Posts Tagged ‘renew

14
Feb
21

Wintering

Good morning and happy V-Day from frigid Fort Collins, Colorado.

Joan and I woke up to a nippy minus seven degrees Fahrenheit this morning… headed for a daytime high of zero and a nighttime low later of -17.

Yes, you read that correctly. Negative seventeen degrees.

How cold is it, you ask? And right on cue, Johnny Carson answers:

  • “It is so cold my teeth froze together.”
  • “It is so cold my heartburn is cured.”
  • “It is so cold even the squirrels had thermal underwear.”
  • “It was so cold hitchhikers were holding up pictures of thumbs.”
  • “It was so cold the eye doctor was giving away free ice scrapers with every purchase of a new pair of eyeglasses.”
  • “It was so cold squirrels in the park were throwing themselves at electric fences.”
  • “It was so cold Starbucks was selling coffee on a stick.”

[Kids… go ask your parents who Johnny Carson was. And while you’re at it, tune in some re-runs of the pre-Jimmy Fallon, pre-Jay Leno Tonight Show.]

The bunny footprints you see in this picture of our front sidewalk are probably the only set of footprints this sidewalk will see today. We are huddled up and hunkering down until we see AT LEAST double digits (positive) on the thermometer.

We are engaged in that ancient practice known as WINTERING.

And whether you are a fan of the season or not, WINTERING turns out to be an essential human activity. It is a time to slow down one’s heart rate and activity level… a time to withdraw… a time to become enfolded in warmth… a time to just BE.

Bears have another name for this time; they call it “hibernation.”

I tell people I am not a fan of winter because I hate cold weather. And while there is a dash of truth in that statement, it fails to tell the whole story. 

The more complete answer is that I also don’t like winter because I don’t like to slow down. I find that I am too susceptible to the myth that tells me that the good life is the busy life… that I must regularly PRODUCE something in order to justify my place on the earth.

Does that ring any familiar bells with YOU?

Botanists will tell you that valuable things happen to plants in the winter. Even though all of the grass and shrubs in your yard look deader than Gary Hart’s political career [again, kids… ask your parents about Gary Hart. And see if they can also shed any light on why a guy would exclusively use 80’s cultural references in his blog] there are still important processes going on. Damaged cells are repairing themselves. We also know that when the plant above the ground stops growing, the root system below the ground has a chance to grow and extend. 

When the cold and snow of winter descends, the plant takes a necessary break in order to gain strength for the next season…

… just like you and I do at night when we sleep.

So, I wonder… do you think it’s possible that this entire global pandemic we’ve been dealing with might be a kind of “wintering” experience for the world? I mean, is COVID conceivably giving all of creation the opportunity to slow down… take shelter… withdraw… and renew?

I certainly don’t like the idea of quarantining, but I get it. Social intercourse spreads disease. But maybe instead of focusing only on what Joan and I have LOST during this prolonged lockdown, I could stop… step back… and let this interlude have its full, desired, renewing effect. 

To everything there is a season,” according to The Teacher. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NRSV)

I guess that even applies to winter.

Abundant blessings;

10
Nov
20

Renew Your Strength

“Just wait. It will happen.”

Don’t you just love it when you hear those words… almost always spoken with a slight, knowing smile.

Today, if I heard that phrase from someone, I might seriously think about renouncing my personal pledge of non-violence. I might just haul off and pop somebody.

WAITING is about all I seem to be doing these days. 

Last week we had to wait longer than I can ever remember to finally know the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

  • Some say that they are STILL waiting…

Joan and I waited two months longer than originally estimated for our kitchen remodeling project to begin. Now that it is finally underway, we are waiting less-than-patiently for it to be DONE

  • In the meantime, though, we are discovering an amazingly wide variety of things one can cook using only a microwave or a toaster oven. 

On the national level, most of us are still waiting (again, not terribly patiently) for some kind of “dialing down” of the state of emergency around the COVID-19 pandemic… whether through the distribution of a vaccine or a decrease in infection levels or some other solution. 

