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A solitary cardinal alighted on the plank fence in my back yard, its redness quickening my heart. Then, it whizzed down upon the bleached grass, its dark eyes searching from side to side. Like a wise professor attired in the scarlet robes of a theologian, it discerned the next step before taking it boldly; then, more angular steps. Then, it was gone. I blinked, hard.

Stillness enveloped me. I had been visited and I knew it. Rather than resume my work in the kitchen, I savored this intrusion.

The cardinal’s fiery presence recalled images of Christ Pantocrator (the Lawgiver), rendered in mosaics or frescoes, which adorn domes and apses of medieval Eastern Orthodox churches. The dark outlines of Christ’s iconic eyes, his red tunic, his left hand holding the jeweled book of the New Testament, his right hand raised in blessing—Such was the demonstrable power that had inflamed centuries of imaginations of worshipers, huddled in the nave below, whispering their prayers.

Such still has the holding power to thwart evil, with its allure of dark power. Willingness to follow the Pantocrator’s sway freshens us with loving care and protection.

At 7:15 A.M., I woke with this restoration dream:

I am alone, following a wooded trail, patterned by shadows of overhanging leaves. Up ahead, through the trees, appears to be an abandoned structure. As I get closer, I note its sides missing, some of its timbered posts, charred. I step inside. Pine needles and other tree debris litter the earthen floor. I look up. Tiles of mud-colored turtles, some of them cracked, adorn the ceiling. It feels like there has been a fire in the past.

This glimpse into my psyche suggests destruction, neglect, the process of rot already eating at the heart of what was once a structure, built and used by others, perhaps for rituals to honor the Sacred. Mud-colored turtles, the ceiling’s adornment, must have played a part in their rituals. Being a water creature, the turtle suggests creation and the after-life; it symbolizes longevity, order, and protection, there being much evidence of such found among Native American tribes.

My present study of the Ioway tribe in nineteenth-century Missouri may have influenced my Dreamer to incorporate turtles in this dream, as well as my wonder of the after-life and how we will experience the peoples of the world, in their otherness.

It’s comforting to know such a structure exits in my psyche where I can go anytime and restore it, with help.

With the psalmist, I pray, Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor, in vain. (27:1)

Clusters of plump red berries, the autumn fruit of Missouri Honeysuckle bushes (Lonicera maackii), red-flag the attention of environmentalists. These berries, of no nutritional value, attract birds that either ingest them or drop them on the ground to be reseeded for the next season.

Originally planted in gardens as a border shrub, the Missouri Honeysuckle has become a nuisance. Its aggressive growth chokes out other native plants around them and infests easements, forest floors, and creek bottoms making them impassable for hikers and hunters. Utility workers have labored for hours to free up their lines.

Brush cutters, chainsaws, or hand tools, together with applications of herbicides are the only effective means to eliminate these bushes that can grow up to twenty feet tall.

The untrammeled growth of Missouri Honeysuckle bushes, I used to note during walks, still gives me pause—a prodigious greening power that kills life around it. Obvious parallels with bacterial infections, including Covid, come to mind. However, lesser ones, like unconscious rituals, unthinkingly practiced for decades, can be just as deeply rooted and harmful. On the surface, like the glistening red berries on the Missouri Honeysuckle, everything looks proper, but a closer inspection reveals shallow thinking and skewed choices that produce turmoil and confusion.

Reliance upon the power of God can eliminate such infringements into our psyches and enable us to walk unencumbered into the Light: streaming into our senses and ordering our sense of on-going creation.

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