Monthly Archives: September 2016

Enthusiasm – A Necessary Stone in your Bridge

enthusiasm“It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.”Oliver Wendell Holmes

I confess that when I hear someone is enthusiastic about something, I tend to go cold inside.  Especially if I am relying on that person to follow-through in a long term commitment.  In today’s world the noun “enthusiasm” seems rather shallow and fleeting.  Too many times when the initial excitement wears off, so does the enthusiasm and, with it, the desire to carry on to completion.
Intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval:  “her energy and enthusiasm for life expressed enthusiasm about the current leaders”
To me this, just does not cry out with a long term, finishing commitment sound.  I must confess that over the past few weeks, my enthusiasm has waned a bit.  Not sure why.  Could be the transition from summer to fall, although it has been fairly smooth even with its business.  Maybe its the seasonal round of routine medical checks we go through at this time which I find rather tedious.
It probably has more to do with the fact that fall is my favorite time of year and I just want to play, but there is so much going on.   My business is ramping up for the holidays.  There are lots of activities associated with the school  where my husband teaches and fairs, festivals, concerts abound.  I want to play!
Enthusiasm – Another definition
At its’ roots, (in the world of words, its’ etymology), enthusiasm has a deeper meaning
enthusiasm (n.) c. 1600, from Middle French enthousiasme (16c.) and directly from Late Latin enthusiasmus, from Greek enthousiasmos “divine inspiration, enthusiasm (produced by certain kinds of music, etc.),” from enthousiazein “be inspired or possessed by a god, be rapt, be in ecstasy,” from entheos “divinely inspired, possessed by a god,” from en “in” (see en- (2)) + theos “god” (see theo-).
That puts the word in a more profound place.  Something that arises, not merely from a soulish emotional place, but from the spirit then up into the soul.  In this context it is more solid and enduring, even sustainable.  It has more substance, even commitment.
At some point this root meaning acquired a derogatory sense of “excessive religious emotion through the conceit of special revelation from God” (1650s) under the Puritans,  The generalized meaning “fervor, zeal” (the main modern sense) is first recorded 1716.   A now archaic meaning gave it a further derogatory slant as
“religious fervor supposedly resulting directly from divine inspiration, typically involving speaking in tongues and wild, uncoordinated movements of the body.”
Gee, what is it we see at many sporting events today?  Religious fever?  but I digress..
Re-embracing Enthusiasm
In reality being enthusiastic about a venture, an event, a relationship, in other words, life, is a good thing.  However, it does not solely rest on one’s emotions, but rather on vision.  I like the way Mr. Holmes, who lived when the root meaning of the word was still been alive,  put it:  faith in something coupled with enthusiasm makes life a living thing.   A journey along a bridge of stone.  A sure path, a Stonebridge.
So I am re-embracing enthusiasm.  I may even indulge in some  “divinely inspired, speaking in tongues and wild, uncoordinated movements of the body”, minus the sporting event.
What are you choosing to be enthusiastic about this week?

Perseverance over Adversity – The Long View

perservearanceReunions and Road Trips

On an extended weekend to attend my 45th high school reunion in Rooks County, Kansas, we added a day in order to visit Jewell County.  This is the land to which my mother’s father’s family immigrated from northern Germany and homesteaded in the 1860s.  My maternal grandparents farmed there and I visited often as I grew up.  The weekend was beautiful.  The weather has been kind this summer with an abundance of rain, minimal severe weather and, for Kansas, moderate temperatures.  This meant that fields remained green, ponds and lakes full, and late summer crops were looking very happy.  It was twenty-four hours of peace and quiet.

