A Needle in the Sky

This month the Space Needle celebrates its 60th anniversary

The very week that I turned ten
Seattle had a fair.
And they’d invite the whole wide world to come.
A needle in the sky stood tall.
A monorail sped by.
A forest of amusement rides was fun!

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans came.
And Elvis showed up, too.
That sixth-month party gave Seattle cred.
The city that Bill Boeing built
had finally come of age.
Just look at who has followed in his stead.

St. Arbucks, Eddie Bauer,
Microsoft and Amazon.
There’s Nordstrom, Costco and there’s REI.
Expedia and T-Mobile.
There’s Zillow and PACCAR
and don’t forget Big Fish with dreams to fry.

And now six decades later
from that Needle in the sky
we have a view of that for which we wait:
A world where everyone can “breathe,”
where cops deserve respect.
A world devoid of homelessness and hate.

A world that’s litter-free and green.
A world where truth stands tall.
Where love’s the lyric of the song we sing.
A world where peace can have a chance
and cancer’s finally cured.
A world where Jesus Christ is hailed as King!

Arbor Day: The Rest of the Story

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois celebrates Arbor Day year-round

Johnny Cash used to sing about “A Boy Named Sue,” but one of Chicagoland’s most celebrated citizens was a boy named Joy. But who would name their son Joy? A man named Julius. A pioneer in the world of nature conservation, Julius established Arbor Day 150 years ago this month.

Julius, a young newspaper reporter in Michigan, followed opportunity’s call and became Nebraska’s territorial governor more than a century ago. When he and his wife, Carrie, settled in Nebraska City, they were dismayed by the treeless prairie. He’d grown up near trees and forests, and his merchant father had fostered an appreciation for God’s creation.

When the couple built a four-room home on their 160 acres, they started planting trees like they’d had in Michigan. They added shade trees, shrubs and flowers. Within a few years, they added an apple orchard of 300 trees, then another orchard of 1,000. Julius wasn’t content to keep this love of trees to himself. In 1872, he suggested Nebraskans set aside a day to honor the earth and plant a tree. More than a million trees were planted in the windswept prairie that April day. Within a decade, the day became a national observance known as Arbor Day. The April date was chosen to honor Julius’ birthday.

Now for the rest of the story…

Julius, whose middle name was Sterling, had a last name, too – Morton. Besides originating Arbor Day, he became President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of agriculture. He was an original environmental advocate. It stands to reason his family motto was “Plant trees!” When Carrie presented Julius with his first son, he named the boy Joy. Though it was an unusual name, it was a way of honoring his wife. Joy was Carrie’s middle name. I’m inclined to think there was more to it. What better name might a man give the new growth of his family tree?

Unashamed of his name, Joy Morton grew up and moved near Chicago. There, he proved he was worth his salt. Literally! He became a successful and well-seasoned businessman. Joy Morton, you see, was the founder of the Morton Salt Company. He eventually made millions. But establishing a nature conservatory on his suburban Chicago estate (in Lisle) allowed him to leave his legacy. Creating the Morton Arboretum in 1922, Joy found a tangible way to perpetuate the family motto his father had instilled. It’s one of our most valued treasures and one of DuPage county’s most visited tourist spots.

Nearly 500,000 visitors explore the arboretum each year. That’s a lot of nature lovers, but  having lived in DuPage County for more than a decade before moving to Mercer Island, I think I know why they visit. The Morton Arboretum (like the arboretums in Greater Seattle) is the mortar of the community where busy lives and families find a common bond of peace every season.

In a frantic age, it’s a summer sanctuary of serenity where time ticks at a slower, saner pace. It’s a place of grace, where towering trees acknowledge their Creator as they bend and bow in the breeze and bid us to follow their lead. It’s a fall paradise of kaleidoscopic color where parking lots are limited so dying leaves can be given their much-due respect. It’s a winter wonderland of light where frozen trees spread naked limbs against a cloudless sky and dance before a setting sun in silhouetted majesty. It’s a spring garden of flowering shrubs that blush with beauty as nature lovers admire what they see and watch the Easter miracle re-enacted as death gives way to life.

The Morton Arboretum is an Eden-like setting in a less-than- perfect world where, amid the sorrow and heartache of life, Joy will always live on. Underlying the story of our arboretum’s ancestry is a simple, but profound, reminder.

Joy Morton’s expansive garden of trees, at Route 53 and the Interstate 88, bears witness that the core values that parents embrace need not die with them. The natural and supernatural realities we cherish can be passed to our children. Love for God and what He has created can be instilled in those who grow in our shade. The arboretum is a memorial to the joy of Mother Nature that Joy Morton’s father bequeathed him. It will silently preach “sermons” extolling the good earth for a good long time to come.

Next time you’re in the Windy City, why not plan a day trip a half hour west of Lake Michigan to explore the legacy of Julius and his son Joy?

Greg’s book,
Sheltering Grace
is listed on the
BOOKS menu
at $15.00 from
Lulu Books.

70 Lessons

What I’ve learned in seventy years of living

This past weekend was not only Easter Sunday filled with a weekend of meaningful commitments, it included a milestone birthday. In addition to starting my tenth year as chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores, I began my eighth decade of life.

