Posts Tagged ‘glory

20
Sep
22

Celebrating the season

Here where I live in northern Colorado USA, the seasons are beginning to change.

Summer is graciously bowing to receive her well-earned accolades while fall stands just off-stage awaiting her cue. Warm-ups and vocalization exercises done, she is poised, ready to burst from the wings, draped in oranges, reds, yellows and deep maroons.

I’m not gonna lie; of the four contenders, fall is my fave season of all. It is the time of cooler temps, of pumpkin spice EVERYTHING, of the start of American FOOTBALL, and of kids being back in school. It is the time when fresh peaches are canned, chili is cooked, long sleeves come out of hiding, and a brand-new season of Saturday Night Live blasts off.

But most of all, I think I love fall because it is that time when the end of yard work is visible, just beyond the horizon. 

I am sure I’m not alone. Don’t most people say fall is their favorite season?

Fall on the calendar is one thing. Entering the “fall” season of our life is another matter entirely. Why is it, do you suppose that people (like me) who feel a genuine affection for all things autumnal are so very much LESS thrilled when the autumn season of life arrives?

Sure… the “springtime of my youth” was an exciting time. Everything was new and fresh and green. There was an atmosphere of expectation. Vitality coursed through every vein and energy seemed unlimited! Life and liveliness filled the air as new buds appeared on every branch. PROMISE was bursting out all over!

“Summer” was great, too. It was the season we had all been waiting for… the season when our roots took hold, our flowers unfurled, and our leaves fully deployed. (Metaphorically speaking, of course. I personally don’t have any actual leaves or flowers to speak of. Do you?) Summer was the season of life when preparation met opportunity and we were out there every day DOING IT! We were on the stage, saying our lines, hitting our marks, and actualizing the self we knew we were born to be. It was a heady, intoxicating time when PURPOSE coursed through us, and we ended each day spent but satisfied.

But now comes the fall. Life slows down. Limbs creak. Daylight becomes rarer and rarer. The evenings are cooler, and the sap doesn’t flow quite as fluidly. Long sleeves and sweaters come out. Casserole recipes are located and dusted off. 

There is a temptation to lament this season and look on it as the unwelcome reminder of the frozen lifelessness that lies just ahead. But why should we? Fall is that time when our richest, most vibrant colors come out on full display. It is the time when we wave farewell to the vigorous striving of “summer” and dare to relax and refresh ourselves by the springs of wisdom. 

Fall (once again, working with an analogy here… I am talking about the fall season of LIFE) is harvest time… the time when the seeds of spring pay us back for the blood, sweat, and tears we watered them with.

While it is true that the color might have vanished from our hair (unless, of course, you have chosen to put it back in somehow), the colors of our experiences, our relationships, our families, and our indomitable spirits shines forth in a dazzling display… more glorious than a Colorado aspen grove in early October. 

Besides, I love the thing wise old King Solomon had to say about gray hair: “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16:31, NRSVU). 

Pretty smart guy, eh?

I don’t know… was Dylan Thomas right? Should we, “… rage, rage against the dying of the light”?

Or should we celebrate the full glory of this fall season of life? 

I know which one I choose.

Abundant blessings;

07
Jan
21

Lord, in your mercy…

… hear our prayer.

  • Hear our prayer for humility in the face of chaos and confusion.
  • Hear our prayer for justice, administered without regard for place or privilege.
  • Hear our prayer for softened hearts and willing hands.
  • Hear our prayer for vital, life-giving connections between all of your people, recognizing common bonds of humanity.
  • Hear our prayer for the resiliency of hope in the middle of dark times.
  • Hear our prayer for a new willingness to listen deeply to voices other than our own, and those who echo us.
  • Hear our prayer for the relief of the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual suffering of brothers and sisters around the world.
  • Hear our prayer for a supernatural infusion of wisdom into those we have appointed to govern over the unremarkable affairs of our lives.
  • Hear our prayer for new courage to do your will… even in the face of opposition and hardship. 
  • Hear our prayer that the sharp edges of power might be hammered into the productive edges of plowshares.
  • Hear our prayer for gentle rains and warm sunshine to nurture the fragile, green shoots of new life bursting forth all around us. 
  • Hear our prayer for the birth of a new world, reshaped into the image you intended at the Dawn of Creation.

