11
Aug
22

Mature Love

Love is love is love

Love – I think we can all agree – is pretty danged awesome.

You and I are probably also in agreement about the idea that there are different KINDS of love. Perhaps “…different EXPRESSIONS of love,” would be a better way to say that.

For example, there is the giddy, exploding fireworks, breathless, fixated kind of young love. You know… the kind that looks an awful lot like a dangerous addiction. 

Eros is what the Greeks call this expression of love.

Then there is the love that describes the way I love my brothers and my sister. It is fierce. It is tender… (sometimes). It is VERY close to unconditional. It brings great joy. At the same time, it is utterly asexual. The Greek word for this expression of love is filios.

If you have attended this seminar before, you know that the next category goes by the Greek name agapeAgape is traditionally described as perfect, self-sacrificing, godly love. The love Jesus demonstrated for all of us from the cross, for example.

But we are going to put a pin in AGAPE for just a second if that’s OK. I promise we will come back to it a little later.

The category I want to throw out there next is MATURE love. I’m not sure what the Greek word for this is, but I’m equally sure there is one. 

This is the kind of love that starts out with eros… moves on to hanging out for a while to see where this thing goes… morphs into deciding to exchange sacred vows and promising lifelong commitment, and finally leads to riding the crazy roller-coaster of “doing life together,” through all the ups, downs, hair-pin turns, dry, dull patches, dead-ends, and fiery crashes you typically experience along the way.

I have experienced mature love in my life. Twice, in fact. The first time for 20-some years. This time the count stands at 22 years. 

If you know about mature love, you know it takes work. You have discovered – as I did, the hard way – that there is no such thing in mature love as, “… putting this thing on cruise control and coasting the rest of the way in.”

Relationships take constant attention and effort. There is no point at which they drive themselves.

And while I have been talking entirely about the HUMAN journey of love, I want to pose a bit of an odd question here… mainly for the sake of sparking a conversation. 

That question is: ARE THERE ANY ANALOGS BETWEEN THE HUMAN-TO-HUMAN EXPERIENCE OF MATURE LOVE AND THE EXPERIENCE OF MATURE LOVE BETWEEN A PERSON AND GOD?

Yes. On the one hand, the question is totally ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because we know that God ALWAYSloves perfectly. Humans, on the other hand, ALWAYS love imperfectly. In the human-to-human relationship, both parties are (ideally) learning and growing in their capacity to love. In the human-God relationship, it is only WE who need to grow and mature. God has already arrived at mature, loving perfection.

So yes. Silly question.

Yet it nags at me. 

Based on some experience and some observation, I have learned a few things along the way about the qualities of mature human love. For example, I’ve learned that the word “trivial” gradually recedes from your vocabulary. In a mature relationship, you come to realize just how much things matter. A word… a gesture… a sigh… a neglected coffee cup. Something you might have breezed by and ignored in another time now begins to OOZE with significance. 

I’ve seen that couples who have known one another for a long time start to “tune in” more keenly to one another, anticipating each other’s thoughts and feelings.

The same thing happens – I believe – as we mature in our relationship with God. We begin making more of a practice of tuning in to the “still, small voice.” We move from seeing God’s handiwork in its broadest brush strokes (like the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains) to seeing it in the smallest, like, “… the whiteness of a washed pocket handkerchief,” to quote D.H. Lawrence. 

God’s presence and activity turn up EVERYWHERE we look. We realize we can’t “… flee from your presence,”as the Psalmist once wrote…

… But we also realize we don’t want to.

So, I will close by asking: am I crazy? Is it completely off base to try and find similarities between a mature HUMAN-TO-HUMAN love and a mature HUMAN-TO-GOD love? 

And if you DON’T think this is crazy, what are some other similarities you see in these two relationships?

Abundant blessings;

02
Aug
22

Perspective Tune-up

I’ve decided: I hate quarantine.

Since receiving a positive COVID diagnosis over a week ago, I have been in a state of doctor-ordered quarantine here in my home. That has meant sleeping in the upstairs guest bedroom, not coming close to, touching – let alone kissing – Joan, and wearing that stupid N95 mask ALL THE TIME. 

