Posts Tagged ‘importance

20
Aug
21

Beloved Blades

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the annoying frequency with which the words, “I’m sorry” have been featured in my daily vocabulary. I mean, there I am, navigating my day with a measure of ease and panache (in my opinion, at least) when BOOM! 

… Suddenly and unexpectedly, I trespass. And when that happens, I immediately feel the need to make amends for my trespass. I say, “I’m sorry” and ask what else I can do to make things right again.

Today the phrase that seems to be popping up with annoying frequency is the phrase, “I FORGOT.” Sometimes, the two phrases appear together. As in, “I’m sorry. I forgot.”

Here is a classic example; I was sent to the grocery store to buy three simple items. Avocados, yogurt, and dish detergent. No need to write anything down… it’s THREE THINGS, for crying out loud!

I zipped in, hit the produce section for the avocados, flew over to dairy aisle for five or six well-chosen flavors of yogurt, and then ZOOP! Up to the cashier to check out. 

As I returned home and proudly displayed my plunder to Joan there on the kitchen counter, she oh-so-lovingly said, “That’s great, sweetie. But where is the dish detergent?” 

“OOPS! Sorry! I forgot!”

And it wasn’t as if I grabbed the avocados and yogurt and then stood there scratching my head, trying to remember what the third thing was. Dish detergent was as far-removed from my brain as… as… as rationalityis removed from today’s internet political debates.

Trust me when I tell you that not all the things I forget are as incidental and easily fixable as an item on the grocery list. 

In my time I have also forgotten:

  • People’s names
  • Appointments
  • Steps in a process
  • Lessons from my past
  • Where things in my house are stored
  • Words to songs I once knew well
  • The last thing Joan said to me

Of course, when it comes to recalling moments or conversations from childhood, or incidents from the Lassie or Rin Tin Tin TV shows, I shine like a star. 

Ask me to name Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks from the past and I won’t miss a beat as I reel off names like DeBerg, Grbac, Moon, Gannon, Bono, Kenney, Huard, and of course, the inimitable Joe Montana. I can tell you the name of Sky King’s airplane (the Songbird), Pat Kelly’s jeep (Ol’ Nellybelle) and the clown on Howdy Doody (Clarabelle) without turning once to Google.

Let’s start by facing the cold, hard facts: my brain – like the rest of my body – is getting older. The file drawers are kind of full and the wheels don’t turn as quickly as they once did.

There is also the issue of PAYING ATTENTION. If I am not making a point of devoting my entire focus to the grocery list Joan is giving me, or to exactly WHERE the lentils are being put away, or to your story about the U2 concert, I will probably not remember it well, if at all.

Finally, I am guilty of hierarchy-making. That is, I encounter some piece of information and instantly rank it as IMPORTANT… WORTH REMEMBERING, or TRIVIAL… DON’T WASTE THE HARD DRIVE SPACE ON THIS. 

And most of the time, the stuff I forget – but needed to remember – was labeled as TRIVIAL when it really wasn’t.

I am not sure I can solve the puzzle of having an aging brain. But I know I can definitely take steps on the other two problems… I can pay more and better attention, and I can choose to treat MORE things as important.

Which is probably a good time to remember that you and I were created by a God who sees EVERY SINGLE one of us as important. Not just important, but SACRED… BELOVED… PRECIOUS. 

But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to King David in this psalm when he tells us: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him…”          (Psalm 103:15-17, NRSV)

I love that!

That is one verse I am certainly going to work on remembering.

OK, time to head outside and pull some weeds. If I could only remember where I put the sunscreen!

Abundant blessings;

26
Apr
21

Your Real Name

As Juliet once famously asked, looking heavenward from her balcony, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

Juliet’s ambivalence on the topic of names is understandable; if her lover Romeo hadn’t been cursed with the surname “Montague,” their affair would have been totally copasetic. 

For the rest of us though, names seem to matter… a LOT!

They connect us to a family history, for one thing. They provide the good folks at Ancestry.com with a healthy revenue stream for another. They give us clues about identities or qualities our parents hoped to instill in us, or perhaps detected in the first hours of our lives. 

Take Hunter, for example. Or Rex (Latin for “king”). Or Linda (Spanish for “beautiful”), or any name with blatant biblical origins such as Ruth, or Deborah, or Paul, or any one of the 12 disciples.

On a personal note, I have been engaged in a lifelong tug-of-war with my feelings about my name. My grandfather’s name was George Clifford Brown. My father’s name was George Clifford Brown, Jr. And for reasons I was never privy to, I got the name George RUSSELL Brown. I guess my dad SORT OF wanted to carry on the family lineage but didn’t want me to be burdened by carrying that oh-so-pretentious “III” through life. 

