Creekbank Blog

The writing blog of Curt Iles and Creekbank Stories. Our mission: To connect hearts to God by using stories of encouragement and inspiration.

Monday, March 31, 2008

“Best Seat in the House”

From the Curt Iles book, Wind in the Pines.

-Copied from a trail journal at Blue Mountain Shelter on the Ouachita Trail in Central Arkansas.

I love the fine prose written by that unnamed hiker in Arkansas. As you’ve probably noticed many of my stories relate to the outdoors and nature. Please excuse me if I strike that “one note song” pretty often.

It’s just that out in the woods is when I feel closest to God. There is something about being among nature that causes even a non-believer in God to think that there is too much order all around to be totally by accident.
And when I’m out in the outdoors, walking and listening, stories just seem to come to me that I want to write.

Last spring when it was still cool and the mosquitoes, redbugs, and ticks had not yet become a nuisance, I was out in the woods on a late evening walk. As I came to Crooked Bayou, the stream along which my family’s first homestead is, I sat down to watch the approaching darkness in the swamp. It was quiet and seems as if the whole world has taken a vow of silence as the night comes on.

Suddenly a far off Barred Owl called. This owl is our most common one and is smaller than its more aggressive cousin, the Great Horned Owl. The Barred Owl has a distinctive eight note call, usually divided into two sets of four such as,
“Who cooks for you… who cooks for you alllll?”

This is how the old timers described its call. Some birders describe its call as “similar to the barking of a dog.”

Sitting on the creek bank, I cup my hands over my mouth and do my best owl imitation. I’m happily surprised when my call is returned by the owl. We continue our “conversation” and soon his call comes closer and I know he is coming to investigate who the trespasser is on his personal property.

To the west, deeper in the swamp, another owl answers. We now have owls “in stereo.”
With each series of hoots, the first owl is getting closer to where I’m sitting on the creek bank. The owl behind me to the west is still calling but has not changed its location.
When my owl friend hoots again, he is very close to my spot. I strain my eyes to look up in the surrounding beech trees to catch a glimpse of him. I know the direction he seems to be coming from, but I cannot spot him. My years of listening to owls have taught me that they have an uncanny way of seeming to throw their voice.

Finally, the owl flies into the tree directly over my head. An owl in flight surprises you with their broad wingspan. They are bigger than they seem to be when seen sitting on a limb.
There is still enough light to see the owl’s silhouette. I sit quietly not willing to make any move or sound that would scare him away. The owl and his partner to the west continue their calling back and forth.

Yes, just like the unknown hiker from that Arkansas shelter on that cool October night, I also have “the best seat in the house.”
I’ve got a front row box seat for the evening hoot owl concert.

As the dueling owls continue their chatting, I detect a more excitable song on the end of their calls. Dr. Lowery, in Louisiana Birds states, “…hoots are followed by a long drawn out weird scream that is enough to chill the bones of the initiated.”

I agree about the spookiness of this scream. I don’t know exactly what it means – whether it is a challenge to fight, or an invitation to come visit. Their mocking spooky calls end with my nearby owl flying toward the west and the other owl flying to meet him.
I wonder if they perform this rite each evening whether I’m there to eavesdrop or not.

It’s much darker now and I get up to cross a small log across the creek and head back from the swamp to higher ground and my truck.

It is a good feeling to have just been out in the woods. No time schedule, no interruptions… just having the best seat in the house - A front row seat at the evening hoot owl concert.

“Come to the woods, for here is rest.” -John Muir

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Curt will be part of the lineup at the upcoming "Get Published" Conference sponsored by The Baptist Message. Click here to learn more.

Click on images for a larger view of the Louisiana Baptist Message "Get Published" Conference.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

A New Word to Learn: "Belum"

From the book, Hearts across the Water, by Curt Iles

In Indonesia there are so many unique and unusual things. Chief among them are the nuances of their language. The following illustration is probably my favorite:

When an Indonesian is asked a specific question, they qualify their answer in many ways and terms. For instance, the question, “Are you married?” may not get the yes/no answer a Westerner would reply with. Instead a married person would answer, "Ya" which means yes.
But the chances are likely that an unmarried Indonesian would answer, "Belum." Ed, one of our team fluent in Indonesian and familiar with culture, pointed this out. "Belum" simply means "not yet." It is pronounced "be-loom."
Even the older lifelong bachelor or spinster would not answer this marital status question with "Tidak" ("No"), but instead they would answer with the eternally hopeful and optimistic, "Belum."

A whole list of “Belum” questions comes to mind:

Have you ever been to America? "Belum."

I like a people that have that kind of outlook of life. This "No, I haven't done that/been there/seen that yet" attitude is pretty neat.

Have you been to California to see the giant sequoia trees? "Belum."

Have you held a grandchild in your arms? "Belum."

Have you hiked the entire Appalachian Trail? "Belum."

Have you returned to Sumatra since your last trip? "Belum."

I like that word, "Belum."
It has an air of expectancy to it.
A holding out that it may (and shall) come to pass.
It has to be spoken with a certain faith to it.

It is a good word for the follower of Jesus to carry with him/her. Above all peoples, we should be living with that hopeful, believing seed of faith in our heart and mind.

For such questions as:
Are you as close to Jesus as you wish to be? "Belum."

Has that loved one you've prayed decades for come to the Lord? "Belum."

Is God through with you (at age________?) "Belum."

Have you been to Heaven? "Belum."

Best of all, I like the "Belum" answer for the tough spiritual questions that stared us in the face on this trip. Questions such as, "Do you understand why God allowed this massive disaster and loss of life?" "Belum."
I do not understand it and very likely will not on this side of Heaven's obscuring curtain. But in spite of my present "Belum," one day I will see this disaster from the vast, infinite, eternal vista of God's will and plan.
Until then I'll follow the wise words of the great English preacher, Charles Hadden Spurgeon:

"God is too kind to be cruel and too strong to be confused.
So when I can not trace His hand, I simply trust His heart."

Another important eternal question with that same one word reply is “Have the precious people of Aceh Province turned to Isa Almasih, or as I call him, Jesus the Messiah?" Once again, the answer is "Belum." But it is a "Not Yet" with the firm knowledge that the seeds being planted are being faithfully watered and nurtured by the Master. The harvest, as always, is His and not ours.

Belum...It's a word I like.