Many of you have experienced this and know exactly what I am talking about. Some of you have probably even gone through much more severe COVID journeys than mine, involving hospitals, ventilators, and questions of life or death.  

And most of you – I’m pretty sure – have done it with a lot less whining about it.

All things considered though; this experience has not been that bad. 

Don’t get me wrong; the first three days were rough. But because I am double-vaxxed and boosted, the main symptoms went away on the fourth day, leaving me feeling almost back to normal. Isolated and bored, yes. But overall feeling well. In fact, I’ve felt well enough to hop on my bike and go on long rides both yesterday and the day before. 

No… quarantine isn’t any fun. But when I start feeling like it is time to convene a meeting of Russell’s Private Pity Party, I pick up the Bible and start reading a little from Paul. As you might recall, Paul had a bit of a “quarantine” thing going on there in the beginning of his letter to the church at Philippi. Right there in the first chapter we read these words; “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the progress of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ…” (Philippians 1:12-13 NRSVU). 

Of course, the phrase, “… what has happened to me…” there refers to being thrown in jail for his public preaching about Jesus. And instead of sitting there in that cell and whining about the cruel nature of his situation, Paul instead focused on the OPPORTUNITY it presented him! 

Crazy, eh?

Then there is that little passage in 2 Corinthians where Paul momentarily goes out of his mind – his words, not mine – and starts listing all of the CRAP he’s had to endure in order to carry out his evangelical mission. 

Remember that passage? You can find it in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. But to save your valuable time, I will reprint it here: “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.”

I also found ministry to be a VERY rugged profession. But I honestly don’t think I can recall ever being beaten with rods or stoned. 

My point is this: ALL of us… no matter what we are going through… can benefit from a “perspective check” now and then. That “check” is what these words from Paul provided for me.

Speaking personally, I will confess the ease with which MY momentary reality can become THE universal reality… at least in my head. My worldview narrows to ME and the two-foot bubble of life surrounding me. Nothing outside that bubble matters.

But the truth is, my reality is nothing more than a decision I made about how this current situation is going to affect me. Either I will see it as a unique kind of OPPORTUNITY I’ve been handed (Paul style), or I’ll see it as some kind of horrible injustice I’ve been saddled with. 

So, I will decide to use the gift of this quarantine time to catch up on my fiction reading, learn a few new songs on the guitar, ride my bike (weather permitting, of course), and as a time to take the opportunity to get my perspective tuned up …

… which it needs only about once every three minutes.

Abundant blessings;

29
Jul
22

Plagued by Purpose

Deep Thinker

There was a time… I remember it well… when the answer was so simple, it wasn’t even necessary to ask the question.

Those were the days when you only had to look one branch down on the family tree to know what your life was all about. 

Back then, asking why you were here on this planet was akin to picking up a hammer and asking why ITexisted. 

We each knew we were here to carry on… to receive and then pass the baton… to stoke the fires of family tradition, keeping them burning for those who come after. 

It was a sacred trust we dared not interrupt.

Those of us raised in that time knew it was only either saints or psychos who heard voices calling them to undertake BOLD, HISTORY-SHAPING ventures. For the rest of us, ours was to keep our heads down, our noses clean, and our shoulders firmly pressed against the wheel.

Until it wasn’t.

One day, everything turned upside down. One day, planes full of new high school graduates started taking off and flying west over the ocean. The next day, those same planes flew back filled with body bags. No one ever fully explained to us why it was necessary, or when it would end, or what we hoped to gain. They just kept sending more of us over there to die.

So, we stopped trusting them. We stopped assuming they were right. Until they could come up with better answers, we officially declined the job of Cultural Continuity Custodians

Because they were YOUR answers and not OURS, those answers were automatically WRONG. We didn’t believe it was true until we discovered it ourselves. In pursuit of that truth, we employed every tool of discovery imaginable. 

And so today, many years later, here I sit. Wondering. 

  • Are we here to be blind stewards of tradition, obediently carrying forward that which has been handed us?
  • Are we instead called to be students of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, understanding that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever,” and be done with it?
  • Or was it a good thing that we once opened this Pandora’s Pouch of Pulsating Possibilities and realized our power to CHOOSE and SHAPE the world we inhabit?

