Monday, August 28, 2006

Versos Sencillos

Tonight I watched a beautiful film, Andy Garcia's THE LOST CITY. It's a film Garcia himself called not a love letter, but more like a "tragic poem" to his home country. In it, was one of the most moving uses of poetry in a movie that I have ever come across. This is poetry from the Cuban poet, Jose Marti:

I am a sincere man
From where the palm trees grow
And before death takes me,
I want to let the poems soar from my soul.
I come from everywhere
And everywhere I go;
Art I am among the arts,
Among the mountains
Mountain I am
All is beautiful and loyal,
All is musical and right,
And all, like the diamond,
Is charcoal before being light.
With the poor of the world
I want to cast my fate;
A little brook in the mountain
Pleases me more than the sea.
I want, whenever I die,
Stateless, but with no master,
To have on my tombstone, a boquet of flowers . . .
. . . and my country's flag.
I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who offers me his honest hand.
And for the cruel one who rips from me
My heart by which I live,
I cultivate neither thorns nor thistles;
I cultivate the white rose.

--Jose Marti
Translated into English from
"Versos Sencillos" (Simple Verses) from 1891.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Soul Stockade

My heel is hard now
like a brick
covered in sandpaper
like my soul
I wonder when it happened?
On what day in these 37 years
did a baby's flesh
become tough and
And, what event
gave birth to my cynicism?
Was it something I did
or a natural progression
of events?
Which divorce made me jaded?
Any particular lie my father told me?
Perhaps it was all you parents
or the harsh reality that I am
now one of you?
Like the men before me
I have been dulled by surfeit
but, now an excessive amount of
pain all around me
Privy to it all
I secretly long for my
old spiritual blindness
the good ol' days when
I was guided by the flesh
and even drug use
was "no big deal"
But, I cannot deny my
I am only left to wonder
How much character growth
must take place
before all of us
willingly surrender?
In unison we'll all
cry "uncle"
then God can release us
from ourselves

--Shenandoah Lynd


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Liberty Island 1987

This is one of my favorite photos. In 1987 my buddy, Matt, and I drove around the country. This is us on Liberty Island (Bedloe's Island), Upper New York Bay, with our backs to the World Trade Center. It was an overcast day and you can only faintly see the Twin Towers off to the upper left of the photo. I saw Oliver Stone's terrific film, WORLD TRADE CENTER, last night and I got to thinking about this picture. I highly recommend the movie.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Jesus Jeans

I thought this was a brilliant idea. The small print says there are four additional gospel messages you can get right there were many males are sure to read: Jesus is my Boyfriend; Looking fine for Jesus; Baby got Jesus; and, Jesus, Like Buddha, Only Better. In my opinion, the only thing more effective would be a "Jesus died for your sins" tattoo right in the cleavage area!

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

14 year old

That's me just before 8th grade graduation in 1983.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Inner-City Artwork

A pedestrian, Lauren Rogers, stares up at "Life Coach," an original work of art found in an "inner-city laneway" in Melbourne, Australia. It kind of looks out of place in its surroundings, almost the same as if someone had hung a Picasso there in the tunnel. The piece is creative. I like it.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pub-goers: take note.

Here's a billboard from Scotland's current anti-alcohol campaign. Aparently, Edinburgh, Scotland has the highest number of pubs per capita in all of Europe, about 188 people per pub. The legal drinking age is 18 there. Scottish lawmakers are trying to put a halt on the tradition of round-buying in their country. I just think this particular ad is brilliant.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

August 10, 1996

There's Max just minutes old 10 years ago today.

Tonight, at 7:04 p.m., it will be 10 years to the minute that my first son was born. There's nothing like it and you can't describe it. Back in January, I wrote a post all about Max. I thought I'd take a different approach today on his birthday.

There's a very interesting back-story to Max's arrival. Way back on September 22, 1992, when we were just dating, Chrisy gave me a gift. The occassion for the gift was the one year anniversary of me becoming a Christian. Believe it or not, Chrisy was bold enough to write the following on the gift: "Shenandoah, do not open until I go into labor with the birth of our first child." Yea, we both knew it, even then, that we would be together forever. That's actually pretty amazing considering we didn't start dating until August 3, 1992. (the photo at the left shows Max just a few days old)

Actually, Chrisy didn't make me wait until the birth of our first child to open that gift. Instead, on December 11, 1995, when I got home from college, Chrisy told me to watch something she had cued up on the television. It was the well-known scene from I Love Lucy wherein Lucy breaks the news to Ricky that they were expecting. That was how my wife broke the news to me. After that, she let me open the three-year-old gift. Inside was a T-shirt that I still have. My favorite character, the Tasmanian Devil is on it and it says, "Radical Dad!" She also gave me a Christmas tree ornament that I also still have. It says, "Dad-to-Be 1995" on it. I was only 26. Out of happiness, I cried.

