Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ

11
Oct
21

A Strange Set of Tools

I’ve got this dilemma on my hands. Maybe you can help me with it.

On the one hand, I don’t like to fail. I mean I REALLY don’t like it. At all.

At the same time, I really like trying things I haven’t tried before.

Therein lies the dilemma. Because the things I try are new to me, I am highly likely to fail at them… at least at first.

Last winter, for example, I decided that a fitting way to engage the wonders of my newly adopted state of Colorado would be to get up on a pair of skis and head down a snowy slope. 

Because hey… EVERYBODY out here skis. Even little babies.

So, I rented some skis and boots and bought goggles and ski pants and found myself an instructor. After an hour of struggling and straining and falling and failing, I decided skiing probably wasn’t for me. God – in God’s infinite wisdom – gave me feet that point toe-outward. Standing correctly on a pair of skis really requires toes that point INWARD… or at least point STRAIGHT.

So, there we had SNOW SPORT FAILURE #1.

Which led me to my next adventure. As I looked around there on the mountain, I noticed that snowboards seemed to accommodate people with feet like mine a whole lot better than skis did. So, it was back to the rental shop to be outfitted with a SNOWBOARD!!

Another hour of falling and flailing and sweating and swearing and I was ready to declare myself a miserable failure at snowboarding. That led me to admit to…

… SNOW SPORT FAILURE #2.

It is embarrassing and more than a little depressing to start looking back and cataloging all the false starts, missteps, bumbles, fluffs, and swings-and-misses I have racked up over my considerable years on this planet. 

Thanks to my clumsy efforts, toes have been stubbed (mine and others), feelings have been hurt, opportunities have been squandered, and lives have been damaged.

And it now appears that Joan and I together will add “failure to become passionate RV owners” to that growing list of failures.

I know, I know. I hear the voice of Bill Gates saying, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” And right beside him there is Albert Einstein (who failed MASSIVELY before changing the history of quantum physics, I’m told) saying, “You never fail until you stop trying.” 

I know all that rah-rah, motivational stuff. I’ve preached it a thousand times to eager, listening ears.

But it isn’t until I turn my gaze to the cross that I really, truly understand the divine power found in failure. You see, God decided to become flesh for the express purpose of re-orientin the hearts and minds of human beings. Jesus came to live among us as the incarnate Word of God… here to facilitate the kind of spiritual transformation that stone tablets could not. 

And yet, what happened? After three years of wandering the Galilean countryside, healing, preaching, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, and bringing hope to the hopeless, Jesus was arrested and executed for his efforts. He was pronounced guilty of rebellion by Rome and heresy by the Jewish religious leaders. 

In other words, his mission failed. 

It failed, that is, until the redeeming, restoring, overwhelming power of God stepped in and turned that apparent failure into a fresh new beginning for human history. 

And as the Genesis Creation story reminds us, from chaos, God made a universe.

From dust God made us.

So we should remember that from the ashes of failure, God can build something new, unexpected, fresh, and life-giving. 

In a very real sense then, the broken pieces of today’s failure just might be the strange building blocks God is looking for to build something new in your life. 

So, keep trying. Keep failing. Keep giving God new tools to work with.

Abundant blessings; 

04
Oct
21

Augmenting the Toolkit

King Solomon… with head shown actual size.

Of all the tools that currently reside in my personal Toolkit of Life, the one that seems notably lacking is the one called WISDOM. 

In my better moments, I’ve been called clever, or bright, or intuitive… once someone even called me sharp. But danged few people in my life have ever accused me of being WISE. 

This struck me as a serious deficiency in my Tookit. I mean, when you get to be my age – especially with this new, grey beard I’ve grown – WISDOM should be something you should regularly expect from me. Shouldn’t it?

And so, to shore up that weak spot, I picked up my bible and turned to that timeless book of wisdom – allegedly written by one of the wisest people who ever lived – the Book of Proverbs.

I read the first three chapters and then put it down… somewhat frustrated by what I found there.

In case you aren’t familiar with chapters 1, 2, and 3 of the Book of Proverbs, let me quickly summarize the three lessons I found there:

  • Lesson #1 – Wisdom is good.
  • Lesson #2 – Go get wisdom.
  • Lesson #3 – Avoid un-wisdom.

Excellent! Thanks for that insight, Proverbs. Problem solved!

But risking a moment of seriousness here, I DID find it very helpful to be reminded of the supreme importance of the acquisition of WISDOM in life. Turns out it is a whole lot better than, say, the acquisition of Facebook “friends,” or LIKES, or shares of a blog post you wrote one day. 

