24
Jun
21

Blades of Grass

I was supposed to go to my 50th high school class reunion last year.

Instead, all members of the Hilliard (Ohio) High School class of 1970 spent our reunion year cowering inside hermetically sealed isolation suits, trying our best to avoid that minor inconvenience called The COVID-19 Global Pandemic

And so that long-awaited reunion will happen this year, the 51st since we walked across that stage and received our diplomas. Because I moved away from that town in the summer of 1969, I have not seen most of those fine folks in what seems like FOREVER!

Some I remember well. Some I recall vaguely. Other names and faces don’t ring even the faintest bell with me.

Then yesterday, I received a Facebook message from one of the reunion organizers that quite literally brought me to me knees. It was a list of members of the HHS Class of ’70 who have died since that graduation day. 

Scrolling down the list stunned me. It saddened me. It brought tears to my eyes. It also caused me to feel the cold fingers of mortality wrapping around my heart like few other things have done.

There was Kirk’s name. One of my best friends ever. Kirk was the guy who made plans to go into ministry even before graduating from high school. Sadly, Kirk ended his own life in 1990 after fighting for years against the insidious grip of mental illness and drug addiction.

There was Mike, who, it says, died in 2008. I remember Mike as the guy who introduced me to the most cutting-edge musical groups. We would spend hours listening to records in his basement.

Scrolling down further, I see Iveta’s name. Iveta was the beautiful, thin, young woman from Latvia. I didn’t know her well, but definitely wanted to.

There is Bev’s name. At our 20th reunion, Bev attended in her motorized wheelchair, the result of a debilitating case of MS. It says she died on October 2, 2020, so she would have been able to attend the 50th reunion if COVID hadn’t butted its fat head in. 

There is Bob… there is Vickie… there is Chuck… there is Sandy… and Karen… and John… and Tony, the guy who died in a car accident during our sophomore year. 

Holy cow! It began to feel as if the shorter list to send would have been the list of ‘70ers who are still alive. 

Looking at the list and meditating on it, I am certain that none of us in that class gave even a moment’s thought to the date and manner of our deaths on the bright June day as we listened to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” for the umpteenth time. We all probably assumed we would scatter, live modestly happy lives, and then gather to share our stories every 10 years thereafter, ad infinitum. 

But that isn’t the way life works, is it? There are limits. There is mortality. There is illness, addiction, and depression. There is damned bad luck, and funky genetics. 

That list reminded me that each of us is stamped with an expiration date, known only to God. It also brought the lines of Psalm 103 to mind where we read, “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSV). 

And if the story stopped there, it would spell out a tragedy of epic proportions.

But – PRAISE GOD! – we know that the story doesn’t stop there. It continues beyond verse 16 to verse 17 where we are reminded that, “… the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children…” (Psalm 103:17, NRSV).

How incredible is THAT! 

You and I… finite, perishable blades of grass, bound to expire in the twinkling of a cosmic eye… are everlastingly loved by the One who created it all! 

And with that reminder, the thermostat on my heartache and distress dials down several degrees. My weeping becomes a prayer of gratitude for those lives… for their impact on me, and for the everlasting love of their Creator.

Abundant blessings;

17
Jun
21

In Praise of Slow

Normally, I am a pretty fast guy.

Mmmmmm!!

I walk fast.

I drive fast (much to Joan’s great displeasure).

I eat fast and drink fast.

I cook fast, I wash the dishes fast, and I make my bed fast.

I even read fast.

I was always the guy who had too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. Somehow, even though I have been retired now for almost two years, I still carry on in the same way.

Since May 4 of this year, however, all of that has changed DRAMATICALLY.

The issues I have been having with the pain in my lower back have forced me to follow the wise guidance of Simon and Garfunkel when they sing, “Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last!” 

They are right about that part. But I’m not sure I am on board with the song’s chorus: “ALL IS GROOVY!”

