Posts Tagged ‘experience

25
Aug
21

One Step at a Time

Amid some stiffness, soreness, and a bit of fatigue, there is also some genuine satisfaction bubbling up in my spirit today.

Horsetooth at sunrise. Photo by Georgia Evans

That is because yesterday, I managed to climb Horsetooth Rock… an iconic Fort Collins landmark. 

At a mere 7500 feet, Horsetooth has not even earned the right to be called a mountain, apparently. But I’ll tell you what… it was plenty high enough for me. From the parking lot at the trail head, it is a 6.4 mile round trip with a 1,584 foot elevation gain. 

Now, you might be as unimpressed as my oldest son who responded to my news with a meme of the Steve Carrell “Office” character saying, “Cool story.” 

But let me tell you… for this particular old guy, it was a genuine feat. On top of which, it gave me six or eight brand new ideas for BLOG POSTS!

First, it provided me with a reminder about the importance of STEPS. According to my calculations and the size of my stride, 6.4 miles is about 11,264 steps. Steps, I discovered, that can only be taken one at a time.

Over the course of my life, I have undertaken many journeys… journeys that have involved a high number of steps. I’ll be the first to admit that those steps have not always been taken with joy and determination. 

My left foot

One classic response of mine has been to pause and ponder the incredibly high number of steps involved in said journey and then turn away, overwhelmed. I am sure that was one of the things that prevented me from pursuing my call to ordained ministry for so long. 

SOOOO many steps. SOOOO many years. SOOOO much work!

Another response to seeing a long, difficult road stretching ahead is what I call the Suffering Stoic response. This is the guy (or gal) who peers down the road, screws his/her face up into a tight grimace, clenches their teeth, and then bravely sets off, sword in hand, ready to slay all dragons along the way. 

This was my approach to learning each musical instrument I have ever played. It was also how I have begun every morning at a couple of the jobs I’ve had the privilege to hold. 

Each of these approaches has the same root problem; they are each hampered by focusing too much on the WHOLE journey instead of looking at just the NEXT STEP

  • Seminary was a much more positive experience when I looked only at THIS class, at THIS paper, and at THIS exam instead of considering the whole 4.5-year lump.
  • Parenthood wasn’t a snap, but we found that it held so much more joy when we looked at each moment on its own merits.
  • Climbing Horsetooth became much more doable when I took one step at a time vs. worrying about all 11,264 of those steps.

Of course, as in most journeys, it was good to stop now and then, step back, and take in the wider perspective. Remembering that your steps are part of a broader context gives each of those steps a much richer, deeper meaning. 

Jesus held this tension perfectly in this parable from the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27, NRSV)

Yes, this lesson is about trusting God. As I read it, though, it is also very much a lesson about taking the journey one step at a time. It is the lesson our sisters and brothers in the addiction recovery community have leaned on as a genuine life saver. 

So… next step: locate a couple of photos to illustrate the main point of this here post… 

… Add some tags.

… Then hit “Publish.”

But please… just one step at a time.

Abundant blessings;

21
Jan
20

Soul Winter

Dead leaves 2Yep.

Just poked my head out the window and confirmed something I’ve suspected for about a month now.

IT’S WINTER! (Unless, of course, you happen to live in the southern hemisphere).

And by the looks of things, it plans to continue being winter for quite a bit longer.

And so far here in my part of the country, it’s not that cute, cuddly, Currier-and-Ives kind of winter that looks like a beautiful snow globe someone has shaken up.

No. It is more that kind of slice-through-your-bones, punch-you-in-the-face, steal-all-your-joy-and-your-peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich-too kind of winter.

Winter is that time of year when you would swear that a massive crop-dusting plane flew over the whole country and dumped a load of DDT on everything.

In the winter, all plant life is dead. And brown. And gross. Take a look at these… I shot these pictures in our neighborhood while I was out walking the dog this morning. Note the remarkable lack of life in evidence here. Dead leaves 1

As winter trudges slowly by, it is sometimes tempting to look around at the deadness of the world and conclude that this condition will never, ever end. I have to admit… from the vantage point of January 21, 2020, warm weather and green grass seem like an impossible pipe dream somewhere out there on the eternal horizon.

Experience, however, tells us a different story. Experience keeps us from looking at the dead leaves and plunging into deep despair. Today we look at all this brown grass and detritus around but we don’t abandon hope. Even though our spirits might flag at this depressing sight, we grab ourselves by the lapels (or collar. Or bootstraps) and remind ourselves that this dreary, weary season will surely pass.

We have seen it happen before. And because we have seen it before, we are confident we will see it again.

This confidence goes by another name. It is also called FAITH.

In the case of the seasons, our faith has its roots firmly in our experience.

But what happens if we don’t have an experience like the certainty of spring to base our hope on?  What if we look around and see gloom and doom and have strong reasons to wonder if things will EVER be different?

That is precisely when a different kind of faith is called for. That is when we each need to reach a little deeper into our knapsack and search around a bit.

As a Christ-follower, I have the story of Easter to latch onto… the story that provides a graphic illustration of the truth that says, “Even when things look their bleakest, there is still hope. With God, the worst thing is never the last thing.”

As one who strives (and struggles) to live by his guidance, I can also consider myself an inheritor of the promise that Jesus gave the members of his inner circle on the night he was arrested. He told them, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33, NRSV).

In the valleys we each face from time to time, we may lack the kind of hopeful certainty that we get when we watch winter inevitably give way to spring. But God is here to remind us that God’s promise of new life on the other side of something that looks like death is just as sure… just as reliable… just as much of a “lock” as the green crocus buds that will be showing up here in a couple of months.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with your own version of a “winter of the soul,” take heart…

God’s spring is just around the corner.




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