So, what is my purpose?

What is YOUR purpose?

What, in broader terms, is the purpose of life PERIOD?

For the definitive answer, we turn to the Source of all definitive answers. Jesus himself.

In the fourth chapter of John, after Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well (you know… the town outcast to whom Jesus offered comfort and a new vision for her future), he gave this very succinct definition of his purpose: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” (John 4:34, NRSVU). 

There it is. Simple and straightforward… deftly summarizing shelves and shelves of books on the topic: FINDING LIFE’S PURPOSE.

Do God’s will. In this moment. And this moment. And this moment. Ad infinitum… until you look back and behold a life filled with a long string of moments of divine obedience. 

  1. Do God’s will.
  2. Complete God’s work. 

Simple as that.

Abundant blessings;

14
Jul
22

Viva la difference!

I’m sorry, but it’s true; I am married to the best cook in the world.

Sorry. This picture of the leftovers just doesn’t do justice to the thing in its prime.

The votes are in… tallies have been verified by Price-Waterhouse… the verdict is final.

How she does it – consistently night after night– I’ll never know. But mine is not to question why. Mine is just to dine and sigh. 

Just two nights ago, for example, Joan made some chicken thighs. “No big deal,” I hear you say. “What’s so amazing about chicken thighs?” But these were MIND-BLOWING chicken thighs. I can’t offer 100% validation on this, but I am reasonably sure Joan had at least DOUBLE the Colonel’s trademark “…eleven herbs and spices…” sprinkled on those bad boys.

I detected salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric, a little Turkish spice we picked up at the Istanbul Bazaar a few years ago, garlic salt, cayenne, and a couple of other things my tongue is not sophisticated enough to discern. 

But here is the thing: in the realm of cooking and the enjoyment of food, DIVERSITY seems to be the key. Our (between 2,000 and 4,000, according to the interwebs) taste buds get all excited and LIGHT UP when they encounter a multiplicity of stimuli. They cry, “MORE! MORE! We LOVE this avalanche of input you’re giving us!! Pile it ON!!”

Our visual receptors work the same way. We see something and label it, “beautiful,” or “awesome,” when we see a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, all converging in the same place. 

[Unless, of course, they happen to converge in the form of that blue and yellow plaid leisure suit I owned in 1983]. 

The same thing happens in the world of SOUND. One musical note is great. But add two or three other, different notes to that one and you get what we call HARMONY, which most of us call “pleasing to the ear.”

All of which brings me to the question that is the real point of this post; if you and I are hard-wired to find beauty in diversity and variety in sight, taste, and sound, why doesn’t this same wiring extend to our SOCIAL world?

That is, why do we seem to continue to insist that PEOPLE all adhere to a lockstep line of undifferentiated homogeneity?

Our nation’s horrible history of segregation, for example, suggests we once believed people should associate with only ONE race… their own. Maybe some still do.

We also seem to have an extremely hard time accommodating more than one OPINION or VIEWPOINT when considering the issues of the day. Anymore it isn’t just, “Sorry… I disagree with your position, and here’s why…” Today it is more like, “People who see things THAT way (meaning NOT the way I see it) are wrong, evil, and should honestly not even exist.”

“But wait!” you say. “Aesthetics and sociology have absolutely NOTHING to do with one another! Beauty is in the eye (or ear… or taste buds) of the beholder, whereas truth is ABSOLUTE and unwavering!”

Wise old King Solomon gave us a warning about our commitment to absolutism when he said, “Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end, it is the way to death.” (Proverbs 16:25, NRSVU). Even earlier in his book of wise sayings he helpfully advised us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” (Proverbs 3:5, NRSVU).

And remember… this comes from the man widely considered to be the smartest guy who ever lived. Yes… even smarter than Elon Musk!

True. The world today is filled with wacky and outlandish ideas. There is, for example, an active Flat Earth Society… there are moon landing deniers… 9/11 conspiracy theorists… Bigfoot chasers… even (if you can believe it!!) people who still deny the reality of climate change and the 2020 presidential election results! 

Am I saying that we ought to give even these a place of honor and legitimacy in our picture of the universe? 

