Archive for March, 2021

27
Mar
21

Getting Uncomfortable

Germany, Young man lying in hammock and reading a magazine

Before Word #1 appears on this page, I have to settle in at my desk and get nice and comfortable.

Before my car’s engine roars (politely) to life, I make sure I am quite comfortable there in the driver’s seat.

TV viewing in the evening for me is always preceded by strict attention to the comfort of my position on the couch. 

And then, at the end of the day, when it comes to that most essential human activity, SLEEPING!, I devote a great deal of attention to seeking out a position of maximum possible personal comfort. 

In fact, I would be willing to wager that if someone showed me a scientific study of the amount of energy I devote daily to comfort-seeking, that number would make my eyes bug right out of my head. 

And what about you, friend? Are you likewise afflicted with CCSS (Compulsive Comfort Seeking Syndrome)?

I think we can all agree that no one will win a Nobel Prize in sociology for announcing the discovery that, “Comfort-seeking seems to be a universal human pursuit.” Cave people didn’t come up with the idea of fire just so they’d have a way to cook their brontosaurus burgers, you know.  

But I wonder… despite its ubiquitousness, is it possible we can get a little too carried away with this urge toward comfort seeking? Is the Dr. Scholl’s Company really telling us the truth when they contend that “Comfort is EVERYTHING!*”

In fact, I think there is a good case to be made that runaway, unexamined, “comfort seeking” is at the root of a whole host of human maladies. To wit:

  • Avoiding the difficulty and discomfort of hard, physical work usually leads to flawed, “squishy” solutions. 
  • People who don’t feel “comfortable” in the presence of people of different races, ethnicities, religions, or sexual orientations can very quickly become dangerous bigots. 
  • My aversion to the discomfort of re-examining my core beliefs can keep me permanently locked on to a set of toxic assumptions about the world.

When Jesus talked to the folks gathered around and said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free,” (John 8:32, NRSV), he didn’t add, “And I promise; knowing the truth will be painless and easy-peasy.”

As essential as it seems to be to life on this planet, I am not sure I will EVER be comfortable with discomfort… whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. I have to face the fact that I will continue to be “that guy” who grabs for the footrest and the extra couch pillow to put behind my back. 

I think I can only pray that God will regularly grant me the strength to shove personal comfort aside in favor of some much-needed growth. 

Whew! I’m glad I got that off my chest. 

Now to go find a nice shady spot in the yard where I can lay down, sip an iced tea, and stare at the sky for a while.

Abundant blessings;

  • Not the actual slogan of the Dr. Scholl’s Company, by the way.
23
Mar
21

The God Who Gets It

By now, my response cycle has become a well-practiced routine.

I hear news reports of a mass shooting. I shake my head and sigh, “Not again.” I await the slow trickle of further details, incrementally ratcheting up my shock and outrage as numbers and circumstances are revealed.

Three dead… four dead… ten dead… lone gunman… “unclear about any motive…”, “eyewitnesses report…”, “scores of unanswered questions…”, “awaiting notifications of next of kin…”

The officials speak. The bystanders speak. Sometimes the family speaks. And through it all I shake my head in utter bewilderment and sorrow…

… until I reach for the remote and change the channel to see what else is going on in the world.

But this time it is different. This time the tragedy struck frighteningly close to home. 

That is because the grocery store in Boulder, Colorado where a gunman killed 10 people yesterday – including a Boulder police officer – is located two blocks from my stepson’s apartment. It is his King Soopers. In fact, he was in that exact store yesterday morning, shopping for a few essentials, not long before all hell broke loose there.

This time I saw the terror in the eyes of the survivors a little more clearly.

This time the stabbing pain of family members whose loved ones will never return from their trip to the store penetrates my soul more profoundly. 

This time my sense of outrage and confusion about people randomly killing other people using outrageous weapons that were never meant to exist outside of a military setting is much more unshakable. 

This time I find myself dwelling… not moving on as quickly as I did before. 

Because this time it feels close… personal… tangible.

