Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Power in Ashes

Posted: February 18, 2021 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Ash Wednesday is the most powerful day of the year. At least it is for me. Embarking on the season of Lent is, for those who choose to make it so, a deeply spiritual exercise. It does not allow us to descend into spiritual pabulum, or the type of religion which seeks to simply make us feel good. If you need to feel good, go to a spa. Ash Wednesday and Lent force us to be completely honest, about ourselves and the realities of a finite earthly existence. For some, this gives the sense of morbidity, being morose, or a big Debbie-Downer. It need not be so, nor was it intended to be. It is only in the honest reflection of this inevitability for each of us can something as powerful as death lose its grip and power over us. It is healthy and good and healing that we should go through such an exercise as Ash Wednesday delivers.

For those unfamiliar, ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday palms are imposed on the forehead, formed in the emblem of the cross. This imposition is accompanied by the words, “Remember you are dust; and to dust you shall return.” God formed humanity from the dust of the ground, and we shall one day be returned to the earth. It is a bold act that proclaims our human condition. People have tried to escape our finite fate for as long as we’ve roamed the planet. Well, good luck with that. Might as well come to terms with it.

When we honestly face the reality of our existence, and come to terms with the natural rhythm of birth-life-death, something powerful happens within us. It can begin in us a kind of process through which we realize value of each and every moment of each and every day. Breath itself becomes a gift.

For many years it is my privilege to mark thousands of the faithful with a cross made of ash, “…to dust you shall return.” These are deeply powerful expressions of faith. Not simply the emotional sort of event that can only leave us empty after a brief, short-lived and shallow moment. This act of born of faith and hope, of the variety that can touch us for a lifetime.

I’ve marked infants and toddlers and hundred-year-olds and everyone in between. Each of them carries a beautiful and unique story with them, usually filled both with tragedy and triumph. Many have lost spouses. Others carry deep emotional or spiritual scars, and crave a ray of light in their darkness. There are those who live within a personal hell of their own creation, and are begging for a slice of heaven. There are broken families. There is the fear and uncertainty of illness. Some may raise their brow to receive the ashes sheerly from a position of gratitude and joy; they are thankful for all God provides, and for the daily renewal of faith.

Over time, my job and calling has me bury many of these beautiful children of God. It never fails, each Ash Wednesday I ponder, “Who will not be here next year?” It’s what happens when we’re joined in Christ through a faith community. I do not want to bury them. I’d like to have things as they were, their companionship this side of eternity. I wish there were no need to sit with their loved ones in the quiet anguish of grief. Yet, this is our honest reality.

The power and beauty of a day like yesterday lifts us into God’s good future. So, make the most of each Ash Wednesday, savor life’s fullness in all moments. You never know which one will be your last. Live fully. Drink deeply from life’s rich well. Love much.

Grief Happens

Posted: March 18, 2020 in Uncategorized

It felt like grief.

We entered our church’s sanctuary, a beautiful and holy space, to shoot a video message to our congregation concerning issues surrounding closings and postponements due to COVID-19. Going into that sanctuary, a sacred fortress which gathered in the masses more regularly than just once a week, the word entered my being and attached itself to the feeling of the last forty-eight hours.

It felt like grief.

It is grief.

That room, safe and holy, would not hold God’s people for unknown weeks ahead. For fifty-five years it housed occasions of greatest joy and deepest sorrow. Who knows how long it will stand silent and empty, awaiting to fulfill its intended purpose?

Our world, our existence continues to spin the unexpected around and within us. Now, a previously unmade word is in our every sentence and thought. COVID-19. It is destined to ring horror and chill through the years for all who remember. Everyday routines are being more than upset. A shattering occurs when we consider the strangeness of this time. The uncertainly of this current state, its duration, its intensity, will keep us all a bit on edge for some time to come. A sanctuary is to be the one place souls may join in proximity for comfort, consolation, and hope. Now, social distancing is not even social, it is only distant. Overturned stomachs and aching hearts must experience our primeval longing for community in new ways, and we’re not sure what to do with that. We know we’ve lost something, and we’re not yet fully aware of what it is we’ve lost. Or how much.

It feels like grief.

It is grief.

And grief is a strange, wild and untamed animal. It will force untold emotion through us at any given moment, for any random reason. As we struggle with the unseen enemy we know as COVID-19, we struggle with much welling up from deep within us. Feral grief can only lead us into fear’s darkness if we do not name it, address it, and deal with it, even as we must allow the grief to happen. If not, only the ugliness of a life driven by fear awaits us.

