This morning the pastor began his sermon by quoting my favorite Psalm;
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
He had my attention. Then the reverend told the story of a logger challenging another to a contest of chopping down trees. “The one with the most chopped wood at the end is the winner.” The challenged accepted and they met the following morning at dawn. The challenger yelled; “Go!” and began swinging his axe with all his might and at great speed. The challenged swung his axe at a steady, but slower, rate. The challenger went as hard as he could all morning, ate a short lunch, and then resumed his feverish pace until the sunset. He knew he had won. How could he not? His speed, strength, and stamina were unmatched by the challenged. In fact, during the day, when he’d stop to wipe his brow, it seemed every time he looked the other logger was sitting down and resting. However, when both men looked at the two piles the challenger was flabbergasted and admitted his opponent’s pile of wood was bigger than his. “How could that be?” he asked. “I worked longer, stronger and faster!” “True,’ said the winner; ‘but when I rested I was sharpening my axe.”
A simple but important lesson. Sometimes we are so fixated on “what we have to do!” that we forget to rest. We are overworked and overwhelmed. What we need is rest. Rest restores the body, mind, and spirit. In our culture, resting is frowned upon. This is because we’ve forgotten the difference between being at rest and being lazy.
Today I had the privilege and duty to be a part of the memorial service for my father. It’s been surreal the last few days. So many errands to run, items to check off on a list, places to go, people to see. There’s been a sense of urgency, a nervous energy, a controlled chaos, riding a wave of sorrow and speed. Because of the hectic pace of the last several days, I stood on the stage behind the pulpit at the service this afternoon with no notes, and no structure to the stories and experiences I wanted to share.
Words, they’ve flooded my mind and soul since Dad passed. Words from family and friends who care and are sorry for our loss. Words that go into an obituary, on a card for flowers, in a service program and used in phone calls, emails, and texts. So many words used to describe the love a family has for one who is, was, the central fixed, point.
Now, standing behind the pulpit at the memorial service today, I had no notes, no words written, no solid ideas, memories swarming in my head but none coming in for a landing. How do you choose the right words to convey the meaning of a life which impacted many people? In the pantheon of phrases, how do you pick out those which will express the purpose of a life lived well?
A deep breath, a small prayer, and … share my heart, open my lips, loosen my tongue and let the words come. No, they will not be adequate. No, they will not be perfect. Yes, there will be second-guessing and memories that are forgotten to be shared.
Words. They are not, and cannot contain the heart’s cry of longing and loneliness or succinctly express the fondness, the love, the good of being apart from a person you love. This is okay. Living, being, existing, is more than words, deeper than condolences, greater than expressions of sympathy and sadness.
Living should be beyond our ability to communicate it easily if it is done well.
a Visit –
Last night, before letting the dog outside for its last chance to do some business my wife asked me if I could bring two Christmas Cactuses in the house. The temperatures were supposed to be dropping into the 30’s and she wanted to make sure they weren’t harmed. I grabbed the flashlight and opened the door. The dog ran out quickly and grabbing the first of the Christmas cactuses to bring inside I was handing it to my wife when a small bird flew out of the pot and into the house. My wife surmised this wasn’t a situation she was comfortable with feeling certain the bird wanted to nest in her hair and bolted for the living room. I picked up two mesh hats and tried to corral and capture the scared and fast-moving critter. It wasn’t easy but after a few moments, I noticed it kept heading back to the door where it came in. I propped open the door and was able to guide it to the opening and away it flew. “Whew!” Way too much excitement for that late at night.
As I chased the bird around the kitchen, mud room, and laundry room I wondered how ridiculous I looked trying to catch a bird, without harming it, with two mesh caps and my obvious lack of speed and agility. I also reflected on the unpredictability of life and how we can find ourselves so quickly in a situation we wouldn’t have dreamed of before it happens to us. Then, without warning, the unexpected comes swooping into our lives, and we are forced to deal with it.
