Posts Tagged ‘journey

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
Jun
20

This Side of the Desk

When Breath Becomes AirI just finished reading the book When Breath Becomes Air.

I am still drying my eyes.

It is the story of a brilliant, gifted neurosurgeon named Paul Kalanithi. Kalanithi seems to be on his way to an illustrious career as that rarest of medical hybrids, a surgeon/scientist. He is married to his med school sweetheart and they are preparing to conceive their first child. His world is suddenly blown to bits when he receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer at the age of 36… just as he is preparing to graduate from his residency program.

Oh yeah… did I mention that it is an autobiography? Kalanithi wrote it himself… as he was in the process of dying.

Watching him navigate the transition from doctor to patient – while remaining fully a doctor – is one of the more intriguing storylines in the book. Midway through his cancer treatment, Kalanithi says that his experience with the disease has helped him realize that, “… the physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”

If I didn’t know better I’d say he was describing the work of a pastor!

Kalanithi regularly expresses amazement at the way it has been possible for him to know volumes of information ABOUT the body and its diseases without truly grasping the full weight of their impact on the real people he serves as a doctor.

Until suddenly, he finds himself sitting on the other side of the desk.

Today I am trying turn up the dial on my education about the lifelong challenges faced by African Americans. I am reading books, I am talking to people, I am watching movies and documentaries, I am thinking quietly, and I am praying. Please understand… I tick off this list with a sense of embarrassment, not pride. This is all work I should have been doing a long, long time ago.

And believe me, it helps. Ava Duvernay’s powerful documentary, 13th (referring to the 13th amendment to the constitution outlawing slavery) opened my eyes to things I was painfully naïve about. She taught me, for example, about the wide disparity in the legal penalties for possession of crack cocaine (a low-cost, smokable form of the drug, favored in inner-city settings) and powdered cocaine – used almost exclusively by white suburbanites.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg of eye-openers and gut-punchers in store for those who choose to tune in.

Unlike Dr. Kalanithi, however, I will never be visited with the opportunity to suddenly find myself sitting on the other side of the desk… eyes finally opened… perspective finally focused and accurate. I will always only be who I am; the lifelong recipient of a host of benefits derived from a playing field tilted severely in my favor.

But does that deficit mean I can’t be an effective ally to the cause? No. It just means I will never be black.

What it does mean is I will need to work even harder to educate myself… and never stop educating myself. It means I need to take people at their word when they relate their experiences of encountering systemic racism. It means I need to actively use some of my privilege and advantage to advance the cause of justice… not just to make my world more comfortable.

It means I need to redouble my efforts to listen to and follow the advice of the prophet Micah who said, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NRSV).

 

Abundant blessings;




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