The thing that really intrigued me though was the concept of “unwisdom.” Of course, the bible never uses that word. It speaks of “foolishness,” or “complacency,” or perverseness,” or “deceit,” but the idea is the same. In its disquieting, patriarchal way, the Proverbs author equates unwisdom with a “loose woman” and warns the reader not to be seduced by her “smooth words.” (Proverbs 2:16, NRSV). 

“Stay away from THAT STUFF, and seek the OTHER STUFF,” is the main message here.

And so, I wondered; where do I encounter the allure of “unwisdom” in my life? And how successful am I in avoiding it?

POPULAR OPINION might be one of those seductive sirens. I’m talking about those concepts everybody knows are true and no one dares publicly question… such as the proposition that money makes us happy, or bigger is better, or that GETTING something is always better than GIVING something. For the biblical, counter-cultural rebuttal to each of those nuggets of popular opinion “wisdom,” I direct your attention to 1 Timothy 6:10, 1 Kings 19:12-13, and Acts 20:35 .

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM is another, related, suspect. Heck, it even has the word “wisdom” in its name! Conventional wisdom is that voice that tells us to be strong… to be independent… to be utterly invincible in the face of life’s challenges. And yet if we pause just for a moment, we see that the Man who drew the dividing line between B.C. and A.D. in history was a sacrificial servant. He willingly gave up EVERYTHING, including his very life, on behalf of others. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul quotes from a conversation with God in which, “’…he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’”

And so then, what about those IMPULSES that can seem to take control and rule one’s life from time to time? Are impulses an example of the unwisdom we are admonished to avoid? 

We have the impulse to EAT, for example… an impulse that can lead very quickly to gluttony, obesity, and poor health. On the other hand, if we ignore this impulse completely, we will surely die. And dying would very quickly curtail our usefulness to the world.

What about the SEXUAL impulse? As we have seen, this is an impulse that has caused incredible damage to humans over the centuries. And yet without the sexual impulse, life on this planet would grind very abruptly to a halt.

Certainly, unconstrained impulses can lead any of us into areas of great harm. But I am not convinced that impulses – in and of themselves – are all bad. They just need the application of a lot of WISDOM to keep them in check. 

And so, the quest for wisdom continues. 

Maybe the best thing to do at this point is to ask the age-old question: WDJD… “What DID Jesus Do?” and then follow that example. 

Now THAT would be a truly wise move, wouldn’t it?

Abundant blessings;

21
Sep
21

Testing… Testing…

Fall is many things.

Fall is cooler weather. Fall is turning leaves. 

Fall is back-to-school, pumpkin spice EVERYTHING, football, turning leaves, wardrobe revision, Halloween, the end of mowing, and the roll-out of next year’s new auto models. 

But most of all, fall is a TEST

Fall puts every one of us to an unerring litmus test… revealing us to be either 1.) a backward looker, 2.) a forward looker, or 3.) a liver in the moment(er). 

Which one are you?

  • Do you feel the approach of fall and wail and gnash your teeth, bereft over the fact that you can tangibly feel summer slip-sliding away?
  • Or are you the one who reaches into the drawer to grab that extra T-shirt while intoning, “Welp… looks like winter is just around the corner! Buckle up!” 
  • Or do you revel in every pumpkin-spiced moment of this ephemeral gem of a season?

Personally, I love fall. I love the riot of color, the ramp-up of activity, the cool evenings, and the comfy days. I love the beginning of football season and the wind-down (for fans of the Kansas City Royals such as me) of baseball. And now that I’m retired, I love the fact that fall means kids are back in school, allowing Joan and I to travel to popular places without battling such huge crowds.

For all its perfection, though, fall always seems to come to an end WAAAAAY too quickly. I’ve lost track of the number of times I have heard myself moan and say, “Gee whiz! It seems like we just went straight from summer into winter this year, with nothing in between.” 

What do you think; is it possible that fall is so sweet because it is so short

A little bit like this present, advanced stage of life, methinks. 

All of us feel the tug-of-war that pulls us between the temptation to agonize over our past faux pas’ and our titillating hopes and dreams for the future. We older folks probably lean more to the former than the latter I imagine.

In rare moments of self-awareness, we reluctantly admit that neither our past nor our future is accessible to our influence. Yet despite the force of this searing insight, it is still not enough to keep us from overlooking and discounting the treasure laying right HERE at our feet. 

