Thursday, January 26, 2012

Going up

Two evenings ago a large pole shed went up in flames just a couple miles from where we live. I saw the billows of black smoke just off to the south of the highway as I drove home from work. A brief glance through the trees gave the hint of an intense fire. We found out through Facebook just an hour later that it belonged to a neighbor of someone who goes to our church. According to the newspaper report, the fire started in a car that someone was repairing. The shed was fully engulfed by the time the fire trucks arrived, so they focused on saving the nearby house and keeping the (full) 500 gallon propane tank that was behind the shed from exploding (apparently it did get hot enough to vent some gas, which promptly combusted). Everything in the shed was lost, which included vehicles and yard equipment. Fortunately no one was injured.

I read another FB posting today of a spaghetti dinner benefit for a man whole lost his entire home and a dog to a fire last fall.

Things can change quickly. I hope the family's neighborhood, friends and church (if applicable) show support in some way. Insurance can help replace the stuff; a more personal touch is needed to help with the emotional aftermath.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Path Between the Seize

Several characters loom large in the tale of the Panama Canal, told aptly by David McCullough in his book "The Path Between the Seas". Ferdinand de Lesseps, Philippe Bunau-Varilla, Teddy Roosevelt, John Stevens, George Goethals. Movers and shakers. Entrepreneurs. Go getters.

To many they were heroes, willing to go up against tremendous challenges, staring Goliath in the face and not backing down. Each displayed different strengths. de Lesseps was the consummate ambassador, able to whip up a crowd one person at a time as well as en masse. Bunau-Varilla was a chess player, moving political and technical pieces, and sacrificing pawns if necessary. Teddy Roosevelt was, well, Teddy Roosevelt and at least as far as the Canal operation was concerned, he was a visionary and a power plug. John Stevens, while less interested in politics, nevertheless was able to match the tool to the job unlike any before him.  Goethals both relished the power given to him and dispensed it with great effectiveness, meeting every setback with dogged determination.

Along with their strengths came some weaknesses, of course.  They were human.  And the greater the power, the greater the opportunity for it to be misused and for collateral damage, intended or not.

How does one draw lessons from such people? Many details of their lives are lost to history, or at least greatly dimmed by the fog of time and variant opinion.  The context for their behavior cannot be fully known, as it can not be known even for our closest friends.

Perhaps it is best just to paint with broad, brush strokes and keep the pointing fingers in our pockets.  After all, God has already given us the lessons we need to learn and the canal we need to travel. Staying in the Water of Life is the surest way of getting from this life's sea to the next.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Taking It To Heart

I'm sure you've been told, probably more than once, some of the amazing statistics concerning the human heart.  It beats over 2.5 billion times in the average life span, moving around 1800 gallons of blood a day. There are many others.  My plunge into the wonders of the heart began 12 years ago when I switched jobs to work for a medical device company that makes pacemakers and implantable defibrillators. During that time one of the things that has impressed me most about the human heart is its ability to keep functioning to some degree in the face of all sorts of insult and injury. Starve it of oxygen by clogging arteries. Kill off some of the tissue. Poison it with chemicals.  Stick some wires in it.  It still keeps on beating.  Maybe a little slower, maybe not quite so coordinated, maybe part of it goes nuts for a while. But it can still move some blood around.

It's a good thing too, because when it quits, you quit (unless you happen to be on the operating table getting a transplant).  So we exercise and try to eat right to keep our hearts fit and keep the plumbing open to ease its job of moving blood around, bringing oxygen to our brain and tissues.

There is another heart that we talk about sometimes, the heart of our mind. The inner sanctum of our will. That place that Jesus talks about so much. The thought strikes me: is my spiritual heart as resilient as my physical heart? How much spiritual exercise am I getting, and what sorts of spiritual food am I taking in?