Every day, somewhere around 10:00 a.m. when the muscle relaxers and pain meds finally kick in, I venture out for a little walk in the neighborhood. But I have to walk REALLY slowly. You would be forgiven for chuckling as you watch me out there… taking my mincing, shuffling, “little old man” steps. 

Then it is back home for a 20-minute session with the ice pack.

In many ways, this enforced slowdown is very aggravating. I mean, we are finally coming out of the dark tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic when things are opening back up, and here I am, sidelined by this ridiculous, relentless PAIN!!

But you know what? I am slowly discovering that there are some hidden gifts that come when I take life at a slower pace. 

  • I see more of my surroundings
  • I have longer conversations with my neighbors
  • I feel zero guilt about sitting down and cracking open a book in the middle of the day
  • I note and appreciate the different hues of each hour of the day
  • This new pace of mine allows me to turn the tables and give Joan the opportunity to be MY caretaker for a while.
  • But most importantly, I find that I am much more likely to use these slow, unscheduled moments to pause and connect with God… in prayer or quiet reflection.

Looking in at the life of the man who drew the BC/AD dividing line through human history, we find that HE had a finely tuned appreciation for life in the slow lane, too. The Bible records at least 21 separate instances like this one in Luke’s gospel where we read: “Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12, NRSV). 

Jesus sounds ardently anti-hustle-bustle in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:27, NRSV).

Despite these manifold spirit-nurturing benefits, I absolutely will NOT accept the premise that God sent me this back pain as a hard-to-miss lesson about slowing down and smelling the roses. 

On the contrary, this dilemma is all about the accumulated effects of genetics, years of bad posture and overdoing, mixed in with a touch of Ol’ Uncle Arthur. 

God is the one who stands with me in my pain and whispers, “I know this thing with your back sucks right now, but I AM and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN in the redemption business. Tune in and I will help you make a sweet pitcher of lemonade out of this lemon you’ve been handed.”

And you know what? God is there with you too, whispering the same thing. 

All we need to do is slow down and LISTEN!

Abundant blessings;

14
Jun
21

New Glasses

He noticed!” said Joan with a hint of surprise in her voice.

Yes he did…,” I replied, adding, “…That’s because Elijah is a Professional Noticer of Things.”

Elijah, operating the sound board for our church’s outdoor worship service yesterday, noticed that I had a new pair of glasses and commented on them. In fact, he was very complimentary of my style choice.

His comment was noteworthy because in the nearly six weeks since I acquired these new glasses, the number of people who have noticed their newness and commented on them is a very small number indeed. 

Elijah noticed my new glasses, I reasoned, because Elijah is an artist. I believe it is the artist’s job to notice stuff… to attune their exquisite antennae to every shape, size, and nuance in their world… to penetrate below the surface of their quotidian environment and see that which is unseen by most… and then use their chosen medium to help the rest of us see it, too.

But then, after making my clever quip, I stopped and pondered a moment: is that kind of “noticing” strictly the province of artists? Are they the only ones tasked with that special “seeing”? Does it require an innate, inborn set of skills to perceive novelty, beauty, diversity, and wonder in our world?

Or is that something any of us can/should be able to do?

If you have a chance to spend even five minutes in the presence of a small child – say three or fewer years of age – you will soon discover that for them, EVERYTHING about the world is amazing, incredible, and totally AWESOME! In their eyes, there are remarkable new discoveries to be found around every corner! 

They think the world is a veritable smorgasbord of wonder and delight on which to feast their inquiring little eyes.

Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, are those of us who have been around the sun a few times… the folks who can come to feel – if we’re not careful – as if we’ve “seen it all.” On occasion it seems to us that all the sheen and luster has worn off our bright, shiny world. 

“Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” threatens to become our mantra. Our eyes can glaze over, our perspectives can become jaded, and we can say, “AMEN! Ain’t it the truth!” when we hear The Teacher saying, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NRSV).

We trumpet the virtue of our world-weariness and think of ourselves as, “savvy… sophisticated… urbane… refined… aware.” 