It also reminds me why I consider the idea of God’s INCARNATION to be such a vital part of the faith I profess. In the light of these newly exposed nerve endings of mine, the biblical phrase, “… the Word became flesh and lived among us…” (John 1:14 NRSV) suddenly takes on a searing new urgency. 

It tells me that God is not remote and abstract.

It tells me that when we suffer, God suffers. 

It tells me that human pain and sorrow and tragedy and heartbreak are even more real to God than they are to me.

It also assures me that I could not be more off base than during those times when I am tempted to sink down in sorrow, wring my hands, and cry out, “NO ONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT I AM GOING THROUGH!!”

It brings Psalm 34:18 to mind where we read the timeless truth that says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.”

It will take me a long time to shake this one off and move on. I am equally sure that new outrages loom on the horizon as we begin to emerge from our cocoons and gather in large groups again. 

In the aftermath of this most recent horror, I feel a compulsion to DO SOMETHING instead of just sitting and sorrowing… but for the life of me I have no idea what that SOMETHING might be.

For now, I am going to pray that the families of all those affected by yesterday’s horror in Boulder might feel the arms of Jesus wrapped tightly around them, offering comfort and understanding…

… and give thanks for a God who “gets it.”

Abundant blessings;

19
Mar
21

Broken Limbs

They are everywhere you look here in Fort Collins… a truly heartbreaking sight.

Twenty-three inches of snow by itself might have done the trick. But twenty-three inches of heavy, wet snowwas definitely the coup de grace.

I’m talking about broken tree limbs.

Big limbs. Small limbs. Ash limbs. Pine limbs. Weeping willow limbs. Oak limbs. 

Weeping willow is REALLY weeping

Some crushed fences beneath. Some blocked parking lots. Some (not many, thankfully) brought down power lines in their wake. A huge limb from the willow tree in our next-door neighbor’s yard (shown here) snapped off and landed in our back yard. I am silently dreading the inevitable conversation that starts with me knocking on their front door a couple weeks from now and sheepishly saying, “So… when do you think you might want to call somebody to come take care of that?”

Stay tuned.

Driving around (Hallelujah! We can finally drive around again!) and seeing the staggering number of broken limbs makes me wonder; when did they break? What did it sound like? Why THAT limb and not another? 

I suppose it is all a matter of stress… applied in exactly the right amount at exactly the right point… that finally leads an otherwise intact, attached tree limb to unceremoniously snap off and fall.

I strongly suspect that if we were to conduct a detailed post-mortem of each of those broken limbs, we might find a hidden weakness in each broken limb. Perhaps some insect damage. Maybe a thread of disease. Maybe just a few cell walls that weren’t as strong as their neighbors.

Isn’t that the way it goes with people, too? I mean, let’s face it: we all experience stress. Yes, even us retired folks. Stress is an on-going fact of life. It is exerted on everything, all the time.

Sometimes, however, there is more stress than usual. Like, for example, when 23 inches of heavy, wet snow falls over two days. Or in a personal financial crisis. Or during a health crisis. Or because of a broken relationship. Or maybe even during a global pandemic. 

It is during those extraordinarily stressful times when those microscopic underlying flaws – the ones we really didn’t pay any attention to because they were so small – come screaming into the fore. They become the weak link that causes the chain – or, in the case of our trees, the limb – to snap. 

Too late we realize that the time to sit down and run a comprehensive, top-to-bottom systems analysis is BEFORE the 23-inch snowfall… BEFORE the time of the superstressor event. 

I have been thinking about this a LOT in relation to our current national crisis and would love to get your take on it; do you think it is possible that one of our “hidden flaws” as a country (i.e., the U.S.) is the reason we experienced the highest COVID-19 infection rates and highest death rates in the WORLD?

I will go a step further and ask: do you think it is possible that the love of our American, Wild West, rugged, go-it-alone, pioneering, mentality prevented us from taking the necessary, coordinated steps to keep this disease from killing over 500,000 of our neighbors?

I sure do.

And I am hoping that we might use the moment this deadly virus has given us to collectively recalibrate our definition of what it really means to be an American. I hope we can find a way to put new emphasis on the USpart of USA and stop acting like entitled, self-centered, spoiled brats, incapable of seeing beyond the end of our noses.