Life is many things but none of them are boring. Thankfully, the troubles and challenges also, sooner or later, take flight and we’re left to ponder; “What’s next?”
On Saturday I posted about the knee problems I’ve been having and the steroid shots I received to try to alleviate the pain and inflammation (Crawl. Walk. Run. https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/05/14/crawl-walk-run/).
The good news is that my right knee feels better but my left one is still very sore and walking is laborious. After emerging from my confinement, doctor’s orders were to keep off of my legs for the weekend, I noticed the grass had not stopped growing just because I couldn’t mow it as I usually do on Friday and Saturday. My knee was too swollen to mow on Monday but yesterday I made the decision that the grass had to be cut or we’d be overrun! I rubbed some anti-inflammatory cream on the affected area, took a couple of Advil, strapped on a knee brace and proceeded. It didn’t go smoothly, was difficult but the job got done.
One of benefits of having a self-propelled lawn mower is that it doesn’t require much pushing, mostly guiding. Usually I press the lever, hold on and walk behind it, wishing its speed was faster. Tuesday evening was a different story. Because my gait is shorter and more awkward I had trouble keeping up with the mower when the self propel was activated.
As I hobbled along behind the mower I reflected on the pace of life. There are days, seasons when it doesn’t move fast enough and others when it flies by too quickly. It would be great to be able to control its speed to fit with our liking. Wisdom teaches us the key is to accept its speed as best we can and embrace the truth that life moves at its own pace with or without our ability to keep up.
Crawl. Walk. Run.
A couple of weeks ago I shared; “My Depression and Anxiety Story” (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/04/27/my-depression-and-anxiety-story/) after I had gone on my first run in over two years.
My goal was simple. I would run/walk as often as my physical and mental health would let me. Knowing it would take time to build strength and endurance I took days off and did my best to pace myself. It was important that I didn’t push too hard so I tried to be careful not to strain or sprain anything. However, after two weeks, I noticed both knees were beginning to hurt and by Wednesday of this week I couldn’t walk without severe pain and there were times I thought about crawling from my office to the truck or from the couch to the kitchen. On Friday I went to the doctor and she noticed there was swelling on both knees and we made the decision for me to receive one steroid injection in each leg. Following the shots the physical therapist told me; “Stay off your legs as much as possible until Sunday afternoon. The less you are on your feet the more potent the steroid will be to the injured areas.” So, on a beautiful weekend, I am stuck on the couch. “Ugh!”
Long journeys never seem to abide with our plans. Doing my best to follow the doctor’s advice the last couple of days I’ve had time to reflect on this long journey with Depression and Anxiety. Much like dealing with knee difficulties there have been days with depression and anxiety when all I could do was sit despondently and watch the world go by. Other days I’ve crawled along the path. Most days I walk, albeit slowly, and one day I hope to be able to mentally run on my journey toward recovery.
Wisdom teaches us to crawl, walk then run. Whatever we do, wherever we go, there is a pace, a rhythm. One must be in sync to find and navigate the path towards wholeness and healing.
On my journey with these diseases I cannot dictate the speed. Instead I must accept that each day will be unique and sometimes stillness is the only way forward.
On my way to the office this morning I ended up behind an elderly woman who was driving slow, really slow. We were on a two-way road with no passing lanes and though I was in a hurry she was not. 35 MPH in a 45 MPH was her chosen speed as we ambled down the road. We approached a major intersection, the traffic light was green and I anticipated getting through it in time. However, the creeping driver decelerated and the light turned red. Argh! To add insult to injury the woman navigated into a turning lane and instantly received a green arrow. “Sigh.” I watched her continue on her way as I just sat there.
After an exaggerated, exasperated, exhaled breath, I inhaled deeply and was reminded that we have little choice over the pace of life. Our journey has its own timing and unfolds incrementally, one stage, one season at a time. Wisdom teaches us to accept life’s speed and our powerlessness to make it go faster or slower.