Posts Tagged ‘matter

10
Jun
22

Showing Off

I approach exercising much the same way I approach brushing my teeth.

Now THAT is an important person!

Grudgingly. Unexcitedly. Yet gloomily resigned to the fact that horrible consequences will likely follow if I don’t suck it up and JUST DO IT, as Phil Knight constantly implores us.

And so, I listen to podcasts. 

No, not while I brush my teeth, silly. While I exercise.

You could also listen to music if your goal was to remove your mind as far as possible from the grim monotony of the moment. But podcasts are more my cup of tea. 

And one of my favorites of all time is the podcast called Hidden Brain (found at hiddenbrain.org). HB is hosted and produced by National Public Radio journalist Shankar Vedantam and it almost never fails to present a thoughtful, well-researched 54-57 minutes of content that makes me say, Huh! How fascinating! I had no IDEA!”

It’s the perfect length of time for a torture session at the gym.

The episode I listened to this week talked about a recent study done by a marketing professor at Georgetown University. This professor discovered that for many people today, TIME is their new status symbol.

Or rather, their distinct LACK of time.

In another era, 75 – 100 or so years ago, the status symbol du jour was IDLENESS. Back then, if you looked at someone’s calendar and saw nothing but entries like, “10:30, Wax eyebrows. 11:45, Read chapter six of Lady Chatterly’s Lover1:30, Nap,” and “5:00 – 7:30, Stroll the grounds, breathing deeply,” you knew that person was probably RICH and IMPORTANT.

By contrast, in TODAY’S world, people use their impossibly jam-packed calendars to show the world just how important they are. 

We’ve all heard that refrain. “I am just so BUSY! I don’t know how I could POSSIBLY fit in one more thing!” The implication being, of course, that the reason I am so BUSY is because I am so IMPORTANT. 

My first reaction to the story was to think, “That’s so sad. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back to the time when the world valued being IDLE and UNSCHEDULED instead of being BUSY?”

But then, on further reflection, I thought, “What’s even sadder is the fact that humans constantly feel the need to come up with a status symbol AT ALL! Why are we so driven to SHOW OTHER PEOPLE how important we are and how much we really MATTER?”

And of course, we don’t just use our calendars to show off our importance and success, do we? We use our cars. We use our job titles. We use our wardrobes. We use our vacations. We use the academic and professional accomplishments of our KIDS. 

Almost anything we can get our hands on can be turned into a giant, blinking, neon arrow, pointing at us saying, “LOOK! LOOK AT ME, everybody! I really am SOMEBODY! I MATTER!”

It is almost as if we are trying more to remind OURSELVES – not necessarily other people – that we are something more than a momentary blip on the radar screen of history. 

Looking back, I see that I just used the following bible verse a couple of blog posts ago. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for this situation, too. Does it?

The psalmist starts by reminding us of just how fragile and fleeting our lives really are: “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.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSVU). 

NOW who’s the big shot, eh?

But then, in another Psalm, she/he reminds us of our true place in the overall scheme of things by saying, “You have made them [meaning US] a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet…” (Psalm 8:5-6, NRSVU). 

So here’s the deal; you… just as you are right here, right now … matter more to the Creator of All Thingsthan you can possibly imagine. And it isn’t because of your jam-packed calendar, your Gucci tennis shoes, or your Chiefs season tickets. 

It is because YOU are YOU – made in the image of God – and nobody else.

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;

09
Dec
19

Does it really matter?

Lutheran crossWe interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you this breaking news: Joan and I attended church yesterday.

But not just any church. We attended a (wait for it…) LUTHERAN CHURCH!

And after the service, we turned our heads, looked at each other, and said, nearly simultaneously, “Hey… that was really nice! We should come here again.”

The reason this qualifies as headline breaking news is that I have considered myself a dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool United Methodist for as long as I can remember. It is the faith I was born into, confirmed in, married in (twice), and ordained to preach in.

The origin story of the Methodist movement – midwifed into the world by brothers John and Charles Wesley – speaks to my soul. Its liturgies and worship styles comport with my ecclesial leanings perfectly… just enough ritual “pomp” to signify the gravitas of the worship moment, but not so much as to be suffocating. Its heritage of social justice advocacy resonates with the guidance of my own conscience.

There are so many things about the United Methodist way of being a Jesus follower that strike exactly the right tone with me. And yes, I am of the generation to whom denominational labels actually mean something.

And yet… the recent behavior of my “home” denomination has caused me to question whether the United Methodist Church really deserves my permanent allegiance.

Faced with the destinal (and yes, I am declaring that this IS a real word) moment of planting itself wholly on the side of justice and letting the institutional chips fall where they may, United Methodism waffled.

Rather than choosing to forge a polity that said, “All means all,” leaders of the church instead chose to say, “Let’s just fashion this really big, morally beige umbrella where those who support inclusion and those who oppose it can all exist under it together. Let’s keep the family together, no matter what kind of pain that inflicts on the children.”

So that is one HUGE reason I am a lot less infatuated with United Methodism these days.

And honestly, I am also still stinging from a world of hurt that was inflicted upon me at the end of my next-to-last appointment. If you know anything about church life, you know there is always a lot of pain being inflicted at any given moment… some intentional, some not. For me, the wounds were deep and lasting and still bring a sour taste to my mouth when I think about the place where it all happened.

I guess the question I find myself faced with in the end is: does it really matter?

That is, does it really matter if I call myself a United Methodist follower of Jesus, or a Lutheran follower of Jesus, or a Seventh Day Adventist follower of Jesus, or a “Frisbiterian” follower of Jesus (this is a sect invented by a Frisbee-throwing friend of mine who posited that when we die, our souls just fly up and get stuck on the roof)?

I think we can all agree that the answer is no… it really doesn’t matter.

In fact, if we look closely at the evidence in scripture, it would be hard to find evidence that Jesus himself had any real preference for how we might choose to follow him. When he said (in John 14:6), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” I believe he was more inviting us to emulate his relationship with God rather than subscribe to a set of formal religious doctrines.

Our journey from “the one Church, apostolic and universal” to today’s eleventy-billion shades of the Christian faith does a lot to promote the understanding that choosing a faith community is all about finding the right “fit”.

But is “fit” really “it”?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But it sure is hard to stay on the journey when you’ve got blisters on your feet.




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