Everything we see is SO gauche and jejune and we simply can’t be bothered.

How sad!

How dull!

And when you come right down to it, how utterly ungodly.

Loving God means knowing and loving God’s creation. And central to loving God’s creation is recognizing that God is in the business of Continuous Renewal. The prophet Isaiah talks about this when he speaks on God’s behalf and tells the Israelites, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19, NRSV). 

When we allow our hearts to be transformed by the in-breaking power of the Holy Spirit, WE also become new… blessed with the capability to see newness all around us. Paul understood this transformation perfectly. He described it when he wrote, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NRSV).

So, is it possible to be mature, experienced, and wonder-filled all at the same time? 

I’d say, “Absolutely!” 

All it takes is a new pair of glasses.

Abundant blessings;

08
Jun
21

My Aching Back

There we were, relaxing on the white sugar sands of Destin, Florida. Joan and I traveled there to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. [Pro tip: Get married in a year that ends with 000 if you can. That way you always know how long you’ve been married.]

One moment we were enjoying a carefree frolic in the emerald surf…

… the next moment I was back in our room, howling in agony.

It seems my back – which has been a source of misery for me on and off for the last 40 years – was not a fan of frolicking in the surf. It seized up in a very painful way and demanded one hundred percent of my attention.

That was on May 4. It is now June 8, and the situation is only marginally better. 

Since the onset of this latest insult, I have been to chiropractors (x4), massage therapists (x3), my PCP, a pain management specialist, a guy who mixes in some rolfing with cold lasers with massage with pep talks, an orthopedic surgeon, a physical therapist, I’ve used ice, used heat, taken pain drugs, muscle relaxer drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, and plain old laying down and taking it easy. 

The drugs do a great job relieving the pain, but they also make me sleepy and sluggish and completely rob me of blog posting ideas. 

And now, I am reading a book titled, Healing Back Pain; The Mind-Body Connection (by John E. Sarno, MD) that tells me this whole thing is all in my head, essentially. 

I am not writing today to seek additional therapeutic suggestions or to elicit sympathy. Lord knows there are some of you dealing with much more serious physical situations than mine. 

I am writing to say that I am not so sure Dr. Sarno is totally wrong. 

Because there IS indeed a connection between our mind and our body. When the psalmist talked to God and marveled at the fact that human beings are, “… fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14, NRSV), I believe she (or he) was talking about all the magical and mystical dimensions of the human experience… internal as well as external.

But I get it.

It is far easier to think of our component parts as separate, unconnected entities and treat them as such. Tracking down all the pertinent details of my emotional state on May 4, 2021 and finding out which group of them sent my back muscles into spasm is infinitely tougher than just writing me a prescription for pain killers. 

In Psalm 19:1 we are also reminded that God’s inscrutable awesomeness is readily seen throughout the created world. When he (or she) says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NRSV), I can easily justify substituting the words “My body” for “The heavens” and “my spine” for “the skies.” 

At this moment I am more inclined to attribute the creation of the lumbar region of my spine to God’s Chief Adversary. But before that Pity Party even gets off the ground, I find myself invited to meditate on this reminder from Paul. He told the Corinthian Christians that, “This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NRSV). 

Thanks for letting me whine for a moment. I know this too shall pass and that I will be back walking, riding my bike, mowing the grass, and planting shrubbery in very short order. 

I’ll make a deal with you: you pray for me, and I’ll pray for you. Heck, I’ll even pray for you even if you DON’T pray for me. 

Sound good?

Abundant blessings;

29
May
21

Blessed Assurance

Poor Rosie the dog.

You see, yesterday was trash pick-up day on our cul-de-sac. Actually, because of the goofy way the city of Fort Collins does business, yesterday was one of THREE weekly trash pick-up days on our tiny eight house cul-de-sac. 

And I say “Poor Rosie the dog” because our little Rosie has a deathly fear of garbage trucks…

… and UPS trucks…

… and open umbrellas.

