Starting Anew

If you could, what would you like to go back and start again?

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” ― Meister Eckhart

I went to a rock concert last week. My first in a long time. Certainly since the pandemic has kept us all so isolated. It was like my experience at the ballpark a few months ago – the first game since isolation. All the people, and the little boys running around with their gloves. It made me think the world was right again.

Each time I go to rock concerts the audience always gets older and older. They always used to say that 11 am Sunday mornings was the most segregated hour in America. We all like to congregate by kind when we worship. I think that’s changing. I do notice the same thing with music styles. Classic rock tends to attract old white guys. Go to a RUSH concert if you want to see senior males and their sons. So, when I go to rock concerts, everyone looks like me, sort of.

I’m a social observer by training so I tend to look for “types” when I get around groups. At these rock concerts, there’s always two guys who keep getting up every five minutes to either go to the bathroom or get another beer. Then, up in the balcony overlooking the stage at many venues, there’s a lady who wore her Stevie Nicks skirt and wants to twirl and twirl and twirl all night long. I’m always afraid she’ll get too dizzy and pitch herself off the railing. I’ve been to some concerts with people sitting behind me that like to talk really loud (over the music) nonstop throughout the whole night. I can’t ever figure out why they came in the first place.

Hot Classic Rock Concerts to Warm Up Your Winter Nights | KC Limo

Sometimes, as happened last week, the band has saved up and wants to keep playing and playing. The lead singer has important thoughts to communicate. Lot’s of rifts to work through. As the audience gets older and older every year, once 10 pm arrives, they start looking at their watches. It’s getting late. Gotta go to work tomorrow. Need to remember to take my nighttime medications. With all that inflammation and a new hip, getting out to the parking lot is going to be a real chore.

Despite the current uproar about wearing masks again and the surge in new virus cases among the unvaccinated, I really do hope normal is around the corner. College classes are starting for me next week. I have been looking forward to this for a long time. Looking forward to that kind of experience that had been replaced by something foreign for the past year and a half. I’m making a list of what I’d like to do over again:

  • Give more detailed feedback, sooner so it’s not too late
  • Demonstrate that I’m on your side
  • Find more ways to make meaningful connects
    (students tend to not remember the class, but do remember the instructor)

I spent a day this week in a professional development seminar led by a speaker full of tremendous ideas about how to effectively teach today’s college student. It was very inspiring and full of great ideas. Made me ever more eager to get started.

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.”Hermann Hesse

Time to get (re)started on something, isn’t it? Someone asked me today, how do you carve out the time to accomplish more intentional tasks? To get started on what you really want to do. I don’t think I had a good answer. Before the pandemic, I started to learn how to live more day-to-day and less long term. Career collapse and fighting cancer will do that to your perspective. I’m much better now. Much healthier, if that makes any sense. It’s easier for me now to pay attention to little things that really do matter more. Like people’s ordinary lives – people with broken hearts and dying dreams and faith that got lost and not enough relationships to fill up half a day. A note to a friend who’s spouse is heading off to a cancer screening.

“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He’s a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another. ” ― Donald Miller

My friend told me recently that my blog is drifting a little dry. Probably a symptom of the locked down living and working arrangements around here. Very difficult to write about a made up life. But right now, I’m hopeful as next week approaches. A week with classes of students getting ready to start another chapter. That expert I heard from this week believes my students are probably extra anxious, full of pent up fears about the future. I’m planning to pass out some hope.

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” ― Graham Greene

I’m ready to to start something new as well, to be someone new, a survivor who is always being transformed by the good and the bad. What do you want to go back and start again? Where’s the next chapter in your story going?

A person reading a book, close up - Free Stock Video

A View From The Hilltop: God Draws Near

“When someone is close by, you just know it.” ― James Dashner

Teacup Mountain | Texas hill country, Junction texas, Texas city

When we were growing up, car trips were made through the year to Junction Texas where part of my family had come from. My great-grandmother still lived there. As children, part of the journey was the competition to be the first to see Teacup Mountain. We don’t really have “mountains” in Texas – until you get to the very edge of West Texas and run up against the Davis Mountains – sort of the tail end of the famous Rocky Mountain range to the north. The Teacup was really a tall hill with a rock formation at the top that made it look as if it were a cup turned upside down.

