Glimpsing Danaus Plexippus*

Luke 24:36b-48 – The 3th Sunday of Easter – for April 22, 2012

“You are witnesses of these things…” (Luke 24:48)

I swerved, just missed a butterfly smacking me.


(Image by via Flickr)

However—since I’m a 200-pound guy, and I rode my bicycle at 20mph, and a goofy-looking helmet protected my noggin—should it be: I avoided hitting a butterfly?

After all, who would’ve suffered more from actual impact? Chunky Larry or Madame Butterfly?

I’d been dashing along the bike trail, admiring the scenery, alert to other bicyclists and the occasional walker, mostly minding my own business. Then, whoosh! On the extreme left side of my peripheral vision, a winged creature spiraled into view. Duck…swerve…whoa! All creatures great and small survived the near miss.

It was my second butterfly encounter within the week. A few days before I lounged in a lawn chair after finishing yard work. Just passing the time. Just enjoying a spring afternoon. And then, floating by the orange tree, I spotted a monarch butterfly. For a leisurely moment, the Danaus plexippus did what butterflies do so wondrously well: it flitted about, a splash of brash gold and black against the tree’s green backdrop. Unlike an anxious, frenetic hummingbird or the proverbial buzzing (and so business-like) bee, the butterfly bided its time.

I watched, amazed at how my mind wandered until the insect disappeared into the neighbor’s yard.

Didn’t I see more springtime butterflies when I was a kid? Was that because I was a curious kid rather than a busy adult? Or, with the continuing onslaught of asphalt and concrete, with pesticides and global warming, have humans made the world more perilous for monarchs and their fellow winged Lepidopteras? I fear it’s more the latter than the former.

I then thought of Dan, a friend and pastor in the California town of Pacific Grove, the self-proclaimed “butterfly capital of the world.” There, monarchs arrive from a two thousand mile journey, creating an annual explosion of fragile glory. Viewing my temporary backyard companion prompted a brief prayer for Dan. I enjoyed the winged reminder of my buddy. Continue reading →

Not Limp, Tame, Cautious or Safe

Mark 1: 21-28 – The 4th Sunday after Epiphany – for January 29, 2012

“They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this…’” (Mark 1:27)

I entered the post office. Waiting in line, I grasped a shopping bag holding twenty-one copies of my book, A Companion for the Journey. Identical in size, weight and packaging, they were ready to mail.

For practical and humble reasons, I planned to send them to clergy friends. Companion is my book and I’m proud of the accomplishment.

Practically speaking, I’d like to sell enough to cover printing costs. With books heavy in hand, I also think ministers are a good audience to generate word-of-mouth. Buzz. You know: they’ll tell other clergy pals to spring for a copy; they’ll tell a layperson or ten that Companion (by that swell fellow Larry) is worth a read. However, I’ll readily admit self-published also means selfishly-published. It’s not only about selling enough to keep a bottom line in black ink. Please read it and like it (as we declare in the gospel according to Facebook). Ah, ego.

Now, about humble as my other reason . . .

“Sir, can I help you?”

Oops! It’s my turn at the post office window. I stepped forward, hoisted the bag of nouns and verbs onto the counter space papered with official USPS notes to customers. I stacked the ready-to-mail packages of vanity in front of the clerk.

“Same size, same weight,” I said. Since I’d used my handy-dandy Martha Stewart kitchen scale at home, I added, “They’re each about seven point seven ounces.” Didn’t I sound like an expert? (Or a babbling fool?)

“You’re right,” she replied after weighing a book. The clerk consulted a list taped to the counter and then gazed at me. “Are they all domestic?”

I paused. I didn’t hear domestic. Instead, had she wondered if they were . . . domesticated? Maybe it’s because I’m anxious about sending books to friends. Maybe it’s because my mind continuously plays weird word games. Regardless, I asked, “What do you mean by domes–” Continue reading →

As Is

Mark 1:14-20 – for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany – January 22, 2012

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near…” (Mark 1:15)

It's what's on the inside, ever so briefly, that matters most...

It could be said—only jokingly, of course—that if the New Testament is the Internet, then Mark’s Gospel is Twitter.

The second Gospel (and first written) starts with a gallop and races toward its conclusion. No frills, lots of thrills. Jesus’ comments come with the urgency of someone screaming “Duck!” because an errant ball hurled by Tim Lincecum is headed your way.

  • The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.
  • Follow me and I will make you fish for people. 
  • Be silent and come out of him!
  • Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.
  • I do choose. Be made clean.

Those are the first five comments—couldn’t they easily be tweeted?—by the Nazarene in Mark. Brevity? You bet! These sayings, if you count all the tweet-ready words, punctuation and spaces are, in order: 101, 46, 30, 120 and 27. Tweet on, Jesus!

Some scholars suggest Jesus’ first words in Mark represent his ministry’s essence. Those 101 words—in English, able to be tweeted without substituting “&” for “and” or deleting commas or periods—are as abrupt as they are clear. This scholarly claim could be frustrating if a New Testament expert desires to write an insightful bestseller for the masses. After all, who could make money on a book that doesn’t have to be much longer than a few paragraphs? God is near. Transform your lives. Believe in the good news. That’s all, folks!

Brevity has also underscored the best of my private life and public ministry . . . Continue reading →