So Much Time

December 24, 2021

“It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do. It’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”

A foggy Christmas Eve

The photo was taken this morning in northern Illinois. Actually this shouldn’t deter Rudolf and Santa, since the song talks about evening. But, still, this Christmas Eve began warm and foggy for the end of December in the US north.

Everyone who has waited until the last day to purchase those Christmas gifts will be delayed this morning.

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in America the Christmas season is less about Advent and more about having too much to do in too little time. Parties, family dinners, meet friends, prepare and mail cards, purchase the best gifts. When Christmas comes we are not celebrating, we are exhausted.

Maybe we should absorb more of the wisdom of the quote I found. Maybe we choose to pack too many things into the limited amount of time. How about chucking most of it and just relaxing and enjoying?

The Final Approach

December 23, 2021

The airplane has reached the vicinity of Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The pilot not actually flying the plane on this leg speaks on the intercom. “We’re in our final approach to O’Hare. Flight attendants please take your seats…”

Things get quiet. You wait. And wait. That final approach feels like time has been suspended and half of the trip is just this final approach.

[I’m sorry. At this point, I cannot get the chorus lyrics of Europe’s eminently bad hard rock song The Final Countdown out of my head.]

Two days before Christmas. This is the final approach. It seems like forever. On the other hand, the pressure of not enough time for gift purchasing and wrapping and meal planning and ingredient buying and last visits.

Maybe our bodies and minds remind us to pause, breathe, refocus on the object of the long approach. The arriving. It is the re-living of the moment of awareness of Jesus entering our world. And remembering the changes following him wrought in our daily living.

Intelligence is Scarce

December 22, 2021

Om Malik writes primarily about technology. I’ve followed his writing for more than 20 years. I appreciate his sensitivity and thinking. While researching on the Web regarding the Omicron variation of the SARS-CoV2 virus, he observed, “Information is plentiful; intelligence is scarce.”

Writing today on his blog 300 Words a Day and quoting from his book Saint John of the Mall (I love Jon’s imagination), he wrote this conversation with John the Evangelist, “That gives me theological whiplash,” I said. “What did Jesus say?” “Throughout that time, he was simply saying who he was. But because they were listening to him a phrase at a time and not a paragraph at a time, they were getting distracted, getting stuck.”

Going to rock solid source material and reading “a paragraph at a time” fosters intelligence. Reading spiritual writing watching for the working of the spirit builds on the momentum.

The celebration of Christmas is only a few days away. Advent, the time of preparation for the birth, is drawing to a close. Are you prepared? Have you read again the stories in Luke or John about the coming of Jesus. Not read just a phrase at a time, but read as a complete story?

Pause for a time each remaining day and read for intelligence. Prepare.

Solstice

December 21, 2021

The solstice is a point in time when things flip. Ancient people even laid out their villages with stakes that would show the movement of the sun marking the seasons. By four days after the winter solstice, they could tell that the days were getting longer. Warm weather was coming. It was a reason for celebration.

Today is winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. Many are celebrating a “longest night” worship tonight. A recognition of the hardships and grief encountered in the past year and the hope of better things to come.

My wife and I can’t say that we’ve had hardship and grief. Life is different moving to a new community in the pandemic. She has forged a small social connection with the women in our cul-de-sac. I have none. All my contacts are long distance.

Still, we moved about 200 miles north. So the days are almost an hour shorter here than where we came from. I think that has some impact on us. I’m reading more detective fiction than normal.

It is no coincidence that Christmas comes at that point in the northern hemisphere calendar when the days are noticeably longer bringing hope for better days. Christmas is the celebration of the coming of Jesus also bringing hope for better days. To all the literalist Biblical interpreters out there—no, this is not a birthday celebration in the sense that we mark the day of our birth. This is not Jesus birthday. But it is a celebration of a birth that totally changed the world.

And we pray it changes us—for the better.

Pursuit of Wisdom

December 20, 2021

Wisdom is the perfect good of the human mind; philosophy is the love of wisdom, and the endeavor to attain it. The latter strives toward the goal which the former has already reached.

Seneca

The Christian Bible contains a significant amount of wisdom literature to complement history and prophecy. Check out the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew Scriptures, for example. In the Christian part, check out especially James, but also Peter and some of Paul. Jesus’ teachings often come from Proverbs and other wisdom teaching.

Taking an aside—we are approaching the end of the year. A good way to start your new year is to read the Proverbs throughout January. 31 chapters, 31 days, a chapter a day. A solid foundation for the new year.

This concept from Seneca intrigues me. I would translate it from his first century experience and point-of-view and language like so: God is the perfect good of the universe; contemplation and service show the love of God; following Jesus is the endeavor to live in oneness with God.

This formulation leaves something to be desired. Yet, I think it captures my attempts to verbalize this concept of loving God and desiring to live in the Spirit.

In this final countdown to Christmas this year, let us live with anticipation of the coming of God to the world.

All Heat No Warmth

December 17, 2021

I have returned home to below freezing temperatures after four days in sunny and warm Florida. This is my second business trip since February 2020. Once again I am reminded of how many nice people there are in the world.

These people are the professionals—engineers, technicians, managers—whose role is maintenance and reliability of equipment. Think huge turbines and motors that provide power. Or equipment that manufacture the pharmaceuticals you take or the car you drive or the gasoline in your car. All week there were polite, helpful people.

We made connections. We discussed problems and solutions and got to know new people and renew old acquaintances.

It’s too bad that the news we feed our minds with from social media or TV lead us to believe the world is filled with loud-mouthed, violent, hateful people.

Then I thought, what if one of these people didn’t do their job correctly and your electrical power went out? My house is heated with natural gas. The house cools to a certain temperature and a device tells the furnace to fire up. But, with no electricity, the blower doesn’t work.

The furnace supplies a lot of heat, but it has nowhere to go.

Sounds like many Christians that I bet we know. They are all fired up, but to no good use.

Perhaps their churches could be like this conference where everyone is nice to others. They make connections and discuss problems and solutions helping each other out. The people are curious desiring to learn new methods and technologies and products. They learn how to lead teams. And we say good-bye agreeing to meet again at the next conference.

They spread the warmth to others.

Go spread a little warmth. And if you are a little chilly, I pray that someone enters your life for a bit offering to spread a little warmth your way.

Sabbath

December 16, 2021

Do you ever take time off? Get away from everything? In the Hebrew Scriptures (Christians call it the Old Testament), God introduced a concept of Shabbat. Take a day off a week. Take a year off out of every seven.

I am listening to a man called Jerry Colonna being interviewed on the Tim Ferriss podcast. He is talking about how he was feeling burned out and learned to take a 2-month sabbatical. They discussed how hard it can be to take that step away from everything to do something different.

It isn’t all sitting in mediation. He travels. Reads books he wouldn’t necessarily have time for. Contemplates where he is going in life.

He talked about clients who can’t even take one weekend day off. They think.

Some people cannot even take time during the “Christmas to New Years break.”

If you are not on a cycle that includes breaks, you should consider beginning a Shabbat cycle. Perhaps just a day to begin. Maybe you can figure out two weeks. Then two months.

Power To Choose

December 15, 2021

Yesterday, one of the keynote speakers told us that we have the power to choose to be a leader. We have the power to choose what kind of leader we will be. We can choose to be a jerk. We can choose to be motivational.

We cannot always choose our circumstances. But we have the power to choose our response.

We don’t like the way some people celebrate Christmas or “the holidays.” We can choose to celebrate in our own way refusing to let other people determine our mood.

We came to Florida for a winter vacation. It was a chilly, rainy day. We can say, “We came here, but it rained.” We can choose to say, “We are on vacation, and it rained, so we…”

One of my favorite lines from the movies is spoken by the old Crusader in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. After the bad guy dies in agony after drinking from the wrong chalice, he says in a flat voice, “He chose poorly.”

Don’t choose poorly. Choose life.

Travel Weary

December 14, 2021

Yesterday was a travel day. Ride to the airport. Hang out, then board the plane. Arrive Florida and ride to the hotel. It’s not strenuous, but I am always a bit tired after a travel day. I get a little extra sleep, then I’m ready to go.

Being in Advent season, we hear about Joseph and Mary traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem while she is about nine months pregnant. Walking and perhaps riding a donkey. No wonder she was ready to deliver when they arrived.

They had to be tired. While she is still recovering from childbirth and with Jesus not really a toddler, word comes through the rumor mill that the King wanted to kill the baby. So, another, longer, trip to Egypt for safety.

They had to be tired.

Despite the Christmas card pictures and the serene looks on the faces in the manger scenes as re-enacted, they were no doubt tired and relieved.

When I read stories in the Bible, I like to read them just like stories. Allow my imagination to enter the story and feel myself there. This story was not some philosophical exercise. It was real people facing real expectation, tiredness, worry, relief, worry again, tired again.

But they eventually returned to normal life. We don’t know when. But they did. Just so, we also endure these cycles.

Hope

December 13, 2021

I heard a message on hope yesterday. Right now I am hoping that a Lyft driver picks up my request for a ride to the airport. It’s amazing how a bit of uncertainty can affect your attitude. I have two alternatives if one doesn’t in the next 20 minutes. But still, I hope.

2,024 years ago, people in the greater Palestine area and perhaps the entire Mediterranean rim were hoping for something better. Acute spiritual hunger lodged in the hearts and minds of many people. But as always in times of change, there was no clear agreement about the form any change would take.

Jesus was born into that time of hope. But the pregnancy was unique. Word spreading that a new King was born caused fear and loathing in the heart of the current King. Jesus spent his infant and toddler years in Egypt as his parents hid out from the King.

Hardly the peace for which people hoped.

But it came. Patience plus hope wins.

Oh, and I never received confirmation that I had a Lyft driver. That company’s Website needs great improvement. I cancelled and got an Uber. I’m at the Terminal 1 Concourse C United Club en route to Florida. Although this week it will hit 60 degrees F in Illinois. Go figure.