And just like the fleeting season of fall, we suddenly turn around and realize it has all gone **POOF!** and disappeared in a big puff of smoke. 

There is nothing you or I can do to slow the inexorable march of the hours of the day, the seasons of the year, or the rapid advance of our own mortality. 

What we can do, though, is breathe deeply, savor richly, and give thanks to God for the beauty of this immeasurable moment called LIFE. As the psalmist so eloquently reminds 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, and his righteousness with their children’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” (Psalm 103:15-18, NRSV).

Happy Pumpkin Spicing, y’all!

Abundant blessings;

14
Sep
21

My Own NGH List

Ninjas ASSEMBLE!

Last night the newly-crowned, 15-year-old champion of the show, American Ninja Warrior gazed earnestly into the camera and assured me, “Hey! If you can dream it and work hard, you can do ANYTHING!”

REALLY?” I replied, reaching to my left for another handful of popcorn, noticing the twinge in my shoulder as I did so. “You honestly think so?”

But hey… you have to love the kid’s heart. He started out with nothing but a dream. 

And then, with a lot of dedication and special training equipment (like his own custom-built Salmon Ladder, Jumping Spider, and Warped Wall), he took his nimble, 15-year-old body and trained it into championship shape. 

But as I sat and snacked and listened to earnest young Kaden speak, my NGH list expanded by one.

“NGH” is shorthand for “Never Gonna Happen.” [Or if you want to be a little more grammatically formal, call it the NGTH List; “Never Going To Happen.”] 

This is the list I keep of the things that are CLEARLY never going to happen in my lifetime. Despite Kaden’s heartfelt pep talk, I knew that becoming the next American Ninja Warrior is light years beyond my personal radar screen. 

It’s NGH… Never Gonna Happen.

Just like my dream of playing in the NBA. NGH. Or climbing Mount Everest. Also NGH. To this list I should probably also add my childhood fantasies of becoming a firefighter, or a policeman, or game show host.

NONE of those are Ever Gonna Happen.

On one hand, I find that moving things onto my NGH List is a very liberating exercise. I mean, if I keep on believing that the day will come when I finally learn to fly a plane, or become a ventriloquist, or sculpt Joan’s lovely image in marble, I invite nothing but frustration and disappointment the longer those goals remain unachieved. 

Moving that kind of stuff onto my NGH List frees me up to discover more reasonable, age-and-ability-appropriate sources of fulfillment.  

On the other hand, I have to ask myself; “Is a rapidly expanding NGH List a sign that I’ve thrown in the towel? Given up? “Settled?” Ceased dreaming?”

I think I was 19 years old when I first uttered the phrase, “Someday, I’m going to write a book.” Today, at nearly 70 years, that dream remains unfulfilled. 

Please understand: I’ve started several books. One even grew to a little more than 11,000 words. 

Each time, however, I have abandoned the effort as I became overwhelmed, discouraged, lost, or disappointed with the sub-standard quality of my effort. But then I pick up someone else’s printed, published work, and become simultaneously inspired and intimidated

And yet, despite the internal turmoil this causes me, I am still not willing to move “Write a book” onto my NGH List.

Ultimately, I (and probably all of us) must look soberly at our goals and ask the question, “Is this quest ‘of God’? Or is it just me and my idle fantasizing?” Another way of asking the same question might be: “Is this THING part of my divinely-appointed PURPOSE in life? Or not?” 

If the answer to that question is YES, nothing should stop you from carrying it out. If it is NOT, you should waste no time adding it to your own personal NGH List

I take a measure of comfort from the Bible’s story of the Israelites. Their divinely appointed purpose (recorded in Genesis 12:3) was to be a set-apart people through whom God would bless all of Creation.

But to get there, they had to endure 400 years of enslavement in Egypt, 40 years of wandering aimlessly in the Sinai wilderness, and then untold months of vicious, mortal combat before they finally “arrived.” I am sure most of them wanted to put “Be God’s Chosen People” on their NGH List at around year six of their time in Egypt.

And yet, despite all the delays, all the setbacks, all the disappointments, and all the dead-ends, God’s purpose for the Israelites was ultimately fulfilled. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “… but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, NRSV).

Today, no matter what new things are being added to YOUR NGH List, take heart. Wait on God. Renew your confidence that God has a purpose and a path for you.

Abundant blessings;

31
Aug
21

Thank you, Von Trapps

Last week – in fact, one week ago today – I climbed a mountain. 

Literally.