As a very young guy I decided GEORGE sounded “too adult,” so I went with a shortened version of my middle name. That is why, to all my friends and family thereafter I was RUSTY

That name, however, caused me to become the butt of a Sunday school teacher’s cruel joke. I thought it was a little strange that day when she called on me read a passage from the lesson. The subject of the lesson was the Dead Sea Scrolls and as I read aloud, I read that the author described the scrolls as having, “… a rusty brown color.”

Hardy har har, Mrs. Crompton. At least the rest of the class enjoyed your little stunt.

When my family moved from Ohio to the suburbs of Seattle just before my senior year of high school, I decided it was high time for a rite of passage. That was when I dropped RUSTY and went with RUSSELL.

Then, ten years later, I got my next name surprise. When applying for my first passport, that I discovered I had been misspelling my own name. There, in black and white, on my birth certificate, on the space marked, “Middle Name,” it read: RUSSEL. 

One “L”. Not two. 

Now, thanks to the website, “Behind the Name.com,” (https://www.behindthename.com), I have discovered that the name GEORGE comes from the Greek and means “farmer or earthworker,” while Russell (two “Ls”) is derived from French meaning “little red one.” 

How’s THAT for auspicious? 

Here’s the thing though; at this ripe and maturing age, I am finally at peace with my name. As the jokester once said, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner.”

I have also come to learn that there two other names that mean a lot more to me… much more than “Rusty,” or “Russell,” (or “Russel,”) or “George.”

As John the Evangelist tells me in the book of 1 John, I have been given the name CHILD OF GOD; “See what great love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God!”

(1 John 3:1, NRSV). 

And Jesus himself called me the best name of all. He has called me “friend.” He was really talking to his original group of disciples when he said this, but I hear Jesus speaking directly to me in John’s gospel when he says, “… but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15, NRSV).

And you know what? YOU have also received those two awesome names!

How cool is THAT!!

Abundant blessings;

23
Aug
16

Those chores!

Mopping-floor

“Rusty! Have you done your chores yet?!”

I can still hear my mother’s voice asking that bothersome question today… 46 years after she left us.

Because usually the answer was “No, mom.” Followed by the intentionally vague, yet somewhat promising-sounding, “In a minute.”

My chores back then were simple. Those on the “daily” list were: Take out the trash. Make my bed. Clean my room. Feed the dog. The weekly tasks were a little bigger and more demanding; mowing the grass and shining the shoes, for example.

I used to hate chores. They cramped my style. They cut into my free, unfettered time of idleness. They cost me valuable energy and were not fun. The sound of the word itself is grating; “chore” sounds exactly like “bore” and inspires me to do nothing but “ignore.”

Isn’t it interesting how a few decades of time and life experience can change things?

Because today I must confess: I have a whole list of them and I LOVE my chores!

Besides the normal waking up and getting rolling duties (which become more like chores with each new birthday), I am responsible for making coffee, walking the dog, giving the dog her pills, feeding her, watering the porch plants and the tree out front, and watering the transplanted bush, hanging plant, and also the basil plants in back. On Thursdays, add to that list collecting and taking out the trash, on Fridays, watering the houseplants, and now and then emptying the dishwasher.

And that doesn’t even count weekly mowing, trimming, and weed pulling in the yard!

My chores fill me with a real sense of purpose and accomplishment. They make me feel like a valuable, contributing member of the household team. Dried up, dead plants and a tubby puppy would be the result of me slacking on my chores… neither of which would be good.

But for all of the vital, necessary, “meaning-giving” purposes they serve, it dawned on me recently that my chores can also work against me. It occurred to me that my beloved chores can serve as a benevolent barrier to doing the quiet “soul work” that I need to do.

To shamelessly steal Stephen Covey’s categories, chores are urgent. They call for one’s attention and energy RIGHT NOW. They must be done! Soul work – on the other hand – is not urgent. It does not come screaming for my attention.

Of course when you hold the two up to the light and compare them, anyone can see that an hour spent in the yard, pulling up weeds, edging around the side of the house, or mowing is a LOT more productive than quietly meditating in the chair in my office, reading the Bible, or writing a blog post.

My chores produce a visible residue of effort… something that can be pointed to with pride as clear evidence of one’s value. Especially when you bag the clippings!

Time spent tending the interior landscape produces no such pile of evidence. It happens quietly and sweatlessly. Its work is hidden from view… locked away in the intricate crevices of the infinite interior. Its results emerge slowly and gradually… almost imperceptibly.

Soul work is certainly not urgent. It is, however, important.

And it seems the more anxious I am… the more eagerly I feel the need to have my worth validated by YOU, the more readily I am drawn away from soul work and toward my chores. Away from the important and toward the urgent.

Dear Lord, today help me discern more clearly between the urgent demands on my life and those that are important… those that feed the eternal dimensions of my soul and those that deal only with matters of the surface.

Because the world will certainly survive a slightly shabby lawn. But it may not survive a whole collection of shabby souls.




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