And so, whenever we happen to experience a rainy trash day, with multiple UPS deliveries, Joan and I have a very frightened, trembling Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier on our hands. 

We try reasoning with her, explaining that the trash trucks aren’t going to get her, the UPS trucks are just bringing useful or fun gifts to people, and the umbrellas are providing important protection from the rain.

But Rosie doesn’t buy it… not for a minute.

All she wants is to be held and petted and calmly reassured that everything is going to be all right. 

I can SO identify!

Not that I have a similar fear of garbage trucks, UPS trucks, and open umbrellas, mind you.

But I do find myself wondering and worrying now and then about Big Scary Things Out There that I don’t understand. These are worries that – if I am not careful – can blossom into Serious Threats to My Safety in the cauldron of my fevered imagination. 

I’m talking about things like global pandemics…

  • … and terrorists… (both the foreign AND the domestic kind).
  • … and perpetrators of random, senseless violence.
  • … and power-mad politicians. 

And just like Rosie and her fear of garbage trucks, I am sure most of my trepidation is based on the NOISEthat comes from these sources rather than from the actual DANGER they pose. 

Also, like Rosie, my biggest need in these moments is to feel a pair of strong, loving arms wrapped around me and to hear a calm reassuring voice telling me that everything is going to be OK.

If that happens to be YOUR need right now (or ever), let me help you hear the sounds of the voice that speaks to me in moments of uncertainty and trepidation. This voice says things like…

  • “I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” (Psalm 3:6, NRSV)
  • “Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…”(Psalm 46:2, NRSV)
  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NRSV)
  • “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27, NRSV)
  • “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15, NRSV)

In a moment of fear, we each seek out some kind of assurance. And when that assurance comes from a source we trust, we let go of our fears and relax…

… just like Rosie the dog. 

Today I am grateful that my assurance comes from a source I know I can trust completely.

And the really, really Good News is: so can YOU!

Abundant blessings;

25
May
21

What Do YOU Need?

You wore a mask! 

Good for you!

And you did it for the most altruistic of reasons! You did it, first and foremost, for the benefit of people around you. I mean, sure, you were also doing it to protect yourself. But as the scientists told us repeatedly, the wearing of face masks was primarily a measure designed to keep ME from spreading the disease to YOU.

Thank you very much and KUDOS!

Today though, as the number of new cases of COVID-19 gets smaller and smaller every day, mask requirements are being relaxed. People are returning to Disneyland, to ball parks, to concerts, and to grocery stores, brazenly showing the bottom half of their faces.

As we revel in our newfound freedom, though, I worry. 

Yes, I worry about a “fourth wave” (or is it the fifth?) of COVID that might return to take more lives. But I also worry that the relaxation of mask requirements will also cause a relaxation of our practice of acting “for the benefit of others.”

Let’s start out by admitting right out of the gate that Americans have never really been good at the whole, “… for the benefit of others” thing. We are the land of the rugged individual where the word FREEDOM means MYfreedom to do as I darned well please… and to heck with how my actions might affect YOU.

  • We are, after all, the people who hacked and shot and blasted our way across the prairies of North America, snatching the land away from people who were here thousands of years before us. 
  • We are the self-appointed “protectors of the planet” (unless, of course, we are talking about protecting the planet from global climate change) who will stop at nothing to make the world safe for democracy.
  • We are the people who invent and innovate and devise our own solutions to problems, regardless of the work other people have done.

But the pandemic seemingly changed all that. The overwhelming majority of us came to understand that simply “looking out for number 1” is an ethos that can carry deadly consequences.

At first, looking around and seeing people wearing masks – “for the benefit of others” – was incredibly exciting for me. It almost made me believe I was watching the emergence a whole new national ethos. 

Now I’m not so sure. 

Now it seems as if we are quickly falling back into our old habits and patterns. It is almost as if we’ve decided that the idea of measuring our actions by the yardstick of how they affect, or benefit others is something that only applies when there is a global supervirus lurking about.

