Be the Miracle

Be the Miracle

Phillips Brooks, 1835-1893, was an esteemed clergyman, now best-remembered for composing the lyrics to the hymn ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Perhaps God’s most remarkable accomplishment is not that He can work miracles, but that He can work them through us. If we are willing.

“And then Jesus looked at them and said, ‘Humanly speaking, this is impossible. But with God all things are possible.’”

~Matthew 19:26

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Martin Molin’s Magical Musical Marble Machine

Guest Blog by Annika Perry

Swedish-born, British-bred poet-storyteller Annika Perry explores all kinds of marvelous topics, but I found this one particularly “marble-ous” (my pun, so don’t blame her)!

Marbles! From early childhood games, the trick to winning more marbles becomes an obsession and soon one small leather pouchful just isn’t enough! However, they quickly become a fleeting memory for most of us. But one Swedish musician’s interest in making marble machines only deepened…

During a visit to the Speelklok Museum of self-playing musical instruments in Utrecht, Netherlands, Martin Molin was inspired to combine his passion for making self-playing machines into his most audacious project yet.

Why be content with playing a conventional instrument when you can build a contraption that uses 2,000 marbles to create a unique and melodic tune? Each part of this magical marble machine was hand-crafted, beautifully carved and engineered with tracks, pulleys and funnels collecting and rerouting the marbles. It is a labour of love and a stunning work of art!

Originally Martin, a member of the Swedish folktronica band (folk music + electronica) Wintergatan, thought the project would take two months. 16 months later, his Marble Music Machine was finally ready. And he’d created a music box like no one has never seen!

At first, the sheer energy is noticeable. Martin powers up the machine with a hand crank. As the marbles are fed into multiple traveling caddies, they are cleverly dropped via programmable gates, thereby falling and striking various instruments. Watch & listen!

The array of instruments is astonishing: vibraphone, bass guitar, cymbal, emulated kick drum, high hat and snare drum, each using contact microphones. Martin says,

“Marble machines always make music, but I was thinking maybe I can make a programmable marble machine, that doesn’t make chaos but is actually controllable.”

He achieves this control through a music score which is stored on two programmable wheels utilizing Lego Technic beams and stud connectors to trigger armatures releasing the marbles and even allowing for key changes.

Fortunately, Martin’s passion for this unusual artform is flourishing and he has built a new and hugely ambitious Marble Machine X which utilises 50,000 marbles!

Marble Machine X

Martin’s original Marble Machine is on display and operating at the museum which inspired him, and I for one look forward to visiting Utrecht in the future to see and hear it in person!

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Unexpectedly Invisible

Some people lead highly visible lives. Some gather secrets unseen, and then go off to write tell-all stories. Still others are unintentionally invisible. But enough with all this profundity, let’s be shallow. Here are some people, objects and animals that are almost literally invisible.

Click on any image to enlarge it, to read caption, or to begin slide show.

“Almost everything important in life is invisible.” ~Nadja Sam

“There’s an inherent pleasure in being unseen.” ~Emily St. John Mandel

“I don’t know why people are so keen to put the details of their private life in public; they forget that invisibility is a superpower.” ~Banksy

“Invisibility can be good as a superpower. But psychiatry reveals people don’t like it very much.” ~Joyce Rachelle

“This invisibility has its drawbacks after all. Otherwise, I suppose, I might have spent a warm and comfortable night in bed!” ~The Hobbit

“It’s amazing how much power a smile holds. It’s contagious…it’s also the most powerful camouflage. For that person who seems to have it all together is merely masking the pain of drowning tears. Don’t be so quick to assume.” ~Brittany Burgunder

“You see, the strangeness of my case is that now I no longer fear the invisible, I’m terrified by reality.” ~Jean Lorrain

“We think,” said Silverfish, leaning closer, “that he found a way of making himself invisible.” “Really?” “Because,” said Silverfish, nodding conspiratorially, “no-one has seen him.” ~Terry Pratchett

“You’re only as invisible as you feel.” ~Michelle Cuevas

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My Life of Happy Materialism in London

Photo by Joshua ChandlerPhoto by Joshua Chandler

When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life. Along the way, I wrote a travel journal, a mix of prose and poetry, and labelled it Fool’s Odyssey.

