Archive for June, 2022

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;

07
Jun
22

My Twilight Confessions

I am an early bird.

Always have been. Probably always will be. 

Of course, since retiring from my paying job in July 2019, the word “early” has been redefined somewhat. I no longer have to worry about getting to the gym and back, showering, shaving, devotioning, breakfasting, and commuting somewhere by a certain, set time. 

Nevertheless, the morning remains my favorite daypart. That is when my energy, optimism, and creativity seem to be at their peak(s). It is when I do my best writing, walking, planning, praying, and yard working.

Anything worth doing, I say to myself, is worth doing early. As a result of this orientation, my working faculties all start winding down starting at around noon (1:30 at the latest), as I prepare to hibernate for the night. 

For as long as I can remember, this has been my body’s rhythm. “Early bird” also describes many, many other parts of my life. It is the way I watch movies. It is the way I read books. It is the way I adopt new trends. It is the way I worship.  

So, what happens, I wondered the other day, when Joe Early Bird wakes up one day to discover he has entered a phase of life that can no longer accurately be called “early.” In fact, by many units of measure, I recently realized, my life phase could be described as “late twilight,” or even “deep, dark night.”

So what’s a confirmed early bird to do?

And with that question comes another: Can “late” come to be just as meaningful as “early”? Are there blessings hidden somewhere in those advanced parts of the day (or life) just waiting to be unearthed? 

Is it possible to rejoice just as much over the setting sun as its rising twin?

In the Old Testament, The Teacher offers these good words to live by: “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6, NRSVU). 

I suppose I could take this as literal agricultural instruction and say, “Hey, Teacher. Thanks for that! Good call,” and go tend to my tomatoes accordingly. 

Or maybe I could hear it as the metaphor it was no doubt intended to be. Maybe I could choose to hear it as a divinely inspired word telling me that no matter what stage of life I attain, my life’s task is still not completed. Maybe this unknown Bible guy (or gal) is saying that as long as I live, there will still be a measure of uncertainty about what sort of “crop” my life efforts will yield. 

I don’t know. Somehow, I find that advice kind of depressing. I was really hoping I might get to a point in life where I could hit the “Cruise Control” button and just coast blissfully into the Big Dirt Nap. I mean, my two sons – ages 45 and 42 – have turned out to be great sons, great parents, and great human beings. Their kids (eight between them) are fantastic beyond my wildest hopes and dreams. Joan and I are secure and comfortable, and (for now, at least) in good health.

Isn’t that a pretty good “crop”?

Some might say so. But then here comes the voice of Jesus’ brother, James, throwing a big bucket of cold water on my complacency by saying, “Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14, NRSVU). 

Thanks a bunch, James. Really appreciate that.

**Sigh** 

Back to the grindstone, I guess.

Abundant blessings;

01
Jun
22

19 Irises

Check out these absolutely STUNNING Iris flowers we saw on our morning walk.

I’m really not much of a flower guy, but are those INCREDIBLE or what?

I have always loved Irises. They are so soft and dainty, yet explosively extravagant in their colors and textures. They seem to stumble all over themselves in its rush to manifest their magnificence for passersby to see.

I found that the name Iris comes originally from the Greek meaning “rainbow” because apparently, they come in hundreds of different colors and shapes and sizes.

Spring arrives. Temperatures warm. The iris appears…

… and then, just as quickly, it is gone. Dormant until next year.

Despite its beauty, there are people who hold the iris’ fleetingness against it. They say, “Well, yes, of course it is a beautiful flower. The problem is it doesn’t last long. Why go to all that trouble growing them if you only get two weeks of joy from them?”

On one hand, I can see their point. A gardener COULD choose to plant many other flowers that are big, colorful, and showy, but which also hang around for most of the growing season. 

After all, why not choose to HAVE your cake and EAT IT, too?

But let me pose this stumper for you to chew on; could it be that the fleeting nature of the iris’ life is important… even INTEGRAL… to its beauty?

Is it possible that one reason we OOO and AHHH and gush so much over this flower is precisely BECAUSE it won’t be with us very long? Do we see a bed of iris’ like the one above and stop and SAVOR it because we know it is so darned ephemeral?

You know… sort of like human beings are when considered from God’s eternal point of view.

When it comes right down to it, EVERYTHING in this world is temporary. The clock of mortality is ticking for every plant, every flower, every person, every animal, every building, every tree, every everything you see. 

So why bother forging attachments to ANY of them? Why have a pet, for example, when it is almost one hundred percent certain that they will die before you do? Why fall in love? One of you is certainly going to go before the other one. 

As the psalmist 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.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSVU). 

Dang! How depressing is that?

But then she/he continues: “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.” (Psalm 103:17, NRSVU). 

Today, I am still struggling with feelings of anguish, anger, terror, and despair. I am haunted by the image of those 19 beautiful irises in Uvalde, Texas, cruelly uprooted and violently stomped into oblivion at the very peak of their glory… and my utter impotence to respond in any way that is appropriate. I have cried my eyes dry and sat in silent contemplation around the unanswerable questions that come. I have not been able to write a single, coherent word about much of anything…

… until those irises spoke to me. 

May their beauty – as fleeting and tragically short as it was – shine and glow throughout eternity. 

Abundant blessings;




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