The name of the mountain was Horsetooth Rock. One look at it will explain where the name came from. Horsetooth is not a huge, hulking mountain. In fact, it is rather modest by Colorado standards, checking in at a mere 7,500 feet tall. 

For me though, it was tall enough. As in, at several points along the way I thought there was a good chance I might fall over and die, leaving my carcass to be picked over by the buzzards.

But I didn’t. In fact, I made it to the top, rested, and then made it all the way back down.

Along the way I learned some life lessons… a couple of which I have already made note of in this blog postand this one, in case you missed them. 

My original idea was to compose a separate, new post for each of the lessons I learned on Horsetooth. Instead, I think I will use the rest of this space today to hit the highlights of ALL the lessons so I might move on to bigger and better topics. 

 Without further ado, then, may I present;

Lesson #3.) CLIMBING AIDS ARE YOUR FRIENDS:

In my first “Lessons from Horsetooth” post, I included a picture of my left foot. There beside my foot you might have seen the shadow of a “trekking pole” … or hiking stick to the uninitiated. There weren’t many other people climbing Horsetooth that day who used poles or sticks to help them, so I felt a little bit like a softie. But honestly, that pole was an absolute life saver. So it is in life. Sometimes we need a little climbing aid, or a leg up. We might think it makes us look a little feeble to, for example, stop and ask directions, or ask for help, or own up to our weaknesses. 

If that is the way you feel, GET OVER IT! We all need a little assist now and then. Recognizing that need is a strength, not a weakness.

Lesson #4.) TAKE BREAKS. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Remember: as you live, you are not competing with anyone. There are no ribbons for reaching your particular summit before others reach theirs. When your body (or your mind, or your spirit) tells you it is time to stop, sit down, and rest, DO IT! In addition to renewing yourself, you will provide a valuable lesson to everyone who sees you stopping and resting. They might even follow suit! 

Lesson #5.) CULTIVATE FRIENDSHIPS ALONG THE WAY

When I finally got to the top of Horsetooth, I met a guy who was already there. His name was Chris. Chris and I started talking about the climb, the view(s), the fantastic weather, and our previous climbing experiences. According to a couple of patches on Chris’ backpack, I saw that he was an Afghanistan War veteran. So we talked about the war and the U.S. pullout. After discovering Chris was also an avid fan of the San Francisco 49ers football team, we had material to discuss for the entire trip back down. (And yes… he is still stinging from Super Bowl LIV). The rapport and camaraderie between us made the descent almost pleasant.

The same is true about our life journeys. When we choose to walk them alone, we find that every challenge along the way is a lot more difficult, the joys aren’t quite as joyous, and the questions dwell and nag at us a lot more.

 Companions lighten every load and heighten every celebration.

“Look mom! I’m on a mountain!”

And finally…

Lesson #6: THE TOUGHER THE CLIMB, THE SWEETER THE SUMMIT

Almost anyone you asked would tell you that climbing Horsetooth Rock is NBD… no big deal. For little, ol’, spindly-legged me though, it was RUGGED. I wanted to quit at least 20 times. After one quarter of the way up, my heart was beating loudly in my ears and my back was really giving me trouble. There were times I said, “OK, that’s far enough. Time to go back.” All of which meant that when I finally made it to the top, I was BURSTING with pride and joy at having made it. 

Keep that in mind the next time you are slogging through an oatmeal swamp, battling hornets, and carrying a 50-pound pack on your back in 112-degree heat: It is going to be SOOOOO SWEET when you finally get where you’re going.

In the middle of the very worst part of their exile experience, God spoke to the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah and told them, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2, NRSV).

And here is the best news of all: God says exactly the same thing to YOU in the middle of your worst day/week/year. 

And so, as the Von Trapps said so musically; “Climb every mountain! Ford every stream!”

Abundant blessings;

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;

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;

18
Aug
21

Mercy Me

WARNING: This post sounds a lot more like a rant than a thoughtful, well-considered pondering. But let’s withhold judgment for a minute and see where it goes. 

“London calling!”

Who knows? We might end up with something with depth and meaning after all…

Todd* was supposed to be there this morning at 9:00 to help with some yard work. Ever since my back has chosen to betray me, I have started hiring folks to help with the heavy stuff around the yard.

Except Todd didn’t show. Todd didn’t text to say, “Hey, sorry, something came up.” It is now five hours later and not a peep from Todd.

I have no idea where Todd is or whether something horrible possibly happened to him.

I sure hope not because I really like Todd.

Earlier this year we had a similar experience with our remodeling contractor.

