This morning, I filled the sugar bowl. It was amazing. I paused for a moment, reveling in the luxury of having the time to spend on such a simple thing. A month ago, I would have let it sit empty for days —- possibly weeks. I would have chugged my morning coffee with a little extra creamer, telling myself, “I’ll get to it later, when I have enough time,” knowing full well that I would never have enough time.
We often say, “I love Jesus.” But how often do you hear, how often do you say, “I like Jesus”?
I remember a number of years ago, I was working in a storage warehouse at the university I was teaching at with one of my work study students. We were going through boxes trying to find something when a storm came through. We didn't even know there was a storm because there weren't any windows — we were completely dependent on lightbulbs for light. And then those lights went out. And it was dark. It was really dark.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent. Countless Christians around the world will receive ashes in the shape of a cross on their forehead to mark the beginning of this time of reflection and repentance. Yet, for those who do not observe the season, this can look an awful lot like legalistic rule keeping or, even worse, an attempt to receive outward praise for superficial humility.
Early in the baseball season last year, I heard a curious commercial on the radio. It was talking about a man rejected by his friends and suddenly ended with “He Gets Us. All of Us.” A few more airings and I realized it was a series of ads about Jesus, describing how his experiences on earth were like our own. Like Jesus Himself, the ads have managed to anger a wide variety of different folks. Jesus gets us, but once again, we struggle to get Him.
Most people love to revisit certain stories at Christmastime. In fact, my friend Dennis E. Powell revisits a beloved Christmas story of his in this week’s the View from Mudsock Heights column, which struck me as I had been thinking a great deal about revisited stories this week thanks to what had occupied my time ahead of Christmas. We need to hear stories told and told again; they give meaning and shape how we understand life.
Was it the pandemic? Or has society’s decline increased in velocity? Or is it just me? Christmas is close, but it doesn’t feel like it. Some of that has to do with the pandemic, I suppose, at least around here. The vague sense of being under siege remains, and the Christmas music doesn’t seem to have returned to stores, broadcasts, and elsewhere.
Tuesday was the day that got designated for me to bring in the car, which was damaged September 7 by a deer that wanted to cosplay a hood ornament. It took 10 weeks because it seems as though many people have settled upon leisurely lives following the pandemic, and because our system is currently arranged so that we have a surfeit of experts in vague areas ending in “-studies” and a shortage of people who can actually do things.
Sweat dripped into his eyes. He felt his breathing quicken as the enemy forces crested the ridge to the south, moving inexorably toward him. The sword in his hand felt ponderous. He gripped it so tightly his knuckles went numb, as he willed himself to focus on the thrill of battle over the heaviness of fear. Could he wield his weapon, when the time came? Would it be enough? Would his training be enough?
It was beautiful. It was sweet-smelling. It was deadly. For quite some time, I had ignored lovely, white-flowered vine that had begun to entwine its way around my backyard fence. Gardening has never been a hobby of mine. In contrast to my mother —- who has been known to happily steward anything from ferns to palm trees, bringing them tenderly back from the brink of death and into lush contentment —- my thumbs have always been decidedly mahogany.