Dancing with Elephants

Rachel is on tour in Southern Africa. She hopes to see elephants.

My Joyce and are reading Dancing with Elephants by Jerom Sawatsky.  Jerom helped us to recognize the elephants in our rooms and enjoy dancing with them instead of battling them.  Meet Jerom and get access to his books by clicking on Dancing.  Jerom maintains that life is an elephant, and certainty of death is another elephant we should learn to dance with.

Joyce is learning to dance with the elephant of arthritic pain; I am learning to dance with my weakening knees.  We have not yet finished reading Sawatsky’s book, but we know enough to recommend it. The last chapter we read introduced us to the vitamin “awe”.

Petunias on my back porch, visited by tiny pollinators

For years I have been in awe of the many kinds of pollinators: bumble bees, honey bees, wasps, butterflies, and moths that go about pollinating for the good of plants, animals, and humanity.  Only recently did I observe the tiny bees that visit the petunias on my back patio.  So I look at my petunias and take another dose of vitamin awe.

The story in the Genesis of the second day of creation provides a supply of vitamin awe. It is reported that God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them and it was so. . . . and God saw that it was good.” If the Genesis account of creation does not inspire the vitamin awe that satisfies your need, you may be awed by the possibility that  evolution began with the “big bang.”

Florida Beach Scene (from my collection of photos)

One day of  remembered “awe” moments began with an early Men’s Fellowship initiated by Pat, the chaplain of our Greencroft Unit.  We were to tell of memorable cars.  I recalled the years I had traveled the length of Florida, from the Keys, to Homestead and Miami, to Immokalee, to Sarasota and Tampa, to Tallahassee and Blountstown.  Now, I’m told that Florida is like a pond, after being swept with hurricane Irma’s winds.

This morning I read the on line edition of the Mennonite reporting on Mennonite communities the Puerto Rico and Florida in the aftermath of the hurricane.  Click here to get access to this late news from a Mennonite church perspective.  Anyone in the wake of a hurricane will benefit from Dancing with Elephants. 

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God, the President and me

The President in one of his better moods

Our activities director recently arranged for residents to see a movie titled “Amazing Love.” It featured the story of the OT prophet Hosea who believed that God wanted him to marry a prostitute. There can be no doubt that though Hosea loved the prostitute he must not have liked her unfaithfulness to him.  When she was sold as a slave, Hosea bought her and took her home, not because he had grown to like her, but because of his foolish love for her.

There is a an ocean of difference between love and like. The Bible view of God is of One who does not like us, but nevertheless loves us and sent Jesus to save us.   Remember that golden text that declares that God so loved the world that he gave his son that we might not  perish.

I like the statue of German Immigrants; I love Rachel, my daughter. Do you see her?

Is not this the mystery of the Gospel.  God loves Donald Trump as much as I am loved, although there is much about Donald’s behavior, and mine, that God does not like. Even I, finite as I am, do not like Donald Trump and sometimes I don’t like me very well.  I am trying to love Trump as God loves me.  I am reminded of a nursery rhyme that jumps at me out of childhood memories.  I think I can hear my mother saying it.  If I understand correctly, the author was a student at Oxford and Dr. Fell was the dean of the University.  It was first published with a collection of other nursery rhymes in 1926, the year I was born. Here it is:

I do not like thee, Dr. Fell.
The reason why I cannot tell,
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell.

I like the red wagon; I love the boy. He is Javier, my great grandson


Since the Bible asks me to love everyone, I’ll try to love Donald Trump the way God loves him and me.  Yet,”this I know and know full well, I do not like thee, Donald Trump” I do not like his behavior toward anyone who opposes him. I do not like the way he treats women, the poor, the weak, immigrants, or innocent dreamers. The Lord loves them all. We should beware of becoming like the President because I’ve been warned that Trump-ism is as easily caught as an out-of-control virus.  As an antidote for Trump-like arrogance I offer the following words from Peter’s epistle for us to mull over.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. . . . Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

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The pastor rows a boat

Likely the first picture after our arrival in Tampa. We are standing in front of the church

The building surrounded by water

News from Houston reminded me that I lived for 56 years on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico. My family and I arrived in Tampa, Florida on February 4, 1950.  Our daughter had her second birthday about a week after our arrival so her earliest memories are of Tampa memories.  The reason for our move from Pennsylvania to Florida was my assignment as the pastor of the church that met in the building on 1907 E. Ida St.

Perhaps the builders from Pennsylvania in 1928 were not aware that they were building on the edge of a pond that reappeared during torrential rains.  The most rain that I remember was of 21 inches in a 20 hour time period.  (Perhaps 20 inches in  21 hours.) That night I watched as water filled the driveway between the parsonage and the church building that led to the garage. I watched our wooden ladder float out the driveway.  Our daughter remembers that we had a flat bottomed row boat.  Neither she nor I remember how I came to have a boat, but we remember its use in this emergency.  Our neighbors from Puerto Rico were surrounded by water.  Rachel and their daughter spent hours playing in and out of our home.  It seemed normal and right that I should use our boat to take the little girl’s mother to higher ground to get food for her family.  I was reminded of my neighborly gesture by seeing on TV the use of fleets of boats to rescue endangered residents of Houston and cities in Texas.

The building under my tenure

As for our experiences with hurricanes,  we were told that when Native Americans sensed  a coming storm they clustered in the Tampa Bay Area because it was generally storm free.  During our years in the area, threatening hurricanes moved North on either side of the Tampa Bay area. But our daughter would add a foot note to say that she was in Tampa during a hurricane.

A google image of the church now

Though not well located, the meeting place itself was well built. It was eventually sold to a congregation of Black Baptists, still stands and is used to benefit neighbors.  It is now known as A Lighthouse for Jesus Christ, Inc. Three years ago an observer noted that “This is an awesome, Holy Spirit-filled church. Come worship with us and experience the awesome love of Jesus Christ. Sundays at 11:00 a.m., Wednesday evening Bible study at 7:00 p.m.” To listen to a youtube message from the Lighthouse click here

Our Puerto Rican neighbors still live in the house on Ida St.  Rachel and I visited them a few years ago and when we drove into the driveway I heard someone shout, “Brother Lehman is here.”

many memories
wakened by currant events
flood my mind today

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