Posts Tagged ‘broken

11
Oct
21

A Strange Set of Tools

I’ve got this dilemma on my hands. Maybe you can help me with it.

On the one hand, I don’t like to fail. I mean I REALLY don’t like it. At all.

At the same time, I really like trying things I haven’t tried before.

Therein lies the dilemma. Because the things I try are new to me, I am highly likely to fail at them… at least at first.

Last winter, for example, I decided that a fitting way to engage the wonders of my newly adopted state of Colorado would be to get up on a pair of skis and head down a snowy slope. 

Because hey… EVERYBODY out here skis. Even little babies.

So, I rented some skis and boots and bought goggles and ski pants and found myself an instructor. After an hour of struggling and straining and falling and failing, I decided skiing probably wasn’t for me. God – in God’s infinite wisdom – gave me feet that point toe-outward. Standing correctly on a pair of skis really requires toes that point INWARD… or at least point STRAIGHT.

So, there we had SNOW SPORT FAILURE #1.

Which led me to my next adventure. As I looked around there on the mountain, I noticed that snowboards seemed to accommodate people with feet like mine a whole lot better than skis did. So, it was back to the rental shop to be outfitted with a SNOWBOARD!!

Another hour of falling and flailing and sweating and swearing and I was ready to declare myself a miserable failure at snowboarding. That led me to admit to…

… SNOW SPORT FAILURE #2.

It is embarrassing and more than a little depressing to start looking back and cataloging all the false starts, missteps, bumbles, fluffs, and swings-and-misses I have racked up over my considerable years on this planet. 

Thanks to my clumsy efforts, toes have been stubbed (mine and others), feelings have been hurt, opportunities have been squandered, and lives have been damaged.

And it now appears that Joan and I together will add “failure to become passionate RV owners” to that growing list of failures.

I know, I know. I hear the voice of Bill Gates saying, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” And right beside him there is Albert Einstein (who failed MASSIVELY before changing the history of quantum physics, I’m told) saying, “You never fail until you stop trying.” 

I know all that rah-rah, motivational stuff. I’ve preached it a thousand times to eager, listening ears.

But it isn’t until I turn my gaze to the cross that I really, truly understand the divine power found in failure. You see, God decided to become flesh for the express purpose of re-orientin the hearts and minds of human beings. Jesus came to live among us as the incarnate Word of God… here to facilitate the kind of spiritual transformation that stone tablets could not. 

And yet, what happened? After three years of wandering the Galilean countryside, healing, preaching, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, and bringing hope to the hopeless, Jesus was arrested and executed for his efforts. He was pronounced guilty of rebellion by Rome and heresy by the Jewish religious leaders. 

In other words, his mission failed. 

It failed, that is, until the redeeming, restoring, overwhelming power of God stepped in and turned that apparent failure into a fresh new beginning for human history. 

And as the Genesis Creation story reminds us, from chaos, God made a universe.

From dust God made us.

So we should remember that from the ashes of failure, God can build something new, unexpected, fresh, and life-giving. 

In a very real sense then, the broken pieces of today’s failure just might be the strange building blocks God is looking for to build something new in your life. 

So, keep trying. Keep failing. Keep giving God new tools to work with.

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;

27
May
20

Right? Or Wrong?

In my life, I’ve been wrong about a lot of things.

In the sixth grade, I told Marsha Westbrook I was going to marry her.

As this early 90s photo of me and my dad demonstrates, I once thought pleated jeans were a good idea. 539839E7-47A8-44E9-BA41-B9D7E11477C3

A quick check of my closet will show you that I am still holding on to a bolo tie, a 100% polyester “Chaminade” basketball jersey, and a pair of outdoor soccer cleats; clothing choices as wrong as wrong can be.

On the political front, I am a bit loathe to admit it, but there was a time I believed that trickle-down economics made a ton of sense.

At one point I was also convinced that the field of advertising and public relations was my true calling.

Yes, along the way I have also been right about some things too. I was, for example, spectacularly right about asking Joan to marry me. I was also spot on about confessing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My recommendation that our next car be a Toyota Prius is also looking pretty darned savvy right about now.

True… it might be the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day, but we won’t go there right now.

My interest right now is in looking at what happens to us internally when we are either WRONG or RIGHT about something.

For me, when I experience one of those rare moments of rectitude, I tend to get a bit cocky. I strut and preen a bit, like a prize-winning Rhode Island Red. I may (or may not) have even pantomimed a dropping-the-mic move and intoned the word, “BOOM!” to those around me recently.

In short, being right sometimes pumps up my ego a bit.

Being wrong, on the other hand, humbles me. It cuts me down to size and causes me to re-examine myself and my views. Granted, it often takes a shocking event or dramatic revelation to show me the error of my ways. But it also reminds me that I am not – after all – the end-all, be-all whiz kid I previously imagined myself to be.

As King David of Israel once said, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit…” (Psalm 51:17, NRSV). Not, you will note, “… a guy who consistently nails it.”

I suppose what matters most is being right about the right things. As much as I enjoy saying so, it actually doesn’t matter whether I am right about Patrick Mahomes being the next GOAT of the National Football League. (He will be, by the way).

Being right about the things that really matter is a continuous lesson in humility. Being right about marrying Joan means constantly reassessing my decisions and actions to ensure that they line up with BOTH of our sets of needs, not just mine.

Similarly, when you or I decide to make Jesus Christ the North Star of our lives, we also decide that all of our other values and priorities will be CONSTANTLY challenged. We can no longer, as Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, let our STOMACH (or other worldly appetites) be our god.

From here out, Christ followers have to question the impulse instead of just blindly responding to it.

As I write this, the day is young. I have only managed to get out of bed, walk the dog, dress, and eat breakfast. Most of those, I am proud to say went off without a hitch. There is still a VAST open space ahead in which to make mistakes, big and small.

The good news, however, is that with Jesus at the center, I have the unshakable assurance that my life will not be forever defined by those mistakes.

HALLELUJAH!

 

Abundant blessings;




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