Monday, April 19, 2010

Caterpillars, Chrysalis' and Transformation

If you know me, you know that I have been blessed to have the opportunity for transformation - more than once or twice. After seeing this 9 minute segment of video I'm not sure if I've become a butterfly yet - as a matter of fact I'm thinking there is no way, not yet, ... I'm still moving from one caterpillar life to another. How surprising (but not really) It's all just a mystery isn't it?

On a late August morning, just north of Lake Huron, in Canada, a miracle of nature is about to unfold. This tiny caterpillar is destined to become a Monarch butterfly. In one of the most amazing transformations in the animal world, the caterpillar will outgrow and shed its skin four times. The fifth time, the caterpillar disappears. It's transformed into a chrysalis, a delicate case within which a completely new being takes form.

After about 10 days in the chrysalis, the new creature is complete. All traces of the caterpillar are gone, and in its place is a butterfly with four delicate wings.

But the newly developed Monarch butterfly must wait a few hours for its wings to harden, and then, finally, it can fly.

This particular generation of Monarch butterflies is special. Every year, about a hundred million of them begin an astonishing migration. Coming from southern Canada and the northeastern United States, each butterfly, starting on its own, flies about 2,000 miles, arriving two months later in Mexico.

Their trip is part of a carefully timed cycle that began three generations back, when a group of Monarchs left Mexico at the end of the winter. They flew as far north as the Gulf States, mated, and died.

The second generation flew to the northern United States. There, they, too, mated and died, living only about a month. Their offspring, the third generation, completed the last leg of the journey to Canada, also surviving only about a month.

But the fourth generation will live almost nine months. And they'll fly all the way back to Mexico in one epic trip. It's an amazing natural cycle that so far eludes explanation.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Swing

He was gently swinging at the end of the ropes.
Eyes shut, relaxed and drifting, he listened to the murmur of
the breeze that sang a lullaby as it swayed him back and forth.
And minutes floated away to the cadence of the swing.

So, Lord, I walk through the city as through a vast county fair,
and see men drifting, blown by the breezes of life.
Some smile, and yield to passing pleasures,
Others with taut faces curse the wind that shakes them
and knocks them into one another.

Lord, I want them to STAND up on their swings,
I want them to grasp the cord that you hold out to them,
I want them to harden their muscles and brace their vigorous
bodies, and STAMP on their lives the direction they have chosen,

For you do not want your sons to drift, but to LIVE!
~ Michel Quoist

I love this prayer - and for some reason I feel that I understand it better after a day on Mt. Elgon in Uganda. A sweet friend, Adam, lost his life there doing what he had found to do - LIVE. So, it was hard to understand or make sense of his death - it wasn't alright. And still, three years later it was/is hard to believe.

I know this - Adam really did "grasp the cord that was held out to him" ... and he did STAMP on his life the direction he had chosen. He LIVED. He lived in Jesus' name.

As Frederick Buechner says "We find by losing. We hold fast by letting go. We become something new by ceasing to be something old. This seems to be close to the heart of that mystery. I know no more now than I ever did about the far side of death as the last letting-go of all, but I begin to know that I do not need to know and that I do not need to be afraid of not knowing. God knows. That is all that matters."

So what does that mean for me? What am I finding? It means that I went to Uganda! It means that I want to lay down my "old self" and become something "new". I want to LIVE the way Adam taught me in his short life. I am finding that renewing my friendship with Ben (one of Adams brothers) is important because Ben has much to teach me. I am finding new friends and relationships that I never expected because I'm trying to grasp the cord held out to me. It means I am trying to lay down my life and be led into a new one - even though I can't see that far ahead. Thanks Adam! May we all find a way to "swing and live"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kirongo ... and a new name

Here are a few images (okay, a lot) from Kirongo. A beautiful village about 2 hours from Jinja. Several members were gathered under a tree waiting for our arrival. It was stunning for me to see Catherine (Elijah's wife) get on her knees to greet Ben. But I understand it is a sign of respect. Elijah is the leader of the village or clan. Catherine seemed so happy to see us. When she came to me and knelt I didn't know what to do, so I knelt beside her - and I held her hand and looked into her eyes and tried to express my thanks for her hospitality. Somehow I think we made a connection. She kept my hand and led me to a seat under a huge shade tree. We were told what we would be doing that day. Part of the visit was to get to know Elijah and Kirongo; another part was to do something special through the Mvule project (

The following picture is of Ben, Elijah and Mark - we were about to sit for chai and continue talking about the day. Abraham (director of the Mvule project is sitting near the entry way)

Now our tour of the village begins, first with coffee beans: (and of course children)

Catherine in the cooking hut

A water well in need of repair

vanilla beans growing on the vine

These next pictures are part of the reason for our trip. Mark and I wanted to honor a very special man - and could think of no better way than planting a Mvule tree for him. Elijah joined as we prayed a blessing over both - the tree and the man.

thanking Abraham for helping us with a very personal gift

Ben and Elijah plant a tree together

Natalie plants her tree with the help of Elijah and Sampson

After touring the village and many gardens for 3 hours we are back under the shade tree. Elijah and some other village leaders have a new name for me - it is Birungi and it means "all is well" "it is very good" This was really something to me because I am always quoting Julian of Norwich "All shall be well, and all SHALL be well, and all manner of things shall be WELL" Sometimes we just have to wonder at life - I love it! Now we are invited in for a meal. Afterward we must say our goodbyes and thank yous - an amazing day.

Catherine and I are saying good bye - such a sweet time

As we were leaving and headed back onto the bumpy road I was thinking of this quote, "The road goes ever on and on, Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow if I can..." JRR Tolkien
I am wondering ... "where am I going" ...

On the way to Kirongo

The drive to Kirongo (Chir-on-go) seemed like a very long roller coaster ride. The roads were dry - and red Ugandan dust swelled up with every lorry or car that passed. In some places the roads were very narrow - we drove through many villages ... there was a class underway beneath the shade of a big tree - we stopped at some places to look at buildings or a hut and we were almost always swamped by children - children with tattered clothing and beautiful faces - we were the spectacle - the thing that didn't fit the others ... the smiles were a miracle to behold. THEN, later my heart starts questioning will they have water, food, a place to sleep, love, care, education - what is their life really like?