Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, July 27, 2017


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

 Sometimes I’m tired, and so I just sit and do nothing. That’s very hard for me. As a child, I was taught that I should always be doing something, something to make a contribution. I learned that lesson well.

I grew up on a hardscrabble farm. There was basic electricity in the house, but not in the barn. There we had to use a kerosene lamp on short winter days to milk and feed both morning and evening. That meant installing and trimming the wick and keeping the kerosene reservoir filled.

We had no indoor plumbing of any kind, so we had to carry in cistern water for washing and well water for drinking and cooking. When the well went dry, as it usually did in the summer, I walked the quarter-mile to and from Homer and Hazel Heathman’s well, a bucket in each hand. When water had been used, it had to be carried back out again, in different buckets than those used for carrying it in.

We cooked and heated with wood and coal, which meant splitting logs and kindling into different piles, carrying in wood and coal, different buckets for small coal for the kitchen range and big lumps for the Warm Morning heating stove. Of course, there was shaking down the ashes and carrying them out, and cleaning stove pipes and taking them down in the spring and putting them back up again in the fall.

There was milking and feeding and birthing and weaning and gathering and plowing and haying and planting and hoeing and picking and shucking and grinding and canning and butchering and churning and laundering.

Oh, and carrying the night pot to the outhouse. As the oldest boy in the family, I was expected always to use the outhouse directly, rain or shine, night or day, hot or cold, but I had to carry out the pot the women and children used. That really galled!

There was not a single moment to rest. There was so much to do, you knew that there was always another job right after whatever you were doing. Regardless of how tired you were, there was always something else to do.

Then I dropped out of high school and worked in a factory. There was a foreman and a line leader and an efficiency engineer. Their job was to remind me that I was always supposed to be doing something.

Nobody at university looked over my shoulder, but I learned that if I did not keep busy all the time, I would not make it. I worked and went to college at the same time. If there were a ten minute break in the schedule, I grabbed a text book and read. You had to use every minute.

I recall seeing photographs of young Negroes, as African-Americans were called then, doing a sit-in. I knew they were college students, because as they sat there, waiting for the police to come and bash in their heads and arrest them, they were reading the same books that I was reading. As a student, you could never afford to drop behind in your class-work, even as you tried to confront evil in its own back yard.

Then we had children! And jobs. There was never a break. If you weren’t doing something, you at least had to be thinking about doing something. If you got tired, so what? You had to keep on keeping on.

Now, though, if I get tired, I just sit and do nothing. I don’t think anything, either. I look. I listen. I wait. The tiredness will pass after a while. Then I’ll do something. Right now, though, I’ll just sit here. That’s okay.

It’s sort of like the grace that Paul Tillich talked about in his famous sermon on acceptance. Right now, all you have to do is accept God’s acceptance. If later God asks something of you, do it. Right now, though, just accept that you are accepted.


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 but promising young authors, like JK Rowling.

Speaking of writing, my most recent book, VETS, about four homeless and handicapped Iraqistan veterans, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Powell’s, etc. It’s published by Black Opal Books.

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