To which I say, just as the heartbroken young boy said to Shoeless Joe Jackson as he left the courthouse following his trial for perpetrating the Chicago Black Sox scandal in 1919, “SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE!”

As the popular internet meme so wisely says, “Bees don’t make honey for themselves. Trees don’t eat the fruit they produce. They each demonstrate the truth that says life is best when it is lived FOR OTHERS.” 

Or as this guy named Jesus of Nazareth also said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12, NRSV). The people listening to him in that moment knew exactly what he meant by the phrase, “… as I have loved you.” They knew that it meant they were called to love one another TOTALLY… UNCONDITIONALLY… and SACRIFICIALLY.

They knew he meant that – if it came to it – they were called to give up their lives for someone else… just as Jesus had.

Like many others I am really, really tired of masking. I am likewise tired of staying six feet away from people who aren’t part of my “tribe.”

But – with the help of God – I am going to try and shape my actions by what YOU need instead of what I want.

Abundant blessings;

19
May
21

Tennis anyone?

Watch out for his wicked backhand!

I am not a huge tennis fan, but I do love watching a good, sustained, competitive tennis volley. Each player is moving to the ball… returning their opponent’s shot with confidence… probing to find the perfect angle to sneak the ball past the opponent… hustling to get in position for the return shot…

It reminds me of a few conversations I’ve had lately.

I am sure you know what I’m talking about. The settings are eerily similar; first, there is something in play, only in the case of the conversation it is a Topic of Mutual Interest (TMI for short) instead of a tennis ball. Second, instead of high-performance rackets, the combatants are wielding Perceptions

Custom-built, finely tuned Perceptions

Back and forth flies the TMI, vigorously batted from one side to the other. Sweat begins dripping down the face of each player as they grunt with the exertion of each stroke. Finally, one player breaks through and hits a screaming, utterly unreturnable shot past the flagging defenses of the person on the other side.

Game. Set. Match. On one side, a winner. On the other, a sad, deflated loser.

Flipping back to the tennis setting, we almost always experience great joy and satisfaction when we are the one standing on the winning side of the net. But when we shift our focus to the playing field of the person-to-person conversation, that moment of victory can sometimes ring a little hollow, can’t it?  

 Let’s all confess this right now, in unison: “I LIKE TO BE RIGHT!”

This is certainly true of me. Anytime a person makes a statement that exhibits deep, factual flaws [statements like, for example, “This whole COVID thing is a sham,” or “I’m really not sure these vaccines are safe, so I’m not getting one.” You know… dumb stuff like that] I feel a compulsion to rush in and set the record straight by lobbing a truth bomb and blowing away such blatant tomfoolery. 

But is that always needed? Are there times when there are higher values to uphold than factual correctness?

The Bible speaks frequently about the need to be “righteous,” (also translated as “right”).  By my quick count, the Good Book uses the words “righteous” or “righteousness” a total of 493 times. God is regularly quoted as saying – in effect – “It’s got to be MY way or the HIGHWAY.”

Jesus’ take on righteousness, in contrast, is markedly different than the one we find in the Old Testament. His call was for a right adherence to not necessarily all 613 commandments of the Torah, but to the Two Great Commandments: love God and love your neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV). 

Here is what Jesus has to say about the relationship of LOVE and RIGHTEOUSNESS, as he quotes Proverbs 21:3: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13, NRSV).

Being so brash as to interpret Jesus’ direct words to you, he seems to be saying here that he is more concerned with right RELATIONSHIP rather than factual or scriptural rightness. In other words, I think Jesus would be totally cool with you if – while stumbling to quote a passage of scripture accurately – you fed a hungry person. 

Which brings me back to my original question; are there times when you and I need to adhere to a higher value than our need to be right all the time? 

If you are married, you already know the answer to this one.

If you are NOT married, the answer is: YES…. there absolutely are times when you need to bite your tongue, refusing to return that shot for the sake of the relationship. 

