Posts Tagged ‘COVID

31
Dec
21

Winter Wonderland

It finally snowed here in Fort Collins. 

The falling right now is the first snow this season… and the latest first snow in the town’s history. 

And so naturally, as Patrick the dog and I set out on our morning walk – wet flakes descending rapidly on our heads – I began singing, Walking in a Winter Wonderland. 

You know the song, don’t you? [And no, Christopher… it’s not about you.]

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

In the lane, snow is glistening.

A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight,

Walking in a winter wonderland.

I’m sure in my life, I have sung it over 100 times with no thought at all to what I was singing.

But for some reason today, as I walked along singing, I was suddenly snagged by these words in the second verse:

“To face unafraid, the plans that we made…”

My first thought was, “What a great mindset to have as you make the transition from one year to the next! Maybe this is really more a New Year’s song than a Christmas song.”

But then I stopped to ponder a little further. I asked myself; Is that the way I am approaching 2022? Am I facing my/our plans for this coming year fearlessly… confidently… in a positive, hopeful state of mind? Or am I shaking in my shoes a little bit?

Because, honestly, peering at the road ahead shows me a lot of potholes, hairpin turns, mudslides, and washed-out bridges. Facing that mess “unafraid” (in the words of the song) seems like it might prove to be a daunting task.

As I stand here and gaze down the road, I see that the YUCK has already started. A beloved family member just tested positive for the COVID virus. Thick smoke from the wildfires west of Boulder, Colorado enveloped us as we drove home yesterday from Kansas City. Reports say that over 500 homes have been destroyed. John Madden died last week, and Betty White died today!

Thank God (literally) I am not facing all this alone.

Thank God there is someone who has been there, who has seen the worst of it, and is still there to reach out, take my hand, and say to me, “Do not be afraid.” In fact, that exact phrase is repeated more than 70 times in the Bible… spoken by God to the numerous “feet of clay” heroes scattered throughout its pages. 

Think of it… Abram was afraid. Hagar was afraid. Isaac was afraid. Moses was afraid. The entire nation of Israel was afraid. Joshua, Deborah, Jacob, Gideon, Samson, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, David, and a bushel basket full of other big names in the Bible all had reason to quake in their shoes as they looked at the road ahead of them. 

And to each of them, God said in a loud, strong voice, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13, NRSV). 

In my mind’s eye, I see each of those biblical “heroes” jotting that phrase down on a piece of papyrus, taping it to their bathroom mirrors (like I did in 2011, during a time of great trepidation), and reading it to themselves every morning. 

And then – much as I did back then – I see them each marching out into the day saying, “OK, world… Bring it on.” 

Looking out my window, I see that the snow is getting deeper. It is a much-needed dose of moisture in a dry, parched land. It quiets things down and creates a uniformly white blanket of silence on everything it touches.

And so when you combine that very “Currier and Ives” visual with the reminder of God’s enduring presence in each of our lives, it truly does look like a Winter Wonderland. 

– Abundant blessings and a Joy-filled 2022 to you and yours.

29
Dec
20

Passing Through Waters

It snowed here last night.

It wasn’t much – maybe two inches total. But it was enough to make me glad I was not out trying to drive through the fast-falling flakes.

On other occasions, I have not been quite as lucky. My extensive catalog of life experience includes multiple instances of trying to navigate one-and-a-half tons of gas-powered sheet metal through horrific weather conditions…

… often in the dark,

… often at highway speeds.

I think particularly of one nighttime drive along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a torrential rainstorm. It was my first time ever on this stretch of road, so add “road unfamiliarity” to the mix of nervous-making conditions. 

Then there was that time in college when I was driving north on Interstate 5 in Washington State. It was at night (of course!) and there were blizzard conditions all around. You should know that in Washington, they are kind enough to add little raised bumps to the lane-dividing stripes on the highway to give you an audible signal to help you know when you are crossing from one lane to the next. 

So blinded was I by the snow, that I navigated by listening for the rhythmic “thrum thrum thrum” of the little bumps beneath the tires on the right side of my car, which caused me to correct toward the left a little… until I heard the same sound on the left side. 

In both cases, it was at least two hours of sheer, white-knuckled terror until I finally arrived safely at my destination.

In neither situation did I consider pulling to the side of the road and waiting for the storm to pass. I just kept plugging carefully, nervously ahead, one anxious tenth-of-a-mile at a time. I am not sure why, but I somehow trusted that I would ultimately get through the mess and come out safely on the other side.

It occurs to me that sometimes we have to do the same thing in life. 

Sometimes in life we hit turbulence. Sometimes we face conditions that have turned unspeakably hostile. Sometimes pandemics threaten us. Sometimes the diagnosis is bad. Sometimes all of our options seem to have vanished like smoke.

