw her. "She" is not the right term, for I never actually saw the girl. But "she" was riding in the pick-up in front of us sitting close to her boyfriend when "it" caught my eye. Her pony tail was swishing back and forth with every look to her boyfriend and every turn and bump of the truck. It fascinated me, but honestly, and you will just have to believe me here, not in a lecherous sort of way but more of a life affirming sort of way. The pony tail was oblivious to leading economic factors, who was favored for the Super Bowl or the Oscars, or how the latest legislative agendas were progressing in Austin or Washington. It seemed to have a life of it's own as it kept its almost metronomic rhythm whether she was turning to her friend or going straight down the rode. I thought the dear girl has no idea what a good time she is having. She, because she is human, has cares and worries but the pony tail told a different story from everything else in life at that moment. Independence, life, joy, spontaneity bounded along at thirty miles an hour and it tickled me like a grandchild's laugh. I enjoyed the 30 second show and I wondered how many other things around us have their own rhythm that display freedom, joy, and life but I miss them in my trying too hard to find them?' Another "wonder-full" moment occurred when the Super bowl storm of 2011 hit. I looked out into the back yard after the storm hit and saw them. There they were dancing, bouncing, rolling and blowing: snow pellets. They weren't snow flakes, they weren't hail, they weren't sleet but snow pellets. I went out to play. I rolled them on my fingers. I squished them with my thumb. I caught them on my tongue. I scooped a handful and threw them into the air again to watch them fall and bounce off the sidewalk. It looked like the Dippin' Dots ice cream cart had overturned in the mall. How could they be so symmetrical? How did they get so perfectly round? How did these soft pellets not flatten when they hit the ground? 'How' gave way to "how long" and in a few minutes the pellets were changed. Did the temperature one hundred yards in the air change a half of a degree so that pellets no longer formed? Did the humidity change two percent and turn pellets into flakes? There are scientific and meteorological reasons for snow pellets to form but the reasons don't replace the wonder that in the right conditions 372 snowflakes got together and said "let's snuggle" and rolled themselves into a ball. Nature is dazzling in its beauty and variety even when you know the "reason." Reason doesn't replace wonder, in fact, it can enhance it when you realize that the reasons aren't always going to be perfect to form snow pellets. So every once in a while the reasons come together and the wonder of snow pellets dance, bounce, and roll through you own yard and 56 year old cynics turn playful. Maybe that's the real wonder. The stadium alone costs over a billion dollars. The preparations for the super bowl, the advertisements, the security, the entertainment, the food, the hotels, and a thousand other details probably added up to another billion dollars or at least in the tens of millions. Man power, Wall street power, electric power, Madison Ave. power, Hollywood power, celebrity power, you name the power it was focused on Cowboys stadium for the Super Bowl game. Then a half-inch of ice and temps in the teens turn the billion dollar dream into a nightmare. There are some "powers" even the NFL and Jerry Jones can't control. In the early scientific days it was believed that there existed four elements: wind, fire, earth, and water. The Super Bowl storm organization didn't invite 'fire' and the combination of the other three was devastating to man-made systems everywhere. To humanity that values its own omnipotence the reminder of stronger powers was a wonder to behold. "We are masters of our own destiny!" Tell that to the ice. God of Wonders beyond our galaxy, You are Holy, Holy. The universe declares your Majesty; Your are Holy, Holy. Lord of Heaven and Earth; Lord of Heaven and Earth. Chris Tomlin Still Being Wowed, Cos