In-Between to Birth

In-Between to Birth

Easter 1


For almost a month, I joined millions in watching the live feed from an animal park in New York state.  A giraffe was due to give birth and the world seemed fascinated.  There were various feeds one could follow and several offered advertising with proceeds in the form of pet supplies and food being given to local animal shelters.  I happily participated in making my watching count.


There were those, however, who felt it all a great deal of nonsense.  “Get a life” was the most common negative comment seen.  Some readily admitted to watching in-between commuting and so felt they were not for whom such comments were directed.  Others felt they were being mindful to the miracle of birth.  I claim to be a part of neither camp.  I watched because I find giraffes fascinating creatures.  I do wonder at their evolution and creation for they seem to be a bit in-between the larger mammals and the delicate faces of the smaller ones.


The Rt Rev Steven Charleston recently made a comment about our being “in-between”.  Yesterday, as I was watching the birth of the giraffe calf so many had eagerly awaited, He posted this:  We are in-between. Right now, we are in-between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But in reality we are always in-between in life. In-between is where we live and move and make our reality. We go from birth to death between many polarities: health and illness, joy and sadness, hope and despair. We inhabit these spiritual spaces of transition, constantly moving from one level of experience to the next. It is in the in-between that we discover the presence of the sacred, that creative force that helps us transition and adapt. We are the people of the in-between.”


Watching the young calf be born, along with millions around the world, I realized that we were all in-between and teetering on the edge of something very similar to world peace.  This young calf and his two giraffe parents had united millions around the world, something no politician or political party had ever been able to accomplish.  As we spent time in the in-between of a fifteen-month pregnancy and its culmination in birth, we were all feeling hope and fear, joy and wonderment.


Being mindful of our living is something we often fail to experience.  The reality of this birth was beautiful.  As the calf slowly edge his way out, the mother would welcome him with her tongue and kisses.  It was as if she realized her calf’s reality was changing drastically and she wanted to encourage him and comfort him that all would be all right. 


Our blog series this Easter season will be on mindfulness.  I hope this period will bring you joy and enlightenment in your living.  Life is all around us and while we need to spend less of it online and more of it in person, we can learn from all aspects of it.  Today is a new day and our reality, much like the new giraffe calf’s has changed.  Let us give thanks for this new day and recognize the new life ahead of us all.

Flip Flop Fantastic

Flip, Flop, Fantastic

Pentecost 15


It looks like an ordinary house from the outside.  Walk into the living room, though, and you might very well see boxes of rubberized sandals known as flip flops.  The mother living there is collecting them to send to her daughter, an Air Force technician.  But surely one young woman cannot possibly need these many pairs of flip flops you might ask.  She does and happily asks for more.


While there is a type of electrical switch known as the “flip flop”, let me assure you that is not what this blog post is about today.  I am talking about the open-toed footwear that gets no respect for being, in spite of it having been around since 4000 BCE.  The oldest pair of flip flop sandals can be found in the British Museum and dates to 1500 BCE.  That pair is made of papyrus but the material used for these shoes has varied just as the cultures wearing them have varied.


Thought to have originated in ancient Egypt, the flip flop, aptly named in modern times because of the sound one makes while wearing them, was probably first made from papyrus or palm leaves.  In Africa the Masei tribe used rawhide for their sandals.  In India wood was the material of choice but China and Japan made them from straw.  As mankind advanced, so did the materials used in making flip flops and they began to be constructed from leather and other materials as well as stronger fibers that made them more lasting, durable, and wearable.


Servicemen returning from the Far East, especially Japan, after World War II brought back the Japanese zori and the flip flop gained popularity in the United States.  Americans added their own flair with bright colors and adornments.  The wearing of flip flops especially caught on a the surfing culture of southern California.  One company began in a garage but today makes and sells over two million pairs of flip flops each year.


So how can wearing flip flops become more extraordinary and less ordinary?  And why would one woman collect them to send to her daughter?  Servicemen in hospitals often do not have shower shoes or shoes that allow them to easily walk.  This Carolina mother collects the flip flops for her daughter to distribute to servicemen so that their feet are protected.  These are new flip flops donated by area people and family.