No show. No communication. No response to repeated attempts to connect saying, “Hey! What’s happening?”

Finally, out of the blue, after many weeks of radio silence, we finally received a brief note saying, “We’re on it.”

Ah, the small magic and MASSIVE benefit of simple COMMUNICATION. When it happens, it is like oil poured over wounds of anxiety. When it doesn’t, it is like salt rubbed into those same wounds.

I know that sometimes you have nothing to report. I know that sometimes you have bad news that you are very, very reluctant to share. I know that sometimes you are up to your eyeballs in alligators and can’t even think straight, let alone take the time to shoot me a quick note.

I know all of that because I have been on your end of the equation MANY times. 

But you obviously have no idea how calming it is to receive SOMETHING from you. Even if it is just a quick note to say, “Hey… sorry. I know you’re waiting for this, but I don’t have it yet. And honestly, I am not sure when I will. I’ll keep you posted.”

Even a note as simple as that is enormously comforting.

In the end, it is about empathy, isn’t it? It is about nurturing the ability to step wholly into the shoes (or for me today, the flip-flops) of another person and be able to feel their feelings… to silence the “me” – even momentarily – and listen to the “you.”

Now that I think of it that way, I realize Jesus had a few words to say on the subject after all. No, I don’t mean the subject of non-communicative contractors. I mean the subject of EMPATHY. Except when Jesus talked about empathy, he used a different word. He called it “mercy.” For a great parable about the importance of empathy/mercy, flip to Luke 10:30-37 in your Bibles and read all about the man from Samaria who stopped and helped the man from Judea who had been beaten and robbed and left by the roadside to die. 

I don’t know if it really is true or not (because I haven’t given it enough thought), but I am going to conclude today by suggesting that good COMMUNICATION is ultimately about EMPATHY. It is all about the act of taking the time to stop and asking myself, “If our roles were reversed, what would I want to hear from me?”

That’s it. Did that all sound too petty and peevish?

Anyway… if you hear anything from Todd, let him know I am worried about him, OK?

Abundant blessings;

* Not his real name

12
Aug
21

Well, I declare!

Despite instincts to the contrary, I regularly try to keep an open mind.

Life has shown me again and again the hazards of latching – iron-fistedly – onto a particular thesis or paradigm.

God seems to take great delight, in fact, at throwing cherry bombs into the middle of my settled certainties and watching as they are blown to smithereens.

Multiple burned fingertips and shrapnel wounds have taught me to tread very, very carefully before puffing out my chest and declaring, “HERE I STAND! MY FEET SHALL NOT BE MOVED!!”

[I have no such hesitation, you understand, when it comes to standing up and declaring Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That is what we refer to as a “layup.”]

All of which is prelude for this moment of puffing out my chest, ascending the soap box and declaring, 

“HERE I STAND… MY FEET SHALL NOT BE MOVED!! COVID VACCINES SAVE LIVES and CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL.”

I feel compelled to make these declarations for one simple reason; because WAY too many people are sending exactly the opposite message (with great conviction, I might add) to the peril of MILLIONS of humans… present and future.

They say, for example; “Whether I am vaccinated or not is a matter of personal freedom.”

BZZZZT! WRONG ANSWER! Vaccination is a matter of community compassion, not personal freedom. Because of the VERY lethal and VERY infectious nature of this disease, your decision NOT to vaccinate endangers ME, your neighbors, your family, and total strangers. 

Contrary to what someone might have told you, you are not free to kill people.

They also cry; “The climate has gone through cycles of increasing and decreasing temperatures for eons. All this ‘climate emergency’ nonsense is just a liberal plot against Big Business.”

BZZZT! SORRY… WRONG AGAIN, Chucko. In defense of my central premise, I’m not going to wear you out with a lot of mind-numbing statistics. Instead, I am going to ask you to visualize our Precious Blue Marble as a living organism… sort of like a human body. 

(This analogy is not actually as far-fetched as you might imagine. Google “Gaia Hypothesis” – or click here – and read it for yourself.)

Then I am going to ask you to imagine what happens when you repeatedly inhale poisonous smoke into that body, or repeatedly wound its outer layer of skin. 

For a while, it doesn’t seem to matter much. But then that abuse eventually catches up. The relentless assault overwhelms the healing process. Permanent damage starts being done. 

And that is what we are seeing today with unprecedented events like the flooding, hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, and droughts that are all happening at the same time.