No, I am not. Not when the item has been thoroughly and repeatedly proven to have no relationship to reality, as is the case with all the above.

What I AM saying is: let’s worry more about our level of COMMUNITY than our level of CORRECTNESS. Let’s make the search for ACCURACY secondary to the quest for AUTHENTICITY. Let’s prize KINSHIP over KNOWLEDGE. 

Does that mean smiling silently and nodding at Uncle Billy while he sits down at the Thanksgiving table and starts railing about Bill Gates planting microchips in your COVID vaccine?

Maybe. Maybe not. 

But if you do, you might just find Uncle Billy doing the same for YOU!

Abundant blessings;

11
Jul
22

Breathing Lessons

WHEW!

Dodged another COVID bullet.

Joan and I just heard from a close friend – one we had recently been in physical proximity with – that she and her husband both tested positive for the virus. 

Fortunately, their symptoms are mild, but she wanted us to know they caught the bug so that we could go get tested right away. 

So we did. And – Praise the Lord and pass the nasal swabs! – we both tested negative. 

This makes probably the fourth VERY close call for us since the beginning of the pandemic. And so far – knock wood – we have tested negative each time.

So, what do you think; why are some people infected while others are not? And what are the factors that either increase or decrease contagiousness? Joan and I are both TRIPLE vaccinated, but I know even that has not prevented people from catching the virus. 

But since I have exactly ZERO training in medical science, I am going to move this question out of the realm of HEALTH, if I may, and transplant it into the realm of LIFE IN GENERAL. First, because I CAN and secondly, because I believe contagiousness is a relevant topic for us to consider… even beyond its medical definitions.

How about in the realm of MOODS, for example? 

I am sure you’ve noticed how another person’s MOOD can be contagious, either positively or negatively. When you pass that cheerful woman walking on the street, her sunny disposition immediately crosses the blood barrier and moves right on into your system. Suddenly YOUR step seems a little bouncier in a way you can’t readily explain.

In the same way, handing your credit card to the guy behind the counter who would CLEARLY rather be anywhere but here rubs off, too. His sour demeanor can easily become yours in a matter of moments.

And here in the age of information, IDEAS and BELIEFS can also be pretty contagious, too, can’t they? Most of us have ready access to machines that are capable of communicating with large groups of people, spread across a wide area. 

All it takes is a crazy notion with flimsy scientific support, a passionate belief, a few keystrokes… and VIOLA! We have successfully infected hundreds of people with a virus cleverly designed to produce fear and hatred of some unknown group of ENEMIES!

I hate to promote the gloomy view of contagiousness here, but lately it seems to me that the DARK and NEGATIVE viruses are spreading much faster than the HOPEFUL, LIFE-GIVING strains. I will admit that the negative stuff sometimes seems to work its way into my bloodstream more quickly. I’m pretty sure that “daily news reading” lowers my spirit’s defenses from these insidious viruses. 

The challenge I am setting for myself today is this: How can I be more intentional about my contagiousness? As you can readily see that challenge has two parts. First, how do I strengthen my defenses against the SOUL-SUCKING viruses, and SECOND, how do I assure that my positive, life-affirming germs are the ones I am spreading to the people I meet?

The Apostle Paul has some sound, simple advice on this, oddly enough. He says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6, NRSVU). 

Easy peasy, right? Just set your mind on the Spirit and life and peace are there at your fingertips. The operative phrase here being, “… set your mind…” 

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul puts a little more detail in his instructions on the best ways to avoid the negative infections. He says, “Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:14-16, NRSVU). 

There certainly are a LOT of germs and viruses flying around these days. And I am not just talking about COVID. And sadly, even the best N95 masks are not effective against them. 

But as Paul and his mentor Jesus are certainly helping me understand, what I breathe IN has a whole lot to do with what I put OUT.  

Abundant blessings;

07
Jul
22

“My bad. I’m Sorry.”

Joan told me.

“I’m sorry, honey.”

In fact, more than once.

She made sure I knew it was MY responsibility.

And yet, when we parked our car and got ready to catch the shuttle bus to the Fort Collins City Fourth of July fireworks display, we both saw that I had screwed up.