My first real day began with an inhuman lack of sleep and a maliciously lingering fever. But I was anxious to squeeze the juice from life, so I took the Tube and bought a ticket for a West End show. I explored, ate Indian food for the first time, and went to the theatre!

I have no idea what the play was. Before the third act, about to enter vertical sleep, I left for my B&B, and fell into bed at 10. Amazingly, I slept better than any rock ever did, and awoke at 8, alert, feverless and famished–for everything.

At a Soho creperie, I guzzled coffee and planned the day ahead, and then, out the window, watched the sun…set. Wait–what?

“Excuse me, waiter. Why is the sun setting at 8:30?”

“It usually does at night, sir.”

“Night?”

“Take the wrong exit, did you? This is England, not Iceland.”

I’d slept for 22 hours! Still undaunted, I planned my wonderfully meaningless future.

For the world is in their hearts

and no one can know the meaning of life.

Abandon this search, I told myself.

For there is nothing better than that a man

Should rejoice in his accomplishments.*

Oh, those natty, woolen suits, they suited me well! I dreamed of owning a bunch, and of dating tight tee-shirted blondes like the ones in the Underground ads, and of having a fresh-squeezed, spit-clean Rolls-Royce in my colour-of-choice, and of being civilized and drinking gin. I’d stop searching and let my life begin! I’d want what I wanted, and be as wanton as they come.

And so it began, this vision of want and of have and of get,

To ravel itself around my brain.

I’d poked about in the ashes and found

A lovable con-artist in me.

I’d learned to “look out for number one.”

How good, how fun!

I’d be at the civilized center of self-esteem

And never repent of this new dream.

I’d run through the door of that old hotel

Like a six million dollar man,

Spitting out splinters, the knob still in my hand.

And all of the way down to Harrod’s, I’d plan.

I’d live in a would-be-could-be world

where I was arrogant and fine,

and paralyzed profits and crucified time.

I’d ranch the prairies

And build a dynasty:

“Someday, little darlin’, this’ll all be yurs,

as fur as the eye can see.

They’s gonna be a town over there,

and dogies, little dogies everwhur.

And we’ll name the town after our son,

and he’ll be rich and subjugate poor people,

just like we taught him to do.”

*Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 (paraphrased)

To read the next episode, click here.

fools-odyssey-title-art-2

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Poetry, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

A Lesson From the Chinese Bamboo Tree

CaptureMy Featured Blogger this week is Victor Negro, author, philosopher, founder of Evolving Minds Training and Consulting Personal Development and leader/teacher at The Sophia Club of Nigeria.

Never stop watering you dreams!

The Victor Negro

The Chinese bamboo tree takes five years to grow. The seed is planted, watered and fertilised every day but it doesn’t break out of the ground till after five years. Once it breaks through the ground, within five weeks it grows to 90 ft tall.

The question is: did the bamboo tree grow in five weeks or in five years? It grows 90 ft tall in five years! Because, at any time if the person stops watering and fertilising the dream of the bamboo tree, it would have died in the ground.

To some people, the five years that the bamboo seed is being watered seemed like foolishness. Why are you watering what is not growing? You’ve been out here for a long time; go get something else to do! You could hear people asking these questions with good intentions. It’s like hearing people say “how long have you been…

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Weird Eddie

'Grasshopper Face' by Boris Smokrovic (unsplash.com)‘Grasshopper Face’ by Boris Smokrovic (unsplash.com)

My Real Memoir

Eddie was different. He sort of looked Chinese, and I liked that. He also talked different, and very little. And even though he was bigger, he didn’t seem as smart as me, but I didn’t mind. His mom seemed grateful when I visited, and offered non-stop treats. But Eddie had two big obsessions which kept us outside.

First, he collected string. Even the tiniest pieces were treasures. The moment Eddie found one, he’d add it to his humungous ball of string. Which I found kind of boring. But what happened next wasn’t!

One day, Eddie took his giant ball of string to a big tree out front, and began ceremoniously stringing it from limb to limb. He started with the lowest limbs, then climbed to reach the rest–and I got to help. After two days, the tree was a colossal spider’s web of string!

And then the fun began.

