Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Saturday, July 22, 2017

SUMMER SMELLS-a poem? 7-22-17


I smelled the summer
As I walked today
Smelled the summer
In that good old fashion
Olfactory way

Perhaps it is different
Where you are today
But in the hills
Of southern Indiana
Down below where the oak
Leaves rustle in the breeze
There is a fullness
Of smell in the air

I see the roses
Of Red and Sharon
Who lived next door
I see the purple of some
Unnamed flower
Unnamed by me, at least
I cannot call their names
But I know that they
Are quite profligate
About their smells
Putting them out for anyone
Who passes by

No wonder the bees and bugs
Are so enthralled in summer
So eager to fly from flower to flower,
Like me they smell the summer
And know that it is good
Even though they, like me,
Have no names to use
To confine the smells
To earth

JRMcF


This may be my worst “poem” ever, but remember, I don’t claim to be a poet. It’s important to me just to let the words flow and let them stand as they are. It’s terrible for you to have to read what comes out that way, though, and I apologize. However, even if the poetry is bad, and even if you aren’t supposed to start a sentence with “however,” it’s nice to sniff those summer smells, isn’t it?

Friday, July 21, 2017

REUEL HOWE AND AT-ONE-MENT 7-21-17


[Originally posted on Sunday 8-15-10]

In the last few years I have begun to reread books that were important to me when I was new in the ministry. Some have held up very well, like Paul Tillich’s books of sermons. Some have been very disappointing, like Wm. Stringfellow’s “Free in Obedience.” [The title is still good, though.]

One in particular has been very humbling, Reuel Howe’s Man’s Need and God’s Action. As I reread it, I find that every good idea I’ve had along the way, that I thought was mine, actually comes from that book. The language is a bit formal and stilted, typical of its time. [The copyright is 1953. I read it in seminary in the early 1960s.] The insights, however, are, if anything, even more accurate today.

I had the good fortune, some time in the late 1980s or early 1990s, to be in a continuing education seminar with Reuel at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary. He was retired then, but just as insightful, and quite delightful in person.

In that seminar, he told the story of how, when he was a teenager, his father decided to take the family into the forests of Washington state to homestead. They went deep into the forest with their tents and supplies. Before they had really gotten started, a fire wiped out everything they had. Reuel and his father walked back out to get more supplies, leaving his mother and younger siblings behind. When they returned, they saw that his mother had found a rusted old tin can, picked wild flowers, and placed the bouquet on an old stump. The little children were playing “ring” around it. “She took a tragic incident and recycled it to make something beautiful,” he said. “I learned what was perhaps the only lesson I would ever need on that day.”

All this is leading up to his reflection on atonement in his book. It is the perfect word for what Christ is all about, at-one-ment, to make us at one with God, with the world and our neighbors, and with our own true self.

I, and all the people who heard me say almost daily for over 60 years, “Christ came to make us whole, with God, with self, and with the world,” owe a great debt to Reuel Howe.

JRMcF

There was no English word for this Biblical idea of making whole, so one of the early English Bible translators created “atonement,” to get across the idea of being restored to wholeness. (I think I learned this from “In the Beginning: The Making of the King James Bible,” by Alister McGrath.)



Thursday, July 20, 2017

CHOOSING FRIENDS WHO FEED US 7-20-17

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from the Heart of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

Once, when I still had a job, I felt overwhelmed. Well, it happened a lot more than just once, but there was this one time when I felt like there was a big old heavy bag of stuff on my back. It weighed me down. I couldn’t take even one step without that bag bouncing on my back and giving me a whap. I was really tired of that bag and its weight.

I decided I had to lighten that bag.

The first thing to do when you feel overwhelmed, of course, is to make lists, so I did. I made a list of every item I would take out of that heavy bag that bounced on my bag with every step, every item I would toss into the ditch to lighten my load. I showed the list to my wife.

“Do you realize,” she said, “that everything on this list is something that feeds you?”

I grabbed the list back and took a long look at it. She was right. I was going to toss all the toys and candy bars and keep all the anvils and horse carcasses. Worst of all, I was going to get rid of all the people I wanted to spend time with and keep all those I spent time with because I had no choice.
           
When you are working--unless you are a soldier or police officer or lawyer or radio talk show host or billionaire or president or billionaire president--you have to be nice to everyone. One of the best things about old age is that we get a chance to pick our friends, spend time with those we want to rather than those we have to, spend time with those who feed us.

We get to choose to whom we are nice. We don’t get to choose, however, to be nasty, to anyone. But it’s okay to stay away from the nasties. It’s okay to make that choice.

JRMcF
johnrobertmcfarland@gmail.com

I tweet as yooper1721.

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] We no longer live in the land of perpetual winter, but I am in the winter of my years, so I think it’s okay to use that phrase. I don’t know why I put that © on; it’s hardly necessary.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

EARLY IN THE MORNING, a song, sort of 7-19-17

I found this in my folder of song starts. Thinking about “finishing” it, I thought… well, it would do okay as a poem…


Early in the morning
When the day is new
And the hopes are many
And worries are few
I sing to the sunrise
Of Gospel and love
I join the choir in praise
With angels up above
And hope for a sunrise
Some day when I die
But in the meantime
In between times
I give thanks for you

JRMcF

I tweet as yooper1721.

Warning: If you have read this column in the last 3 months, all that follows is old news:

Yes, I know I promised to stop writing for a year while I try to be a real Christian instead of just a professional Xn. But this isn’t very professional, is it?

 Following the critical and marketing success of her first Young Adult novel, daughter Katie Kennedy’s Learning to Swear in America, is What Goes Up, a July 18, 2017 release. She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser known by promising young authors, like JK Rowling.

Speaking of writing, my book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, is published by AndrewsMcMeel. It is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc. in hardback, paperback, audio, Japanese, and Czech.



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

ACHIEVING A GOOD MOTHER-IN-LAW 7-18-17


Georgia Mark Heltzel Karr was a great mother-in-law. She was my second biggest fan and advocate, after her older daughter, and was not at all sure that Helen was a big enough fan. According to Georgia, I had overcome a lot to be on the way to a good career and she didn’t want Helen to be getting in the way.

That kind of achievement, the sort Georgia wished for me, was what she had always wanted for herself. But she grew up in a home that was typical for its day, which meant dysfunctional in a particular way. Her father ruled the roost, entirely, as a good Prussian father should. He made all the decisions. The pecking order in the family included Georgia’s two brothers first, ahead of her and her sister, Clara, even though they were younger. Georgia wanted to go to college, to achieve, but her father decreed that it was stupid to educate a girl.

In most dysfunctional families, even the ones that are normal for their time and place, there is one person who is an oasis. For Georgia, that was her sister, Clara, only 23 months different in age. But Clara died suddenly, when she was only twenty. Georgia never really recovered from that.

Being the only girl left in the family, she was the one who was expected to care for her aging parents, for a very long time, to do all the work necessary for them to stay in their own house. She loved having a husband and family, but that was the only thing she ever got to do for herself, and in one way, it was just more of the same—being a servant to all, the way it so often is with mothers. She did it all with great efficiency, for her parental family and for her own family, the way an achiever does, but it always wore on her soul as well as on her body.

She was a great Cubs fan, listening to Bob Elston describe every game on the radio, then listening to Jack Brickhouse do them when TV came along. One time that I saw her truly happy was when I took her to a game at Wrigley Field. At her funeral, I noted that her twin grandsons had said they expected that now she was playing with the Cubs in heaven. I said they were close but not quite accurate. She would be managing.

Helen has said that her mother thought the only stupid thing I ever did was marry her daughter. She was a great achiever, as a mother-in-law. Thank you, Georgia.

JRMcF
johnrobertmcfarland@gmail.com

I tweet as yooper1721.

Katie Kennedy is the rising star in YA lit. [She is also our daughter.] She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser authors, like JK Rowling. TODAY is publication day of her new book, What Goes Up. It’s published in paper, audio, and electronic, and available right now, from B&N, Amazon, Powell’s, etc.