In the midst of a busy weekend I found an hour to reflect on lessons I’ve learned in seventy years of living. Some are quite obvious. Others are deeply personal. Some are borrowed from people I respect. All of them provide a peek into what I value.

1. George Bailey isn’t the only one who’s had a wonderful life.
2. Years go by faster the older you live.
3. Parents know more than we give them credit for.
4. Everybody has a story worth sharing.
5. Asking questions is the key that unlocks a person’s story.
6. The Creator desires a personal relationship with us.
7. Jesus is the means by which that relationship is made possible.
8. Change is hard.
9. Change is inevitable.
10. Beauty can be found everywhere.
11. Work that you love isn’t work.
12 Worry empties today of its strength.
13. Today is a gift.
14. Gifts are meant to be unwrapped and enjoyed.
15. Memories are a lasting treasure no one can steal.
16. Debt is a heartless seducer.
17. Living life in 24-hour capsules brings time-released joy.
18. Sunsets and ice cream make for cheap dates.
19. Stick trees silhouetted against a sunrise redeems winter blahs.
20. Working out helps our bodies work better.
21. Physically fit people die healthier.
22. Adversity makes us strong.
23. Love is a universal language.
24. Every memorial service we attend in one closer to our own.
25. Music is oxygen for the soul.
26. Children are a gift from the Lord.
27. Adult children keep you talking to God.
28. Grandchildren provides the joys of parenting without the responsibilities.
29. Poetry that rhymes is easier to understand.
30. Walking in the woods allows you to walk with God.
31. Pets provide a picture of God’s unconditional love.
32. The death of a pet is equivalent to losing a member of your family.
33. Grief is the price you pay for really loving someone.
34. Christmas doesn’t mean a thing without Easter.
35. Easter is not possible without Good Friday.
36. Eating humble pie requires swallowing pride.
37. It’s more blessed to give than to receive.
38. Receiving is harder than giving.
39. Bad things happen to good people.
40. Good things happen to bad people.
41. You can never tell someone you love them too often.
42. A shared joy is a doubled joy.
43. A shared sorrow is half a sorrow.
44. Spending time with older relatives is a priceless gift to them (and you).
45. Memorizing Scripture pays dividends now and later.
46. Taking the initiative to restore relationships takes courage.
47. Handwritten letters and notes are more valuable than e-mails and texts.
48. Mementoes on a desk or a shelf recall moments we dare never forget.
49. Forgetting God’s faithfulness is the most common kind of memory loss.
50. Those with the most money often have the most worries.
51. We begin our lives and end our lives wearing diapers and sleeping most the time.
52. Family traditions sustain values and perpetuate memories.
53. There is nothing more sad than watching alienated siblings at a parent’s funeral.
54. Learning the love language of your mate does not require a degree in linguistics.
55. When you get married, you marry a family as well as your mate.
56. You tend to sleep better with a window cracked open.
57. Making small talk with strangers can lead to big opportunities.
58. Shopping at a thrift store is like going to a museum.
59. Furnishing your home or wardrobe at a thrift store saves you money and benefits others.
60. Beginning your day with coffee and prayer makes you alert to life and the Lord.
61. Taking time to visit a relative’s grave gives cause to pause and reflect on the brevity of life.
62.  Taking pictures with a smartphone is an inexpensive way to express one’s creativity.
63. The church is a community of people not a building or a certain denomination.
64. There’s nothing like a pandemic to unmask what really matters in life.
65. When you lose your job unexpectedly you discover flavors of grace you didn’t know existed.
66. Unbelievable offers generally are.
67. Gratitude is the prelude to worship.
68. Mulligans aren’t just for golf.
69.  It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.
70. Birthdays are a necessary rest stop on the interstate of life.

The Ultimate Godwink!

Easter is the Godwink of all Godwinks

A good man died. His followers cried.
They buried him. And then
they hid within an upper room
as they remembered when…

He healed the lame and calmed the waves
and caused the blind to see.
With grieving hearts
they mourned his death.
Good God, how can this be?

But in three days out of the blue
the sun appeared so bright.
The Godwink of all Godwinks! Wow!
Their darkness turned to light.

The tomb is empty! Jesus lives!
And circumstantially,
divine encounters give us hope
quite unexpectedly.

Greg’s article from 4/12/22 in The Daily Herald:
An unexpected reminder of resurrection

Greg’s book,
When God Speaks
is listed on the
BOOKS menu
at $14.99 from
Lulu Books.

It’s a God Friday

Reflections on Good Friday

Today is God’s Friday!
Hardly good!

A dying man.
A cross of wood.
A jeering crowd.
A grieving mom.

A son eclipsed from view.
A holy Father shuts His eyes.
Two thieves emit their dying sighs.
Eleven grieving friends look on
in disbelief and fear.

But on this dark and dismal day
we hear the suffering Savior say
“Tetelestai (your debt is paid).
Redeemed, you’ve been set free.”

God’s Friday is indeed quite good.
A thoughtful glance beneath the hood
reveals the engine of our hope.
Atonement. Peace with God.