31 January 2007

Can You Tell It's Midwinter?

My desk is getting crowded again. Were it not for a meeting in twenty minutes I could make some headway. Lying. I always think of something more important first.

Grateful that there was some article/report recently in praise of the clutter, or at least suggesting that there is some correlation between the empty desk/empty mind principle.

Cold got colder, and is heading down from here. Air feels cold the moment you go outside. It bites. Amen to that.

Have a leak in my roof, discovered with some ice melted last week and drips fell from a doorway and later in a cabinet. The problem is who is responsible. I know I am, but last year I had a lot of roof replaced because of the roof damage last March. The leak is below it, but it is also very near to the wall that separates that section from the main house. The contractor said the roof he laid on was fine. The leak came from the upper roof and was slipping down behind the soffitts or eaves or flashing or something. Whatever it was, it was not something he did.

So I called the roofing contractor I made a contract with on Oct 1, three months ago with the promise that they work through the winter. I was a bit annoyed, thinking that if he had been there earlier this would not have happened. But he comes and examines the problem and tells me it IS the new roof at fault because it was not laid down right.

Now what to do. Do I need a third opinion? How long will this go on, with extra snow coming daily of course. And you thought I was gloomy before.

Good news is that we are healthy. The bills are paid. The heat is on (and on and on) and I am not in Darfur, Baghdad, or New Orleans. There is money in the bank. Take a breath.

You too.

25 January 2007

No January Thaw

So I am standing in the large drafty narthex of my church last Sunday.  The doors are opening and closing and I am cold from all the drafts.  Except that a large heating vent is blasting to compensate, which means I am too hot on one side and too cold on another.  A sensation I remember from my camping days and still as unpleasant now as it was then.

Winter is not my season – too cold¸ too dark, too windy, too dirty.  It takes more energy to walk anywhere, more time and more effort.  My car is filthy.  My shoes are filthy.  The entryway from my back porch is filthy.  My hair (all over) bristles with static electricity.  My clothes stick to me when I take them off, peeling away with a creepy crackle that makes my skin crawl.  And even though the days are longer, which is a true encouragement, the sun still waits until 8 a.m.  It is quite black when I rise and stays that way for some time.  

And my mood is equally dark, forgive the expression.  Like you couldn’t tell.  The hardest part of West Michigan, well one of the hardest parts for me, is winter because on top of all this which is the same anywhere north of Pittsburgh, we have the lowest amount of sunshine of anyplace because of our beloved lake.  Cold weather from the west or northwest streams over the lake, picking up moisture.  At the least is provides us with a reliable blanket of clouds, and often with a daily dusting of snow.  Lake effect is the name for this sort of snow.  Those closer to the lake can get really plastered, but we are only twenty-some miles inland.  Last week we had some sort of snow almost every day.  

Today was sunny, because the weather came the north.  That also made in very cold, never above 20.  we really should go Celsius as – 6 more nearly represents the sensation on the skin.  The ice hardened so even the cakes attached to car flaps now gripped them hard.  I guiltily enjoy kicking those slushsicles from cars as I cross parking lots.  It’s my little retaliation on winter, but today even they would not budge.

We ended official mourning for our dead president today.  The flag clung to the pole and had to up and down twice to unsnag it along the way.  My son’s scout troop was there to salute and fold.  I could only think of how cold they have to be in their shirtsleeves and bare hands.  The bugler botched a note or two, no surprise in this weather as any brass player knows.  A few hardy souls watched and wondered as it took ten instead of five minutes.  Sunset is nearly complete.  A meeting beckons.  Time for me to unsnag and get moving.

13 January 2007

The Gospel of Harold Hill

Long ago, when I was maybe twelve, perhaps even less, I discovered a problem.  When one is busy and happy and engaged times flies.  When one is sad or bored or frightened time lags.  You knew this too when you were young.  Nothing remarkable here.  Until I realized that meant a happy life would be shorter than an unhappy one, subjectively.  And as death was the ultimate horizon, after which all bets were off, hurrying there was stupid.  So the happier I am in life, the shorter than life would be.  Of course a longer sadder life was hardly worth seeking, unless the oblivion of death is worse.  Which it could be.

I was a difficult child.  

A trait I have passed to my own sons, who have a talent for introspection, howbeit differently deployed.  Today was one where all three of us had reflective moments, verging on episodes, which made it a hard day.  

My elder son is struggling with the hard realities of post college life, meaning all the choices he sees have a downside as well as an upside.  Nothing in that analysis I can dispute, but he is not yet resigned to those compromises with reality adulthood requires.  

My younger son is fighting the reality that he cannot excel at all things and will inevitably be measured by his lagging parts not his leading parts.  Instead of life in general exacting costs, it is his inability to keep up with his own dreams that afflicts him.  

I generalize so as not to reveal their actual words and thoughts.  These were themes I extracted from their words.  Silently, I added my own laments – chiefly that I did not find some way to spare them this burden of self consciousness.  

It has taken me half my life of over a century to fight myself free of its tentacular powers to depress.  Even now, I can drift into anomie as readily as most can take a nap.  My strategy has been to cultivate a compensating hopefulness.  The former is innate, the latter is learned.  I have to try to be positive and mean it.  

A lesson in faith, friends.  Those with natural hope have an easier time of life, no question.  But they live less of it.  We who have to build a house of hope with our mental and emotional hands know exactly what faith is because we made it.  Like those who earn their wealth as opposed to those who inherit it, we are less relaxed about life but we really treasure it.  in the end, the sadder but wiser faith is a better one.  

12 January 2007

Hat in Hand

Abject apologies for neglecting you for so long.  Actually taking a holiday means deferring work not evading it.  And as you noted from my last post, it was more than usually busy in those remaining days.  

Even so, I completely forgot to drop a line after the first of the year.  Partly that was due to creating a new sermon series in which I realized there is a dynamic complementarity between profession and confession.  This dawned on me as I was reading a fine new biography of Augustine of Hippo.  He arrived with his Confessions, after which we began a long career of professions.

Thinking hard about that, and how writing is itself a spiritual discipline, the series of sermons I planned for this winter and spring were all profession and no confession.  So I am endeavoring to pair the two modes, digging out my own spiritual and moral foundations as I proceed to build a structure from the excavated hole.  

This has taken quite a bit of brain space, crowding out other writing.  I do hope it will not supplant this blog, but you may prefer to head over to my neglected blog, “Letters to a Young Christian,” to see this unfolding effort.

We seem to be on the verge of true winter, having endured only the onslaught of holidays and presidential demise.  Sharply colder weather is coming this weekend.  I expect drier skin and crackly hair.  I suppose if skied or skated winter would be more welcome.  As it is, I anticipate padding along icy sidewalks, suffering face blasting winds and regular decorations of lake effect snow.  There’s a reason the acronym for seasonal affective disorder is SAD.

Go gently, friends, and try not to slip on the ice in life.