Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Saturday, June 13, 2015


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

A hardware store flyer came with the newspaper today. I looked through it carefully. I don’t need or want anything from a hardware store, but I do it to honor and remember my father.

My father loved tools, and so he loved hardware stores. In his later years, when he had given away all his tools because he had to go to a senior citizen apartment or was living in a nursing home room, he would have me take him to a hardware store, ostensibly to buy a light bulb or a cleaning cloth. Really it was so he could browse the shelves, to see what was new. The only eyesight he had left was about ten percent in one eye, but he would get that eye right up against the shelf. He loved to see those tools.

I had no interest in tools myself, not his kind of tools. He lost his eye-sight in an industrial accident when I was five. Shortly thereafter I entered into the fourth of the eight stages of psychological-social growth, as outlined by Erik Erikson, industry vs inferiority. It’s basically when you learn to use tools, or fail to learn how to use them. Dad organized his tools so that he could still find them and use them, even with his minimal eyesight.

I, of course, was fascinated by his tools, so I would sometimes get one out to “use,” which meant to play with. And I would sometimes leave it in the yard, where he couldn’t find it. In my psyche I heard him say, “You can’t use tools.” I think he probably said some variant of “You can’t use MY tools,” for good reason. I, however, internalized the idea that I could not use any kind of tool. I still can’t use his kind of tools. I settled for inferiority over industry.

Sort of.

I did, however, take up another kind of tool, words.

I wanted to be a journalist. That’s the trade of one who uses words as tools. I loved stories and wanted to tell them. Just as importantly, I wanted to tell them honestly. Everyone said that Ernie Pyle told the story of WW II the way it really was. I wanted to be an Ernie Pyle.

There is, of course, more than one way to use tools. Some use my father’s kind of tools to make the instruments of war rather than to build a cradle for a little child. Some use words to misinform, to propagandize, to lie.

Many people in the winter years take up new tools or new tool tasks, for wood-working or knitting or pottery. That is a good thing. Mastering a tool, though, isn’t the only task. Perhaps more important is the opportunity we have in the years of winter to master the user of the tools.

John Robert McFarland

The picture is of the Pine Mountain ski jump in Iron Mountain, MI, the highest man-made ski jump in the world. I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter. I have a picture that is more appropriate now for Indiana, boys playing basketball in winter snow, but I have not yet figured out how to replace the ski jump picture with the basketball picture.

I tweet as yooper1721.

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