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Fire and Ice

Expect the unexpected.  That’s what they always say.

When the topic is Oklahoma weather, however, I’d say the correct phrase might be “unexpect the expected”.

Little Frau commented yesterday on how much more difficult it is to forecast winter storms and how the powers that be try too hard to be right about something they cannot control.

There’s an old Pat Benatar tune that  says: 

Fire and ice

You come on like a flame

Then you turn a cold shoulder

Fire and ice

This latest named winter storm that shall remain nameless turned a cold shoulder on us, indeed, making us dread its impact and drop any semblance of productive days as we awaited its wrath, then staying just abreast of us in intensity of impact.

While I am thankful, a part of me feels let down.   All this planning and angst, and things work out OK after all?   What is the deal with that?

I wonder if that’s how Moses felt a big part of the time.   I spent a few hours yesterday awaiting the loss of power that would not come to fruition.   Waiting, and watching start to finish the 50’s era epic “The Ten Commandments”.

The children of Israel had their share of storms, no doubt, as have we all.   But, in the midst of their deliverance, they got a little (OK, a lot) off course fretting about the storms that might not ever come, and making some new more damaging storms on their own along the way.

So, the rain will fall today, and the ice (what little we had) should melt quickly.   Or, maybe it won’t.   I can’t control that.   I can control my heart, and how it cares for those around me, and the storms they may be feeling.

Such was true yesterday.

Such will be true today, planned for storms, or unplanned for plans.

The Lord will work out his plans for my life — for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.  Psalm 138:8

It’s wintertime here, and there’s a chill in the air.   The chill of darkness fades in and out as well, but darkness never persists.

Little Frau and I were driving home the other night shortly after sundown, and I noticed how a small amount of light lingered in the western sky for much longer than I was anticipating.   We measure seasons like winter, aside from the chill in our bones, by the length of the night.   Equinox derives from Latin words essentially forming the phrase “equal night”.

But, you see, that’s just it.  The equinox marking winter happens once in each pass around the Sun, and then things begin to get brighter.

The same is true of those dark chilling moments in life.  Take death, for instance.

I filled the time in my last 24 hours this holiday break with some household projects and one last movie with Little Frau, an admittedly maudlin flick entitled “Collateral Beauty”.

The story shows a grieving man encountering Love, Time, and Death as distinct living characters to be encountered, or even debated with, along life’s journey.

I never cry in movies, if you don’t count the sneak attack the ending of “Where the Red Fern Grows” made on me when I was around 12 years of age.

Then there was last night.   In an unexpected moment, the character of Death recited the line “Nothing’s ever really dead, if you look at it right”.

A large gasp, followed by my momentary almost uncontrollable sobbing followed.  Little Frau even had to give me back my handkerchief.


We returned home amidst the increasingly chilled night to the desire for a fire, but before I could build it, I had to remove the ashes left behind by previous moments of past warmth and joy.

As I slowly, carefully, scooped the ashes into a large brown paper bag, I recalled one of my earliest memories of my grandfather doing exactly that at his home in south Dallas nearly a half century ago.   He told me he was making room for the new fire.

Touché.

While I did the same this winter, I also made provision for the coming of spring, new light, new warmth, and even renewal of life.

You see, we till our ashes here into our small garden out back.   A large Oak died out front this summer, and the byproduct of burning part of the physical memory of the life of that tree will one day soon become a physical part of a tomato that I will consume, and it will become a part of me, the physical representation of me, at least.

I do believe “Nothing’s ever really dead, if you look at it right”, indeed.

That is true of past experiences.  Experiences live on in our memory.

So too do past relationships like my grandfather, and my father, and friendships no longer present.

You see, an equinox is a temporary thing.  So too is the chill left in its wake.  The same is true of death.

We are created for eternity, and it will be grand.

To quote the title of a recent read “The Sun Also Rises”.

Indeed.

So, too, did the Son.   So, too, will I, and those who have gone before.

Timeless


What year is this, dear reader?

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God….The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” John 1:1, 4

As the photo would suggest, these thoughts are being penned in the year of our LORD, 2016, as history would record years

What year is it now for you, dear reader?

Today, in my time, is the day after Christmas.  It is near the dawn of 2017, should time, or I, be allowed to continue but a few days more.  The holiday season always brings an added degree of nostalgia and reflection.  I hope it to be a healthy thing, but only I can make it so.

The words of John about The Word, that being Jesus, were penned over 1,900 years ago.

I’m now reading a gift from my wife, the words of a man penned almost 90 years ago.   I think it may be hard to put down.


My son, as well, is reading a gift from my wife, his mother, the words of a man written nearly two centuries prior, as centuries are marked.   He too is finding it hard to put down.

Which brings me back to The Year of our Lord.   What year is it, dear reader?   

Are you and I acquainted, or did you find these words on your own? 

Is it my time, or has that era, seemingly long or alarmingly brief, come and gone?  

Is there peace in the world?

Is there peace within your heart?

Which brings me back to The Word, and to words.  So long as the Sun also rises for me, I want to live a better story, as contemporary author (circa 2016) Donald Miller would say.   

I live a better story when I let The Word write a better story in me.


My aforementioned wife, the one I affectionately refer to as Little Frau, presented me with another gift this Christmas: my own words, volume 1, it seems.

You see, like The Word, I will not walk this earth forever.   Perhaps, as you read my words in this, your day today, I already do so no longer.

And yet The Word is eternal.  He was with God in the beginning, and He is so today.   He is timeless, indeed.

While I was not with God in the beginning, I am given the hope and promise to be just as timeless, if I live in the light as He is in the light.

“But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭1:7‬ 

So, live this day.  Write your story well.  Thank you, dear reader, from  my future’s near present or as one who sees me long passed, for taking a moment to read a part of mine.

The Son also rises, indeed, and it is timeless.

The anatomy of a fast.


7 days.
Just under 160 hours.
There was an earthquake. There was an election.

Then, the world seemingly felt the earth move.
And I had little to publicly say about it. Little I could say, that is. Few words to say, and even fewer voices in my ear.
At the prompting of “Preacher Phil”, I launched a “Facebook fast” last Sunday afternoon. I even sent Instagram and Twitter packing. I’m glad he prompted, and I’m glad I responded. It’s made for an interesting week.
Time seems to move more slowly when it’s not filled quite so idly. Your mind processes things, and when you can’t act on the impulse to rapidly share them, they grow more slowly within the psyche.  
The fast can end this weekend. While I wonder all that’s been discussed in my absence, I’m not sure how badly I want back in.   I guess time will tell.

Big Brother/Big bother?

Big Brother is a stalker.   

It’s only Tuesday, and before sunrise at that.

It’s not even been 48 hours, and yet he’s asking: “Where you been?“.

It’s a little creepy.  We’ve heard for years to watch out for “Big Brother” watching you, but I now suspect he was invited into my digital living room long ago.

At our preacher’s prompting, I’m taking a Facebook fast for a week.   He called it “Digital Detox”.

No posts.  No reads.  No app.

That’s right: I deleted the app from my phone.   Let’s call it “temptation takes a holiday”.   It can join Nostalgia over there.  Perhaps they can keep one another company while I give the remaining five days a try.

I hope I learn something new about myself in the process.    If so, I might tell you all about it later.

Or, I might not.  And, therein might lie the point…

There’s an old saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.

The noted philosopher, Toby Keith, said it with a twist: The less things change, the more they never seem the same”.

My job, my car, my dog being buried in that back yard…but I digress.

It was time to immerse in the memories of hometowns gone by this past weekend.   Hometowns, homerooms, and the relationships that went along for the ride.

I was discussing it all with one of my few active ongoing relationships to come from this hometown of days gone by, and how so much seems so different.  

 As we stood at the base of a large group of pine trees pointing skyward, I noted how those trees seemed to have been as large then as they are today.   His reply?   “I think they don’t ever stop growing”.   Touché.