Royally.

Going to the back of the car and opening the hatchback, we immediately discovered that I had NOT – despite being explicitly asked to do so – packed the portable camp chairs. 

So there we were… staring face-to-face with the prospect of spending the next two hours either standing up or sitting down on the damp grass of City Park.

 What a DOOFUS!

But do you know what the really sad part of the story is? The REALLY sad part was my response.

Instead of bowing my head in shame, apologizing, accepting the scorn being so justifiably heaped on me, and then trying to figure out ways to salvage our evening, I INSTANTLY went into denial, deflection, and defense mode.

  • “Well, we were rushing around so much there at the last minute, and I got sidetracked.”
  • “I thought YOU were getting the chairs!”
  • “Weren’t we concerned about having to lug those chairs around with us for hours and hours?”

It is one thing to screw up. We all do it… in large matters, or small.

It is another thing entirely to accept responsibility for one’s errors. 

But don’t take my word for it. Just look around. National and international news is filled – EVERY DAY – with people contorting themselves into all kinds of outrageous shapes, trying to avoid the blame for their mistakes. They say things like:

  • “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time…”
  • “I didn’t have all the information I needed to make that decision correctly…”

And then there is my all-time favorite…

  • “What are you talking about? I didn’t do that!/That wasn’t me! Who you gonna believe… me, or your lying eyes?”

It is hard. REALLY hard to stand up, raise your hand, and say, “Yes. I did that. I committed that error. I am the one – the ONLY one – responsible for the thing that went wrong.”

Accepting responsibility for a mistake is hard because none of us sets out to screw up. We each believe we are living our lives, making our decisions, taking our actions, and speaking our truths to the very best of our abilities. 

I am pretty certain that even those who have committed the vilest crimes imaginable told themselves, “This is the right thing to do at this moment.”

Confessing and owning up to a mistake is hard because it means accepting a different image of myself. It means dying to the image of myself as the guy who always hits the nail on the head, who always shoots and scores, who always provides the golden key that unlocks the mystery du jour.

It means accepting an image of myself as the guy who absentmindedly forgets to pack camp chairs into the car. 

The good folks at AA and NA know a thing or two about this phenomenon. Step One of the Twelve Steps is all about admitting your abject powerlessness over your propensity to err. From that fertile base of acknowledged powerlessness, then, comes the step of confessing the need of a Greater Power to restore you to sanity.

As much as I love the Friends of Bill W. and their amazing history of success, I think John the Revelator hit the nail a little more squarely on the head when he said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9, NRSVU). 

Every one of us is flawed. Every one of us “steps in it” now and then. Every one of us does damage – intentionally or unintentionally – to the people closest to us. 

Hopefully though we each also readily confess our shortcomings, turn to our Loving Creator for help, and then grow a centimeter or two in our stature as humans in the process…

… and do a better job of packing for the fireworks show.

Abundant blessings;

04
Jul
22

Forward or Backward?

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July.

Celebrating this holiday has rarely ever been a question for me. I mean, who wouldn’t jump at the chance for a day off, a backyard BBQ, a frosty cold adult beverage, all topped off by watching a display of loud, colorful fireworks. 

But something is different this year. 

Something seems psychically, spiritually, and certainly politically out of whack here on July 3, 2022.

My blogger idol Mitch Teemley (find his thoughtful work here) has jarred my consciousness about what it means for anyone… but ESPECIALLY a follower of Christ… to engage in this national festivity. 

We have all witnessed the way this date can easily become a jingoistic bacchanalia of flag-waving excess, raising this nation onto the altar in place of the One God, in the meantime willfully turning a blind eye to the violent and blood-stained chapters of our national story.

Mitch has forced me out of my sleepwalk and invited me to confront this question: What is it exactly that I am celebrating when I celebrate the Fourth of July? 

  • Am I celebrating the publication of the document that declared this nation’s independence from its overbearing British parent? 
  • Am I celebrating the IDEA of a nation “… of the people, by the people, and for the people,” where all are created equal, with preference accorded to none? 
  • Am I celebrating everything this nation is today… warts and all?

And finally, is it even possible to celebrate the IDEA of the nation without acknowledging its shortcomings and monumental moral failures? 