Max's due date was August 3. He was one week late. August 10, 1996 was crazy. I'll certainly never forget that day. There was a huge blackout and all the signals were out across three cities as we tried to navigate to the hospital. In terms of not stressing, let's just say I definately was not exactly a Zen-master that first time around. Yea, I know some of you are saying, "What? Not you Doah, you're usually so calm, cool, collected, and mellow." Alas, it's true, I was in a panic.

Actually, what happened is we finally got to the hospital and they examed Chrisy and told her she wasn't actually in labor so they sent us away. Because the signals were out, it took us awhile to not even get half-way home. About then, things really kicked in. And, despite us thinking, "They just told us you're not ready," we turned around and went back. When we got there, Chrisy was breathing hard and in pain. The nurse instantly saw us and told Chrisy, "Calm down honey, you just left here." When the doctor checked her that time, she was fully dilated! I asked, "How far along is she now," and the doctor snapped, "Stand back, the baby's here and he's not happy!" Just minutes later I was officially a father. (the photo to left was taken on 10/20/96 at Max's parent-child dedication)

Childbirth makes me think about many people who don't believe in God, people I heard say things like, "How can there be a God when there's so much suffering in the world?" They might say, "Why would a God allow a 9/11 or let an innocent child in Iraq blow-up?" Yet, not many of the same people would look at a human being enter the world and say, "That's so amazing, there just must be a God." Why is it that some people hold God responsible for the negative, the tragic, but don't give him credit for the beautiful, the miracles? Well, I was there. There must be a God. Happy birthday son!

Here's a random one. This is Max and I with
Bruce Herschensohn. Remember this guy?
He ran against Barbara Boxer (for the Senate) in 1992 and lost.
Max was just about two weeks old in this picture.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

favorite street

"I walked out this morning
It was like a veil had been removed from
Before my eyes
For the first time I saw the work of Heaven
In the line where the hills had been
Married to the sky
And all around me every blade of singing grass
Was calling out your name and that
Our love would always last
And inside every turning leaf
Is the pattern of an older tree
The shape of our future
The shape of all our history
And out of the confusion
Where the river meets the sea
Came things I'd never seen
Things I'd never seen"
"I Was Brought to My Senses" from

Wall Street, Broadway, Park Place, Lombart, Haight/Ashbury, Hollywood Blvd., Sunset Blvd., Third Street Promenade. Those are all famous streets that probably bring some very specific pictures to your minds. However, my favorite street is Linwood Avenue in Santa Ana, California. The above picture shows Linwood in June.

Linwood is just two streets over from where I work. Sometimes I walk down it. Other times I drive up it even though it's not a direct route to my school. As you can see, Linwood is lined with jacaranda trees. Jacarandas produce these beautiful purple flowers. They start blooming in spring and they are a sight to behold. I read that jacarandas are also known as "exam trees" because it's too late to start studying for your finals if the jacarandas are beginning to flower. At work, they remind me that, soon report cards will be due and I will be saying goodbye to another group of students. As go the jacarandas, so does life: full of cycles, changes, and seasons.

In the case of Linwood, the jacarandas run up and down both sides of the street between 4th Street and the 5 freeway (in first photo at the top, the green hedge you see behind the very last house in the cul-de-sac is actually the wall of the freeway). When you drive down the center of the street, there is this lovely arched canopy of purple. Better yet, so many of the flowers drop on the street, that it looks like a purple carpet. These photos cannot capture it. It truly is a beautiful sight.

Many people have said that "California has no seasons" and I can certainly can understand why they say that if they are comparing it to New England or some place where you can get snowed in during winter, but the fact is it's simply not true. You just have to have the eyes to see. Take the jacaranda, during the fall and winter these trees are naked and not particularly beautiful; yet, when I see them in that season, I know their potential; I know what is coming. Months later, for about eight weeks, the violet trumpet-shaped blossoms on these trees scream to me: "God does not lack in creativity or power."