Perhaps there is still time for us to try and imitate the wise builder in Jesus’ parable, individually, if not collectively. You remember him… he is the one, “… who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. (Luke 6:48, NRSV).

I would be willing to bet that house withstood a 23-inch snowfall, too.

Abundant blessings;

18
Mar
21

Going First

Going first comes naturally to me.

Going first doesn’t always mean finishing first, just FYI.

It all started when I volunteered to be the first of five children born to Lyn and George Brown, some [mumble, mumble] years ago.

That meant I got to be the first guinea pig for them to test all of their new parenting theories on. I was the first to walk… the first to ride a bike… the first to fall down and skin my elbow… the first to go to school… first to get my driver’s license… and the first to see exactly what the consequences were for violating the family rulebook.

Each time the stork delivered a new bundle of joy to the Brown house, mom and dad were able to tweak their parenting skills a little more, so that by the time #5 came along, they were absolute paragons of parenting perfection. 

You’re welcome, siblings!

Going first soon became a way of life for me. Naturally when neighbor Marc Downer and I were standing on top of the flat-roofed garage behind our house on Norwich Street with bedsheets [excuse me… I mean PARACHUTES], tied to our waists, I was the first one to jump off and test our theory of aerodynamics. 

NEWS FLASH: It didn’t work.

Even though the resulting twisted ankle and bruised head would have taught most people a lesson, I nevertheless persisted. Well into early adulthood I continued to push myself to the head of the line at home, in the classroom, and on the playground. 

In fact, many, many years later when I was one of an army of associate pastors in the largest United Methodist Church in the country, I raised my hand and offered to lead their maiden attempt to develop a “satellite” campus in a suburban location.

Now some of you hearing this narrative might be quick to point me to Jesus’ words from Matthew 19:30 wherein he admonishes Peter and some of the other eager beaver disciples by saying, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Matthew 19:30, NRSV). You might even double up your scripturally-based finger wagging with this gem from Proverbs: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, NRSV). 

To which I would probably reply: “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to YOU!”

No… I’m sorry. As tempted as I might be, I would not say that. Yes, I would THINK it, but those exact words would probably stay bottled up inside me.

Mostly, though, I would have to agree with you.

One of the biggest things I discovered through my years of going first is that it is usually a very humbling experience. When you stick your toe into waters no one has ventured into before, you end up making a lot of mistakes. You are doing everything for the first time without the benefit of being able to look at the “teachable moments” from a predecessor. 

Just ask some of the people who had the misfortune of being members of my staff in that first satellite campus church. 

For me, a more relevant scripture passage than those above is this one from First Corinthians. In it we hear Paul explaining some of the fundamentals of church leadership to a skeptical audience: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, NRSV). 

Perhaps this is “wishful hearing” on my part, but I think Paul is saying, “Look… somebody has to go first. Somebody has to get out there and whack down the weeds and underbrush to clear the trail. Somebody has to blunder out and make all the initial mistakes. But whether you are firstsecond, or somewhere toward the end of the line, the only thing that matters is getting God’s work done.”

And so, if I can make someone else’s road a little less bumpy by jumping to the front of the line and becoming a cautionary tale for God’s greater glory, I’m good with that…

… as long as I also get to go first in the cafeteria. 

Abundant blessings;

16
Mar
21

Healing Snow

Turns out, all it took was an epic 23-inch snowfall!

Let me back up a second and explain…

My wife and I are relatively new residents of this little eight house cul-de-sac in Fort Collins, Colorado. We moved here in late November 2019. 

As we introduced ourselves around, we found that some of our new neighbors were quite friendly and outgoing, while others were more reserved. One of the friendlier folks was Fred (not his real name), who lives right across the way. 

Fred is retired and lives alone with his 93-year-old mother. One day last fall, Fred invited Joan and me over to share some coffee and socially distanced cinnamon rolls in their garage. It was a lovely time with good, lively conversation. Joan and I left saying, “We should invite them over for dinner as soon as this virus stuff goes away.”

