I remember the glimpse.

One of the hikers next to me suddenly said, “I think I see a large mammal over there!”

All four of us looked over there.

I saw it. The “large mammal” was maybe two hundred yards away: a bear.

On the third day of our church backpack, camped at 9,100 feet near a lake, and chatting after a leisurely lay-over day breakfast, we’d spotted a smallish bear. Call it St. Bernard-sized, probably a year or so old. Really, for a bear, being compared to a St. Bernard means that it’s small!

Epiphany – Transfiguration Sunday  – for March 6, 2011

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Matthew 17:2)

The Ursus Americanus—the Latin name I’m sure any self-respecting black bear would deny ever using—trotted along the lake’s shore, heading away from us. I knew, having explored that area yesterday, the bear headed for a granite-bound drop in elevation to a valley below our lake basin.

We spread out, cameras ready, seeking the bear.

Since "my" bear vamoosed, this image is courtesy of

No bear.

No bear anywhere.

South, north, no bear. I looked up the ridge, down the ridge. No bear.

In the handful of seconds it took us to scurry to the bear’s last location, the bear had vanished. It seemed a daytime mystery, a sunlit ghost.

All we got was a glimpse. But the bear had been there. All of us had seen it. Four pairs of “there’s a bear!” eyes weren’t lying.

Glimpses are essential parts of our faith experiences. A glimpse of truth can last a lifetime. A sudden and singular idea—often depicted as a light bulb clicking on in a cartoon—can burn brightly in our minds for years until the irrepressible thought becomes reality. Continue reading →

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420 Seconds

The train didn’t roar by, nor thunder past, nor cannonball to the north.

Forget any exciting verb to depict the freight train’s actions while it crossed—and therefore blocked—an intersection while I idled, stalled with other drivers.

I’d left home planning arrive early for a meeting. Now would I make my appointment as “early” departed on what seemed like the west coast’s slowest train?

I glanced at my rear view and spotted a guy approach and abruptly brake. He sat alone in a wide cab. A delivery truck, maybe. Even before he completely stopped, his face contorted in anger. He slammed the cab’s ceiling with his fist. Once. Twice. And again. Though I had no idea what prompted his anger, his blatant displays of agitation and disgust continued over the next few moments.

The 8th Sunday of Epiphany – for February 27, 2011

And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. . . (Matthew 6:28-29)

But only for a few moments.

Though the train traveled with the haste of a turtle bored with speed, after my arrival it took about seven minutes for the last car to rattle through the intersection. The warning lights ceased flashing; the crossing guard gates swiveled skyward. Seven minutes max. 420 seconds. I’ve watched Tom Colicchio, co-host of Bravo’s Top Chef, whip together a stunning meal in fewer ticks of the clock than the time it took for the traffic to get moving again.

And yet how troubled the fellow behind me seemed. How do we describe it sometimes? He was “beside himself.” Or “not himself.” His troubles made him act like a caged animal inside his truck.

420 seconds.

Jesus said, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

If we’re not troubled, we humans find a way to become troubled. As technology accelerates, time shrinks and the tasks we add to our multi-tasking expand. We bemoan a microwave’s delay, curse a jet plane arriving a half-hour late after a cross-country flight, and casually add another appointment to the schedule that means every signal light will have to turn green for us to get across town. We live in anguish, as if our kitchen appliance or the jet stream at 30,000 feet or the city’s signal lights is out to get us.

We invite troubles in and frequently never let go of them.

You want to understand real trouble?

Read Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 bestseller Unbroken–A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The book follows the life of Louis Zamperini, born in 1917 and a veteran of World War II. While flying a search-and-rescue mission, his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. Only three crewmembers, including Zamperini, were able to scramble into life rafts. During the next days—I won’t tell you how long, but it’s loooong—they drifted: at the mercy of the currents, with the sun beating down, with little food, and threatened continuously by sharks. But it got worse because they’re eventually rescued by . . . the enemy. Zamperini will look back at the time in the raft as if it were a pleasure cruise.

How did he survive? Continue reading →

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This Amazes Me

Lightning struck twice.

However, what bothered me first was a bug that flitted by. I swiped at it. Missed. There it came again, angling up to the left. Oops, to the right. Then the erratic little creature vanished.

The persnickety insect was followed by lightning, brief slashes of light from a distant storm seen from the corner of my left eye. Ah-oh. The bursts of white streaks were not from bad weather brewing far away, but inside my head.

The 7th Sunday after Epiphany – for February 20, 2011

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD… (Leviticus 19: 18)

Almost two years ago, I experienced flashing lights and floating debris (“bugs”) in my right eye. An ophthalmologist diagnosed PVD, or posterior vitreous detachment. As a handy-dandy Wikipedia article states, “The vitreous humor fills the eye behind the lens. At birth it is attached to the retina. Over time the vitreous changes, shrinking and developing pockets of liquefaction, similar to the way a gelatin dessert shrinks, or detaches, from the edge of a pan over time.” My gelatin dessert had shrunk again, this time on the other eye. Thus, lightning struck twice.

The physician (same guy as before) poked and prodded my view to the world and, like any good stand-up comedian on tour, described my situation with the identical joke from my first visit: “Most people get PVD because of birthdays.” Continue reading →

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