Much easier said than done, I’m afraid. 

Abundant blessings;

15
May
21

Homecoming

Where is your place?

Come take a SPIN!

Whenever I discuss the important places in my life, I usually list four: 

  • Columbus, Ohio – the place where I was born.
  • Seattle, Washington – the place to which our family moved in 1969 (and still the region where my four siblings and stepmom live)
  • Kansas City, MO metro area – the place I lived for 44 years, and
  • Fort Collins, CO – the place I live right now.

The fact of the matter is, I sat down the other day and made a list of every house I have lived in since infancy and came up with the staggering total of 27. 

27!

That means I have only lived – on average – 2.55 years in each of those places. 

Doesn’t that make me sound like a restless vagabond, constantly in search of that elusive IDEAL PLACE? I certainly think so.

And it kind of begs the question: “Is there such a thing as The Ideal Place?” 

In my life I have known people who believe in the existence of The Ideal Place and are engaged in a restless, lifelong search for it. 

They want the Ideal Climate

They want the Ideal Topography and Geography

They want the Ideal Quantity (and Quality) of Cultural Amenities

They want the Ideal Cost of Living.

They want a place with the Ideal Reputation.

And of course, they want to make sure this Ideal Place is populated by the Ideal Type of Person. You know… the type that is friendly, but not too friendly. Diverse, but not too diverse. Educated, but not too educated. And so on…

The sad outcome of this quest is that each place they live in somehow falls short on one or more of these critical criteria. 

And so, convinced that the next stop will be the answer, they pack up and move there… and start the process all over again.

I have to say, with the notable exception of the seedy place in Tacoma where Jeff, Marcus, and I lived, and probably my one-bedroom apartment on McGee Street in Kansas City, I have really LOVED every one of the 27 different places I have lived. 

Some I chose willingly, while other places were forced on me by the circumstance. But in every case, I knew it was not going to be the WHERE that made the difference… it was going to be the WHAT, as in “What kind of person are you going to be here in this new environment?” 

Because, as Buckaroo Banzai said in the 1984 cult classic film, “No matter where you go, there you are!” 

The truth is, God sees us – and KNOWS us – wherever we are. God knows us inside and out, whether we’re wearing the plaid flannel of Colorado, the flip-flops of Miami Beach, or the grungy, torn blue jeans of Seattle. As the psalmist once said, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance…” (Psalm 139:15-16, NRSV).

The scene can change, but unless we change too, we will find ourselves facing the same problems all over again in the next place we go. 

Today I live in Fort Collins, Colorado. It is a nice, friendly, attractive, stimulating place with awesome vistas and lots of indoor and outdoor stuff to do. And yet, despite all its sterling qualities, I REALLY still miss the people and places of the Kansas City area. 

But you know what? I’ve made up my mind that here, with God and the love of my life by my side, is where I am going to call HOME

Abundant blessings;

14
May
21

News to Me

In the morning it is usually NPR’s Morning Edition, followed by 1A, and then – time permitting, of course – a smidgen or two of The Takeaway with Tanzina Vega.

NBC Nightly News and Dateline anchor Lester Holt poses for photos on the Nightly News set, at NBC headquarters, in New York, Wednesday, July 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

In the evening we rarely miss a date with Lester Holt and the NBC Nightly News, even if it means catching him on the DVR. Rounding out the day is usually the local TV news at 10.

Each of these programs helps put Joan and me in touch with the news of the world. Each delivers the news in its own unique way, shedding light, insight, and perspective on the events and issues of the day.

There have been a few times during the past year, however, when we have turned, looked at each other, and said – in unison – “Why bother!?” Every newscast seemed to be a carbon copy of the night before; here are today’s COVID stats… here is how COVID is affecting the economy… here are the political fights around dealing with COVID… here is how other countries are handling COVID… and just to mix things up a little bit, let’s throw in a mass shooting somewhere in the U.S. once a week or so.

And there for a while we did shut it off… electing instead for double episodes of JEOPARDY! 

