Thursday, March 14, 2019

Precious Time

No doubt about it now. Looking for evidence of spring is the surest way to find it. Today's walk took me far afield of the church neighborhood. I drove over to McLean, to take advantage of the timing before an afternoon meeting there.
I have crossed over Pimmit Run many times, without realizing its place in the geography of these parts. There is an extensive trail system following that Run, I've found out, and one can wander natural areas of geography, as long as the land isn't good for building houses. I suspect that this natural watershed floods often, and so would wash away structures like houses. It leaves the streambed and surrounding flood plains clear, to be claimed by any park system that wants to preserve them.
Very large houses have been built overlooking this streambed. They seem high enough to avoid all but the most serious of flood threats. However, "100-yr" floods have been happening all over the country. What would it take to flood these homes and inflict 7-figure losses on their owners? I wonder how long it will take us to realize the folly of building such mansions in a world of global warming? By the year 2050, the houses perched above this streambed may be holding 2, 3, or even 4 families. I hope that the occupants realize how fortunate they are to live in the 2020's.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Community Infrastructure

I started out on time today, walking north on Military Trail with beautiful sunshine. I noticed the heavy power lines that follow this section of roadway, and then cross the road a little beyond Donaldson run. Overhead the trees compete with the powerlines. Looks like someone needs to referee this conflict! We need both the trees and the powerlines.
 It got me thinking about all the infrastructure that is needed to keep this neighborhood together--physical, spiritual, etc. Someone has to maintain all this. We're living organisms, embedded in other systems of living organisms, and there have to be things holding us all together.
I crossed the road at Donaldson Run and wandered into the trail that follows the stream, down the stairs leading to stepping stones over the water. It beckoned me over. Since I was well-shod I attempted it, and made it!
I wandered up the hill, into what later proved to be Potomac Overlook Park, another system of natural infrastructure, well-integrated into the homes that surround it. Someone is maintaining these trails, as the signs say.

Every three to five minutes a plane flies overhead. Landing patterns at Reagan National Airport use approach paths over the Potomac River--an example of the trasportation infrastructure that binds people together.
At sometime in the past, people gathered at the overlook to watch the river. It was said that people could see the 4th of July fireworks on the Mall from this spot on the river. Now trees block the view except in winter time.
I made my way back through the Potomac Overlook park after taking a detour to see as much of the river as I could.
How is a church related to the neighborhood infrastructure?  What part does it play in binding people together? And what happens if we stop maintaining it?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"when you pray, move your feet..."

I got a late start today. Passing down the steps to Memorial Garden, to admire the snow drops blooming (thanks, Lola!) I took the route North on the big street in front of the church. It's a busy street, moderate traffic for a residential neighborhood, cars, cyclers, joggers, and hikers like me. Hardly anyone obeys the speed limit (including me, when I drive away from the church). So I prayed for everyone who passed me--that they arrive at their destination safely, and that they would have a blessed day while enjoying this outdoor sunshine.
 More things to notice when walking instead of driving:
1) The hills are really apparent to a walker along this route. I huffed and puffed my way up and down, up and down, crossing three drainage 'runs' that intersect the street. Up one hill, down to the next stream. Repeat. I noticed one stream goes under the street into a culvert that disappears under the hill on the other side. It's exit is not visible. But water has to go somewhere. I'm hoping that the houses in its path have waterproofed basements.
2) I didn't know that there is a network of trails through these woods. One can hike from here, the Gulf Branch entrance, to Theodore Roosevelt Island via a section of the Potomac Heritage Trail.
3) The little signs labeling native plants at the Gulf Branch trail entrance are in need of some attention.
4) Donaldson Run Civic Association posts its newsletter in a nice boxed sign at the park.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Mon March 11

My birthday!  I'm continuing my Lent discipline of walking for one hour every day until Easter. When I'm around the church, I intend to start at noon, just when the church chimes are sounding. Today I was curious to hear if the chimes made the adjustment to Daylight Savings Time. I remember in years past that they didn't. Today, yes, right on time at noon! They chimed the 12 notes for the hour and then played "Lift High the Cross" which I remember was a favorite of one of a former parishioner, now singing in the heavenly choir. Lots of fond memories as I headed up the paved path through the woods behind the church, noticing that there isn't a house in sight, even though this spot is less than a tenth of a mile from the church. I noticed several other well worn paths that branch off from the sidewalk and head into the woods. There is evidence that lots of people know these trails. Broken green glass is strewn about. At another place a make-shift shelter has been put together by leaning logs between two upright trees. Probably some industrious budding children engineers.

The hills and vales that meander through this part of north Arlington have been cut by water draining into the Potomac River. The county has preserved lots of wooded acreage in this area. Trees help keep the land in place, prevent erosion, and anchor those expensive and large houses clinging to the sides of hills.
I kept walking, noticing the quiet, until I reached the top of the hill and the backyard of the local elementary school. Playground noises started to intrude my hearing. I noticed the amazing outdoor garden area, which I had not seen before. It's obvious that the values of nature and penchant for gardening are being instilled into these young children. I approached the play ground to see lots of pick up games among the kids, and teachers keeping an appropriate distance.

