Sunday, October 1, 2023

Growing Up


Tiny Tim
"Where'd ya grow up?" I have been asked this question countless times during my existence. In the Northern Great Plains it is a common, yet cryptic question to recognize another person and possibly initiate a polite conversation. The subsequent response to whatever place answer is given is either, "Yup, that's a nice area." or "I've been through that area before."

While being accustomed to the colloquial dialogue, I often ponder the exact response to "growing up." October will denote twenty-seven years of residing in the geographic area known as the Red River Valley of the North. This has been and no doubt will be the geographic area where most of my life will be lived. Living in an area or measuring time does not directly correlate to growing up. I have a portion of the Peter Pan mindset, "I won't grow up!" Some of the lyrics sung by Peter Pan (played by Mary Martin) in the 1954 Broadway production, "I don't wanna go to school just to learn to be a parrot and recite silly rules...if it means I must prepare to shoulder burdens with a worried air, I'll never grow up."

In every location where I have resided or visited I have experienced something unique. Unique does not mean fun, easy, or joyful. Life experiences have been as expansive as the North Dakota prairies. The pain of personal loss (physical and emotional), as well as accompanying other people in their deep wounds broadens my outlook on the spectrum of life. Standing in the delivery room while a daughter was born, as well as in a recovery ward while a daughter regained alertness following surgery provided an 

Bradley Rose @ PSL

opportunity for internal growth. Being in the London studio for a live Peloton cycling class was amazing. The room was filled with more human energy than it was sweat induced body order. Sitting under a branch thatched shelter in the high, tropical forests of Columbia, listening to an interpreter share the perspective of the
Village in Columbia 
indigenous spiritual leader took me beyond my damp, uncomfortable surroundings to envision a completely unfamiliar way of existence. Now being in the midst of moving three miles to live in a ground level apartment for the enhancement of my spouse's mobility is both exciting and somber. 

Once again quoting Peter Pan, "I won't grow up!" If growing up means settling in and shutting off, I want no part of it. The stimulation of life experiences are both generative and exhausting. Yet, each day I awake to further my discoveries about life while hopefully being open to its unsettledness.

"Where'd ya grow up?" Everywhere I have had the opportunity!

Manitoba winter ride

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Anniversary Words

This past week the yearly occurrence of my wedding took place. Over four decades of remembering the event at a church surrounded by cornfields in southern Minnesota. Exuberant fanfare was minimal. The tradition of eating lunch at a restaurant of non-American cuisine remained intact. The day was duly noted. "One and done" and onto the next day.

A card received
Before too many eye rolls and thoughts of my being a curmudgeon rise in your minds, I offer this perspective. The notion of "celebrating" brings with it either a sense of accomplishment against all odds or the end of a grueling challenge.  My marriage has not ended nor do I sense this past year in the perspective of, "You will be lucky to make it through."  The use of "happy", as in Happy Anniversary, bears the same Midwestern expression as, "The weather sure has been nice lately." It is something to say without engaging in anything further. A pleasant nicety which carries a thin veil of caring. Neither of these words describe the reality of the present in my estimation. 

Decades ago there were weeks of careful planning in preparation for the anniversary event. The consideration of satiny sleepwear or provocative undergarments took me to many stores with a dollop or two of embarrassment. There was no online shopping in those years. This ritual morphed into finding functional flannels. Now with the proliferation of online everything and no hassle returns, the aspect of gifting has been set aside. Drives to surprising destinations to walk along wooded trails enjoying the burgeoning beauty of fall foliage, or going to different orchards to pick apples are only memories. Riding in a vehicle for an extended period of time does not bode well for my wife's enjoyment. Maintaining balance while walking now defines what may be acceptable for a trail. It is not that the words, "celebrate" or "happy" are wrong. Yet, in the marking and remembering of the anniversary along with the existence of what has transpired in our relationship, these words are shallow, if not hollow. The journey of  my relationship of marriage continues with its unique characteristics. 

All of us function with images and expectations. When these images and expectations are not realized we

True sentiments
endeavor to find resolution. The prevailing culture holds up unrealistic, fairy tale images of relationships. My perspective on marriage is not about romance and living happily ever after. However, that image was part of my early years of marriage. The word which has become foundational is, "commitment." It carries little glamour. It does not radiate roses and passion. Nor is it a word to overlook. The anniversary day was a time to explore the dimensions of my promise, spoken and unspoken, to another person. Surrounded by cornfields, as well as relatives and friends in a rustic building built for religious purposes years ago, a day most in attendance have forgotten, I have not forgotten the intent of the vows, even though I do not recall the exact words. The time to reminisce was brief because I believe it is more important to focus on the aspects of commitment today. The journey continues!