But as election season ended and COVID began to abate, we returned to our nightly newsviewing practice. Most of the time, I’ll admit, tuning in to the news is an act of pure habit. And yes, a whole lot of the time it is just more of the S.O.S. (Same Old Stuff, of course).

Lately though, I’ve thought about it and concluded that I really WANT the news of the world in my life. 

  • I want to be reminded that there are other people and other stories besides mine out there. 
  • I want… no NEED… to be reminded that the realities of tragedy, heartbreak, war, disease, and despair exist even if they have not come home to roost on my doorstep at the moment. 
  • I need to see faces that don’t look like mine, beliefs that don’t square with mine, experiences and art and landscapes and foods and clothing and lives that remind me of the unimaginable blessing of living in such a rich, textured world as this. 

So far, the news has been that vehicle – whether delivered by my radio or my TV set – that has consistently put me in touch with the people, events, and realities that keep taking me outside my cozy little comfort zone. 

And besides… if the news gets too crass, dull, or grotesque, there is always JEOPARDY!

[“I’ll take Potent Potables for $400, please!”]

Abundant blessings;

12
May
21

Sharing Sea Bass

Forgive me, blogosphere, for I have sinned.

They make it look so EASY!

Today’s confession: I am not good at sharing. 

Especially when it comes to food.

But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Joan.

Allow me to set the scene: Joan and I are sitting across from one another having a meal at a nice, but not-too-expensive Fort Collins restaurant. We have ordered two different entrees and are both enjoying our selections. At exactly one bite past the halfway point of consuming the Featured Item on my plate, I notice a floating fork in the corner of my field of vision… it is slowly advancing in my direction.

Attached to that floating fork is the right hand of my beloved. 

I look up, warily. There is a smile on her lips and pure charm in her eyes as she bats those lovely eyelashes and demurely asks, “Can I have a bite?”

Whereas most loving spouses would return that smile, lean back in their chair, and say, “Certainly, honey. Go right ahead!” I, instead, balk. In my mind I have calculated the precise number of bites left on my plate and have devised plans for the enjoyment of every one of them. The prospect of losing even one sets my pulse racing.

At war with these basic protective instincts is an aspiration to be seen by my spouse as a “good guy;” read, “One who shares freely of all his possessions.”

So, I end up smiling feebly and muttering a barely audible, “Uh, sure… go ahead… I guess.”

Pretty pathetic, no?

In the first place, it is ridiculous to imagine that giving away ONE SMALL BITE of my food will make the slightest difference in my satiation, my nourishment, or my joy. 

Secondly, what kind of MONSTER chooses to hoard all their gustatorial enjoyment… especially from the one you have covenanted to become “one flesh” with? (Genesis 2:24, and Matthew 19:5, NRSV). 

And thirdly, (but probably not lastly), what does that sort of miserly response on such a MINOR matter say about that person’s general generosity quotient? 

I can sit here and talk all day about the fact that I grew up in a family of five kids where food was scarce and to be guarded with one’s life. But frankly that was a long, long time ago. Those tapes should really not be playing in my 69-year-old head any longer. 

It’s not as if the faith I profess to profess is exactly silent on this topic. Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35, NRSV). The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, listed GENEROSITY as one of his famous “fruits of the spirit”: “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness…” (Galatians 5:22, NRSV). And in making this list, I am sure Paul was probably taking for granted that OF COURSE spouses would demonstrate these “fruits” to one another.

So, what’s my problem, anyway?

It may be that I suffer from the disease of ENTITLEMENT… the sense that the world and those around me OWE ME something.

It may be that I somehow see life as a “zero sum” equation… that is, you gaining something necessarily means me losing something. 

Or it may just mean that I really, REALLY love steamed sea bass. 

Whatever the final verdict, I pray that my character flaw might be instructive to you in your journey.

As it turns out, Jesus was right after all… it really is more blessed to give than to receive.

Abundant blessings;




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