Friday, October 28, 2011

Thoughts on Eccl. 8:15

"I commend the enjoyment of life!"

Life that is enjoyed is carried over in work and all of one's days.
It's important to enjoy life;
It is precious.
Life itself is reason to be glad.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Send Forth Good Works

Cast your bread upon the waters and after many days it’ll return to you. Eccl. 11:1
The image of the sea and the tide coming in, takes me back to the great oceans I’ve seen and the interminable ebb and flow of the water. From the waves of the North Sea crashing upon the cliffs below Tantallon’s  ruins to the calm flow of the Mediterranean lapping along the Cinque Terre in midsummer, the water continually churns up in a cycle of carrying out and bringing in.
The oceans have always held an awesome wonder for me, probably because I’ve always lived quite landlocked. There’s just something soothing to my ears in the rhythmic flow, something restful to my eyes in the distant gaze where the water brushes the sky. There’s powerful enticement in water too blue to imagine—both dangerous and comforting.
And so, the writer of Ecclesiastics instructs us to send forth good works upon life’s sea—and watch in anticipation for their return. It is the joy of an old one’s soul to see their return after many ages. And who’s to say they won’t return again and again?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Winter Is Coming

I was washing windows this morning. Whenever I wash windows, I can’t help but remember the “old” windows. I washed the old windows exactly twice in almost 20 years. The last time I washed the old windows was a week when my parents were here. They’d brought their trailer and had taken the kids half way up the mountain to a camping spot. Dad’s truck wasn’t made to pull trailers over mountains, and half way was as far as he dared to go.
Since Mom and Dad had the kids, it seemed like a good time for Jay and me to wash windows, and so we did. They were horrible windows that should never have been invented, aluminum with storm windows attached. Jay washed the outside while I washed the inside, breaking nails and pinching fingers while trying to pry open the worthless storms that didn’t keep out the cold during the severe winters that we used to have anyway. I think we thought we could knock them out in a day and then join everyone else camping. It took longer than we thought, much longer.
I think we washed windows for three days. It seemed like the whole week. It was foolishness on our part. Those were lean years when I saw my parents very little. I think I was bitter, and I never forgave the windows. And I never washed them again, ever! Oh, I would Windex them on the inside, but they were never again actually washed.
Years later, after all of our kids graduated from college, we purchased new windows. We spared little expense since the plan is to live in this house far into our doting old age. The new windows are vinyl and double paned; all on the second floor can be washed from the inside, and it only takes a couple of hours if I’m swishing right along. When we first got the new windows, I think I washed them every month right up till cold weather. I must have felt like I needed to make up for all those lost window washing years. After a couple of summers, I decided that was ridiculous. People who are conscientious about their windows do them no more than twice a year. But, when I wash them, I always remember the old ones and how I wished I’d only washed them once.
Winter is coming both literally and metaphorically, and I do want to be ready. I just happen to believe that washing the windows has very little to do with it…especially if as predicted it snows on Wednesday, in which case I hope it comes from the north—the side of the house with no windows.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sometimes Life Doesn't Turn Out the Way We Planned

One of my favorite old movies is While You Were Sleeping. I remember first seeing it at an early showing with my friend Geri, whose wedding is coming up next month. It starts and ends with Lucy saying, “Sometimes life just doesn’t turn out the way you planned.”
I was so reminded of that today when I was talking to my friend Shannon who has just returned from a trip with her son to her cousin’s home in California. Their trip included a day at Disneyland that was beyond “magical,” in a negative sense of the word. With the typical heat and madness of a busy day at Disney, including a potty training faux pas, being vomited on, and totally bewildering the Disney staff, she said it was more like a “comedy of errors” —an experience that they’ll all laugh about long into old age.
And it’s true: Life often doesn’t turn out the way we plan. Sometimes that’s weighty, —with illness, pain, and rejection. Sometimes it’s wonderful, like Geri’s upcoming wedding. And, sometimes it’s just Disney beyond belief. If we live long enough, we get to experience some of each.
Right now, I know people struggling with the hardest things life can send our way and others on top of the world. Most days, thankfully, I live in-between. It’s a good reminder for me to appreciate the mundane—the day-to-day work of teaching kids, grading papers, and walking and eating with Jay each night. To still be mesmerized by the first snow on the Peak, even after 23 years of living in Colorado Springs; to be elated over a baby’s first tooth; to smile and be smiled back at. To know that even when life is dismal, it is still good.
At the end of the movie, Lucy reiterates: “Yes, life doesn’t always turn out the way we’d planned.” Sometimes that’s regretful; sometimes it isn’t. Either way, life is a gift.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Living Intentionally

Callie and Elliott live intentionally. From the moment their eyes pop open in the morning to when they gather their entourage of babies, toys, and computers to take to bed, they are busy, busy… busy concentrating on the “task” at hand.
There’s something to be said about focusing on the task at hand. Women pride themselves at multitasking, but there’s a difference between getting things done and actually experiencing them. I’ve been thinking a lot of late that maybe experiencing a few things is better than doing a lot of things.
Admittingly, I’m not very good at this. Even as I wrote this journal, I paused to take the potatoes off the stove and flip over the meat in the skillet. Then, I added a few lines in the Home Depot parking lot while waiting for Jay. That’s definitely not how I like to write.
If I were to tell you how many papers I’ve graded since the beginning of school and how many more I’ll grade before the quarter ends in two weeks, how many quarts of grape juice I’ve made, tomatoes and pickles I’ve canned, and apples and peaches put in the freezer, that might sound impressive. But in reality I often need to spend more time with Jay than what I do. I need to sit and write because I just need to. I need to pick the last of the roses before the winter’s frost and stop long enough to look at them.
I like to can and I have to grade papers, but sometimes I just need to know when to stop. Jay saved me from myself today by taking the rest of the grapes to school and giving them away.
Another thing about little girls—Callie and Elliott don’t generally spend a long time on any one activity—unless you’re reading them Fancy Nancy books. Then, when night comes, they gather their stuff, throw you kisses and climb the stairs to bed. God gave us dark because He knew we needed rest. We need to be careful how much of that we rob in the name of “doing.” He gave us cool, autumn days to take in before it’s destroyed and made anew next spring. I want to do a better job at living intentionally—even if that means putting aside some things.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything