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Blue Moon, You Saw Me Standing Alone...

When I consider your heavens, 
the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, 
which you have set in place, 
what is man that you are mindful of him, 
the son of man that you care for him? 
(Psalm 8:3-4)

August 1, 2012
written from Greensburg in Kiowa County, Kansas

This morning, as the eastern sky is slowly brightening with the early dawn, a bright golden full moon is slowly setting in the west.  The summer sky is already brightened enough that only the brightest stars (or are they planets?) can be seen.  But the bright full moon, giving the illusion of being larger and larger as it nears the distant flat horizon, draws my eyes and the wonder of my heart.

August 2012 is somewhat a rarity in months.  It will have two full moons.
Here, at the beginning of the month, and again at the very end.  That is unusual, since the whole idea of month was to reflect the cycle of moon (hence the root of the word month).   The next time we will have a month with two full moons will be July of 2015.  This rare second full moon that will be seen at the end of the month (often resulting in four full moons in a season) is called a "blue moon."  Of course, this only happens once in a blue moon.

For most Americans, this once every few years oddity will pass unnoticed.  Our ancestors paid much more attention to the world around them.  Not imprisoned in the walls and air conditioning, they watched the sky and listened to the richness of the world around them.  My grandmother could listen to the sounds around her house on a summer evening and tell you what temperature it was.  I'll tell you how at the end of this post.

The point is that we live in the same world, under the same stars, with nights lit up by the same full moon, as people have for generations upon generations.  But, like people who've taken too much sleep medication but can't yet go to bed, we stumble through the motions of living only dimly aware of the richness of life itself.

Paul, probably using a fragment of a baptismal song, tells the Christians in Asia Minor: "Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead and let the light of Christ shine upon you!" (Ephesians 5:14)

From the time they are toddlers, we raise children surrounded by sights and sounds, bright toys and engaging television programs.  We keep them entertained and busy and we desperately try and keep them from being bored.  We rush into our cars, start the music before we put the car in drive, and drive from overstocked markets to the overcrowded parking lot of a nearby Walmart.  Our eyes, hears, and brain are being engaged with something near sensory overload from sleepy eyed morning to stay-up-too-late night.

But, there hangs the moon.  Golden and bright, setting now along the western horizon as the bright morning dawn ushers in another hot August day.  The soft sounds of night have, by now, given way to the bright chirping of morning birds and the sounds of cars along the highway hurrying this way and that.  It is another day.  I know most of us will live through it.  Live to see another day tomorrow.  But, sometimes, I wonder...

Parents used to softly teach their children a little rhyme before they would go to sleep at night.  "Now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  And, if I die before I wake.  I pray the Lord my soul to take."  And so, I find myself wondering, sometimes, instead of praying, "If I die before I wake," maybe we need to start praying, "If I wake before I die."

Wake us, O God of bright dawns and full moons, who sweeps away the starry hosts behind the blue curtain of a morning sky.  Wake us with eyes that can see and ears that can hear.  This day, O giver of life, may I not simply be alive, but may I actually be awake and live."

And, now, how did my grandmother do it?  It was not a deep dark secret to the people who lived in the green valleys of the Appalachians north of Cumberland Gap.  She simply listened for the chirping of the crickets that populated the yard.  Like all insects, their body temperature was the same as the air temperature.  So, their steady regular pattern of chirping (no doubt looking for love) would be faster or slower depending on the temperature.  She learned to count out fifteen seconds in her head (you might need to use a watch), while she picked out a particular thrill-seeking cricket's chirping and also counted out how many chirps were in that 15 seconds.  For more accuracy (but the same general result) count the chirps in a minute and then divide that by four.

Here's how it worked:
Count the number of chirps in 15 seconds.
Add 40 to that number.

So, the crickets might be chirping 25 times every 15 seconds (or 100 times a minute).  25 plus 40 equals 65.  So, she'd tell me before we went back inside, "It's about 65 degrees out there."  I didn't even have to glance at the old thermometer on the back porch to know she'd be dead-on right every time.

"If I wake before I die..."

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