Sunday, January 20, 2013

the pie pan and the rock

Dispatch from Puerto Rico - somewhere on the Northwest Coast. . . .

I sat for an hour watching the clouds scud across the sky, alternating sun and gray shade. The green and yellow parrots worked ferociously, breaking off the tips of bare branches, dumping excess weight, and then leaping into the air and falling a foot or more before their wings caught up with the excess weight of a branch twice their length in their beaks.

They flew to the highest palm tree, disappearing into the ball of fronds above, from which a cacophony of shrieks and squawks was emitted. At least 20 parrots must roost in the palm, and nest building and expansion or renovation was clearly underway. I amused myself thinking up conversation in the parrot talk.

"Wipe yer feet before you land, you big oaf!"

"Not there! Put that lumber on the other side. By the nursery! Sheesh."

"Whaddya mean there's no warranty on your labor? If one of my babies falls out of this nest, I'LL show ya warranty!"

"Did you hear what that other parrot roost is building?! You'd never believe. . . ."

Every conversation was a loud conflict, a quarrel, a garrulous query, gossip or dispute at full volume, but oddly sociable. No one feared for their life or reputation; divorce was not an option. Children don't get abused or abandoned and don't run off to 'find themselves' or do drugs.

Closer to hand, the Changos were getting bolder.
They swell up into a squeeze box and make a wheeze, wheeze, wheeze - SQUEAK! with feathers ruffled into a big black ball and cocked tail.
After the squeak, their feathers smooth to reveal a bird half the size. It's a courting and dominance display.

The smaller females largely ignore the show and quietly go about cleaning the deck of the croissant crumbs that have blown off the railing where we put them every morning for our little feathered friends. The males posture on the railing until only one is left. The rest scatter about the deck and on chair arms and trees, eating the crumbs contributed to by the lone male, who nervously eats on the railing, looking over his shoulder lest a challenger appear.

And yet the Changos are sociable, too. They all apparently roost in a large, low hanging tree - luckily at some distance. What a racket! During the day, though, or at least when confronted with croissant, they do not prefer to keep company in large flocks. They prefer to keep their treasure to themselves. . . . Only 5 or 6 Changos are to be found at any one time at our place, and they arrive dutifully every morning. They keep a companionable distance from one another. They all take regular turns at the the birdbath. There, they drink, bathe, and sometimes dunk their food.

The birdbath is of humble origin: a used, disposable pie pan. It's held in place by a good-sized rock which does double duty. It not only keeps the pie tin from flying off in the wind that comes off the ocean, it also gives the birds something to stand on when they bathe. Apparently, they don't like just hopping into water - they want to be able to walk in - and walk out. The rock is a splendid vehicle for this purpose.

I'd been reading about God's call on one's life, that His call comes from His nature and if we hear His call (which is NOT a given), our response is according to our nature.

The pie pan and the rock came into focus as a perfect example.

This particular pie pan had already been used, as I said. It was battered, and otherwise trash.
Filled with water (which so often symbolizes the Holy Spirit) nonetheless it would blow away in the wind of earthly cares and storms. The rest of the symbolism fell into place. It was so obvious! Laughably so, in fact, laughter that left tears in my eyes.

The rock, of course, is the symbol of Jesus, who gives us a place to stand, provides ballast and a sure foundation. The end picture is of what would otherwise be trash - good only for the garbage heap (although these days, I should probably say the recycle bin) - trash transformed by being grounded in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. It is thereby turned into something good and useful and refreshing also to so many others.

The pie pan itself is not being honored for itself in itself. If it insisted on that, it should be thrown out. Likewise, we ourselves are not saved in order to be preserved as we were, but to be transformed. If we insist on remaining as we are - which we are free to do - we,too, will be thrown out. But neither is the final question one of utility alone. Here, the metaphor breaks down. It breaks down in a way that would take another posting to explain, and one which I'm not going to get into today. Or tomorrow either probably, for that matter. . . . Sorry, I'm kind of on vacation. At least where taking on Utilitarianism is concerned. That's real work.

Let me just say that our lives are not disposable pie pans. But they are like disposable pie pans if we are not grounded in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.

And let me also say that what Jesus said about what happens to salt if it loses its saltiness now makes a whole lot more sense to me. . . .

Meanwhile, the Changos neither toil nor spin, but dine richly on croissant.

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