In your name and in the name of your incarnate son, Jesus Christ, we pray…

AMEN

14
Oct
20

The Last Hurrah

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalm 24:1, NRSV)

Seldom has there been a more oft-repeated, self-evident phrase than the one I am about to utter. Despite that, I press on…

“FALL IS MY FAVORITE SEASON!”

If it were not for the fact that our Fort Collins, CO sky is currently filled with smoke and ash particulates from a very nearby wildfire, Joan and I would be outside all day every day drinking in the autumnal splendor.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are just a few examples of some of God’s best handiwork:

As we were out walking with the dogs and admiring the brilliant splashes of color the other day, I wondered if there were perhaps an Abiding Truth or Profound Life Lesson lurking there among the red and gold leaves.

And lo and behold, it didn’t take long at all to find one.

Isn’t it interesting, I thought, that trees wait until the very last moment of their seasonal “lives” to put on their brightest, most brilliant displays? As we all know, in a few short weeks, all of those gorgeous leaves will be lying on our lawns, choking our grass, and demanding to be swept up and discarded.

Just in time for the icy cold “death” of winter to descend.

And yet, through the intricate genius of our Creator, the last hurrah of these trees’ lives is their best. Their closing act is when they pull out all the stops… bursting forth with beauty… showering blessings on all those who chance into their orbit.

Is it possible that this just might be a lesson for we humans who happen to be enjoying the autumn of our earthly lives? Might we also be designed to make our last act our best act?

Just something to ponder…

Abundant blessings;

21
Apr
20

Someone to believe

“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.”
Isaiah 43:4, NRSV

George MarshallIf you know the name George Catlett Marshall, you know him as the general who led the U.S. Army through World War II, or as the man who served as the U.S. Secretary of State, or as the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953, in honor his plan to rebuild Europe following the devastation of that war.

You may not, however, know him as a poor student whose academic ineptitude was a source of great shame to his father and older brother. As Marshall wrote in his autobiography, “The truth is, I was not even a poor student. I was simply not a student, and my academic record was a sad affair.”[1]

Marshall had his sights set on following in his older brother’s footsteps and attending VMI – the prestigious Virginia Military Academy. But his heart was broken one day when he overheard his brother Stuart talking to their mother. He was begging her not to let George go to VMI. Marshall wrote his brother did not want him to attend VMI because, “… he thought I would disgrace the family name.”[2]

So how does that happen? How does anyone make the journey from hopeless academic underachiever to Nobel Prize winning diplomat in the course of a single lifetime?

Marshall wrote that one of the things that proved to be the key in turning his life around was the extreme nature of his brother’s negative attitude. It drove him not only to prove his brother wrong, but also to OUTDO his brother’s performance at VMI.

Some of us are wired similarly. We hear aspersions being cast on our ability or character and we respond with a defiant, “I’ll show YOU!” surging on to greatness. Others among us might hear those attacks and cave in, whimpering, “You know, they’re right. I really am a schmuck.”

But Marshall had something else going for him. Although his father was disappointed and embarrassed by George, his mother, “… rejoiced in him, offering unconditional love and support.”[3] She even sold the last of her family’s property – including a lot she had hoped to eventually build a house on – to raise the necessary money for Marshall to attend college.

How about you? Do you have someone like that in your corner? Someone willing to tell you how much they love and believe in you? Someone who will go to extreme lengths to show you just how much you mean to them, even when you continue to fall short and miss the mark?

Before you hasten to say “NO,” go back and re-read the Bible verse at the top of the page. These words were originally spoken by the prophet Isaiah and were intended to convey the heart of God. They were addressed to the Israelites living in Babylonian exile to help them understand – even though their future appeared bleak and hopeless – that their Creator considered them precious and valuable.