“If all we had were roses, would the thorns then be beautiful?” ― Kamand Kojouri

One summer at church camp, when I was a teenager, I was wrestling with one of those big life altering decisions that only adolescents tend to run up against (too often). My youth director was sort of a summer intern from college. We all thought he hung the moon. I was especially needy for a role model and some guidance about this decision. As I think back, he was uncharacteristically wise for a college student. He told me I had to do my own wrestling with God. He didn’t offer any sage advice or walk me by the hand through the necessary steps. So, I headed up to the nearest hill, planted myself down and refused to move until I had figured out the fork in the road.

During our marriage, even when we couldn’t really afford it, my wife and I loved to travel to New Mexico. The northern part of the state is a higher elevation and has its own mountains. Driving from the airport in Albuquerque each trip, we slowly ascend as we head north into a cooler climate and stunning landscapes. The views are each filled with their own inspiration. The climate is a refuge during overheated summers in Texas and it seems the light is a different shade of bright. Each time I leave I think about how the very atmosphere breathes so different in and out of my lungs.

Rear View Of A Woman On Top Of A Hill Standing With Extended Arms While Looking Away Photograph by Cavan Images

Everyone, as they make their way through living, will have experiences up on a hilltop. These are times to catch you breath. Life lets you stop for a little while and you look backwards over the path you’ve come. Then you look down or ahead and see where you might be heading next. I think some people just sit and gasp for air without paying enough attention. I know I have too many times.

Something I’ve notices lately from my hilltop experiences is that God so often draws near to me to help, to guide, to inspire and to give me a lesson. Mostly, I notice from my hilltops, that I am unaware of when God has gotten close during my hard climbs. I’m learning to be more conscious – to catch him in the act.

God draws near through circumstances, other people, something you are reading, people who are further down the road than you, and those good old signs and wonders.

“It is your omen, only you know the meaning. To me, it is but another star in the night.” ― Gerald R. Stanek

Most of us have become so self-sufficient that we don’t think we need any help from God (me too!), so we really aren’t looking for him when he does draw near. Ultimately that’s a very disappointing life, in the end.

During these days in my life I am learning to be more aware to try and see God’s nearness. Probably because I need it now more than ever. I teach a class where we learn about the concept that humans tend to “see” what they are looking for and miss what they aren’t expecting. Our brains are wired to do this. Some people live expecting the worst. Low and behold, that’s what they end up seeing all around. Others have what we call a “rosy retrospection” – only remembering the positive aspects of their life.

When I write this, I’m addressing something bigger than this normal human habit. My topic here is the supernatural experience of God himself in multiple ways, day in and day out, not just a cognitive bias in thinking and perceiving.

I flip back through my journal and I see a record of examples. Times when God came near to me – always at just the right time.

“God desires that man should be. God does not wish to be alone. The meaning of existence is the conquest of loneliness, the acquisition of kinship and nearness.”  — Nikolai A. Berdyaev

These days friends tend to be wonderful examples of the presence of God. I can’t tell you how often a song drops out of the sky and it’s exactly the inspiration, encouragement, or gentle nudge I needed. So many times, God draws near to remind me and motivate me to do something. In the past, God made his presence known by sending birds, but that’s a whole other blog post…

Why Not Lend A Helping Hand Today | Teton Gravity Research

My experience has been that:

  1. God always draws near, somehow. It may not meet my expectations or hit all my own deadlines, but in hindsight I usually see that God did come. He kept his promise and held my hand as I went through those dark days.
  2. I often miss seeing his nearness because I’m too worried, self-absorbed and running around as my own independent free agent. Just because I can’t see doesn’t mean he’s not there, holding up the roof as the storm beats down.
  3. God’s purpose is his own. He doesn’t work for me. For most of my life I wanted to believe in a God that I could plug in when needed and ignore (put back in the drawer) when I felt like I had things in control. It’s a grand illusion to believe that I’m the master of my fate. Why would I want to be?
  4. God is motivated by pure love and the desire for an ongoing, evolving relationship. When I realize this, I need to over and over again, then it’s always easier to see and sense God’s nearness in hundreds of ways.
  5. God is relentless. His feelings don’t get hurt. He has all the time in the world. He knows all about me. He always has my best interests in his focus.

“I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and the presence of God.” ― Meister Eckhart

For what it’s worth, this is my view from the hilltop I’m on these days.