100°

 

Summertime.

 

 

North Carolina.

 

 

Heat … oppressive heat.

 

 

I am spending a long weekend at Dad’s here in sweltering North Carolina. It is so smothering it always makes me wonder why on God’s earth would anyone settle in these parts before there was air conditioning?

 

 

I came down to lend a hand with some projects around the house that Dad can’t do anymore at his age. Now, if these projects were indoors I doubt that Dad would really need my help. After all, he does have central air conditioning!

 

 

No, these projects would require a lot of time outdoors … in the heat … in the humidity. There was a storm a little while back and there was a lot of fallen tree limbs and debris in the back yard; the back yard is quite large and runs about 50 yards from the house to the river bank. The debris was close to the river and had to be cut up, gathered and hauled to the front of the house and piled near the street. Back breaking, sweaty work with many long trips back and forth.

 

 

Given the heat advisory of over 100° (yes, I picked the hottest weekend of the year to visit), it was essential to life and limb that I start out in the cool of the morning. So, I began. The back yard was sheltered from the sun on account of the tall pine and ash trees. I was thankful for the shade for it provided at least a 10° temperature relief for some of the work but the shade was little consolation for the misery that the humidity brought.

 

 

Although the back yard was shady I was not so fortunate for half of my journey dragging limbs and brush to the street. The front of the house provided nowhere to hide from the already blitering heat. So with each trip the shirt and shorts become more drenched in sweat. With each trip the sun beat down with increasing intensity as the morning wore on. By Noon, the job was done and I was spent.

 

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I cooled off down by the river with a cold drink in the hopes it would revive me. By the river there was not only shade but also a cool breeze blowing in off the water. I felt myself returning to life but that was not to last as I still had to walk back to the house. Walking back to the house, the refreshment was short-lived and was replaced by the oppressive oven of heat a mere 10 yards from the river. The only air moving at this point was the incessant vibration in the air caused by the cicadas singing their summer song and the buzz of the countless dragon flies. It felt like someone had thrown a hot, wet, wool blanket over me.

 

 

I never really understood why people in the South moved so slow; I understand that I’m from New York and everything we do – talk, eat, move, think – is fast but Southern life always seemed to move in slow motion to me. I didn’t get it … until today. During the summertime in the South there isn’t much activity in the heat of the day. Even with air conditioning things slow down, way down, in the sweltering heat and humidity. I didn’t really understand why until I had to work in that heat today. It wasn’t until today that I understood the method to their madness. The slow-down was a matter of survival in the steamy heat of the Southern summertime. If you’re foolish enough to be working in that heat you won’t last for very long in this world.  I mean, there’s a very good reason the song “Summertime” is sung at such a slow pace!

 

 

So I got to thinking; if I could learn a little something about someone else’s culture and customs and get some insight into their way of life perhaps I could understand them a little better. I don’t think it’s enough to be tolerant of others (although that’s a start). Maybe we have to better understand where each other is coming from, walk in their shoes, to understand them a little deeper; understand the environment, understand the customs, understand the beliefs and behaviors.

 

 

Taking the time and making the effort to understand someone just might make us more human, make us act better toward each other and maybe, just maybe, allow us to see just how similar we are to one another. Instead of out-shouting each other we could learn to respect each other because we’d be able to recognize that there is no “other” there’s only “us”.

 

 

I think we could use that around here.

 

Stormy Weather

Calm seas do not a skillful sailor make. – Old Proverb

Life is not dull, is it? We are each of us faced with innumerable (and sometimes never-ending) challenges every day – some small, some big.  Thank the good Lord there are challenges!  Can you imagine how stunted our lives would be without some adversity, without some hill to climb? 15645758187_d6ba340168_m

Oh, for sure, there are days when I relish the peace and serenity afforded to me by those rare days of “laziness” and “calm”.  But too many of those days and we begin to go a little loco, yes?  They say that variety is the spice of life. Shake things up. Do something different, Try new things. Challenge yourself.  Push those boundaries.  Growth comes out of those experiences.

Sometimes life throws us those challenges when it is inconvenient.  Seriously, is it ever really “convenient” to face adversity? Not really. Sometimes, those opportunities for growth leave me gasping for breath and feeling overwhelmed.  When I have a chance to regroup, I roll up my sleeves and get to it to the best of my ability.  Yes, those challenges can be terrifying when they demand that I step outside my comfort zone and take the leap. Invariably I learn a little more about myself in each of this episodes.  I learn that I can get to the other side of situations, tough and not so tough; I learn how to navigate through those storms, should they arise again, and guide my “life” boat to safety.

15524633193_cc6f05b90c_mIf I only experience doldrums at sea, only fair weather, I become unprepared when the storms arrive. Absent those storms I don’t know what I am capable under a given set of circumstances.  If I don’t use the tools in my toolbox, it won’t be long before they get rusty and dull.  If I don’t exercise my wits, my physical strength or my spiritual principles … they atrophy!

That being said, I struggle with applying spiritual principles on a consistent basis in my daily life.  I forget that I have patience, empathy, tolerance, serenity and others like them in my life toolbox   The application of spiritual principles does not depend on time or circumstance!  I fail and I fail often at this.  I stumble in consistently moving forward toward being a better man.  I fall short of being a better father to my sons (who try my patience at times).  I miss the mark at being more affectionate with my wife.  I lose my perspective, my patience and my cool … a lot!  It’s frustrating!!!!