George Marshall’s mother gave up a valuable piece of real estate to ensure her son’s future. In this passage, God says he will give up NATIONS for you.

We are in the middle of a time that has become incredibly difficult for many people. You may know people who have lost jobs because of this virus. You may know people who have become sick or even some who have died. As the days of isolation stretch into weeks and months, it is hard to see any light on the horizon.

Even on the bright days a cloud seems to have parked itself permanently overhead.

Today, however, we should all stop and take a moment to remember this unchangeable fact; we each have a very powerful SOMEONE in our corner who believes in us. We have someone who will go to outrageous lengths to give us a future with hope.

That SOMEONE loves you more than you will ever know.

 

Abundant blessings;

[1] The Road to Character, by David Brooks. Random House, New York. 2015. Page 106

2 Ibid, p. 107

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?

30
Jul
18

Stories and Suitcases

Couple with suitcasesI’ve always said, if there’s a suitcase, there’s a story.

Rosie and I were out on our afternoon walk through the neighborhood today. I tried to coax her onto a little longer route than we normally take, but she wasn’t having ANY of it. We had gone scarcely 20 yards into Route B and already she began turning back and tugging the leash in the opposite direction.

I complied (as I usually do) and turned up Grandview Street instead of trying to coerce her further west toward Kessler.

We had gone about a block along Grandview when I looked to the left and noticed a mini-flurry of activity there on the side street.

There I saw a young man and a young woman opening the trunk of a small Toyota sedan. The young man was wearing a gray backpack and pulling a black, rolling-bag suitcase out of the trunk.

The young woman had a small carry on-type bag in her left hand and was already walking ahead, pulling a navy blue suitcase behind her.

The young man closed the trunk of the car and together they began walking toward the front door of one of the houses on the street.

Immediately, a hundred possible explanations for the little vignette I had just witnessed began swirling through my brain; I thought, “This is a young newlywed couple just arriving home from their honeymoon; no… the young woman was returning from a month of study abroad in Italy and her brother – the young man – had driven to the airport to pick her up. All the suitcases, of course, belonged to her.”

Or maybe it was the son and daughter-in-law (or daughter and son-in-law) of the residents of the home, just arriving from Texas for a summer vacation in Overland Park, Kansas! (Because seriously… who wouldn’t?)

Or maybe they were a bright, young coed team of door-to-door suitcase salespeople, just beginning to canvass this block with samples of their wares in tow?

Like I said… show me a suitcase, and I’ll show you a story.

Actually, show me a PERSON and I’ll show you a story.

Seeing that young couple and finding myself speculating on who they were and why they were carrying suitcases made me stop and realize several essential truths about the world:

  • Suitcases in hand or not, each of us is on a journey.
  • And each of us has a story.
  • And each of those stories is richer, more complex, more textured and more filled with meaning and depth than the rest of us (those not living that particular story) can possibly imagine.

Sadly, in these times when social media channels have become our default mechanism of communication, STORY often becomes one of the first casualties.

You see, I can relate to you more quickly and easily if I can pigeonhole you. And I can pigeonhole you more easily if I can turn you into a two-dimensional, cardboard cutout image of yourself.

  • “You’re a liberal!”
  • “You’re a conservative!”
  • “You’re a millennial!”
  • “You’re a women’s libber!” (As if anyone actually uses that phrase anymore!)
  • “You’re gay!”
  • “You’re a religious fanatic!”

The truth is: we are each made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). And being made in God’s image means that we are each COMPLEX, multi-faceted, impenetrable, inscrutable entities… more full of mystery and meaning than anyone might readily like to admit.

And each of us – just like the God who made us – is pretty darned awesome and worthy of a little reverence.

So here is my “thought starter” for you today: if mine is suitcases, what is the thing that makes YOU stop and think about the breadth of another person’s story?

And this: how can each of us resist the temptation to pigeonhole one another?

 

Abundant blessings;




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