Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Did It!

"What's that," you say? Well, I will tell you. I have finally decided that I am going to LIKE snow and winter again. Crazy? Out of my mind? Well, let me tell you why...

I was born and raised right around the 45th parallel, in the great state of Michigan. (That is almost exactly 1/2 half-way between the North Pole and the Equator.) That's right. And here's a question for all of you readers: What lies just WEST of the great state of Michigan? Any takers? Well, I will tell you: Lake Michigan. Which means that in the wintertime, we would get completely pummeled with snow. 
The 45th Parallel. C-O-L-D. A. Lot.

I always tell people a little-known fact about my childhood, when explaining my relationship with snow. It goes a little something like this: "I grew up trick-or-treating some years in my snow suit. I also grew up some years hunting for Easter Eggs in the snow. You don't have to color Easter Eggs half the time when you live where I grew up... It would make the eggs EASIER to find."

People would laugh, but I was 100% honest. I can remember only ONE Christmas where there was no snow, truthfully. It was 1982. The only way I remember is because my mom has a picture of me, outside, in our driveway, in my spring jacket, jeans, and cowboy boots (that's right!), and riding my Big Wheel. I was holding one of my Christmas presents: "Dr. Phineas Frog." (NO! It is not some ridiculous Phineas and Ferb thing. My poor Phineas was ROBBED.)
Dr. Phineas today. Yes, I still have him!
Anyway, as I grew up, not being people that had money to ski or anything like that, we did the free stuff. We would go to our aunt's house and sled down their "big" hill in the back yard, or if we were feeling brave, take the toboggan out for an "all pile on and see who lives" experiment. But typically, plastic sleds were the means we had, and most every year, they would come up with little "innovative" ways to make the sleds go faster, turn easier, etc. But they never really delivered.

Fast-forward about 8 years: me, working at our family's hardware store/gas station. This was the old-fashioned kind. Not only did we sell leaded, and unleaded gas, but we also sold kerosene, diesel, and fuel oil. I bet a lot of younger people don't even know what fuel oil is anymore. Our tanks for these fuels were above-ground tanks, and we had to keep a lock on them so people wouldn't fill up their containers and drive away. Which meant we, the workers, had to go out, unlock, fill the containers, and then lock back up. 

I remember going out in -20º F. With wind chills at around -35º F.  And did you know that once the weather goes below (I believe it is) -10º F, you can't feel any difference if it gets any colder? That's right. (If that's not the right temp., please know that it is close to that. My brain cells have been frozen too many times, possibly.)

So this is pretty much why I made the decision, as a more refined and respectable "adult," that I was done with Winter. I liked snow for Christmas, and that was about it. Well folks, times, they are a-changing.

I have decided that I will love each season equally. (Well, at least Winter, Spring, and Summer will get equal billing... Fall is just WAY too high up there on my "Things to Adore" list.) There is always something to love about each and every situation. 

As Rafiki tells Simba in The Lion King, sometimes we just have to "look haaaarder," before we can see the good in something, be it a season, situation, or certain someone. So my challenge, if you are up for it, is to look at each "thing" in your life. If you can't find something to love about the subject at hand, then "look haaarder."

"Loook . . . Haaahdah."

Next post: My list of what I love about Winter.

Peace, love, and cider mugs!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Life to the Fullest

I recently listened to a podcast where the speaker was talking about "being fully alive," and I got to pondering...

What is the difference between being fully alive and simply being alive? The speaker told a story of someone who was dying of a disease, who lived each day like it would be his last. And this is how he learned the difference, and was living each moment as it would be his last... not missing out on any opportunities... never skipping out on a chance to share his faith... always going for it... being fully alive.

It was interesting to me to think that someone had to be so close to death's door to learn what it means to be fully alive. And to think that each one of us truly is at death's door at any given moment in time. The difference is that we don't really see it: The groggy, weary-eyed man driving next to you on the freeway who's eyelids droop and linger just two seconds too long, begins the diagonal route towards your car, and WHOOSH, something jolts him back to reality... one second more and... ....The woman in your apartment building, running late who forgets to turn off the curling iron... she forgets something, runs back in and--"Oh! I forgot to turn it off..." A few hours and the heat could've ignited the wafer-thin tissue paper she had carelessly thrown onto her dresser... if she hadn't run back in...

The difference is that some people have a knowledge of an approximate guess of how long, or short, their lives may or may not be. Why should this make a difference?? 

Didn't Jesus teach us this very lesson? He said in Matthew 16:25, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." When we consider ourselves dead to this world--afterall we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17)--we can more fully accept that this life we live is not ours anymore; we belong to Jesus. Our old self has passed away, the new has come. So in a way, we already have died. 

We aren't here on this earth for ourselves. Our days don't belong to us anymore than someone can claim ownership of the sun

I want to pose a question: If you look back at the day you just lived, could you honestly say--in the event that you didn't have a tomorrow--that you are pleased? Have we taken the opportunity to be... fully... alive? When Jesus said "whoever loses his life for my sake will find it," I believe he was talking about much more than just finding eternal life. I believe Jesus was telling us that we would find IT. Life to the fullest. The ability to be... fully... alive.

I am provoked. And while I understand that our seemingly mundane daily routines can't be chucked away like week-old leftovers, I also know that in all things, we are to do them to the glory of God. So whether I am paying a bill, preaching the gospel to the girl down the street, or serving someone in need, I want my life to be full of thankfulness and praise. I want God to know and see that I truly appreciate each breath, each sunrise, each laugh, each tear. And even more so, I want Him to use me each and every day. I want abundant life; to know that each step I take is set by the Lord himself. To have the faith for life that extreme, to be a life so full that people around me take notice... as Steven Curtis Chapman put it "la-la-la-la-live out loud!"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

on being useful

Have you ever looked upon fountains in the summertime? Their waters shimmering in the sunlight, dazzling onlookers of every age and culture... The continuous white noise they create, with the constant splish-splash of each droplet that finds its way back to the pool... The surrounding area wet with stray drops and splooshes... And if you stand close enough, you notice something else--a few things, really. First, you notice how you get to experience this wonder not only with your visual and auditory sensors, but with your touch receptors as well. Second, you notice that it's main gathering place, a.k.a. the pool, is never still--never placid.

And while I'm a sucker for serenity and calm just as much as any other person with a busy life, the fountain's pool is just as it should be: never waxing in the stillness, never waning in the quiet. It is as it should be--a bustling place where one unit of H2O is replaced at break-neck speed by another, all just in time to make room for another and another, and so on. Little waves are created constantly, even though we can never set our eyes upon the smooth ripple effect; there are simply too many waves and splashes coming in from all directions to allow for such nonsense. This is a place of excitement--a place of much to do, much to do.

Another thing you can see at a fountain is the wonder of discovery. Have you ever simply gazed upon a child, smiling and laughing as she experiences a fountain and all of its magical splendor? The squeal that explodes from this little soul as she learns the icy chill that is carried with its liquid counterpart... the stomping and romping that takes place in the puddles around the perimeter of this hilarious contrivance... the discovery of how something as simple as water can turn your fun-loving parent, uncle or auntie into an outraged psychopath while you're laughing all the way... watching a dog bite at and lap up the spewing formations of water as they shoot high into the sky... and seeing the silly confusion fade into their faces as they peer down into the ripply, ever changing glass to see the horrendous likeness staring back at them.

There is much ado at a fountain. And here is where we begin today's pondering. How many times have we truly noticed the actual device by which the water is propelled? When we look at a "fountain," we really are looking at the effect of a fountain. And in all truthfulness, the fountain's working parts aren't all that spectacular. I may even venture an opinion here: they are not attractive at all. But add water and flip a switch and no one notices the device anymore. No one sees the drabness. Everyone is transfixed on what its sole purpose for existing is in the first place: the water. The serious display of water, dancing about in a continual rhythm and motion, and the joy and beauty it brings to the people who are influenced by it.

This is a picture of life as a believer. We are simply a tool--a device--to let the water flow. And if we allow ourselves to not get in the way, it can be a miraculous spectacle, with all the emphasis falling on Whom it truly belongs: Jesus Christ. As the Holy Spirit is allowed to flow out from us, people around our world of influence can't help but be drawn to Him--to reach out and touch, to discover how He feels, how He tastes, and just how truly amazing it feels when a torch is passed or shared, and they too become a fountain, flowing boldly and beautifully for their Savior--the One who made them to flow.

Let it never be that I sit in disrepair, as people stroll past, gazing upon an unworking fountain. The disappointment it brings! It's funny, really. If you happen upon an unworking fountain, you are disappointed. You may have never seen it working, may not have a clue as to what you should be looking at, but still you feel disappointment. For all you know, it was a fountain that squirts people in the eye as they come in for a closer look... But even so, there is a languid retreat that happens whenever someone happens upon a fountain in disrepair.

So open up, let Him flip the switch, and get over yourself. It's not about you afterall... and it's certainly not about me. It is all about Him. Jesus. The reason I love and breathe. And the only "thing" I want flowing from me. Ever.