And then – a couple of weeks later – I put a political sign in my front yard, expressing my support of one of the presidential candidates. Clearly it expressed support of exactly the opposite person Fred supported. I say this because the next time I was out in my yard and hollered out, “Hey, Fred! How’s it going?” I was met with an averted gaze and stony silence.

I gave it one more try a few days later, but with the exact same results.

“Dang!” I said to myself. “Looks like Fred now considers me to be The Enemy. I guess we’ll have to rethink that dinner invitation.”

It got so bad that one day while I was out walking the dogs, I saw Fred and his dog coming toward me from the other way. I quickly made a right turn on a side street in order to avoid eye or voice contact with Fred. 

Great, Christian behavior, eh?

I know similar scenarios were repeated over and over again across this country in both the before and aftermath (is there such a word as a “beforemath”? If not, there should be!) of this most recent presidential election. Relationships with neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members from coast to coast were rent asunder by political disaffection. 

Names were called. Voices were raised. Vows were broken, all in the defense of being on “the right side” of the contest. 

“How will we ever get past this?” I wondered. “How will these deeply felt wounds ever be healed, and relationships restored?” 

Well, I am happy to report to you that 23 inches of snow in 36 hours turns out to be the magical healing potion!

In the blizzard’s immediate aftermath, all of the cul-de-sac neighbors were out shoveling or snow-blowing their own driveways. That worked for the first day. But then came the question of how we each might travel beyond the end of our own driveways out into the world beyond. You see, our little neighborhood does not appear anywhere on the city’s list of “streets we must plow.” 

We are left to fend for ourselves.

So earlier today, Joan and I were out trying to carve a path from our driveway into the common roadway. Immediately across the way, Fred was out engaged in the same activity. Feeling empowered by our common plight, I decided to chance it…

“Hey, Fred!” I called out. “Have you been able to get out of your driveway yet?”

And then I waited.

Straightening up, resting his snow shovel on its blade and turning in my direction, Fred cupped his ear with his gloved hand and said, “WHAT?”

“It’s a start!” I thought excitedly.

I repeated my question and waited. Fred then told me that he had not tried getting out of his driveway yet but was making a path in order to try. He explained that he was confident that his four-wheel drive car would be able to handle the immediate terrain but had serious doubts about the ice-jam at the end of the cul-de-sac. That was followed by a couple of minutes of commiseration about the snow, the damned city plows, our respective vehicles, and the virtues of north and south-facing driveways.

VOILA! Relationship RESTORED!

Well, maybe not fully and totally restored… but at least no longer stuck in a state of frozen hostility. 

So, if you find yourself today wondering how you will break through the frozen ice-jam of relationships damaged by recent political hijinks, be at peace. The solution is staggeringly simple:

PRAY FOR 23 INCHES OF HEALING SNOW!

Abundant blessings;

15
Mar
21

Thank you, Chris and Charlie

Today I want to use this space to say “Thank you” to all the people in my life who ever tried to teach me anything.

Lord knows this note is – in some cases – 50 or more years overdue. I am doing this because just the other day I began to mentally check off all of the routine practices I engage in… most of which I take completely for granted… that were lovingly and patiently taught to me by some caring adult.

I also realized that I considered their instruction to be a major pain in the neck at the time and did not adequately thank them then.

Naturally my parents are at the top of the list of “people who taught me useful stuff.” I never did – and now never will be able to – thank them nearly enough, but I am sure they heard “Thanks, mom!” and “Thanks, dad,” once or twice from me before they departed this earth. 

First, I want to thank my 10th grade Driver’s Ed teacher – whatever his name was – for teaching me the correct way to make a right turn (“Stay in the lane closest to the curb as you complete your turn!”) and how to come back into my lane after passing another car (“Wait until you can see both of their headlights in your rearview mirror!”).

I want to thank my Cub Scout pack leader, Mrs. Bletz, for teaching me to tie both a four-in-hand and a Windsor knot in my necktie… a skill I am making far less use of these days than I used to.

I want to thank my mother for teaching me the value of “rotating your stock” when putting away new, clean socks or underwear in my bureau. I know I never thanked her for that.

