Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, July 26, 2013


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a place of winter For the Years of Winter…
I didn’t know that Helen has a bucket list, but apparently she does. It’s the only way I can account for her desire to enter the grape stomping contest at Iron Mountain’s Italian Fest next month.
We’ve belonged for several years to the LIFE group of Bay de Noc Community College-West. LIFE stands for Learning Is ForEver. Its programs are designed to help old brains build new connections. Helen and I have gone and sat there each month, resisting brain mushiness, but otherwise inactive, as we are mostly in all things. Last month, though, in a spasm of desperation, the group elected me president. It changed Helen’s relationship to LIFE more than it did mine.
All I have to do is tell the secretary which person made a motion. Since I was not in leadership of LIFE before, though, I have not bothered to learn the names of my fellow LIFErs. I was good at that in churches. I made a point of it. By the third week in any new church, regardless of size, I could call 90% of the members by name. But since I don’t know LIFErs, I just make up names for them to tell the secretary. “Moved by Senator Tollefson. Seconded by Myrtle Krepsbach.” If they don’t like their names, they can complain to Garrison Keillor.
Helen, however, went into preacher’s wife mode. She welcomed guests. She got name tags for people in wheelchairs and on walkers. She found more paper plates. She had a bunch of old people singing “We are marching to Pee-oria” as she led them down the hall to the restrooms. [One item in that list isn’t completely accurate, factually.]
I’ve mentioned before the glamorous young Lutheran pastor’s wife of some years back who told me she hated Helen, “Because she makes being a preacher’s wife look so easy, and it’s not.” Here’s the thing: Helen never tried to be a good preacher’s wife. She just tries to be her best self.
I was once called upon to be an interim in a church where the bishop had removed the pastor, for good cause. The people, however, thought that was government interference. When the bishop came to explain things to them, they chanted “We want our pastor,” and threw hymn books at him. The District Superintendent called me and said, “We think this would be a good place for you to pastor for a while.” The first Sunday I said to Helen that perhaps she should stay home. “No way! If they’re mean to you, I’m going to beat up on them.” I’m happy to report that Helen didn’t have to beat up on anyone. I do feel more at ease, though, in my LIFE presidency position, knowing that if anyone tries to run over me with a walker, she’ll be there to block it.
Which brings us back to Italian Fest. In competition, old people have an advantage. We have more experience than anyone else. I think Helen will win the contest. She has experience. She has spent her life stomping out the grapes of wrath.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where life is defined by winter even in the summer!
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