Once again, people will cry, “PERSONAL FREEDOM!” and yet again they are as wrong as wrong can be. Action that will prevent our planet from burning, shaking, flooding, or choking to death is – yet again – a matter of community compassion. 

The apostle Paul hit the nail right on the head for BOTH of these issues when he sent his first letter to the members of the church in Corinth, Greece. He was trying to resolve issues of dissension in this fledgling church by reminding them of their common bond and connection when he wrote, “Or do you not know that [each of your bodies are] a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NRSV).

When did we forget these essential truths? When did MY RIGHTS come to matter more than OUR COMMON FUTURE?

I pray that we figure out a way to recognize the divine bond that links us all and then join hands to help save one another…

… before it is too late. 

Abundant blessings;

03
Aug
21

How Urgent?

If you know me, you know that I walk fast.

That is, I used to walk fast. That was before I became “The Brokeback Guy” in early May.

You will also know that I drive fast. If you doubt my word, just ask Joan. She will set you straight.

I also write fast. 

I drink fast, I eat fast, and sometimes I even talk fast.

As I was out walking the other day, I had to slow my roll considerably because of my aching back. As I slowed from a gallop to a leisurely canter, I thought to myself, “Hey! This slower, more relaxed pace isn’t so bad after all. I can actually see and appreciate my surroundings. Oh look… there’s a hummingbird!!”

I was also prompted to wonder what the rush was in the first place. 

This all prompted me to think back to a conversation I once had with a guy who did a lot of hiring for a Kansas City-based advertising agency. He told me that for him, the quality that drew him most readily to a candidate was – in his words – “a sense of urgency.”

He really liked the idea of hiring someone who he felt was eager and passionate about the work… who could not wait to dive into a project and ardently see it through to completion. 

And I have to say, for most of my working life, that was a great description of the way I approached my daily doings.

While I appreciate the value of living with a sense of urgency, I am also reminded of just how easy it is to bestow the “urgent” status on just about anything. I’d love to develop the discipline of asking:

  • Is it really urgent that I answer that email?
  • Is it really urgent that I make that green light?
  • Is it really, truly urgent that I put the toaster back where it came from?
  • Etc., etc.

Steven Covey tried to teach me and 25 million other people to discern between the URGENT and the IMPORTANT matters in life in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It is a profound insight and one that can radically reshape the way we work and live. I tried to apply it as a working person, and now find it is just as important a lesson in my life as a retired guy. 

But as a person of faith, I also need to know what God has to say on the matter. What might the Good Book have to say on the topic of The Proper Pace for Living?

Let’s see… there is Proverbs 20:21 that says, “An estate quickly acquired in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.”

There is this advice from James, the brother of Jesus, who advised, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1:19, NRSV).

If we look in David’s collection of 150 unique Psalms, we find countless reminders of the need to slow down and savor each moment of our fleeting time here on earth. Psalm 103, for example, tells us, “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSV).

Reading these and others begins to give me the impression that God is much more interested in steering me toward life’s QUALITY rather than QUANTITY

I mean, yes, I might proudly hold up a long, completed “TO DO” list at the end of the day. But if I achieved that by buzzing through and ignoring the majesty of Creation spread out all around me, what good is it?

Well, I really need to get on with the day and tend to a bunch of other stuff. But – with God’s help – I will try to slow down and smell the coffee along the way.

Abundant blessings;




Russellings Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Russellings of the Spirit on WordPress.com

Flannel with Faith

Embracing imperfection with little fashion, lots of faith, & fresh air

susiesopinions

Life at age 73, feeling like a 20 year old. You can do it too.

CHOP TALK

Know your stories

My Pastoral Ponderings

Pondering my way through God's beloved world

All The Shoes I Wear

Writing Down The Bones

Just Being Me

My life and faith - without a mask.

La Tour Abolie

An eclectic mixture of personal essays, stuff about writing, stuff about books and far out philosophy from an old baggage in a book-tower.

° BLOG ° Gabriele Romano

The flight of tomorrow

Eden in Babylon

a traditional American musical with a progressive score and topical themes

LUNA

Pen to paper

_biblio.bing_

A law student and an avid reader. Along with your desired book reviews you're gonna get great book suggestions. Books of all genre with detailed review. Thank you, Visit Again ❤️

Humanitarian Explorer

Traveling the world to discover and meet needs

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

Steadfast Pictures

Visual Media for God's Glory!

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

yadadarcyyada

Vague Meanderings of the Broke and Obscure

Pics and Posts

Goodies from my mailbox and camera

%d bloggers like this: