Posts Tagged ‘summer

23
Aug
22

Afflicting the Comfortable

Thank God for Willis Carrier.

Old time window unit.
Image by By Willem van de Poll

Mr. Carrier, as you may have heard, is widely believed to be the inventor of the modern air conditioning system. According to Wikipedia, while Carrier did indeed develop the first ELECTRICAL air conditioning system in 1901, people as far back as ancient Egypt have been working on ways to dispel the oppressive heat of August… or January if they happened to live in the southern hemisphere.

Carrier’s invention was first installed in a printing and lithographing company in Brooklyn, NY. Its purpose was to help the company maintain uniform paper size and to keep the ink from smudging and smearing. 

In other words, to facilitate WORK

But speaking personally, I can’t imagine doing much of anything at this time of year – working, playing, or sleeping – without the aid of Mr. Carrier’s invention. In fact, my fevered imagination is busily churning away at this very moment on the invention of a flexible, air-conditioned TUBE we can use to walk straight from our air-conditioned HOMES into our air-conditioned CARS, without ever having to experience the reality of that nasty summer HEAT!

Of course, I kid. But it makes me wonder about the lengths to which you and I will go to to avoid even a moment of discomfort in our lives. 

Let’s face it; you and I devote STAGGERING amounts of time and money trying to protect ourselves from the harsh realities of life on planet earth. We condition our air. We repel our insects. We shade our eyes. We cushion our feet. We filter our water. We motorize our transportation. We fence our yards. We watch our neighbors. We domesticate our animals. We defend our borders. We pasteurize our milk…

… ALL of which, by the way, I vigorously support. 

But I can’t help but wonder if we might occasionally miss out on some of life’s richness when we continually operate in the Discomfort Avoidance mode. For example;

  • In my experience, learning to ride a bike involved a LOT of initial discomfort. 
  • Meeting new people almost always feels a little awkward at first.
  • Encountering a new idea, a new country, a new language, a new food, a new author, or a new piece of music usually – for me – always begins with some measure of discomfort.

Back when I was in seminary, I recoiled at the suggestion that I should take a class called, “Black Womanist Theology”. As a white, middle-aged male, I didn’t see the relevance. I am not proud to admit it, but I even went so far as to ask my advisor, “Do I really have to?” 

Yes, I had to. And yes, it was uncomfortable. And yes, it was one of the richest, most humbling, most meaningful educational encounters of my life. Thank you bell hooks, thank you Emily Townes, thank you Renita Weems, thank you Delores S. Williams and many others.

So no, I am not saying I am going to take the roof off my home, disconnect my air conditioner, or dramatically backtrack on any of the essential creature comforts I enjoy today. I AM saying, however, that I will take the occasion of these so-called “dog days of summer” to be reminded of those wise words spoken to me many years ago. When I asked my pastor what he considered the church’s main job to be, he turned to me and said, “The church is here to try to do what Jesus did in his lifetime: to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.”

Happy squirming.

Abundant blessings;

29
Oct
19

This Old Table

And so it begins.

Earlier today Joan and I bid a fond farewell to the lovely distressed barnwood table (and six matching chairs) as it was toted out of our breakfast room.

So many meals around that table.

So many great conversations.

So many important and memorable family moments.

So many glasses of wine. (SO many…)

This was the table where my youngest brother Eric was sitting when he rolled a Yahtzee of sixes ON THE FIRST ROLL at our 2012 family Thanksgiving gathering.

This is the table where my sister sat in her pjs, reading Rolling Stone magazine, as sunlight streamed in through the windows and the fall foliage formed a colorful backdrop.

Grandkids graduated to this table when they finally demonstrated that their table manners have matured sufficiently.

But alas… try as we might, Joan and I could not discern a place this table would fit in the new, smaller house into which we will soon move.

And so off it goes… ready to help another family make new memories. Here is what we are now left with… for meals and sessions of blog post writing: Tiny table

Later today that trusty table will be followed out the door by a chest of drawers, an armoire, a bedside table, and a lovely headboard… each one dripping with cherished memories.

In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, we are in the process of moving. We have sold our home in Overland Park, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City), and will be moving the middle of next month to Fort Collins, Colorado.

It is a move partially of choice and partially of necessity. There are family members in Colorado as well as the beauty and splendor of the Rocky Mountains… not to mention several excellent micro-breweries and a thriving cultural scene.

It is a move Joan and I are both looking forward to as the beginning of a new adventure.

But like the beginning of any new adventure, it will also involve an abundance of amputations.

We will sever our relationships with a lot of our stuff… like that amazing table.

As we move, we will be chopping off connections with barber, hairdresser, doctors, neighborhood handyman, familiar surroundings, this set of friends and neighbors, our church, our Overland Park and Kansas City traditions, this house, and a hundred other things that have helped define our lives in this place.

We fully anticipate those will each be replaced by a Fort Collins-shaped equivalent over the course of the next few months.

But for now, all I can see is the wispy trail of fond memories hanging in the air as pieces of our home begin departing.

The inescapable, enduring truth about life is that things end. And in their ending, they make room for something else to begin. The warm frolic of summer ends, making room for the cozy cuddling of winter. The effusive energy of youth ends and makes room for the patient wisdom of age.

It is necessary – for a time – to mourn life’s endings. But we should take care not to get stuck there. We don’t want to miss the new adventure waiting to unfold.

At times like this, it is good to be reminded that this life consists of things that endure and things that don’t. And according to our Teacher, true wisdom consists in building our lives on the kind of material that endures, instead of on the other kind:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.”(Matthew 7:24-26, NRSV).

 




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