Thank God for 12-step programs and the life tools embodied in those steps.  It is the progress, the incremental movement forward, not the attainment of perfection that matters.  I fail only if I don’t get back up from falling.  I only have today and each day presents a new opportunity to move forward, a new opportunity to make this place a little better for my having been here.15210355055_912c2ae555_m

I am not a loser for failing, for falling.  It just makes me human.

For a great read on success/failure check out this little article: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/fail-better/7465#.VUFn55P8r2a

Ecce Homo

HumanityHu`man´i`ty (noun) – The quality of being human; the peculiar nature of man, by which he is distinguished from other beings.

As a Christian I spend most of my spiritual life focusing on the divine nature of Jesus the Christ; Jesus as the Son of God; Jesus as the Redeemer. However, over the past few days the thematic messages I’ve been reading and hearing have focused not on His divinity but rather on His humanity. I think we Christians tend to gloss over that side of Him and I think that when we do that we do a disservice to us and to Him. After all, isn’t part of the draw of Christianity that our Savior was a human being just like us, experiencing hunger, weariness, pain, joy, sorrow and laughter, and not some god from another realm who can’t relate to what we go through?

So I’d like to take a little time to look at the humanity of Jesus.tumblr_mxr6b1Z5uu1svymsmo1_1280

Jesus liked to have a good time. He did. He enjoyed parties, feasts and weddings. He appreciated the opportunities to celebrate being alive. He preferred hanging out with regular people all throughout his recorded journeys. He relished conversations that revealed truths about us and God. He enjoyed meeting people where they were, getting to know them and talking to them about a better way of life; a life living in harmony with God’s intended purpose. He really enjoyed and appreciated the tastes, the smells, the sounds, the sights and the beauty of life.

He also knew the darker side of existence as a human being – the pain, the loneliness, the anguish and, I believe, the fears that come with the territory. Jesus knew heartache and grief. He knew the depths of sorrow when we lose a loved one. He sobbed and He wept, along with Mary, Martha and others, over the death of his friend Lazarus. He knew that the path He was on would lead to an agonizing, torturous, painful death and He was, in my opinion, afraid of that. Who wouldn’t be? He said in the garden,“Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” When I read that I hear: “If there is any other way, ANY other way, we can do this let’s do that.” Yet despite His fear and trepidation, He mustered up all his courage and moved forward to Golgotha. He knew what was at stake.

He felt separation and loneliness. “My God, my God! Why have You forsaken me.” For me, this is the ultimate demonstration of Christ’s humanity. Up until this point He had the perfect relationship with God: communion of body, spirit and mind. Up until that moment, dying a slow, agonizing death on the cross, He had experienced all the same emotions, struggles, successes and temptations as you and I – except for one. It was at that moment, I believe, that Christ understood what it was like for us to be separated from God; to feel like God was on the other side of the universe. He understood what it was like to shout “Hello? Is anyone out there?” and to be answered with a deafening silence. At that moment He understood that He was going to have to endure death and cross over … alone.tumblr_mqgh58Qi7A1qbdz7ko5_1280

Good Friday is fast approaching and the focus is on the events leading up to and during the crucifixion of Christ. From the Last Supper through the Betrayal through the scourging and beating through the Denial right up to the base of the cross, the focus is on Jesus’ final hours on earth. Even while He is hanging from the cross the focus is on Jesus. And rightly so. Yet, just as He is experiencing the ultimate in human suffering and death there are others in the story and they have their struggles with their humanity.

The disciples, his crew, his main guys, cut and ran in the garden after the betrayal. Peter denied even knowing Him when confronted by the slightest sign of trouble. Even John, the one that Jesus loved, was on the outside looking in during His scourging and beating. He is alone – his friends are cowering in fear.

Then there is His mother, Mary. She is there, staring in disbelief, in horror, at the spectacle unfolding before her. She is standing at the base of the cross looking up at a man who is beaten so badly that she can barely recognize her son. I cannot begin to wrap my head around what it was like for her to witness the brutal beating and horrific death of her son. I don’t know that she really understood Jesus’ divinity anymore than the disciples did. She witnessed the miracles He performed and heard His teachings but I can imagine her thinking “This is not how I thought this was going to go. There must be some mistake. Any moment now his legions will rescue him. How can this be happening? Was what I was told nothing but fiction and lies?” To Mary, this was her boy. This was her sweet, innocent boy. How13930527164_6a834bcdbf_z many times did she bandage a scraped knee? How many times did she wipe away His tears? How many times did they share supper together? “Look what have they done to my little boy!” Her heartache and anguish is unimaginable and unmeasurable. There is nothing she can do to alleviate His suffering. She is powerless. She cannot stroke His hair and wipe away His tears. She cannot protect Him from death. She cannot hold Him in her arms and rock Him to sleep. She cannot comfort Him. She cannot take His place. She is His mother and the tears just wont stop falling and her heart will never stop aching. She is relegated to holding His broken, lifeless body while she weeps in sorrow and agony.

Ecce homo.” These are the words uttered by Pontius Pilate as he presented a beaten and scourged Jesus to the crowd in the square, just before sending Him off to die by crucifixion.

Behold the man.”