The Farm
 As a child, “We are going to the farm”, was the code for a two-hour trek in order to eat farm fresh meals, hang out in the barn and feed cows, chickens and other critters.  I also meant hanging out with granddad as he milked cows and then grandma as she separated the cream from the milk.  Eggs were gathered, gardens tended and life was enjoyed as we took care of, well, living.  I never actually lived on the farm, but visited often enough that I can still find this place I knew just by spotting the limestone bluffs one mile north of hi-way 36.  To this day I could not give verbal instructions on how to find the place, but I can drive right to it.
Bringing the Past into the Present
When I visited as a child, I was aware that my grandparents did not have the daily conveniences we knew such as. indoor plumbing or central Heat and air conditioning.  This mean that:
  • Outhouses, chamber pots and hauling buckets of water up the hill from the well for everything were lessons in conservation.  Sometimes the cistern next to the house was full which made a small hand pump on the kitchen       counter next to the sink usable, but not for drinking – ever.
  • In winter, there was a pot belly wood stove in the living room at the base of the stairs that heated the entire house, sort of.  Most of the time when it was really cold only the front room and kitchen were heated.  The doors to the other parts of the house were opened just before bed and after we had changed into night-clothes near the stove, we scampered upstairs and snuggled into bed under comforters made from scraps of wool.  I still have and use one of those comforters.
  • In summer, air conditioning was opening the doors at night, sleeping on the screened in porch and electric fans.
  • Everything we ate came from the farm or farms near by.  As I recall sugar, seasoning and spices, and tobacco (for granddad), were the primary things purchased.  I am sure there were other items, I just don’t recall.
There was no judgment or poverty thinking about they way they lived.  At least not for me.  There was always more than enough food, water, heat and air.  It just took some effort to get it and it came from cooperating with nature.
The Good Life
In my view they lived a good life.  It was not easy, by any means, but it was good.  It was built on knowing what the earth, God’s creation could and would provide when you knew what to do.  There was also knowing the boundaries of risk by respecting certain cues:
  • How to read the skies, seasons and the scent in the air for changes in the weather.  The farmers almanac was almost a text book.
  • Learning to “hear” the language of the horse in how her ears were poised.  Also, to let her know by your voice and touch when you were passing behind.  It only took one kick in my chest to remember this the rest of my life!
  • Learning to respect moving parts of machinery and how to fill a tank of gas without setting off a spark.  Stories of neighbor’s tragic outcomes were relayed to reinforce these kinds of lessons and instructions.
There is something about interacting with creation that educates, centers ones focus and brings a kind of wholeness that nothing else does.
Perseverance and Adversity
This kind of life required a commitment to stick with it.  To find a pace that is sustainable, while at the same time pressing through in certain seasons.  Seasons of planting and harvest; seasons of adversity.  One season can be anticipated the other usually comes unexpectedly.  Both can be prepared for.  The panting and harvest preparation can be anticipated, time scheduled and tools sharpened.  Seed can be purchased, ground tilled and help employed.  Adversity, on the other hand, how does one prepare for that?  Why would you even want to think about it?
There are two kinds of adversity.  The kind that challenges, stretches and, as a result, is naturally wearing.  Planting and harvesting, learning a new skill or training to run a marathon, all create adversity.  We may not think of it that way because these are in the context of a choice we made.  The other kind comes from the side-swipes in life and can range from someone backing into us at Walmart or the untimely death of someone dear to us.  Dealing with both requires perseverance.  I suggest that choosing to participate with intention in the first kind of adversity prepares one for the second kind by exercising the perseverance muscle.
Back to the Farm
You see, my grand-parents, great grand-parents and even great great grand-parents (the ones who established the homestead) were doing this without even knowing that was what they were doing.  Daily life required an exercise in perseverance so that when the second kind of adversity came, and it did, many times, they were able to keep on.  They were able to overcome and in just living life they passed on to future generations, me, that persevering DNA.  When I visit the land of my ancestors, I am grateful they endured. They laid the foundation for a solid stonebridge on which I could travel.  So here are a couple of things to consider:
First, prepare by choosing a persevering activity or goal.  Take a class, learn a new skill, step up your daily physical activity and push yourself.  It could be as simple as pressing to get to bed on time so you get a good night of sleep!  That alone goes a long way in aiding perseverance.
Second, avoid expecting the side-swipe kind of adversity, that is counterproductive, but don’t be surprised when it comes.  When it does, re-frame the unexpected by asking, what does this make possible?  The stories of good coming out of tragedy are as old as Genesis. and Redemption itself.
What activity or goal will you embrace this week to exercise your perseverance muscle?

Examine the Past, But Don’t Live in it- Class Reunions

examine the past
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I attended the 45th reunion of  the Plainville High School, class of 1971 a few weeks ago.  It was four days of clean air, green landscapes and a serious overload of memories.  Good memories.  Seriously, all good.  At least now they are.

 We all know that growing up is hard work.  Hard work for parents and hard work for the one doing the growing.  If it were not so natural or the alternative so, well, final, no one would do it.  There is drama, trauma, and unknown stuff all around everyday.  When one is as blessed as I was, this is set among a loving, safe, happy and secure family who knows how much to let go while being there for the falls.  Looking back I know I was blessed to be raised in the location and family I was.  The school I attended was a big part of all of that experience.
Past
class of 1971
Class of 1971 August 2016

There were sixty-three in our graduating senior class and, although I have not actually counted, at least half were in my kindergarten class.  That’s right, I attended 13 years of public school with the same core group of classmates.  That includes most of the twelve who have passed on.

I was the youngest in the class all thirteen years, which was challenging for me socially but about right academically.  Ours was and is a good group of people.  We had good teachers who were varied in their methods which were discussed at the reunion.  Some were strict, even “mean”, some were temperamental, others kind, yet challenging.  We respected them all.  The senior boys were especially respectful of a couple of the younger  female teachers with great legs!  For the most part we got along and although there were groups of friends, there were no serious clicks, at least not that I remember.  I attribute that to the example of our elected class leaders and sponsors.

Oh of course we gossiped, had our moments of drama and even a bully or two, but the values of the day seemed to keep things civil and within a certain set of boundaries. Boundaries that were tested regularly and found to be sturdy yet flexible.

 Present
The two evenings with my classmates were full of catching up and smiles.  There was a memorial for the twelve who have passed on.  I was surprised at the tears that welled when I viewed the remembrance table.  I had heard about each when they died, but seeing the group all together was sobering.  We told stories on ourselves all in good fun.  The odd thing is that I always felt like an outsider.  In some ways I still do.  It is not a rational feeling and has no basis in fact, but rather in insecurities that shadowed me into my early 20s.
I went through a transforming season at that time.  An encounter with Jesus Christ as I had never known.  I was a Christian, born again at a young age, thanks to the Methodist Church we attended and the influence of the Rev. Billy Graham.  I was in church my entire life, but was dogged by insecurity, a form of fear.  I didn’t even know it was there, it just was.  Once I saw that this was something not really me, I let it go and was free never to go back.  It was an exercise in seeing myself as God sees me and in forgiveness.  Not toward anyone but rather of a season of shadows that were not supposed to be there.  Now, when I visit the places of my childhood I can remember those feelings but know they are not me.  Never were, I just did not understand that at the time.
Future
So now, even though I remember the feeling of being an outsider, I know I was and am not. I admire the lives of those I went to school with.  Many have made a life not far from my hometown, some left and returned.  Others, like myself made a life elsewhere but are still attached to this location, if for nothing else, as the place they went to school.  Our class motto is “The Past Forever Gone – The Future Still Our Own”.  What a great way to live.  Letting go of youthful trauma, drama, skinned knees and wounded feelings; of failures, disappointments and even injustices and looking to what lies ahead.  Even after 45 years, the class of 1971 is still moving forward.  Bravo.
Is there some aspect of your past you are still living in that needs to be let go so that your can continue the journey of your Stonebridge?   It is only a breath away.   

Seeds of a First Flight

 
“Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seeds on the ground. He sleeps at night and is awake during the day. The seeds sprout and grow, although the man doesn’t know how. The ground produces grain by itself. First the green blade appears, then the head, then the head full of grain. As soon as the grain is ready, he cuts it with a sickle, because harvest time has come.” 
Mark 4:26-28
 
This summer we took a short trip to my hometown for my 45th High School Reunion.  We extended the IMG_0697trip by one night taking the long way home in order to make a few more memory stops from my childhood.  One of those stops was in  Philllpsburg,  Kansas.  For the most part, growing up, Phillipsburg was the town we headed north to in order to join Highway 36 east bound when traveling to visit my maternal grandparents on the farm located in Jewell County.  However, there was one formative visit to Philllipsburg that planted a seed from which a harvest continues to this day.  It was the place where I took my first airplane ride.
I do not know the exact year, but I was somewhere around the age of eight.  Other details are foggy as well, but I do recall that 30 minute introduction airplane rides were provided at the Phillipsburg Municipal Airport on that day.  I am not sure if it was a Young Eagles type program aimed at children or for perspective pilots.  Perhaps both.  I am not sure if there was a charge or if the rides were free.  What I do know is that I was with Daddy and we were going for an airplane ride.  Since He was involved with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and Civil Air Patrol (CAP) around this time, these organizations may have been the sponsors for the day.  I do remember a lot of folks having a good time, standing in line and Daddy and I climbing into a Cessna 172.  To be honest I did not know one from the other, but I do rememember it was a high wing type because I could see down clearly.  I was in the back seat and daddy in the front on the right.
Seeds Work Without Much Awareness
I do not know what time of year it was, except it was not too cold or hot or windy.  A blue sky, cloudless Kansas day.  Nor do I remember a lot about the take-off or landing, just the way the Kansas landscape looked from up there:  all checker-boarded and green.  I do remember the hum of the engine, daddy looking around and talking with the pilot and how utterly free it felt.  I do not remember much else.  Not getting out the the plane, the 30 minute ride home with dad, nor ever talking about it again.  But, something happened that day.  A seed was planted.  A seed that was watered almost by chance along the way:  more rides with dad in the aircoupe, hanging out when he was working on his EAA Bi-Plane project, trips to the Wichita Kansas airport traffic control tower, air shows at Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, Kansas.  All just stuff we just did.
Seeds Grow to Unexpected Harvests
I never set out to become an air traffic controller (now retired), private pilot or hangar owner.  I now see these as harvests of that seed planted in the early 60s at a small municipal airport in Kansas.  They are not only personally fulfilling but have been opportunities to serve others.  To be a part in safe flights for countless travelers, contributing to our national defense, providing a bit of joy by giving airplane rides myself, and providing a place for other pilots to keep their planes in a secure place.  It is sobering to me to think that a seed with so few details attached to it could have such impact.
Seeds
The Tarmac – Seeds Planted Here

 

Your Stonebridge Journey is formed by seeds planted in your life.  You get to choose which seeds to water, cultivate, harvest or pluck up.  Some should be discarded, but many are there waiting to be recognized and nurtured so they can come to fullness.  There are seeds in your life that are waiting to become full harvests.  Some of these are already for reaping, some have yet to sprout.  With a bit of reflection, you will be amazed!

What one thing you are doing or have today that you recognize the seed  from which it came?  Please post your story in the comments below.