I want to thank Grandpa Raymond for trusting me enough with a sharp knife and a piece of wood to instruct me in some of the basics of whittling. 

I want to thank Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Daniels for showing me that teachers did not always have to be women… Mr. Hoffman in the sixth grade at school and Mr. Daniels around the same time in Sunday school. 

I want to thank Mr. Crossett for teaching me the difference between Stage Left and Stage Right and helping me learn how to PROJECT!! my voice.

I want to thank my counselors at Camp Merrowvista – Chris and Charlie – for showing me how to shoot a bow and arrow. And also, for being so cool and enthusiastically positive about the difference Christ made in their lives. 

Today I find myself especially grateful whoever it was that shared the brilliant hack of using a wire whisk to quickly remove the balls of snow from our dogs’ furry legs. 

I also want to thank…

[Whew! This list is already pretty long, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface! 

I am beginning to realize that at this rate it is going to take me at least a year and a half to name all the people who have made some kind of difference in my life. 

Maybe a better idea than trying to sit down and thank all these people here in my late 60s is to thank them then and there… to take a moment to look someone in the eye and say, “Thank you! That really means a lot to me. I know this lesson will stay with me and continue to influence my life for years and years to come. I really appreciate you.” 

We are each born with unique skills and abilities, but we also each grow and change as a result of the things we learn from other people. Many of those lessons happen when we are young, but there is never a time when we lose the ability to learn and grow.] 

Is there someone you can think of right now who taught you something useful, or made an important difference in your life? Why not take a moment and find a way thank them? 

I guarantee it will mean the world to them.

Abundant blessings;

12
Mar
21

Remarkably Unremarkable

Utterly amazing.

After a lot of thought and multiple trips to the thesaurus, I’ve chosen those as the best two words to describe this morning’s trip to the drug store.

Would you believe it? On the short drive between here and there I saw HUNDREDS of motorized vehicles – many weighing a ton or more – moving along the paved roadways in perfect harmony. 

It was like some kind of intricate glass-and-steel ballet!

There were dashed white lines painted on the black asphalt and EVERY ONE of those vehicles stayed within those lines… even as they moved along at 45-50 miles per hour. 

You know what else? I saw light fixtures hanging from wires suspended above the roadways. They periodically changed color from red to yellow to green. And then, as if obeying some kind of silent command, those massive vehicles all came to a stop when the red light appeared, resumed moving when they saw the green light, and waffled with indecision at the yellow. 

INCREDIBLE!

And then, I noticed that one vehicle wanted to turn left from one street to another and then I saw that it WAITED PATIENTLY until it was safe to proceed! 

When I got to the drugstore, there was even MORE calm and order on display! People had parked their vehicles in neat lines, allowing sufficient room to open doors between them. The store itself was clean and brightly lighted. Merchandise was displayed in neat lines under helpful, clearly spelled-out signs with prices clearly marked for all to see. 

Then, when I arrived at the cash register, I saw even MORE amazingness! People stood patiently in line, (some, of course, looking intently down at their handheld devices in order to stay as current as possible with the news of the world. Or their family. Or maybe Kim and Kanye, I couldn’t say for sure), waiting to exchange money for product with the aid of the smiling attendant.

And then…

… and then I arrived safely back home, took off my hat and coat, and stored my purchase in its allotted place. 

Remarkably unremarkable all around.

But see, that’s the point.

Any time I feel I am on the verge of wailing, wringing my hands, or cloaking myself in sackcloth and ashes about the hellishly disastrous state of the world, I find it useful to pause for a moment and look around. 

And usually when I make the time for that pause, what I see is an abundance of peace, order, and civility. [Of course, just as I typed that last sentence, I heard the distant wail of a siren, signifying some kind of breakdown of the social order]. 

I’m not blind. I know there is indeed mayhem in this world. There is chaos and cruelty. I am fully aware that disasters of the manmade or natural variety happen constantly. Random, senseless violence erupts without warning. Global pandemics sweep through the world, snuffing out millions of brilliant lives.