We returned to his home a few short hours later, and the story charicatured above captured my attention.   It was printed on a byproduct of trees that indeed have stopped growing, as has the industry this “newspaper” represents.   I don’t digress: it has to do with the more things change.

The story spoke of three great quarterbacks gone by, and how things changed abruptly before they were ready.   But, change they did, and each man has moved on in life.

Which brings me back to our reason for being back in this former home gone by: relationships.

When you’ve not seen someone in 30 odd years, it is amazing how much things change.  It’s equally amazing how much of your respective later lives can seem the same.   I spent an extra couple of hours on the trip visiting one on one with an old friend, and the similarity of life experiences was strangely familiar.

We both married our spouses two weeks apart in date.   We both had oldest daughters a couple of years later.   We both have twins, one boy, and one girl.   We both know the pain of an earthly father’s battle with cancer.

Another noted philosopher, Jon Bon Jovi, crooned these emotions just so:

Ah, is it just me or does anybody see – The new improved tomorrow isn’t what it used to be – Yesterday keeps comin’ ’round, it’s just reality – It’s the same song with a different melody …

My old friend reminded me, however, the artist from days gone by to indeed quote is John Waite (former lead singer of “The Babies”):

We always wish for money – We always wish for fame – We think we have the answers – Some things ain’t ever gonna change 

It doesn’t matter who you are – It’s all the same (change) – What’s in your heart will never change

It’s only change

It doesn’t matter who you are – It’s all the same.

Just like those majestic pine trees, we’ve kept growing, and the more things have changed, the more they indeed seem the same.

Epiphany: XYZ

Epiphany:

– a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.

– a moment of sudden revelation or insight.

Have you ever had an “epiphany”? I remember the first time as an adult when I heard that word and it’s definition.   
So many small past experiences were now cast in a whole new light. They were not just odd encounters. They weren’t just uncomfortable transitions, they were no longer just embarrassing moments. They were epiphanies. I could see things in a whole different light.
I had one of those moments just this past week. I’m currently teaching Sunday morning Bible class to a group of middle aged adults at our church. Just waking up one morning to acknowledge that you are middle aged can be an epiphany of sorts, but I digress.
So, we are studying the gospel of Mark this quarter, and I had just finished the lesson for the day and dismissed the class when I had an epiphany. I looked down to realize that the fly on my pants had been unzipped the whole morning, and I’d been walking to and fro between the podium and the white board in front of a group of fifty men and women for a solid thirty five minutes.
It was a moment of sudden revelation or insight, indeed. And no one said a word about it. More on that in a moment.
How many times has that happened to you in life?
You think you know everything there is to know about a situation, a condition, a person, or a cause, and then something new comes into your frame of vision. Perhaps it changes everything you thought you knew about a subject. Perhaps it causes you to question what you believe. Or, perhaps it causes you to see something that was there all along, hiding in your blind spot.
We all have blind spots.  
Just like the ones you experience while driving, all are different, and all are influenced by our surroundings, our speed, and our attitude.
The apostle Peter had blind spots, and they led to epiphanies. We are studying about one of those this week in Mark chapter 8, where Jesus asks who the disciples say that he is, and Peter says “you are the Messiah”.
I would suggest, however, knowing Jesus’ true identity was not Peter’s epiphany. It was learning what “Messiah” truly meant, and what would be asked of Peter for the rest of his life. It was Jesus subsequently saying “get behind me, Satan”, to Peter, thus revealing a blind spot that he would have to keep checking for the remainder of his ministry for Jesus.
There’s a good aspect to blind spots when those we love and trust help us see into them. Paul did that with Peter, but it probably wasn’t easy. If only someone in my class last week could have done that before I stood before the crowd.
Which brings me back to epiphany. Sometimes others can’t, or won’t, be able to tell you how things truly are. That’s why you keep your eyes open, and your mind attuned to understanding that all may not be as you once thought it was.
That’s when you zip up, and move on to the next opportunity for epiphany.