First, as a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, I must remember that I am called to a Higher Citizenship than the citizenship of any particular nation-state. Jesus reminds me that God’s kingdom – that I pray will come, “… on earth as it is in heaven…” – is the only kingdom worthy of my ultimate allegiance. 

Jesus helped us keep these priorities in order when he said: “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21, NRSVU). 

But what ARE “… the things that are Caesar’s”?

For example, do I owe “Caesar” (i.e., the political power structures of my country) my unquestioning loyalty? Do I owe “Caesar” silence in the light of injustice? Do I owe “Caesar” the benefit of the doubt? Do I owe “Caesar” a joyous birthday celebration that conveniently glosses over damage being done today (in “Caesar’s” name) to women, people of color, disabled people, people living in poverty, people denied access to education, and numerous other disenfranchised groups?

Jesus’ words also remind me that those who aspire to follow him are called to be instruments of justice wherever and whenever they encounter injustice. “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40, NRSVU). 

Which, it seems to me, applies even when “Caesar” is the instrument of injustice. 

Frankly, I am torn. I don’t ever remember being this ambivalent about celebrating the Fourth in my life. I have heard some people say, “My country, right or wrong.” I have heard other people say, “Today, I am NOT proud to call myself an American.”

I waver back and forth between those two wildly oppositional poles.

I suppose I could choose to ignore my distress and say, “What the heck. This day is all about the fireworks, beer, and BBQ. Don’t overthink it, bruh.”

Or maybe… just maybe…

I could find a way to COMPLETELY and RADICALLY reframe this holiday. Maybe even give it a new name! 

Hear me out! What if… instead of making this a BACKWARD-LOOKING celebration that forces me to conveniently ignore things like slavery, and the extermination of the First Inhabitants, and similarly ugly chapters, what if I choose to make this a FORWARD-LOOKING celebration? A FORWARD-LOOKING celebration that is about claiming a bold promise for a just and truly compassionate nation?

What if… to cement this FORWARD-LOOKING theme in place a little more solidly… what if instead of calling it the FOURTH of JULY, we call it the FORTH of JULY?? You know… the day when we GO FORTH to work hand-in-hand to create that “shining city on a hill” our Founders envisioned? 

And what if we do that as an expression of our allegiance to Jesus and his vision of God’s kingdom where, “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” enjoys justice, peace, security, and life in equal measure with all other citizens?

What if… 

Now THAT is something I’d shoot off a firework or two about.

Abundant blessings;

30
Jun
22

Short and Sweet

It was a great visit with the granddaughters.

Three of them – two 14-year-olds and one 12-year-old – went back home yesterday after five raucous, fun-filled, tiring days with us here in Fort Collins.

Even though we both waved good-bye and then went IMMEDIATELY to bed and took long naps, Joan and I agreed on one thing: their visit was far too short.  

In fact, each one of the activities that took place while they were here seemed like they were WAY too short. The whitewater rafting trip, the horseback ride, the kayaking, the hiking, and each one of the dinners we had together seemed to end much too quickly, leaving each of us wanting MORE.

As I thought about it, I realized this is a recurring theme in my life. The “good stuff” seems to end much too quickly, while the “bad stuff” seems to linger FOREVER.  

Have you noticed that, too? 

I know, I know… in the realm of “profound insights,” this one ranks very near the bottom of the list. It almost qualifies for, “Well, DUH!”status. 

But thinking about this universal human experience led me to a different place. I started wondering if this is how it will feel at the end of my life… when I am staring the Grim Reaper in the face and looking back on the totality of my years.

Will I stop and say, “Wait! That wasn’t long enough! I need a LITTLE BIT MORE! Please???”

Or will I be standing there, tapping my foot impatiently and then saying to the guy with the sickle, “You’re LATE! What kept you? You should have been here YEARS ago!”

In my life, I have known many people you could call “old.” Some of them have been full of good spirits and energy, with eyes that crinkle with laughter, even as they feel the accumulated effects of age and gravity on their bodies. They are clearly fascinated to see what happens next on life’s great adventure.

