Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, February 23, 2017


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Life & Faith for the Years of Winter

We once drove through a town in Iowa that displayed two billboards at the edge of town. One claimed 927 Happy Residents And 1 Old Grump. The other advertised Grump Days June 19-21.

At first I was a little irritated. Only one old grump in the town, but the festival was named after him. That didn’t seem fair. I was much younger then. Now that I am an old grump myself, I think it’s neat.

Besides, every town needs a festival, even the big towns, like Chicago, with its Taste of Chicago. If you have nothing to celebrate but the presence of a grump, well, go ahead and make a festival out of his presence. [Come to think of it, the signs did not indicate that the grump was a man, and old women can be grumpy, too, so both sexes should be able to claim that festival as their own.]

We once lived in Arcola, Illinois. Johnny Gruel had been born there, so they had a Raggedy Ann festival. Almost all the brooms in the world are made there, too, because the area farmers used to grow broomcorn, so there was also a Broomcorn Festival, which humor columnist Dave Barry made famous. Now they have to import broomcorn from Mexico, but, hey, it’s still an excuse for a festival. The town liked festivals so much that when there was a bank holdup there, complete with hostage, people joked that next they would have a Bank Hostage Festival.

You don’t really need a person or an historical event to initiate a festival, though. Just look at Toast and Jelly Days in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. The main point is to celebrate.

When I first wrote this, Helen and I were in our fiftieth year of marriage. We decided that we did not want to have one big blowout when we finally hit the fifty-year mark. So we celebrated AnniversaryFest all year long, doing something special every month to remind us of how blessed we are to have had each other all these years.

It is important to celebrate, to set time aside to “festival,” for four reasons. One is just to have a good time. The second is to make money off the suckers who come from out of town. The third is because Jesus said to: “I’m here; let’s party!” [John 10:10] The last reason is to remind us that every day is a gift, a time of celebration, a festival in its own right. It is easy to forget that if we only take each day as it comes. Each day begins to look a lot like the day before it. We begin to take them for granted. A festival breaks the monotony and reminds us that the non-festival days, too, are precious.

Old age is a great gift. It means that we have been through a lot of festival days. It is easy to concentrate on the losses of old age—flexibility, hearing, eyesight, strength, family members, friends. They are real, but old age is not just the sum of our losses.

This week, we had coffee with Joe. We’ve known him for almost sixty years. We laughed and laughed. Yesterday we met Bob and Kathy for lunch. We laughed and laughed. It’s time to celebrate GeezerFest!


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