Groomsman and garter

Sunday, September 3, 2023

This Mess is a Place

A friend with a knack for being subtle gave me a framed, desk-sized poster which read, "This mess is a place." The act, as well as the gift made an impression. I cleared a space for it among the debris scattered on the desk. My interpretation of the gift focused upon recognizing myself as a person surrounded by clutter. I was not simply a messy, lazy, or disorganized person. The stuff suppressed and obscured my being. Or as 

One of many books
may be more fitting for today, "my authentic self." I was a mess. I used a variety of external materials, expectations, and beliefs to create an image. This worked in many circumstances. It was beneficial for my vocation. Yet my friend saw through the clutter, expressing acceptance and gratitude.

I continue the process of minimizing clutter. It has been a part of at least the past decade. While the focus has been on the extraneous stuff tossed in plastic totes, I have new undertakings parallel to the totes. I have surrounded myself with numerous expectations which have become overgrown. I liken it to clearing the underbrush from trees so that both the forest and the soil can be restored. While both the soil and trees can continue living, neither can fulfill their original purpose encumbered by dense, nutrient demanding underbrush. It is important for the soil to be nurtured by moisture, sunlight, and rotting organic matter. Trees become stronger, more resilient, and express their beauty when not fighting for

Thick underbrush
nourishment. Living through the expectations of culture, organizations, relationships, and beliefs masks personal integrity and our natural beauty.

In my pastoral work, the initial directive was not to share personal information about the deceased at a funeral. Focus on Jesus. This will be an opportunity for conversion. That directive rimmed the trash bin a few times before I finally sank it. People sort out their spiritual needs without a paid, professional with a penchant for maintaining old beliefs glossing over the realities of a person known and loved by others. What is the purpose of a generic funeral? We opt for name brands, so why not fully and respectfully name the deceased and her/his connection with those gathered? Clear the underbrush and express the unique beauty and character of the person.                                                      

Pastoral activity

In relationships, whether they be personal or professional, expectations clutter reality. Assuming a role because it may be less challenging to another sucks the vitality out of that relationship. Once again, the underbrush has limited benefit. It provides coverage and distraction while negating the beauty and potential of each individual. People are adaptive and learn to survive in environments of various health. Survival does not equate to living. Living involves freedom and well-being in the present. I have lived and currently live in relationships where the underbrush has grown thick because it was less painful than removing it. I no longer want to navigate or get caught in the underbrush. Uprooting the old patterns while establishing my present self is slow. However, I tell myself that it is about progress, not perfection. Whether others in general or another in particular chafe at the change is outside of my control. I desire freedom of expression, movement, and growth without clutter. 

I accept myself and am grateful for life!

Thank you for reading.


Sunday, August 20, 2023

Less Daylight - More Choices

Sunsets are beautiful
The days are getting shorter! I am not only referring to the seasonal change but my changing life, as well. If you watched either (08.06 + 08.13) of the last two YouTube videos, I alluded to the theme of ceasing to explore life. A prevailing societal thought is that at some point humans stop exploring life in order to give attention to life after death. Prevailing thoughts usually are not for the benefit of the individual. Other motives are being established.

In the book, Out of Silence - After the Crash by Eduardo Strauch, he writes, "Instead of asking myself if there was life after death, I asked myself what life was before death." The author is a surviving member of the Uruguayan rugby team whose airplane crashed into the Andes Mountains while en route to Chile in 1972. A portion of the book recounts his seventy-two day ordeal prior to fifteen others and himself being rescued. There were forty-five passengers on the flight. They survived -30 degree temperatures at an altitude of 11,500 feet, crafting survival items from the wreckage, as well as getting nutrition from the deceased. His account is honest and deeply personal. It is bereft of any semblance of a happy ending. I found the depth of his life experience to be powerful, as well as respectful.

Death will be a reality at some point. Until that time presents itself, I want to live. Not simply exchanging air
A lifeless decoration

and having blood flow, but expanding my senses, my perspectives, my creativity, and my appreciation for all that surrounds me. I do not perceive this as selfish. Self care is never selfish. My days of focusing upon family concerns: food, shelter, medical insurance, education/tuition are in the past. Playing by the rules and earning income were chosen parts of my life. However, rules are meant to maintain order and safety. Income is one aspect of life of which we can never have enough, so we are told over and over.  Along with this is the projected worry about having enough for retirement. I believe we easily get bound to the rules while attempting to build walls of safety. In so doing, we block out life and forego the joy of living.

As a pastor, the concept of life after death has always been present, if not in the forefront. The congregations I have served, the hospitalized I visited as a chaplain, and the community members where I have resided have asked about life after death. Is the role of clergy that of dealing with what cannot be experienced in the here and now? The Christian Scriptures have numerous concepts about death and life which scholars over the centuries have attempted to blend into a homogeneous pabulum. Most often the teaching has been used to promote a type of moral playing by the rules. It has created hesitancy and fear of making choices today. The belief is that our free choices would negatively affect life in the hereafter. I believe what originally had good intentions has repressed more than it has freed. Personally, I no longer focus on life after death. As Eduardo Strauch aptly penned, "I asked myself what life was before death."

A lot to savor
My days are not getting shorter. There continues to be twenty-four hours each day. I am not waiting to be rescued from a disaster.  I have not lived this long to stop prematurely. In many ways I do not want to be mature! I am not opposed to rules. I am not opposed to safety. I am opposed to focusing so painstakingly upon the future that I neglect to experience my surroundings today. Death and what comes after that is not in my control. Choosing to live fully and freely today is a gift I want to continually unwrap!

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Old Dog - New Tricks

It served well!
Aging provides an opportunity to coast with all that is familiar and to complain about all that is changing. Questions arise as to the necessity of change. Frustrations erupt when cornered by others prodding me to change. Can I not be left alone to gracefully slide into decrepitude?  Chided by an adult child, as well as decoding the cryptic intimations of my spouse, a new (well, it has 3,000 miles on the odometer) vehicle was purchased. The last time I drove a new transport away from a dealership was three decades ago. 

Air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth, and rear defrost are necessary. "Less that needs fixing," was my antiquated mantra. These words also help weave the thin shroud disguising my economic rule of mass depreciation as soon as four wheels leave the boundary of the dealership. The old belief patterns had served, as well as saved. All of the labor to solidify this mindset was quickly cast aside. The mission or possibly the obsession for new imprisoned me. I finally submitted to my captor. So much for sliding gracefully into decrepitude!

Along with air conditioning, Bluetooth, and rear defrost comes: dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure

Words, not letters.
alerts, heated seats, automatic high beams, and forty miles of electric distance. Little hatches adorn both upper rear panels. One allows for a fuel nozzle. The other allows for the alien looking charging plug. The old fashioned "glove box" contains thick bound manuals with minuscule print and drawings explaining the features. It was strongly suggested to download the app in order to increase access to features and updates. Decrepitude was not found in the app!

I did not expect so many internal changes, either. My head is on a swivel looking at the multitude of circumstances which can damage this wheeled wonder. I obsess over keeping the colorful graphics in the proper areas which indicate maximum mileage. I ponder how often to wash it and where to wash it. And the most satisfying, yet disturbing change: I am honing defensive driving skills anticipating the action of other drivers. My initial, internal verbal response to the other driver is, "What an a**h#le!" It is now morphing to congratulate myself for being aware. Instead of cursing, I applaud myself for the insight into the behaviors of others. 

This may be my last vehicle purchase. The investment in extended warranty and service/maintenance contracts should enable a long term relationship with this vehicle.  It also spells the end of a meaningful relationship with the repair shop mechanics. By the time the contracts expire I will either no longer be driving or I will board a self-driving ride-share to my destination. At that time I will once again consider my slide into decrepitude!


Cartagena, Columbia

Sunday, July 16, 2023

This Is Only a Test

Tests captured my attention. In the overall flow of life tests were significant speed bumps which changed my focus. Once completed, life would resume its easy going rhythm. With the completion of eight years of post secondary education tests were placed on a high and out of the way shelf. I knew what I needed to know and I did not need to increase my knowledge.

A remnant of the Cold War with its penchant of nuclear holocaust were public service ads on radio and television from the Emergency Broadcast System. The portion of the announcement etched into memory is, "This is only a test. If this had been an actual emergency...." In an actual emergency detailed instructions would have come from the Civil Defense. Actions including shelter locations and updates from governmental agencies would have been forthcoming. Emergencies change the rhythm of life. Most of our days are only a test with little need to be concerned about emergencies.

Driving an EV (a test drive) was a thrill! It was not a significant speed bump, but the vehicle had plenty of speed. The representative from the dealership instructed me on a small portion of its features. The rep drove the vehicle for about 10 miles, all the while explaining the system, showing off the acceleration, technological driving features, and providing basic EV education. Getting into the driver's seat for the return trip to the dealership was my test. Not only did I pass the test, but I passed many other vehicles along the way. The experience was awesome! Is it an emergency to purchase this vehicle? NO. I have a very capable eleven year old vehicle with over 200,000 miles. It is reliable. I know about internal combustion engines. I know about its creaks and quirks. I know what I need to know without the mind numbing array of   

Toyota bZ4X
electronics. I know about the workings of gas station/convenience stores. I know nothing about charging stations nor their locations. My life can easily slip back into its easy going rhythm.

Along with many people, I find it not only easy but comforting to have a calm flow of life. As the joke is told in the Upper Midwest, "How many people does it take to change a light bulb?" Answer, "Change?! Why do we need to change?" The resistance to change or even to prepare for the test runs deep in human nature.  The idea that once the test is completed there is nothing left to learn is powerful. The denial, the push back, the acrimony expressed when we are confronted about impending predicaments in culture, climate, and global community indicate our unwillingness to prepare for or even learn from tests. 

Confronted with my own resistance to move beyond what I know and believe is becoming too uncomfortable. It is an actual emergency. Thus I will seek, listen, discern, and respond to instructions that are presented from a variety of sources. This is not about protection and defense. It is about embracing the current spectrum of life, expanding the base of knowledge, and moving forward.  

Sunday, July 2, 2023

The Bright Side of Life

Ryan finishes the
Lutsen 99er
In 1979, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" written by Eric Idle, was performed in Monty Python's Life of Brian. The song was also included in the 2005 musical, "Monty Python's Spamalot." Is there something that makes the song so enduring? Here are some of the lyrics:                                                               

Some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad, other things just make you swear and curse.....If life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten, and that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing."  Chorus, "Always look on the bright side of life."

No matter when a picture is take, my friend Ryan always has a smile. Whether it be mud splatter, an ice beard, or  a bloodied leg or forearm he exhibits a genuine smile. Maybe it comes from the enjoyment of movement on two wheels? Yet, I have seen this smile many times when he is not on one of his bikes. Ryan has a full repertoire of emotions, but somehow he grounds himself with a smile. 

A hiking adventure in early May, close to Colombia's Caribbean coast tested my endurance. It was not so 
Saturated, but made it
through the first day
much the physicality of hiking, as it was the bodily adjustment to the tropical climate. The heat and humidity meant I was constantly wet. This was not just some unsightly perspiration, but soaked shirts, pants, socks, and hiking boots for five days. In the midst of my self-consciousness and some ribbing from fellow hikers and guides, I realized my bodily mechanisms were working to keep me moving forward. My sweating was beyond my control. Even though my limits were tested, I could easily flash a smile. I had a functioning body, the ability to interact in a less than ideal setting, plenty of food and water, and a covered place to sleep every night. Plenty of reasons to brighten my face!

With a steady diet of media, my emotional, spiritual, and relational functions plummet faster than a roller coaster cresting the initial climb. I believe there are individuals, businesses, and organizations who want nothing more than for me to view the world as frightening. These sources benefit both in power and prosperity from providing toxic materials which nourish an attitude of despair and dependency.  It is easy to get caught in the thick of thin things. Arguing over minutiae is a distraction from living life. The number of people, situations, and things to cherish far outnumber those I am encouraged to curse. I am tempted at times to succumb to the constant reminder that life is not fair and others are getting preferential treatment. ENOUGH ALREADY! 

We all have choices. We all have life. We all are terminal. The question is, "How do each of us choose to see life ?" I will choose the bright side.

"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" This link takes you to a YouTube clip of the song from the "Life of Brian." You may find it off-color or offensive. However, that is part of the Monty Python genre of humor.

Shorts, snow, and a smile!