Posts Tagged ‘dull

28
Jan
20

Glorious Grind

Baby spinach“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”            1 Corinthians 10:31, NRSV

The other night we had some people over for dinner. Joan decided a big spinach salad would be the perfect accompaniment for the main dish she was preparing. She gave me the job of rinsing the spinach leaves and pulling all the stems off.

Because Lord knows, you can’t have a proper spinach salad with a bunch of stemmy spinach leaves, right?

And so, being the jolly team player I am, I set about my task… whistling as I worked.

Did I mention it was a BIG bag of baby spinach… with lots and lots of individual pieces of spinach in it… and that each spinach leaf had a stem attached to it?

Soon enough, my whistling stopped. The pile of un-destemmed spinach looked larger than it did when I started. The de-stemmed pile seemed impossibly small.

It was one of those repetitive, mindless jobs that I have never been a big fan of. It was fun having Joan there beside me doing her part of the dinner prep (her job, incidentally, was preparing the dressing and all of the other ingredients for the spinach salad… a job that involved skill and creativity). So at least I was able to divert my attention from the drudgery of the moment with some light, engaging banter with my wife.

But still…

That moment took me back to a couple of jobs I held a long time ago that involved a heavy dose of monotonous, repetitive work.

Mind you, these were not jobs that lasted only as long as it took to de-stem a 12-ounce bag of baby spinach.

These were jobs that lasted a whole lot longer.

One of those involved working for our next-door neighbor as a 12-year old kid. Miss Williams had some prize rose gardens back behind the house and my job was to go through each plant and pick off any aphids I could find.

For that mind-numbing work, I made the princely sum of 35 cents an hour. After three hours of aphid-picking, I had a solid DOLLAR in my pocket… with no taxes withheld. (Sorry, IRS!)

Later, when I was older, I worked in the factory of a company that manufactured hydraulic and pneumatic valves. For eight hours a day, five days a week, I put little rubber O-rings onto the end of the pistons inside the valves. O-rings – as I’m sure you know – keep the air or fluid from leaking into the piston.

I have to confess that I mostly hated those jobs. Every day I dreaded showing up and could not wait for the end of my workday. As soon as I found something else, I was out of there!

It was not until much later that I realized a couple of things about those jobs. First, I realized that for some people ANY job – even a monotonous job – is a godsend. It is the means to providing food and shelter for them or for their family. That job provides a place where they can contribute to the world and stay gainfully occupied. The job I whine about just might be a lifesaver for someone else.

My second realization was that almost EVERY endeavor includes a grinding, monotonous, mindless component at some stage. A brilliant concert pianist has had to spend hours and hours in tedious, repetitive practice. A gifted NFL quarterback (like, oh, for example, PATRICK MAHOMES) has had to throw thousands of balls on a practice field, away from the bright lights, every day, on his own. The charismatic, gifted preacher has sweated bullets over multiple drafts of that sermon and thrown away more pages than she has kept.

It all makes me think of Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a 13thcentury Christian monastic. For his entire life as a monk, Brother Lawrence worked in the monastery kitchen, cooking for the other monks and cleaning up their dirty dishes. He had no time to sit in quiet contemplation of heavenly realities, listening for the voice of God. There was always the next meal to prepare.

And yet, somehow, Brother Lawrence found holiness there in the kitchen. Here is the prayer that is attributed to him:

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven’s gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.

Amen

Yeah… but did he ever have to de-stem a whole bag of baby spinach?

23
Apr
19

A Made Bed

Made bedAt first glance, this picture couldn’t be more simple… mundane… unremarkable.

It’s a made bed.

Big whoop.

Yes, there is a nice bit of color coordination going on there with the duvet (oh yeah… I know that word!) and pillowcases and pictures. And I think we have achieved Critical Pillow Mass with all these extraneous little decorative puffballs you see.

But none of those are really what makes this a remarkable photo.

This picture is noteworthy because of the statement it makes.

You see, for the last six months – contrary to my usual preference – we have not been making this bed.

That is because when one of you is expecting to spend most of the day IN the bed, it is really kind of silly to make it.

But now, after months of chemotherapy, major surgery, and loving ministration by friends and family, this bed sits unused during the day. Its occupant has been officially declared “in remission” and is spending each new day like any other Midwestern, suburban housefrau.

She is now filling her day with NORMAL stuff like shopping, getting nails done, walking, planning dinners and vacations, reading, spectating at her spouse’s Old Man Softball games, (as you see here…) celebrating Easter with grandkids, Easter pic 1and chatting with neighbors.

No more do those days revolve around trips to the infusion center, trips to the lab, trips to the pharmacy, long naps, and speculation.

This made bed is a declaration. It declares, “LIFE is today’s agenda. CANCER is not calling the shots here.”

Truth be told, making the bed was always something I did, but mostly grudgingly and with a sense of dull duty.

Today, it is a victory dance!

HALLELUJAH for bed making!

18
Jul
17

Predictable Abundance

Vitamin pillsI take vitamins.

Every morning.

Plus a daily allergy medication.

I also have a very specific WAY I take my vitamins… grouping the pills by size and shape and being sure to take them between the morning showering and shaving functions. (Yes, siblings, it’s true… I am more and more becoming our father.)

So sure… go ahead and snicker at the idea of anyone being so persnickety and anal-retentive about something as trivial as VITAMINS, for crying out loud.

But as you’re sitting there laughing at my silly vitamin quirks, are you sure you don’t have a few eccentricities of your own I might get a kick out of hearing about?

The truth is, we ALL have stuff like this; whether you call it patterns, or habits, or quirks, or routines. These things serve as little anchors that give us some modest illusion of control of our lives.

The popular narrative is to accuse older folks of cornering the market on rigidity and routine. But my experience has often been just the opposite: after a certain age, people often learn the difference between the things worth hanging on to and those that aren’t. I’ve found that younger people are often much more rigid than their grandparents.

The real fun begins when any of these “anchors” are challenged by someone asking, “Why do you do it THAT way? Why not try THIS way instead?”

Suddenly our backs are up… our claws come out… we are more than willing to mount a vigorous defense of something that might not actually be worth defending.

We are seldom willing to acknowledge the reality that the person who challenges us and our patterns might actually be doing us a favor.

Routines can indeed make life manageable and sane. But they can also make it dull… predictable… lifeless… lackluster. And have you noticed… the people who make a practice of shaking things up… asking questions… challenging the status quo are usually the people with the greatest zeal for living; even if they regularly get under the skins of those of us who want to tell them to take their questions GET LOST!

When you dig into his story, you find that Jesus was a shaker-upper. Par excellence! Nothing was immune from his searching, challenging eye. No practice, no belief, no understanding, no routine, or habit was safe in his presence.

I’m sure that is why some people found his ministry liberating and life-giving while others found him to be a supreme pain in the tukhus.

I often wonder how many people – when they heard him say, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10) – muttered quietly to themselves, “But Jesus I don’t WANT life abundantly! I want life SAFELY and PREDICTABLY!”

It’s true: when we are willing to look at one of those “anchors” in our life – whether it is a habit, a belief, or even a trivial daily routine – and examine it with fresh, questioning eyes, we are taking a chance.

We are taking the chance that life might become less stable.

But we are also taking the chance that it might become a whole lot ABUNDANTER.

It is a choice we face every day… no matter our age or station in life; will I go for predictable today, or abundant?

Wow… when you put it that way, I might even dare to start taking my vitamins ONE AT A TIME!

 

Abundant blessings to you today;




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