Archive for September, 2021

21
Sep
21

Testing… Testing…

Fall is many things.

Fall is cooler weather. Fall is turning leaves. 

Fall is back-to-school, pumpkin spice EVERYTHING, football, turning leaves, wardrobe revision, Halloween, the end of mowing, and the roll-out of next year’s new auto models. 

But most of all, fall is a TEST

Fall puts every one of us to an unerring litmus test… revealing us to be either 1.) a backward looker, 2.) a forward looker, or 3.) a liver in the moment(er). 

Which one are you?

  • Do you feel the approach of fall and wail and gnash your teeth, bereft over the fact that you can tangibly feel summer slip-sliding away?
  • Or are you the one who reaches into the drawer to grab that extra T-shirt while intoning, “Welp… looks like winter is just around the corner! Buckle up!” 
  • Or do you revel in every pumpkin-spiced moment of this ephemeral gem of a season?

Personally, I love fall. I love the riot of color, the ramp-up of activity, the cool evenings, and the comfy days. I love the beginning of football season and the wind-down (for fans of the Kansas City Royals such as me) of baseball. And now that I’m retired, I love the fact that fall means kids are back in school, allowing Joan and I to travel to popular places without battling such huge crowds.

For all its perfection, though, fall always seems to come to an end WAAAAAY too quickly. I’ve lost track of the number of times I have heard myself moan and say, “Gee whiz! It seems like we just went straight from summer into winter this year, with nothing in between.” 

What do you think; is it possible that fall is so sweet because it is so short

A little bit like this present, advanced stage of life, methinks. 

All of us feel the tug-of-war that pulls us between the temptation to agonize over our past faux pas’ and our titillating hopes and dreams for the future. We older folks probably lean more to the former than the latter I imagine.

In rare moments of self-awareness, we reluctantly admit that neither our past nor our future is accessible to our influence. Yet despite the force of this searing insight, it is still not enough to keep us from overlooking and discounting the treasure laying right HERE at our feet. 

And just like the fleeting season of fall, we suddenly turn around and realize it has all gone **POOF!** and disappeared in a big puff of smoke. 

There is nothing you or I can do to slow the inexorable march of the hours of the day, the seasons of the year, or the rapid advance of our own mortality. 

What we can do, though, is breathe deeply, savor richly, and give thanks to God for the beauty of this immeasurable moment called LIFE. As the psalmist so eloquently reminds us, “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. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” (Psalm 103:15-18, NRSV).

Happy Pumpkin Spicing, y’all!

Abundant blessings;

14
Sep
21

My Own NGH List

Ninjas ASSEMBLE!

Last night the newly-crowned, 15-year-old champion of the show, American Ninja Warrior gazed earnestly into the camera and assured me, “Hey! If you can dream it and work hard, you can do ANYTHING!”

REALLY?” I replied, reaching to my left for another handful of popcorn, noticing the twinge in my shoulder as I did so. “You honestly think so?”

But hey… you have to love the kid’s heart. He started out with nothing but a dream. 

And then, with a lot of dedication and special training equipment (like his own custom-built Salmon Ladder, Jumping Spider, and Warped Wall), he took his nimble, 15-year-old body and trained it into championship shape. 

But as I sat and snacked and listened to earnest young Kaden speak, my NGH list expanded by one.

“NGH” is shorthand for “Never Gonna Happen.” [Or if you want to be a little more grammatically formal, call it the NGTH List; “Never Going To Happen.”] 

This is the list I keep of the things that are CLEARLY never going to happen in my lifetime. Despite Kaden’s heartfelt pep talk, I knew that becoming the next American Ninja Warrior is light years beyond my personal radar screen. 

It’s NGH… Never Gonna Happen.

Just like my dream of playing in the NBA. NGH. Or climbing Mount Everest. Also NGH. To this list I should probably also add my childhood fantasies of becoming a firefighter, or a policeman, or game show host.

NONE of those are Ever Gonna Happen.

On one hand, I find that moving things onto my NGH List is a very liberating exercise. I mean, if I keep on believing that the day will come when I finally learn to fly a plane, or become a ventriloquist, or sculpt Joan’s lovely image in marble, I invite nothing but frustration and disappointment the longer those goals remain unachieved. 

Moving that kind of stuff onto my NGH List frees me up to discover more reasonable, age-and-ability-appropriate sources of fulfillment.  

On the other hand, I have to ask myself; “Is a rapidly expanding NGH List a sign that I’ve thrown in the towel? Given up? “Settled?” Ceased dreaming?”

I think I was 19 years old when I first uttered the phrase, “Someday, I’m going to write a book.” Today, at nearly 70 years, that dream remains unfulfilled. 