Recycled flip flops have a purpose, so don’t throw out your used ones.  The Flip Flop Recycling Company will happily accept them!  The FFRC is a business based in Kenya and began because a woman observed children picking flip flops out of the trash that washed on shore from the surrounding waters and ocean.  The children were making toys out of the discarded flip flops but the woman saw beyond their efforts.


Kenya is among the poorest nations in the world.  Throughout the world, the ocean has become a very large and often under-patrolled garbage dump.  The dumping of trash in the ocean not only endangers the wildlife living there, it also contributes to world pollution.  In Kenya, however, the FFRC is buying these flip flops from the women who collect them.  This gives the women some disposable income to help support their families.


Artists then use these flip flops to recycle into household products as well as other household products and art.  Some of their work has been made into fashion accessories that have been used in Parish runway fashion shows.  Other companies such as Ocean Sole are also using the trash of old discarded flip flops that end up as floating garbage to create new things and better lives.


Next time you go to throw out a pair of flip flops, think.  Next time you purchase a new pair, pick up a second pair for Operation Flip Flops, and then check out their Facebook page to get details on how to donate your new pair.  There is also another Facebook page called Operation Flip Flop that sent new shows/flip flops to Iraqi children.


Whichever charity you decide to help, and there are several in your own home town (Contact the Salvation Army, Boy and Girls Clubs, or the American Red Cross) I am certain, please do not forget that something as commonplace as a pair of flip flops can mean the world to someone else.  Make the name “flip flop” synonymous with the words “good deed” today!



The Elephant and the Witch

The Elephant and the Witch

Pentecost 154

Imagine you have lived with animals the sixe of house cats.  Now imagine walking down a path, making a turn and suddenly seeing an animal thirteen feet tall that weighs fifteen thousand pounds.  The mammal in question is the elephant, the largest and off terrestrial or land animals.

There are many African myths as to how the elephant became so large and intelligent.  The Kamba people of Kenya have a myth about a very poor man who wanted to be rich.  He traveled a great distance to visit Ivonya-Ngia, a man whose name translates as “He that Feeds the Poor”.  The poor man refused all offers of charity and instead asked for the secret of being rich.  Ivonya-Ngia gave him an ointment that he told the man should be applied to his wife’s canine teeth.  He told the poor man that they teeth would grow and then he could sell them.  The man did as told and soon was able to purchase a flock of goats.  However, his wife would not go through the tooth extraction a second time.  Her teeth continued to grow and eventually became tusks.  Her skin also changed and became grey.  In fact, her entire body grew very large and she retreated to the forests to live.  The Kamba believe her children were elephants, thus beginning this noble species on earth.

Southern Africa also has a myth about a girl who grew so tall and large that she could not find a mate.  Everyone in her village thought she was a witch and she was exiled into the wilderness.  Once in the wild, the cast-off girl encountered an elephant who spoke to her in the Zulu dialect.  The girl becomes the wife of the elephant and gives birth to four sons who are said to be the first of the Indhlovu tribe of chieftains.

In almost all of the mythologies of Africa, the elephant is portrayed as kind, intelligent, and noble.  The Wachaga myth from Tanzania believed the elephant was once a man cheated out of both legs and one arm, the remaining arm becoming the trunk of the elephant.  The Ashanti of Ghana believe an elephant had ben a former chief of the tribe.  Whenever they encounter a deceased elephant in the wild, they stop and give it a royal burial.

The respect these myths give the largest and perhaps the most gentle of all land animals is heart-warming.  The mass killing of elephants because many believe there is spiritual power in their tusks is tragic.  Elephants are killed or almost killed and left to die a cruel death at alarming rates that have made them endangered and vulnerable.  We need to realize that we can respect and value creation without destroying it.  How we live does not just affect us but results in consequences for all of creation.  The same analogy can be drawn in how we treat one another.  The beauty of creation is that it exists, it was created.  The value of life is that it exists.  When how we live destroys the living, then we need to ask ourselves what we are doing.  People not only destroy species of animals to the brink of extinction, mankind is also very good at killing itself.  We need to remember that the value of an elephant is in its life.  The same is truth for all living things.