I suspect that some of you reading these last several posts of mine, talking about how so much of nature confirms my belief in God, could be thinking, "How can you be so sure there is a creator?" I know some of my friends and family don't have faith in God, but I do. I just know. Obviously, it's not just the nature around my workplace. I often think back to the times I went scuba diving and saw things of every color under the sea, amazing fish that seemed as though an artist had airbrushed them. I mean why purple flowers? Why purple, yellow or blue fish? Why so much variety? I remember Chrisy and I hiking up Moro Rock just south of Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park and being blessed with this amazing clarity and perspective. To me it all speaks of God's brillance and goodness.

Just this past week I watched the movie A WALK TO REMEMBER (yea the one with Mandy Moore). At my request, a female junior high student of mine lent it to me. In it, Moore's character, Jamie is well-grounded in her identity in Christ while her boyfriend, Landon, by his own admission, has no faith. In one scene that really moved me, Landon asks her how she can be so sure. Here is what Jamie says:

"How can you see places like this and
have moments like this, and not believe?
It's like the wind, I can't see it, but I feel it.
I feel wonder and beauty, joy, love.
I mean, it's the center of everything."

I so understand what she was saying. It's like the lyrics at the beginning of this post, sometimes the wind blows just right, almost through me, and every blade of singing grass seems to be calling out His name. For me, these jacaranda trees that border Linwood Street are such a part of that wonder and beauty. They actually produce joy in me, and they speak of God's love for me. That's why I so appreciate Linwood Street. It's my favorite.

"Come, let's shout praises to GOD,
raise the roof for the Rock who saved us!
Let's march into his presence singing praises,
lifting the rafters with our hymns!

And why? Because GOD is the best,
High King over all the gods.
In one hand he holds deep caves and caverns,
in the other hand grasps the high mountains.
He made the Ocean--he owns it!
His hands sculpted Earth!
--Psalm 95:1-5
(The Message)

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Friday, August 04, 2006


"Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young--
a place near your alter,
O LORD Almighty, my King and
my God."
--Psalm 84:3 (NIV)

Here are two more photos that show something else at my work that I totally appreciate. This fence is right out in front of my classroom. It blocks off the back of some other rooms. I love the location of my room. It's the last bungalow way out on the playground. The ramp to my front door is shaded by the tree you see hanging over this fence.

The coolest thing is, every year, a bunch of birds always make their nests right under the eaves of the building in the above photo. In the spring, the fledglings practice the newly aquired gift of flight by going from those pipes up in the eaves to the holes in the chainlink fence on the right. Of course, should you stop and linger, you can hear their song.

This second photo on the left is taken from a bit further away; it's a different perspective of the eaves above. This is the tree that shades the front window and ramp of my classroom. That brick wall that is directly behind the trunk of the tree and just to the right is the border of the Orange County Register lot and my school. What's neat is that directly behind that wall are a bunch of bushes and ivy. Thus, there's some wildlife back there too.

Every once in awhile a opossum will walk along the top of that brick wall and my students will go out and observe it. What's really cool is that one of the language arts units we do every year is called "City Wildlife" and there is so much around us that reinforces the selections from that unit.

For me, the birds especially, the entire process of birds hatching, chirping, learning to fly, and their beauty, are nice reminders of God's presence.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Avocado Tree

Every morning when I walk into my third grade classroom I pass this huge avocado tree. It sits right outside my front door so I see it many times a day. That photo is the angle looking at it from outside my room. I've often said that if I could have any fruit-yielding tree in the world planted in my backyard I would pick an avocado tree. I like avocados. I adore guacamole. I've made my share of batches of guacamole from the avocados off this very tree too, but my love for this particular avocado tree goes way beyond its fruit. For me, it's beauty and fortitude are constant reminders of God's ability to create.

Sometimes I just stare at this tree and I stand in awe of its size. I often wonder how old this tree is and I think about its durability and what it has had to withstand in order to develop into what it is now. I wish I knew the exact date this tree was planted. I wish I had a picture of the young sapling on that first day; that way I could see tangable proof of its progress.

When I look at this avocado tree I think of my own spiritual walk. I think of the very first Psalm:

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel
of the wicked . . . .
He is like a tree planted by streams
of water
which yields its fruit in season
--Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)

I love the way Eugene H. Peterson The Message translates Psalm 1. It says:

How well God must like you--
you don't hang out at Sin Saloon,
you don't slink along Dead-End Road,
you don't go to Smart-Mouth College.

Instead you thrill to GOD'S Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You're a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.

Notwithstanding the fact that I graduated magna cum laude from Smart-Mouth College, I so want to be that tree: solid, stable, sturdy, and producing much fruit. My desire is to be so secure that others could climb upon my "branches" and find rest and comfort.