But it is good to remember that those realities are the outliers… the bizarre exceptions to the overall rule of peace, order and civility under God’s reign. 

Their rarity is the reason they are noteworthy.

As Psalm 96 reminds us: 

“Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
    The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
    He will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.”
 (Psalm 96:10-12, NRSV). 

So may you have a remarkably unremarkable day today. 

And may it bring you deep joy.

Abundant blessings;

10
Mar
21

Check Your Fear

Every morning, right before Patrick the dog and I head out on our morning walk, I check the temperature outside. I usually do that by pulling out my iPhone and saying, “Hey Sirii… what’s the temperature?”

Secure with Sirii’s answer, I then know what kind of coat to put on. Or whether.

I also like to check the humidity, the likelihood of precipitation, and maybe even the barometric pressure if I can.

But there is something else I should check every morning just as religiously… and so should you.

Before setting out in the morning I also need to check my Fear-O-Meter. That is, I need to ask – and honestly answer – the question, “How big of a role is fear playing in my life today?”

It is an easier question to answer than you might imagine at first. There are a few readily identifiable “tells” that will tip you off to the level of fear you carry on any given day.

For example, I can check and see how much energy am I spending DEFENDING myself. Am I doing a lot of work staking out a position – on any given topic – and then building impenetrable bulwarks of RIGHTNESS around that position? [The fact is, most forms of social media offer us nearly limitless opportunities to engage in this very fear-based defensive activity, don’t they?]

Or I can quickly measure my fear index by calibrating the amount of weight I am giving to others’ opinions of me… and how much I am allowing those opinions to shape my words, actions, or wardrobe. 

I can also choose to come at the question from the other side. I can choose to measure my fear using The Jesus Scale. The Jesus Scale was obviously developed by Jesus (duh!!), but was eloquently articulated some 70 years later by John the Evangelizer. John said, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18, NRSV).

In other words, the more my daily thoughts and actions are driven by LOVE, the lower the reading on my FEAR-O-METER will be. The converse is also true… the higher my level of fear, the less my life will be driven by love.

I can also tell when fear is running my show when I try to recruit you to join me here in Fearsylvania, USA. I will usually start by saying something like, “Well, if you’re not afraid, you’re just not paying attention.” 

There are plenty of reasons to look around and declare that we live in scary times, aren’t there? I mean, just look at our current American political situation; look what THEY are trying to do to US!

Look at the environment… look at the world’s geopolitical muddle… look at the tattered state of our ethical and moral framework… look at the sorry state of the NFC East, for crying out loud! [OK, sorry… superfluous and impertinent football reference there. Unnecessary. Irrelevant. Truth.]

It is all enough to send the Fear-O-Meter quivering into the red zone!

But here is the thing: Yes… all of that scary stuff is true. All of it is cause for concern. But each of us has to ask: is IT going to be the thing that shapes the way I live today? Or am I going to choose to cast out that fear with Christ-like love?

It’s a choice that is available to all of us, every day.

Abundant blessings;

08
Mar
21

A Moment That Lingers…

This morning, while I was out walking Patrick the dog, a runner passed by. Despite temperatures in the high 30s, the guy was wearing a pair of grey running shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.

His strides were long and effortless. His breaths were slow and even, producing white clouds of vapor. He did not seem to be exerting much effort at all, and yet his figure grew smaller and smaller as he disappeared down the road ahead. 

Here where we live, we see a LOT of people out running.

Remember?” my mind asked. “Remember the days when that was you… back before your knees went bad and your back went out? Remember the way you once glided over the neighborhood streets at 6:00 in the morning, keeping a steady rhythm, avoiding potholes, all while working up a righteous, glistening sweat?”

Remember?” And then, “I bet that could be you again, no problem.”

And for a fleeting moment, it seems like a reasonable proposition. I mean heck, there are plenty of people my age who are still strapping on the trainers and hitting the bricks on a regular basis. Shouldn’t I also be able to?

But then I remember my knees. I remember my back. I remember my age. And I remember how, toward the end, I really came to despise running as a form of exercise.