And just like me on the highway, life does not give us the option of pulling off to the side of the road and waiting for the storm to pass. We have to keep trucking, putting one foot in front of the other, wiping the snow/rain/tears from our eyes and trusting. 

I suppose when I was behind the wheel of the car, I trusted my (*cough, cough*) pretty amazing driving skills to get me through. 

In many of life’s storms, we start out doing the same thing… right up to the point where we can’t anymore. 

That is the moment when we are faced with two distinct choices: either sink deeply into despair or call upon the words of Isaiah 43:2. That is where we hear God say, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2, NRSV).

I note here that God did not say IF you pass through waters, or IF you walk through fire. He said WHEN.

All of us hope that 2021 will be a huge improvement over this year. For many of us, it likely will be. For others, it might be even worse. 

But no matter what kind of storm you end up driving through next year, I hope you will keep driving, supremely confident that if God is with you the rivers will not overwhelm you and the flames will not consume you.

Abundant blessings;

21
Dec
20

My Christmas of Shame

As the Christmas of my 12th year approached, I wanted a Sting-Ray bike so badly I could taste it.

Everybody has one,” I told my parents, although I’m not sure that was technically true. There were probably one or two 12-year-olds in Bangaladesh who did not have Sting-Ray bicycles.

The bike I did have was functional, but a little clunky. It certainly did NOT have a banana seat or cool, high-rise handlebars, or a sparkly candy apple red paint job. Those deficiencies caused me to be seriously ill-prepared in the “popping wheelies” department. 

Sting-Rays, as I’m sure you are aware, are PERFECT for popping wheelies.

My solution was to beg and beg and whine and moan and complain to my parents, beginning sometime in August. I assured them my life would be ruined if I did not soon possess a Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle. The shame, I assured them, would redound to them as the parents of The Kid Without a Sting-Ray. 

Of course, it did not enter my childish brain that I was talking about a very major purchase here. We were not what you would call poor, but with five kids and a stay-at-home mother, there was not a lot of room for extravagance at Christmas time. In all likelihood, my heart’s desire might have eaten up 50 percent of the family Christmas present-buying budget.    

Fast forward to Christmas morning. The kids all woke up early – as usual – and ran downstairs to see what Santa had brought us. We impatiently waited as mom and dad took their sweet time coming downstairs, making coffee, and pretending not to know what we were so excited about. 

Stockings were first, by law. Then came the distribution of all of the other wrapped gifts. My eyes kept scanning for a large present in the shape of a Sting-Ray bicycle, to no avail. 

When everything had been passed out, ooo’d and ahhh’d over, squealed with delight for, or grudgingly thanked for (when the gift was a six-pack of new underwear), there was still no Sting-Ray bicycle in sight. Suddenly my dad looked over and said, “Well, I guess that’s it, kids!” and then with a wink my mother chimed in, “Wait a minute, George… what is that I see out there on the front porch?”

“I don’t know,” my father implishly replied. “Why don’t we go out and look!”

We all trooped out to the porch to see what they could possibly be talking about and there – in all its glory – sat a shiny Quasi-Sting-Ray bicycle.

“Oh look, Rusty!” my father proudly proclaimed. “I guess there was one more thing left after all. And I think it is for YOU!”

My father had taken my old bike – the clunky one described above – painted the frame with some metallic, candy-apple red and green paint, and then replaced the original handlebars with high-rise handlebars and the original seat with a Sting-Ray-like banana seat. 

My father had undertaken a labor of love. He had assessed the wants and needs of his five children, weighed them against the available budget, and come up with a creative solution. He spent hours and hours in a secret place in the garage modifying my bike and turning it into the thing I wanted most in the world.

And in return for his love, hard work, and creativity, what did I do? 

I moped. I sulked. I looked down at the ground and tried to hide my deep disappointment.

I think I managed to mumble out a strained, “Thank you,” but my heart wasn’t in it. 

I knew that all of my Sting-Ray owning friends were going to point and laugh at me when I rode my homemade Sting-Ray down the street. It would be just like wearing a placard around my neck that read, “Hi there! We’re poor.” 

I was ashamed of my parents’ gift.

Today though, I am ashamed of me and the way I reacted. 

I look back on that moment with the hard-won knowledge of what it takes to raise a family. I now know that nothing matters more to a parent than lighting up a child’s face with joy. I know parents are hardwired to do whatever it takes to provide for and protect their children and that the only reward any parent ever wants for all of the work and sacrifice is a smile and hearing a heartfelt, “Thank you, dad,” from that child. 

That Christmas I gave my parents none of those gifts. 

Today, as we approach this COVID Christmas, I hope we can look past the PRESENTS and give thanks for the PRESENCE; the presence of love, the presence of family, and the presence of God incarnate, as the real gifts of this season. 

Merry Christmas and abundant blessings;




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