It feels like grief.

It is grief.

This is why we must be diligent to care for our own souls as well as the souls of others in our midst. Even if it must be from a socially distant safe place. Loving God and Neighbor and Self are vitally important at this moment. Certainly, we must discover new ways to do this, in addition to rediscovering old ways, long forgotten. Still, love must win the day. Take care of each other, because grief happens.

As it does, choose hope. Choose light. Choose love.

As much as I love winter, passing years remind me that winter does not love me. Aches, pains and creaking joints intensify in direct relation to falling temperatures. I live on the edge of prairie, a mere two hour drive from the Canadian border. Winter, cold and snow are unavoidable throughout this corner of God’s Creation. It still remains true that the colder and tougher the winter, the sweeter the spring. Tastes and smells of a new season are with us now for a few weeks and newness floats along the wind.

April is that mystical time of our year when tides turn. In the motion of the Church year this is also true. Now, the drama of Holy Week unfolds and Easter brings its new-life surprise. Newness is here, beginnings abound from many endings.

The power of Easter is the force which brings death from life. Rather than a fantasy story book or fantastical movie Easter 009which only portrays death and life, what we have now is the real thing. We know death and darkness all around us. Jesus, in his innocent death, confronts all the forces contrary to God’s love. While for a moment it appears darkness has won, Jesus is vindicated with resurrected life. We too, are invited into this newness. Loss, sin, loneliness, sickness of mind or body indicate some sort of death in our existence. Through Christ we confront these deaths and look for new life. Newness is here, beginnings abound from many endings.

May this season of spring and the coming of Eastertide be for you a moment to come into God’s new life. Confront the darkness of sin and death and seek to follow the new way of light. Take time to rest, to renew in quiet stillness, reflecting on the still small voice of God. Carve out moments for devotion and prayer; maybe start by lifting up friends, family or troubled areas across the globe. Start a fresh study of Scripture—check out online resources. Mend a relationship. Help someone needy. Work for justice. Go about your day with a sense of calling to God’s good world. Go skydiving! Whatever it takes to celebrate God’s newness for you.

Winter slides now into memory and spring ushers in the sweet smell of new life. Newness is here, beginnings abound from many endings. The world so loved by the Crucified and Risen Jesus waits for you.

Accident recovery pics 043Twelve years ago today my life changed forever. A quick recap goes like this; I was a passenger in a vehicle that rolled on an interstate, I was ejected at 75 miles per hour and lay busted, broken, and for a moment, dead in a ditch. Life returned to me after a Paradise experience and the long road of recovery commenced. The list of injuries is long, many of which should have put me permanently six feet under. My neck was badly broken required the fusion of three vertebrae. The right shoulder and humerus suffered six fractures. I experienced an open-book pelvic fracture and my sacrum was in three pieces. Adding insult to injury were a concussion and several broken ribs. Still, here I am, taking nourishment and living life.

Daily existence has both its joys and struggles. Many physical capabilities and some activities are distant memories. Pain is a constant companion, and the emotional and spiritual highways bring dips and climbs and uncertain corners. I’ve learned much these twelve years about myself, the world and others. Here’s a list of twelve learning curves my experience brings me.