I have known others who are tired, sick, pain-filled, and miserable. I often hear them say things like, “I don’t know what I am still doing here. I am ready to go… any time.”

At the ripe, old age of 70, I still feel like I am in the front car of a zany, uncharted carnival ride, making unexpected twists and turns as it zips along, barely under control. My health (knock wood… “For the most part…”) is not an issue. My financial house is in order (again… “for the most part…”), and so the onset of seniority is not a terribly frightening prospect for me. 

But I can certainly understand how old age can be a VERY different experience, filled with fear, grief, pain, remorse, and distress. 

Every one of us, though, faces the same reality. It is the reality spelled out by the psalmist when she/he says, “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSVU). 

We – you and I – are amazingly finite realities. We live under the illusion that our lives and lifespans comprise the entirety of human existence, when the truth is, they are a tiny blip on God’s radar screen. 

Which makes it even more miraculous to consider God’s estimation of us. Even though we are grains of dust on top of the piano, God – Creator of All That Is – considers every one of us his Masterpiece. And God loves each of us blades of grass with a love that knows no bounds, forgiving our transgressions to a thousand generations.

Personally, I think that is pretty cool. And it helps me come to grips with the fact that when I am ready to unfasten my seatbelt and step off this wacky roller-coaster, it is going to feel ENTIRELY too short a trip.

Abundant blessings;

20
Jun
22

Adaptor Anxiety and the Common Good

FAIR WARNING: This is going to sound like a rant. A rant from some ill-tempered old man… the blog post equivalent of me standing on my front porch, waving my arms, and yelling, “You kids! Get off my lawn!!”

But I promise… that’s not what is going on here.

[Well, maybe except for the “ill-tempered old man” part.]

Do you see this picture? The one showing the two wires coming out of my MacBook laptop. One wire goes to the power cord while the other one connects to the charger cable for my FitBit.

This picture clearly illustrates the HUGE gripe I and many others like me have with the Apple Corporation. 

You see, Apple has this infuriating practice of regularly making their own cables and connectors OBSOLETE when they introduce a new product! 

Do you see my FitBit charger cable? The black one? It is meant to plug into a USB port on the side of my laptop. But does this laptop (purchased just last year) actually HAVE a USB port? 

NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Of COURSE not!

It has something brand new from Apple called a Lightning port. I am sure the super savvy tech people at Apple can give you one hundred great reasons why the Lightning port is a VAST improvement over the USB. But what it means (in effect) is that you must either buy a Lightning-to-USB adaptor (like I did), or just throw out all your old USB connecting stuff and buy NEW!

They call it “product evolution.” I call it “creating an artificial market through manipulated obsolescence so that your already bloated P&L statement can be pumped up even MORE.” 

[See? Doesn’t this sound REMARKABLY like an ill-tempered old guy yelling at the neighborhood kids? But please… hang in with me for another minute or two, would you?]

Well, imagine my JOY when I heard a news report the other day telling me that by the year 2024, the EU will require ALL (yes… that means you too, Apple) electronics manufacturers to use ONE… and ONE only… kind of electronic connector for ANYTHING they make. 

Period. No exceptions.

But of course, since I live in the US, not the EU, this ruling will do NOTHING to ease my Adaptor Anxiety.

It seems to me that the lawmakers in the EU did something quite extraordinary in passing this new law. They paused and asked themselves, “Is there something we can do to promote the common good? Could we make a law that would benefit a LARGE number of people, all at the same time?”

They paused… looked around… slapped their foreheads in unison, and said, I’VE GOT IT! Electronic connectors!”

The point here is not the connector. It is the idea of making decisions while looking out for the COMMON GOOD. 

  • Not just the good of MY district.
  • Not just the good of MY pocket.
  • Not just the good of the high-priced lobbyists who took me to that five-star restaurant last night.
  • Not just the good of MY party.

If you are a citizen of the U.S., I will challenge you to pause for just a moment and ask yourself this question: “What are the chances of ANYTHING like this EVER passing in this country?” 

Here, it is all about ME. ME and my individual freedoms to come and go as I wish… to own whatever kind of deadly firearm I wish… to force people to buy whatever kind of connector I wish… to spew whatever form of hate speech I feel like spewing… and to hell with the consequences for everybody else.