Eddie climbed up above the highest strings, and then dove down into the spider’s web, bouncing from level to level until he’d reached the ground! And so I did it too. It was epic! Once we’d reached the grass, we did it again! And again, and again, until we’d finally broken most of the string. Then Eddie began lovingly re-building his giant string ball for some future colossal spider’s web event!

Eddie’s other obsession was collecting grasshoppers. Cool, yes, but… He’d add the grasshoppers to his Red Flyer wagons after tearing off one of their legs in order to make them stay. “No!” I shouted, and ordered him to stop! But he absolutely refused. Which was not OK with me (remember the parakeets?).

So one day, while Eddie was inside, I pulled his wagons to the front yard and set all 200 grasshoppers free! When Eddie came back out, he was devastated. He screamed forever it seemed, and then sat down and began tearing up of handfuls of grass. I went home, thinking, Boy, Eddie really is weird.

I felt good, heroic, noble. So, even when Eddie’s mom told my mom about the Great Grasshopper Liberation, I refused to apologize. I was grounded for a week, but even then refused to relent. It turns out I rather enjoyed martyrdom.

Mommandad finally sat me down and explained: Eddie was what some people back then called a “mongoloid,” a type of “retarded” boy (he was much older than me), which gave him those “Chinese” eyes* I liked. He wouldn’t be going to kindergarten with me that fall, or ever, they said.

After that, I felt bad for Eddie and sort of apologized. On some level, it seemed, he was a one-legged grasshopper. But when school began and I found myself surrounded by “normal” kids, I suddenly felt like Weird Eddie myself. So from then on I made a point of befriending other weird kids…

Like me. 

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

*Some people with Down Syndrome (the old term “mongoloid” was based on outdated, racist theories) have slightly upward slanting eyes.

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Slow-Growing Beauty

Magnolia buds

Thought for the Week

I took this photo of magnolia buds on a recent walk. It may be the only time I’ve ever snapped a shot of tree buds. In fact, I rarely even notice them. Instead, early each spring I look at the “empty” tree limbs and wonder when they’ll ever “come to life.”

But of course, they already have.

Long before any signs appear, life is at work within them. And then the first signs—tiny, nascent buds—become visible. But only to those who look closely.

When we moved to Ohio, I noticed that redbuds were among the first trees to blossom in the spring, and that, although their flowers were beautiful, they were pink, not red.

“So why are they called redbuds,” I wondered aloud.

“Well, duh,” my wife gently replied, “because their buds are red.”

Why hadn’t I noticed that? Because I’d never actually looked at their buds. Once I did, I realized they had a beauty of their own, a subtle slow-growing beauty.

How many people are like that? Tragically, some never reach full flower at all. But others simply take a long, long time to get there. And so we fail see their sleepily developing promise of beauty. Instead, we see only their rough and scarred bark.

Maybe, if we look closer, we’ll learn to see the nascent good in others, to recognize their slow-growing beauty. And when we do…

Maybe they’ll even see it in us.

“How many thorns of human nature are bristling conceits, buds of promise grown sharp for want of a congenial climate?”

~John Burroughs

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No Room for Death

jesus-walking-out-of-tomb-1030x1030

              “Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”                ~Clarence W. Hall

“A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi

“There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou – Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.”
~Emily Bronte

He has risen!

~AΩ~

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Sunday’s Comin’! But meanwhile…

“Just as when we were children, we were afraid to be alone in the dark and could only be assured by the presence of someone who loved us. Well this is exactly what happened on Holy Saturday, the voice of God resounded in the realm of death. The unimaginable occurred; namely, love penetrated Hell.”

 ~Robert Cardinal Sarah

~AΩ~

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , | 37 Comments

Hope Springs…

Hope doesn’t float, nope, it springs. Around this time every year God reminds us he hasn’t given up on us yet.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast
Man never is, but always to be blest
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home
Rests and expatiates in a life to come”

~Alexander Pope

Click on any image to enlarge it, or to begin slideshow.

“When there is nothing left to learn from the winter, move on to the spring!” ~Mehmet Murat ildan

    “You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.” ~Pablo Neruda

“What a strange thing
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms”
~Kobayashi Issa

         “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~Margaret Atwood

“If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.” ~Victor Hugo

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” ~Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyła)

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight

At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more

When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death

And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

~C. S. Lewis

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