Monday, July 17, 2017

BRAIN WORK 7-17-17

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from the Heart of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©


Research indicates that old people think best in the morning. That is the optimal time of day for us to do brain work. By eleven o’clock, our brains are pretty well used up.

Frankly, I think that is rather optimistic. It’s ten-thirty as I write this and even two cups of coffee are not preventing my brain cells from wanting their pre-nap nap. Besides, it was in an afternoon session at a conference when someone cited the research, and I remembered it. Remembering something I have heard is pretty good brain work for me at any time.

There is plenty of other research, well-known to all by now, that says old people can put off losing brain power simply by exercising the old noggin. That is especially true if we use our brain cells in new and different ways, like learning a foreign language. Anything, though, that makes the brain work, such as doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles, is good for us.

The brain is part of the body. Any part of the body works better if we keep exercising and stretching it.

We need to adjust our schedules in the bloom years to meet the needs of our body and brain.

I used to be a long-distance runner, and I still walk about 50 minutes each day. When I was working, I ran first thing in the morning. It was the only way I could be sure I got my run in. My work days had ways of getting filled up with unplanned necessities that would knock out possibilities of running later. I continued that pattern when I retired, just because it was what I always did. Besides, it’s a good pattern; it’s fun to walk early and see the day come alive.

I began to find, though, in old age, that when I finished running or walking, I was tired. I wanted to sit down and do nothing. By the time I had recovered, errands and house chores were clutching at me. By the time nap time came, I had done no reading or writing, no brain work, and you know how useless a brain is after nap time!

So now I cook my oatmeal and start the coffee maker and start brain work even while I’m eating breakfast. I keep it up until eleven, or even later if I’ve got my slowmentum working. Walking and stretching and errands and chores are quite doable without much brain power.

I’m not saying this is the day plan you should use. Make your own schedule. Don’t just hang onto the same rhythms that worked for you in the past, though. We are different people now, with different needs. Regardless, it is important to include time for brain work when your brain can actually work.

JRMcF
johnrobertmcfarland@gmail.com

I tweet as yooper1721.


For several years I kept a careful index of stories and subjects I had used in these posts so that I would not repeat. That has become cumbersome, and I trust that most of my readers are old enough to forget as much as I, so now I just rely on memory to avoid repeats. If your memory is better than mine, and something sounds too familiar to bother reading again, I apologize.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

FEELING AT EASE IN UNEASY TIMES 7-16-17


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

 I often felt ill at ease because I felt at ease in situations that were not easy.

Bishop Leroy Hodapp said he felt most at ease in conflict situations, because that was when there was a possibility for change. I liked that idea, but it didn’t make me feel at ease in conflict. I became a bit more at ease with conflict toward the end of my career, mostly, I think, because I didn’t care anymore if people liked me or what they thought of me.

The difficult situations where I felt at ease were not about conflict but disaster, when I was with a man whose wife had died suddenly, with a family where a child had died or committed suicide, with a woman whose husband had been killed. I was keenly aware of my limits, the limits of anyone to be truly comforting in a situation like that, but I was also aware that this was a time where I could be of true help by pushing the limits. At times of loss, folks can be more aware of “the everlasting arms.” I was there to represent those everlasting arms in a way no one else could.

Don’t get me wrong. I dreaded those situations. I did not want anyone to lose a loved one or face any disaster of that kind. I was agonizingly aware of how I would feel in a similar situation. I not only sympathized but empathized. But you can’t escape the bad parts of life by wishing them away. When they come… well, that was where I felt called, where I felt I was supposed to be.

JRMcF
johnrobertmcfarland@gmail.com

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] We no longer live in the land of perpetual winter, but I am in the winter of my years, so I think it’s okay to use that phrase. I don’t know why I put that © on; it’s hardly necessary.

Following the critical and marketing success of her first Young Adult novel, daughter Katie Kennedy’s Learning to Swear in America, is What Goes Up, a July 18, 2017 release. She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser known by promising young authors, like JK Rowling.