I think about how the apostle Paul had to reprimand the church at Corinth:

"Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn't talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn't handle anything stronger. And you still aren't ready, for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires."
--1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (New Living).

I first surrendered myself to Jesus Christ on September 22, 1991, coming up on 15 years. After all that time, I so don't want to be that spiritual sapling that Paul talked about, I want to be past the milk stage, I want to be the tree replanted in Eden. Yet, if I can confess, even as I write this, I am sitting here battling my own selfish desires. In this case, it's bloody early in the morning and my kids woke me up sooner than I wanted and now I feel "entitled" to be able to sit down with a cup of coffee and read the Bible, have a quite time, do some writing, and just relax. Ironic isn't it that I seek to be holy and, at the exact same time, can easily fall into the trap of seeing the beautiful children that I so desired as annoyances pulling me away from my interests. I mean the kids need tending to, they need to eat, and a dad should be available to referee bickering at 6:20 in the morning; yet, I hear the words forming in my mind: "Just leave me alone, I'm trying to read the Bible here!"

Perhaps I should have kept going when I was typing out the aforementioned words from 1 Corinthians 3:3 . . .

"Doesn't that prove you are controlled by your own desires?
You are acting like people who don't belong to the LORD."

So yea, when I look at that avocado tree I am aware of God's presence, His goodness, His provision, and, most of all, His ability to grow things. When I am sick of my own lack of progress I can look at that tree and I have proof, that, over time, with the Lord's help, things do indeed develop. Things change. People progress.

On a good day, I look at that tree and I recall the words of the prophet Isaiah promising that God will "give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory." --Isaiah 61:3 (New Living) Then, I embrace those words and realize God has already done that for me.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Looking out over the playground right outside my classroom.
A photo cannot do it justice, but I love the view of the green treeline along the blue sky.

"The earth is the LORD'S, and
everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it,
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters."
--Psalm 24:1-2

This past year, one of the spiritual challenges I took up was trying to live with a constant awareness of God. Let me say first that I have not even come close to excelling in that. However, I am still trying. Let me say it one more time: trying to live with a constant awareness of God. What does that even mean, right? My pastor has brought it up many times and the guys in my men's group have discussed it before. It's hard to do.

Here is the view looking out the window in the back of my classroom.
These trees always draw my mind toward an awareness of God.

For me, I think living with a constant awareness of God means just being open to what God is trying to do around you, inviting Him into every action. I remember my pastor asking us, "What does in mean to brush your teeth or take a shower in Christ?" For me the answer always involves praying. Many times it's just a three word prayer: "Help me God." That was the prayer that first brought me to my knees in 1991 and, He knows that those three words hold all my desires for Him to complete the work he started in me. He knows that prayer means I am sick of my selfish ways and that I deeply want to love better.

I've also discovered that another way I personally become aware of God's presence in my life is through nature. Usually when somebody says that they mean that if they go to the beach, hike in the mountains, or take a trek to Yellowstone, they fell connected to God. While that is certainly true of me, what I've found this past year or so is that I become acutely aware of God by just paying attention to the "normal" everyday nature around me.

So why the treeline? For some reason one of the places I find it easiest to be aware of God's presence is at my workplace. It's an elementary school in Santa Ana and many times God's creation just seems to standout when I'm there. Sometimes it seems almost surreal, a feeling I cannot put into words, but I just know God is good. This picture to the right shows the same trees as the previous two photos. This is the street that actually borders my school. Those big branches, to me, are proof of God's great majesty. I really do like Santa Ana.

I guess what I am trying to say is that being aware of God's presence doesn't just mean that I invite Him into my life. It also means that I have to look for Him. Many times I see Him in the face of a human being, often I hear him in the words of a friend, sometimes I find Him in a song or poem. I also see Him in these trees. It doesn't matter if I am standing at a distance looking at the treeline or walking underneath His canopy, when I choose to see and I choose to listen He whispers: I made this for you and I am as real as these trees.

This is the view looking down McClay Street in Santa Ana.
The school I work at is just to the left out of the focus.

I decided that I am going to dedicate the next several posts to the natural beauty, God's creation, that I always notice when I am at work. I'm curious to know how others try to be aware of God's presence in their lives. What is it for you? Also, is there a particular place you know of that stirs up an awareness of God's goodness or that you simply find beautiful? Finally, if you would like to read what I think is a related and good blog post, you can go here to read Jon Hall's Learning How To See. Oh, yea, does anyone know what kind of trees these are?