  1. Let people love you. This sounds simple enough, yet we humans, while craving love and care so often don’t want to need it. We’d rather not have attention which points our weakness or need. It takes an admission of our brokenness to allow someone to love and care for us. Let them. They need it. You need it. You’d do the same for them.
  2. Some people are stupid; love them anyway. Through this experience I’ve heard nearly all the well-intended dumb comments people make. From, “God intended this,” to, “here’s the invalid,” to, “so glad you’re 100%,” the words are meant to be helpful. Even if they’re idiotic. Well, so what? Deal with it and be thankful for the intended love.
  3. Pain heals. I can truly say I know what full on, total and utter pain is. Much of it improves. Similar to a loss, the sharp sting slowly fades but scars and the dregs of injury remain. Often we think we should just ‘get over’ difficult experiences. I don’t think it works that way. We learn to live with the experiences which make us who we are.
  4. Pain endures. Just as pain heals, it also endures. For myself, the lasting effects of injury arise all day, every day. Pain is my invisible and constant companion, the only variance is severity. What does one do? You go about those things that can alleviate some of the pain, and try to avoid what makes it worse. When that fails, you give thanks for all that is still good in your life.
  5. You don’t always know another’s experience, even if you think you do. Sometimes we make assumptions about others based on very little information. Yes, to ass-u-me is to make an ass out of u and me. Don’t do it. Listen carefully for the clues which may indicate what is truly going on in another’s life.
  6. Celebrate. Life is so short and can be gone in the twinkling of an eye. Take time to celebrate something each and every day. Big parties, small gatherings, and quiet moments to offer thanks are all ways to celebrate life. Grab everyAccident recovery pics 075 occasion to celebration and gratitude.
  7. Dark times come; light always wins. To this day I still experience some very dark days, even some when I wish I would have simply stayed dead in that ditch. It sure would have been easier. That darkness is horrible and really sucks life out of a person. Through it all I remain a person of hope, for it is one of the very few things stronger than fear. If darkness surrounds you, hang in there. The light will come. I am living proof of this.
  8. Medical personnel are heroes. One cannot say enough about those who serve for the healing of other. Doctors, nurses, therapists, and techs are extremely gifted people. Sure, there are a few rotten eggs out there, but give thanks for those whose toil is tireless so that health is restored.
  9. People have goodness within them. A myriad of individuals and communities proved this to me. People stopped along the side of the road to assist and comfort at the accident site. Countless people showed encouragement and love through cards, letters, emails, gifts. The number who prayed for me is immeasurable. These are humbling thoughts but also evidence of humanity’s goodness. Look for it in all your encounters. It is better and more gracious than assuming the worst.
  10. Get up, dress up, show up. This one is difficult. My physical pain is considerable each morning, and simply arising is a chore. The alternative, however, is bleak. I decided long ago that I could not slip into the abyss and merely become a spectator of life, not a participant. Daily, a conscious decision is made to engage life. There are people whom I need, some who need me and a whole world to experience.
  11. Life gets redefined; live into it. No one’s life is exactly as we planned one, two, five, ten, twenty years ago. That’s part of the wonder and excitement. So many times in this journey I’ve heard the word, “normal,” as in, “You look so normal,” or, “Glad things are back to normal.” I assure you, there’s nothing normal about this journey. If anything, we define a new-normal. We could gripe and moan about how things should be, how they were supposed to be. What good does it do? Our lives are as they are from a culmination of life experiences. Change what you can, accept what must be accepted, live into today.
  12. I have so much more to learn. This is probably the most important lesson of all. It would be wonderful to say I learned the above lessons so well that I carry out each one to be perfection. It would also be a lie. Regularly, I fail miserably at living out the lessons learned. That is an important part of life. If one realizes this there is great freedom to dust off your boots and get back at the business of living. We never know what may come our way. Learning a thing or two along the way grants and open road of a full, rich, and abundant life.

I think I’ll take the ride.

Why bothfeet?

Posted: October 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

Perhaps you’ve heard expressions such as, “living with one foot in life and the other in the grave.” It is a somewhat morbid sentiment, but I kind of like it. You see, I’ve lived my life in the in-between places, one foot in one world, one foot in another. Yet, bothfeet and both worlds make up the whole person. We live in a world where the divisions run deep; city–country, conservative–liberal, Democrat–Republican, church folks–non-church people, etc…you get the point. I see in my own experience an average person who traverses many worlds and discovers the joy and blessing of it all.

For instance, both of my parents were farm kids and their family farms were only about 15 miles from the city of my youth, (small city, but city nonetheless). Hence, I grew up in town spent half my time on the farm. Am I a farm kid or city kid? The answer is yes. For another example, at one point in my life I was a member of both the NRA and the Sierra Club. Both of whom uphold some ideals I value. (I’m no longer a member of either group). Politically, I hold some values in the Republican Party platform. Some on the Democrat’s side of the aisle are dear to me. In matters of church and faith old traditions bring deep meaning to my heart and soul. Conversely, some new thoughts, discoveries and worships styles stir my faith into action.

Now, I realize the armchair psychologists may read this and suggest intensive therapy. Yes, I’ve spent some very productive hours searching these realities for who I am and what it means for the living of my life. At the same time, I’m not always so sure my experiences are that far off from much of America. Four years ago, the presidential race introduced us to Joe the Plumber. This time around both candidates fight for the middle class, claiming their respective administrations will offer the best for us in the middle. Interesting.

So now, bothfeetblog is born. Here is a place where ideas will be shared about common occurrences, where ideas about faith and everyday life will arise. Living with bothfeet, even if alone they seem to be in opposing worlds, can be a great place to ride through this existence.