Most of the time, waiting does not sit well with me. I am impatient. I squirm uncomfortably at the idea of sitting or standing in the same place for multiple minutes. I am that guy at the grocery store who carefully scans each cash register line to see which one is moving the fastest before I pick the one to enter. And yes… I have also been known to switch check-out lines even after initially committing to one.

To be clear… I am not at all proud of this character flaw of mine. But I suspect I am not the only one afflicted with this particular defect…

Am I?

So – assuming I am not talking to the four winds here – why do we find it so hard to WAIT? Why don’t we trust the wise guidance of our elders who told us things like, “Good things come to those who wait,” or, “Patience is a virtue”? Why do we seem to be incapable of learning from the biblical example of the children of Israel who had to endure not one… not two… not three… but FOUR periods of exile from their homeland… waiting for God’s deliverance?

We might blame our impatience on the surrounding culture. It is hardly news that we live today in a time of instant gratification on nearly every front; Instant cooking, instant information, instant entertainment, and instant relationships are all available to us… at the click of a button. Or mouse. Or computer key.

Or we might blame our elevated standard of living, thanks to easily available consumer credit. Christmas club savings accounts are now a thing of the past thanks to the MAGIC PLASTIC CREDIT CARD! You say you want it? No problem… go get it and CHARGE it… but be sure you ignore that 22% annual interest rate spelled out in microscopic type on the statement. 

But as tempting as those two scapegoats are, I suspect the real answer lies a lot closer to our inside jacket pocket. That is to say, the real underlying cause behind our epic inability to wait comes from right HERE (… points to chest). 

I have decided that my impatience – maybe yours, too – stems from the absurd and often outsizedsignificance we give to that thing out there waiting on the horizon. Here is what I mean; when we allow ourselves to believe that the thing we are waiting for… whether it is the election results, the completed kitchen, the end of quarantine, the vacation, the diploma, the new car, the new job, the new spouse, the concert, the football game, the WHATEVER… is the thing that will finally make all things right in our life, we have a VERY hard time waiting for it to arrive.

Once again, we have been “caught out,” believing that our ultimate fulfillment in life comes from lining up the right set of CIRCUMSTANCES, forgetting that God calls us instead to cultivate the right RELATIONSHIP to our circumstances, whatever they might be. 

Why do we have such a hard time remembering that, “… the grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, NRSV). 

Or why can’t our thick skulls remember and appreciate the truth that tells us, “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31, NRSV). 

Come. Sit here with me and wait. 

It will happen. Just like God said it would.

Abundant blessings;

11
Jan
18

Blurred vision

dirty_glasses_635_358I had to clean my glasses today.

They had gotten so crusty and grimy they were getting hard to see through.

When I finally took them off and held them up to the light I was shocked. I was amazed to think how long it took me to finally realize my glasses had been accumulating a world-class layer of schmutz.

(LURKING METAPHOR ALERT!) You see, sometimes we don’t notice right away when our vision is becoming obscured. It starts with just one tiny, insignificant splotch followed by another equally tiny splotch a few hours later and so on… tiny splotch by tiny splotch… until suddenly you have no idea if that is a snow plow, city bus, or elephant looming ahead there in the roadway.

You see, sometimes we have to stop and look AT what we have been looking THROUGH.

But we won’t ever clean our own glasses until we first stop and recognize that they are dirty.

Metaphors aside, as you and I go about the business of observing the world around us and commenting on what we see there, we have to regularly dare to be skeptical about the quality and clarity of our own vision.

That’s something I recognize that I really need to do. But to do that effectively, I need YOUR help. You are in the best place to recognize the smudges obscuring my vision.

So please… let me know. Freely. Unabashedly. Firmly, but – if possible – lovingly.

Maybe instead of scrunching up your face and saying, “EWWWW! Your glasses are so GROSS!” you could say, “Hey, Russell… here’s what I see;”

 

Because who knows… maybe YOUR glasses are dirty, too.

 

Blessings…




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