Posts Tagged ‘beauty

03
Aug
21

How Urgent?

If you know me, you know that I walk fast.

That is, I used to walk fast. That was before I became “The Brokeback Guy” in early May.

You will also know that I drive fast. If you doubt my word, just ask Joan. She will set you straight.

I also write fast. 

I drink fast, I eat fast, and sometimes I even talk fast.

As I was out walking the other day, I had to slow my roll considerably because of my aching back. As I slowed from a gallop to a leisurely canter, I thought to myself, “Hey! This slower, more relaxed pace isn’t so bad after all. I can actually see and appreciate my surroundings. Oh look… there’s a hummingbird!!”

I was also prompted to wonder what the rush was in the first place. 

This all prompted me to think back to a conversation I once had with a guy who did a lot of hiring for a Kansas City-based advertising agency. He told me that for him, the quality that drew him most readily to a candidate was – in his words – “a sense of urgency.”

He really liked the idea of hiring someone who he felt was eager and passionate about the work… who could not wait to dive into a project and ardently see it through to completion. 

And I have to say, for most of my working life, that was a great description of the way I approached my daily doings.

While I appreciate the value of living with a sense of urgency, I am also reminded of just how easy it is to bestow the “urgent” status on just about anything. I’d love to develop the discipline of asking:

  • Is it really urgent that I answer that email?
  • Is it really urgent that I make that green light?
  • Is it really, truly urgent that I put the toaster back where it came from?
  • Etc., etc.

Steven Covey tried to teach me and 25 million other people to discern between the URGENT and the IMPORTANT matters in life in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It is a profound insight and one that can radically reshape the way we work and live. I tried to apply it as a working person, and now find it is just as important a lesson in my life as a retired guy. 

But as a person of faith, I also need to know what God has to say on the matter. What might the Good Book have to say on the topic of The Proper Pace for Living?

Let’s see… there is Proverbs 20:21 that says, “An estate quickly acquired in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.”

There is this advice from James, the brother of Jesus, who advised, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1:19, NRSV).

If we look in David’s collection of 150 unique Psalms, we find countless reminders of the need to slow down and savor each moment of our fleeting time here on earth. Psalm 103, for example, tells us, “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSV).

Reading these and others begins to give me the impression that God is much more interested in steering me toward life’s QUALITY rather than QUANTITY

I mean, yes, I might proudly hold up a long, completed “TO DO” list at the end of the day. But if I achieved that by buzzing through and ignoring the majesty of Creation spread out all around me, what good is it?

Well, I really need to get on with the day and tend to a bunch of other stuff. But – with God’s help – I will try to slow down and smell the coffee along the way.

Abundant blessings;

14
Jun
21

New Glasses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How sad!

How dull!

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

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

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

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

I’d say, “Absolutely!” 

All it takes is a new pair of glasses.

Abundant blessings;

19
Apr
21

Watch Your Eyes!

Today, for the first time in a jillion years, I got new glasses.

Not just new lenses. New frames, too. 

And if I do say so myself, they are pretty danged snazzy. 

All of which made me pause and think about the importance of my eyes.

Somewhere in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered his listeners this important observation: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eyeis unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23, NRSV).

Which prompts me to ask: How is your eye… or rather, how are your EYES today?

No question; eyes and their use have always been important to us. Not only do they help us navigate through our surroundings, but they also serve as a critical instrument of self-expression. 

Here in the time of the global pandemic, however, their importance seems to have skyrocketed exponentially. 

Think of it. When we find ourselves in a time – as we do today – where masks hide the lower half of everyone’s face, the entire weight of emotional expression falls on the eyes. We have to learn to “SMIZE” (or “smile with your eyes,” TM, Tyra Banks), express pleasure, fear, concern, angst, boredom, surprise, disgust, horror, love, and 85 other emotions ENTIRELY with our eyes.

That seems like a mighty heavy burden to lay on those two little jelly-filled balls.

This is certainly a time for us to take good care of the health of these critters, for sure. It is also a good time to remember to be a little extra cautious about how we are using our eyes. For example, are we…

… rolling our eyes?