That’s quite OK,” I tell my overactive imagination. “I am – or at least should be – content to applaud that man’s effort and confine my energies to forms of exercise more suited to my station in life.” 

I continued, “Besides, I have nothing to prove to anyone. The goal of running a marathon no longer appeals to me or torments my dreams. Preventive maintenance is my program these days. Just let me get Patrick around the rest of this block so I can get home and start brewing the morning’s coffee, OK?”

Sometimes it is hard to accept the turning of yet another one of life’s pages. Sometimes I allow myself to be seduced by the siren’s song of Eternal Youth… [aided and abetted in no small part by Mr. Tom Brady winning another Super Bowl at the age of 43.]

“IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT!” the athletic shoe marketers cry. “AGE IS ONLY A NUMBER!”

And while I agree with the general idea of staying active in body, mind, and spirit, I am also a tremendous advocate of peacefully embracing the fullness of one’s present reality. Too much joy can be robbed wishing we had a different body, a different brain, a different nose, a different spine, or a completely different set of circumstances. 

And then I remember that regardless of whether it is sunny, or rainy, or snowy, or dismal outside, whether their back aches or their knees throb, the psalmist (or any other person of faith, for that matter) wakes up in the morning and proclaims, THIS is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be GLAD in it.” (Psalm 118:24, NRSV). 

Of course, they also say, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NRSV), but THANK GOD they don’t tell us how fast we should run!

Abundant blessings;

05
Mar
21

The Cosmic Surfboard

Wednesday here in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, was an absolutely gorgeous day! Not a cloud in the sky… temperatures pleasantly nestling in the high 60s for most of the day… and a very light breeze stirring the leafless limbs of the trees.

In a word, idyllic.

And I couldn’t help but notice that I was peppy, focused, and productive from morning to night on Wednesday. I worked out, I took care of some nagging (and overdue) tasks around the house, I knocked out another thousand or so words on my spiritual memoir, and even did a little cooking that evening! The dogs were walked twice, the spousal banter was brisk and engaging, and the glass of wine I drank with dinner was especially flavorsome.

Then came yesterday.

Yesterday was cold. It was overcast. Light drizzles of rain periodically punctuated the gray. The wind blew hard and strong; in other words, it was Seattle. 

And lo and behold, my entire demeanor transformed to become a semblance of a flannel-shirted character from The Walking Dead. I was slow, sluggish, and sullen. I sat down to write something and gave up after one sentence. My guitars sat in the corner, untouched. I snapped at my wife for no good reason. I couldn’t muster an iota of motivation for even the simplest task. I started to read a book and promptly fell asleep.

Which leads us to today; another bright, sunny FoCo day, full of vim, vigor, and profuse WORD PROCESSING!

All of which prompts me to ask, “What’s up with that? Am I THAT much of a prisoner of circumstance? Am I that guy who gets blown from pillar to post by every shift of the prevailing winds, utterly unable to ‘rise above’ whatever the climate, let alone any other factors, happens to be doing at the moment? And if I am that guy, how did I become such a suggestible wuss?

It is then I recall the words of Jesus’ brother James when he says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6, NRSV).

I really do deserve all of the scorn I am heaping on myself here, but I suspect I am not the only one who suffers this affliction. Changes in the weather, the seasons, the political climate, our health, our financial security, or even our hormone balance can all throw us off our game. 

And in these times when, in addition to everything else, we are all trying to navigate the effects of a global pandemic, our moods are even MORE susceptible to the ebbs and flows of our circumstances… like waves on the ocean.

When those waves come crashing toward us – as they always will – we can either be swamped… or we can surf. 

So I remind you – but I am really saying this more as a reminder to myself – that there is a Cosmic Surfboardavailable to each one of us. That surfboard is the eternal Word of the loving God who made us… who offers us an anchor point in every storm and a safe harbor in the hurricane.

When Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish builder he said, “… everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25, NRSV).

Time for me to become a little more wise and a little less wind-blown.

Well, I need to hit “Publish” on this missal and get out and enjoy the sunshine! Who knows how long it will be here?

Happy surfing, friends.!

Abundant blessings;




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