I might be wrong, but I don’t believe this was God’s vision of the world when God created it all in the first place. I believe the entire point of the Ten Commandments was to instruct God’s fledgling people how to live effectively together IN COMMUNITY. To be just as concerned with the well-being of our friends and neighbors as we are about our OWN well-being. 

You know what else? I believe the Original Sin in the book of Genesis was a shining example of the human saying, “I’m going to do what I want to do… no matter who else it hurts in the process.” 

You might say to me, “Well, if you think things are so danged perfect there in the EU, why don’t you just shut up and GO LIVE OVER THERE!!”

Sorry, friend. You’re not going to get rid of me that easily. 

I think we can do better right here… just by making a few, simple, CONNECTIONS.

Abundant blessings;

10
Jun
22

Showing Off

I approach exercising much the same way I approach brushing my teeth.

Now THAT is an important person!

Grudgingly. Unexcitedly. Yet gloomily resigned to the fact that horrible consequences will likely follow if I don’t suck it up and JUST DO IT, as Phil Knight constantly implores us.

And so, I listen to podcasts. 

No, not while I brush my teeth, silly. While I exercise.

You could also listen to music if your goal was to remove your mind as far as possible from the grim monotony of the moment. But podcasts are more my cup of tea. 

And one of my favorites of all time is the podcast called Hidden Brain (found at hiddenbrain.org). HB is hosted and produced by National Public Radio journalist Shankar Vedantam and it almost never fails to present a thoughtful, well-researched 54-57 minutes of content that makes me say, Huh! How fascinating! I had no IDEA!”

It’s the perfect length of time for a torture session at the gym.

The episode I listened to this week talked about a recent study done by a marketing professor at Georgetown University. This professor discovered that for many people today, TIME is their new status symbol.

Or rather, their distinct LACK of time.

In another era, 75 – 100 or so years ago, the status symbol du jour was IDLENESS. Back then, if you looked at someone’s calendar and saw nothing but entries like, “10:30, Wax eyebrows. 11:45, Read chapter six of Lady Chatterly’s Lover1:30, Nap,” and “5:00 – 7:30, Stroll the grounds, breathing deeply,” you knew that person was probably RICH and IMPORTANT.

By contrast, in TODAY’S world, people use their impossibly jam-packed calendars to show the world just how important they are. 

We’ve all heard that refrain. “I am just so BUSY! I don’t know how I could POSSIBLY fit in one more thing!” The implication being, of course, that the reason I am so BUSY is because I am so IMPORTANT. 

My first reaction to the story was to think, “That’s so sad. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back to the time when the world valued being IDLE and UNSCHEDULED instead of being BUSY?”

But then, on further reflection, I thought, “What’s even sadder is the fact that humans constantly feel the need to come up with a status symbol AT ALL! Why are we so driven to SHOW OTHER PEOPLE how important we are and how much we really MATTER?”

And of course, we don’t just use our calendars to show off our importance and success, do we? We use our cars. We use our job titles. We use our wardrobes. We use our vacations. We use the academic and professional accomplishments of our KIDS. 

Almost anything we can get our hands on can be turned into a giant, blinking, neon arrow, pointing at us saying, “LOOK! LOOK AT ME, everybody! I really am SOMEBODY! I MATTER!”

It is almost as if we are trying more to remind OURSELVES – not necessarily other people – that we are something more than a momentary blip on the radar screen of history. 

Looking back, I see that I just used the following bible verse a couple of blog posts ago. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for this situation, too. Does it?

The psalmist starts by reminding us of just how fragile and fleeting our lives really are: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSVU). 

NOW who’s the big shot, eh?

But then, in another Psalm, she/he reminds us of our true place in the overall scheme of things by saying, “You have made them [meaning US] a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet…” (Psalm 8:5-6, NRSVU). 

So here’s the deal; you… just as you are right here, right now … matter more to the Creator of All Thingsthan you can possibly imagine. And it isn’t because of your jam-packed calendar, your Gucci tennis shoes, or your Chiefs season tickets. 

It is because YOU are YOU – made in the image of God – and nobody else.

Abundant blessings;




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