… averting our eyes?

… leering with them?

… looking covetously with them?

… staring with them?

… registering embarrassment or shame with them?

Your eyes disclose your heart. They have the power to hearten or to discourage everyone you meet. 

Our eyes serve as our ambassadors… going out ahead of us to tell others who we are and what we are about. They don’t lie… even when we ask them to.

So, please… take good care of your eyes…

… and watch them carefully.

Abundant blessings;

28
May
20

Frozen People

Young and oldI knew it was coming, just as surely as the next episode of The Lone Ranger on Saturday morning TV.

When I was a wee lad and we made the 415-mile trek to see my dad’s parents in St. Louis, Missouri, the first words out of my grandmother’s mouth were guaranteed.

She would grab each one of us, give us a big hug, hold us out at arm’s length and say, “Well just look at you! Look how you’ve GROWN!”

Of course, I always smiled and blushed, but inside I was thinking, “Well, DUH! We haven’t seen one another in over a year! Did you think I would stay the same size FOREVER?”

Nowadays, of course, I do exactly the same thing to my own grandchildren. Joan and I just drove back to Kansas City for the first time in six months and MY… how those three girls had grown! And I didn’t hesitate saying so!

I know that part of my reaction stems from genuine shock. I have clearly forgotten the explosive power of hormones between the ages of nine and 13… especially in girls in that age range.

The last time we saw her – in February – middle grandchild was a little girl. By some strange magic she is now a young woman.

The other part of my stereotypical grandpa reaction – I’m sure – is a kind of wistful sadness… sadness at the fact that my grandchildren are growing up. Somewhere inside me, irrational as it is, lives a desire to freeze them at their cutest, cuddliest ages and experience them that way forever.

But here is the truly weird thing; I do the same with EVERYONE. I expect every person in my circle of relationships to be exactly the same today as they were the last time we met. For example, when Joan tells me that her daughter (my stepdaughter) is dropping by for a visit, I fully expect to see a bright, young, 17-year-old woman coming through the door.

In reality, she is a 40-year-old medical doctor… a partner in a thriving practice here in Fort Collins, CO.

As Keenan Thompson, a.k.a. Diondre Cole might ask, “What’s up with that?”

What’s up with that, I believe, is a robust urge to evade the reality of mortality. By any means possible I long to be able to pretend that time does not advance… that bodies do not age… that physical death does not wait around the corner for me and everyone I hold dear.

All of which, of course, is utter nonsense. And yet a whole bunch of us continue to pretend otherwise.

The psalmist knew this truth over 3,000 years ago when she/he wrote, “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, NRSV).

And yet even when people know of and even accept their mortality, finiteness, and temporality it doesn’t mean they are happy about the state of things.

It is time to face the truth; in the midst of a decaying, mortal world, we have to see that it is foolishness to freeze grandchildren, shoot up with Botox, or hop on a skateboard at the age of 75 (although I have no doubt some do exactly that. More power to them!).

There is nothing we can do to stop the inevitable march of time.

What we CAN do… indeed, what we MUST do is to hang on to the One who stands beyond time itself.

Only in God’s loving embrace can we find the infinite that we so desperately seek. As the psalmist continues, “… the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 103:17, NRSV).

 

Abundant blessings;

28
Mar
19

Call it good

My wife and I just returned from a wonderful trip with friends.

We traveled to the state of Arizona with several different objectives in mind.

First, we desperately wanted to escape the icy grip of winter that has seemingly decided to make a permanent home here.

We also wanted to see a few spring training baseball games of our beloved Kansas City Royals.

The final objective of the trip was to see some of God’s finest handiwork in places like Sedona, the Painted Desert, and the Grand Canyon.

Done, done, and done! As a little extra icing on the cake, the Royals won ALL of the games they played while we were there.

Now, as we busy ourselves with unpacking, laundry, and stopped mail retrieval (SO much junk!! So little joy!), I must confess to feeling a bit of a letdown.

Yes, I know that is a normal reaction when you finally DO something you have planned and looked forward to for months and months.

But if I am being honest, I am also feeling a little “environmental letdown,” if I may coin that phrase.