Please understand: I’ve started several books. One even grew to a little more than 11,000 words. 

Each time, however, I have abandoned the effort as I became overwhelmed, discouraged, lost, or disappointed with the sub-standard quality of my effort. But then I pick up someone else’s printed, published work, and become simultaneously inspired and intimidated

And yet, despite the internal turmoil this causes me, I am still not willing to move “Write a book” onto my NGH List.

Ultimately, I (and probably all of us) must look soberly at our goals and ask the question, “Is this quest ‘of God’? Or is it just me and my idle fantasizing?” Another way of asking the same question might be: “Is this THING part of my divinely-appointed PURPOSE in life? Or not?” 

If the answer to that question is YES, nothing should stop you from carrying it out. If it is NOT, you should waste no time adding it to your own personal NGH List

I take a measure of comfort from the Bible’s story of the Israelites. Their divinely appointed purpose (recorded in Genesis 12:3) was to be a set-apart people through whom God would bless all of Creation.

But to get there, they had to endure 400 years of enslavement in Egypt, 40 years of wandering aimlessly in the Sinai wilderness, and then untold months of vicious, mortal combat before they finally “arrived.” I am sure most of them wanted to put “Be God’s Chosen People” on their NGH List at around year six of their time in Egypt.

And yet, despite all the delays, all the setbacks, all the disappointments, and all the dead-ends, God’s purpose for the Israelites was ultimately fulfilled. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “… but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, NRSV).

Today, no matter what new things are being added to YOUR NGH List, take heart. Wait on God. Renew your confidence that God has a purpose and a path for you.

Abundant blessings;

03
Sep
21

What do you know?

Photo Taken In Kln, Germany

“Look at this,” Joan said as we drove to the park the other day. “According to this FitBit report I just received, I had more average steps per month last year than this year, a higher average heart rate, and got 8 minutes more sleep per night.”

She paused a moment, pondering. “You know… I’m not really sure I need to know all of that right now.”

“Well, sweetie,” I replied… ever the sage. “You know what they say, ‘Knowing is always better than NOT knowing.’”

In return, I received the well-deserved – yet incredibly loving – eye roll.

In the grand scheme of things, it was just another one of those silly spousal exchanges that happen all the time. 

NBD, right? 

But in the silence that ensued, I couldn’t help but ask myself; “IS IT though? IS knowing always better than not knowing? And who is this ‘they’ that seems so cocksure that it is?”

By nature, and nurture both, I am strongly biased in the direction of knowing. My parents were both fierce advocates of learning and and knowledge and being informed. Right up until he died in January 2017, my father was on top of every relevant event in his community, state, nation, and world. You had to stay on your toes around him because a mandatory current events conversation was a part of every family gathering.

Lately, though, I wonder. 

What I mean is, I wonder about the toll “being informed” takes.

I also wonder what difference it makes that I know the exact, up-to-the-minute COVID death tolls, or the precise margin of victory for the Tennessee senatorial primary, or how many acres have now been burned by the Caldor fire, or the concise number of Americans left behind in Afghanistan, or the minor league ERA of Royals pitcher Joel Payamps, or how many angels can REALLY dance on the head of a pin?

I can easily find answers to ALL these questions right here in my comfy, Fort Collins living room…

… and then do WHAT about any of them, exactly?

Two and a half years ago, when we first received Joan’s cancer diagnosis, the oncologist asked us if we wanted to know what stage it was. Because that’s the question everyone asks, isn’t it? 

“Ooooo! That’s too bad. What stage is it?”

But we said, “Nope. No thanks. Let’s just get busy getting it treated.”

And that’s just exactly what we did. And today, praise God, after surgery, chemo, and careful monitoring, Joan is now in complete remission. Hallelujah!!

We learned what we needed to learn and no more. We did not drive ourselves crazy amassing all the “what if?” and “why?” and “why not?” scenarios floating around. We – and our family, friends, and medical specialists – got very tunnel-visioned and prayer-focused and plugged doggedly ahead.

Our approach was an attempt to mirror the unique brilliance of the line, “And give us this day our daily bread,”(Matthew 6:11, NRSV), that Jesus offered us in his perfect prayer template. 

Such a powerful phrase. Jesus here seems to be suggesting that we not spend a lot of energy fretting about anything more than the needs of THIS day. Just like the manna from heaven the Israelites enjoyed… God’s provision will always be sufficient for right now

A little later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says the same thing to the assembled crowd in a slightly different way. He says, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34, NRSV). 

They say what you don’t know can hurt you.

But sometimes I wonder if what we DO know can hurt just as badly.

Abundant blessings;




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