Since I had already climbed up a significant hill, I decided to keep finding a route that would take me higher. I could see through the trees that this particular spot in Arlington was a high one for many miles around. I could see across the Potomac to the site of the National Cathedral in the distance.
 I kept climbing via neighborhood streets to reach a point that seemed to be the highest home lot in the area. Reaching that spot (on a dead end street) I noticed that it's a modest home, looking like one of the original homebuilder's types that are so prevalent here. Even though it occupies the highest piece of ground, the little house doesn't seem to take advantage of the view because it's only one story. That great view is better appreciated by a neighboring house's design, just a few feet lower down the street, a full three stories high and high above the street. I wonder if the home's occupants look out their window at the National Cathedral. Do they have a faith tradition that takes them to a church or do they read the paper and drink coffee on Sunday morning and enjoy the beautiful view?

Since the route back to the church was all downhill from here, I made it in lots less time than I had planned, so a took another side trip down Marcey Road. A house on that street looks like it might have been an old farmhouse. I have heard that Marcey farm was an early occupier of this neighborhood and that the little church I serve stands on farmland bought by the church from the Marcey family.  Am I looking at the  original farmhouse? Next door to the old farmhouse is a large house, either newly constructed or newly remodeled to look like a country house and barn, complete with farm fence and warning sign for traffic on the street.Yes, lots of kids and families live in this neighborhood. I wonder if they know how privileged they are to have such wealth in beautiful surroundings. Do we know how high a vantage point we have? Does it make us feel protected? special? humble?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Buen Camino!

Today I begin my Lent discipline of walking 1 hour each day. I started at noon, outside the door of the church and headed south along Military Road. I planned to walk as far in this direction as I could for 1/2 hour, with the thought of turning around and walking back.
Prayer Walking is an old habit I have discarded, so I thought it would be good to re-invigorate it during this year's Lent season.
I am taking this up intentionally to encourage my congregation to also "walk" along "the Way," as we join other pilgrims along the Camino Santiago de Compestela, at least figuratively. We will greet each other on Sunday morning with "Buen Camino!"--Good road to you.
I also intend to walk along different routes each day and record some prayer thoughts and noticings. Here's what I learned today that I didn't know.
  • In Arlington, one can sponsor a bus stop. 
  • There are a number of competing businesses at that funny intersection of Lee Highway, Old Dominion and Quincy, not only the auto dealerships--Honda and Toyota--but veterinary clinics--Northside and Cherrydale.
  • This area didn't start to be settled until after the Civil War. [From that Virginia history plaque in front of the library.]
  • The cross walk button at the light at Lorcom and Quincy doesn't seem to be working.
  • The most noticeable thing about the residences in the neighborhood is how much effort goes into home appearance--landscaping is beautiful! Shared values, it seems, are the tree canopy, scale and variety in plantings, neatly trimmed hedges--all designed to enhance the outdoor beauty and say "We care that this neighborhood looks good." There is lots of evidence of recent property renovations--fresh poured concrete and paving stones, construction debris bins. I have lived through several whole-house renovations myself and know the expense and trouble of doing this. But the results are good!  I must say that the 'little church with a big mission' also shares those values. We want to look good as well as do good. I realize the cautionary note here: are we doing as well as we look? It's easy to be seduced into thinking that we all have it all together because our surroundings are so beautiful. Lent makes me face the very real possibility that it isn't so.
My hope and prayer today was that the people who live in these neighborhood homes put as much effort to their spiritual lives as they do into their homes, so that their full lives can be as abundant as their homes appear to be. And so for the church.

Monday, February 11, 2019

...from far away

Occasionally a former parishioner drops a note to keep us updated on their spiritual adventures. A lovely note came this week from someone now over 2,000 miles away who was moved to pray for us who are around the seats of power near our nation's capital.

"In the midst of home as we now know it, one week ago today, we were led to rise an hour earlier than normal for the sole purpose of praying for our nation.  We know you feel the unsettling nature of the transpiration of events on the national level much more intently, being in the thick of the battle out there. Somehow through this new practice, our hearts and souls have become reconnected to our National Capital; the place we both called home for more than 30 years. On this critical day, February 8, still on the cusp of a possible second shutdown, we find ourselves – mostly – thinking of you all.  Many faces crop to mind, both those still amongst us and those who have gone on to the other side awaiting us with joyful hearts."

If you are moved to pray about the State of the Union, you are in good company. Even as Jesus was moved to weep over Jerusalem, those who see injustices up close, even in the halls of power, can pray for hearts to be moved with wisdom. Keep praying...and ...

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Just drop the blanket, Linus.

After preaching this morning on the story from Luke about the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds--you know it from Luke!-- I ran across this reference to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" from 2015. While watching that TV show, I was always amazed that a child--Linus, in this case, could recite scripture from memory. Some willing suspension of disbelief here. After all, it's "Peanuts."
Three years ago was the 50th anniversary of that Christmas TV classic. In one of many good commentaries on the show, Pastor Jason Sarokski noticed a visual cue that Charles Schultz had used to display a Christian truth. The animator had Linus drop his beloved blue blanket while he was reciting that story from Luke. The truth, from history and from the mouth of a child, is that God's coming to earth enables us to let go of the fake comfort, and embrace the radical truth of the story:
Like the hymn says...
Our hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood (death, for those of squeamish sensibility) and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus' name.

Who needs blankets.