By that I mean I am coming from an environment filled with sights like this:

Grand Canyon 1

… and returning to an environment filled with sights like this:

Kansas boring

In my labeling system, I give one of these names like, “good,” or “beautiful,” or, “awe-inspiring.”

The other I just call “home.”

But then if I pause and recall some of my study of scripture, I am reminded that my labeling system often bears very little resemblance to God’slabeling system.

The documentation is right there in black and white… in Genesis 1:31. It says, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”

God saw the (seeds of) the Grand Canyon and called it “very good.”

God also saw the flat-as-a-pancake wheat fields of Kansas and called it, “very good.”

God saw the red rock spires surrounding Sedona and called them, “very good.”

God also saw the wheat fields west of Salina, Kansas and called them, “very good.”

Hmmmm. Clearly, God and I have differing understandings of the concept of “good” and “very good.”

So I wonder… is it possible that God looks beyond the surface-level aesthetic pleasingness of something to decide whether to call it good or not?

Is it also possible that God’s definition of the word “good” includes an understanding of the necessity of a thing… that God also understands how that something plays a vital role in the overall scheme of things?

And finally, is it possible that God also applies that same “goodness criteria” to PEOPLE and not just LANDSCAPES?

I not only think so… I know so.

God created you… stepped back and looked at his creation… and said, “THAT is very good.”

And if God has called you “very good,” who am I (or you) to argue?

Today I pray that you will remember to look down regularly and see the nametag God has already pinned on your shirt and live into it fully.

 

Abundant blessings;

22
Oct
18

Drawing a Line

Hello!

I have an assignment for you today.

When you find yourself at a place where you have a little flexibility in your schedule, I would like you to stop and draw me a picture.

I would like you to draw me a picture of a person. Please.

It can be a self-portrait, a picture of your spouse or significant other, a picture of a total stranger, or some mythical person… It doesn’t matter.

And just to take a little pressure off, let me add this one additional condition: you can choose to make your drawing a crude, stick figure person, like this: Stick_figure

OR you can decide to make it a detailed, shaded, textured, nuanced genuine work of art, like this:

Mona Lisa

Totally up to you.

OK?

Alright… so this is not a real assignment. You don’t really HAVE to stop and draw me a picture. (Unless you really, really want to).

But I know that if I were on the receiving end of an assignment like this (a REAL assignment… not just some made-up blogger trick assignment), I know which drawing option I would choose.

Due to both a lack of talent and a lack of motivation, I would choose to produce the quick, stick figure drawing option.

And I think that most of us who aren’t professional portrait artists would do the same, wouldn’t we?

The upside of choosing the “stick figure caricature” option, of course, is that it is MUCH quicker and easier.

The downside is that it is much less accurate… much less helpful.

And while you and I don’t ever receive assignments like this in real life, we DO regularly face a similar choice.

When any of us encounters another human being, we are always faced with the choice of how much time and energy we will invest in creating an accurate, detailed picture of that person.

Whether it is someone we have known for a lifetime or someone we just met 10 minutes ago, we can choose to either quickly sketch a stick-figure caricature of them… OR we can spend the necessary time to develop a detailed, shaded, textured, nuanced portrait.

Yes… option “A” (the stick figure option) is quicker and easier. And so often in today’s world, we are motivated to choose solutions that are quick and easy.

But the quick option is usually not accurate or helpful.

This subject seems particularly relevant today…, as those of us in the U.S. are right in the middle of a white-hot political season.

And you know how it goes with election-time advertising messages: MY favored candidate is always painted with the crudest, boldest “good guy” brush-strokes, while the opposing candidate is painted even more crudely as “the very incarnation of evil.”

Somehow we sense that these “cartoon image” pictures of politicians are not really accurate. And yet, most voters rely on very little besides what they see on TV or hear on the radio when choosing for whom to vote.

In the end, our voting decisions (and PLEASE get out and vote!) are very binary; “YES” to this one, “NO” to this one.

No room for maybes.

Let’s not apply that approach to the other people in our lives, OK? Let’s dare to spend the time to try and understand the mystery, the depth, the multi-hued and deeply layered nature of each person.

Let’s recall that when the Psalmist sings God’s praises and says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.” (Psalm 139:14, NRSV), that he also means you, and you, and you, and you, and EVERY person ever.

We also need to remember that you don’t have to be an accomplished artist to consider the rich detail of each person you meet.

 

Abundant Blessings;

07
Aug
17

BEHOLD!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASTOP!

SEE!

Now pause… and REALLY see.

Today, as I write these words – August 7, 2017 – I possess the gift of sight. It is a gift I take remarkably in stride, not offering a fraction of the gratitude this gift truly deserves.

Over this past weekend, two oddly disruptive and enlightening events happened that helped me recalibrate my regard for this amazing gift.

As a result of these two wildly dissimilar events, I was given the gift of discovering the difference between seeing and REALLY seeing.

EVENT #1: I was the officiant for a small wedding that was being held in the ballroom of a local hotel. The groom, his six groomsmen, the on-site wedding coordinator, and the guests were all awaiting the appearance of the bride. It was supposed to be a 4:00 wedding, yet here it was 4:25 and no bride or bridesmaids in sight.

They’re just putting the finishing touches on her make-up,” the coordinator told us as he hung up his cell phone. “… Just a couple more minutes.”

As I was pacing back and forth in the hallway outside Salon F, fuming and being annoyed at their lack of punctuality, I suddenly noticed a conversation happening to my left. Tonio, the best man, was sitting down and chatting with one of the hotel’s banquet waiters.

The waiter was an older gentleman, but still quite energetic and vigorous in his work. Tonio noticed the waiter’s energy and was telling him how impressed he was by him. It was a short, but delightful interaction.

EVENT #2: Since my wife was out of town for the weekend, I was dining alone. As a bona fide sucker for barbeque, I had ordered a half slab of ribs. When the ribs arrived (sadly, a little dry and overcooked), they were heavily slathered with barbeque sauce.

I tore into the ribs with gusto, pausing now and then to clean my fingers and lick my lips as needed.

My very pleasant waitress stopped by a couple of times to ask if everything tasted alright, refill my water glass and tend to any other needs I might have had.

Finally, I finished the meal, received and paid the bill and prepared to leave.

On the way out the door, I stopped in the restroom to wash my hands, still a little sticky with barbeque sauce. As I stepped in front of the mirror, I was stunned to look up at my reflection and see a big blob of barbeque sauce smack dab in the middle of my chin!

It was a genuine shock to see this classless unkempt doofus staring back at me from the mirror, barbeque sauce dripping down his chin. “How long has that been there?” I wondered. “How many times did that waitress walk by and look at me and think, ‘What a goof! Can’t he even feel that sauce on his chin?’”

Together, both events helped me realize that there is a big difference between SEEING and REALLY seeing.

In the wedding scenario, I realized I was so busy being annoyed with the bride and her make-up artist that I was unable to see what was happening around me. Tonio had obviously decided that all the fretting and fuming about the delay would do no good whatsoever, and so was content to really SEE the events and people around him.

In the restaurant, I was handicapped by the lack of my faithful, loving dining partner. I know that as soon as the barbeque sauce appeared on my chin, she would have leaned over with her napkin and gently wiped it off.

The point is every day God spreads a banquet in front of us; a banquet of sights and sounds and smells and people and moments and meaning. God’s table sags under the bountiful weight of this feast. The psalmist implores us, “Come, behold the works of the Lord…” (Psalm 46:8, NRSV) to coax us to open our eyes to the richness of the fare.

And yet, most of the time we can’t be bothered to look up – even for a moment – to truly see and truly appreciate what is right there in front of us.

Battered STOP signThis photo of the battered stop sign was a first effort of mine at repentance. I almost breezed right by it on my morning walk, but something about it made me stop (I mean, something besides the fact that it says, “STOP”) and look at it more closely.

I saw that it was quirky… beat up… that it had character. And so I photographed it!

May God help you really SEE the feast spread before you today.

It won’t take but a moment to pause… take it in… and give thanks.

 

Abundant blessings;




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