A Word on Wednesday: Blessed

I am blessed.

I used to use words like fortunate or lucky. I did this to sound secular, and therefore not reveal myself as to ascribing to a Christian God.

But those words can only speak to circumstances, not to being.

Blessed is audacious.

“Consecrated, sacred, holy?” “Worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship?” The Blessed Sacrament or The Blessed Trinity.

Nope that doesn’t sound right.

“Divinely or supremely favored?”

Absolutely audacious.

Next, we come to a non religious use of the word: “Fortunate: to be blessed with a strong, healthy body; blessed with an ability to find friends.” But if you mean blessed in this secular way, why not say fortunate rather than blessed. Blessed sounds so “chosen.”

One of my coworkers at day job, often says “Have a blessed day.” to both her teammates and the people they serve. And when she says it to me, I have this certainty that she means she hopes I receive God’s blessings that day. Not because she is pushing her beliefs on me, but because she genuinely wants that for me and for everyone she encounters.

In this biblical way, blessed is a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness. It is the invoking of God’s favor upon a person.

The following passage came up in my devotions this morning: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11.

This led me to think of the Proverb 16, specifically verse 20: “Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.

To accept that we are blessed, we must credit the creator for blessing us. Without that divinity, we can only hope to be fortunate or lucky. But those who trust in the Lord will be blessed.

I too hope for God’s blessings to find their way to every wanting person. So in the words of my coworker, “have a blessed day.”

A Word on Wednesday: Crucible

A crucible is a container of metal or refractory material employed for heating substances to high temperatures. When metals are melted, they are prepared for transformation into different shapes and purposes.

My dad worked for nearly forty years at an iron foundry. One summer, I cut lawn around the plants. My crew leader made sure I visited my dad at his post on the furnace deck surrounding three glowing crucibles. I saw vats of bright red, burning iron, and I saw my dad on a ledge standing over it. He wore heavy, green overalls, steal tip boats, a face shield, and a hard hat. My dad used some tool I did not recognized to reach over that piping hot metal to skim off its impurities. He monitored and logged the temperature. He poured that glowing liquid iron it into buckets attached to vehicles delivering it to waiting molds. I don’t know all the details, and I’m sure there was a lot more to it than that. I just saw him concentrate — physically and mentally — at the dangerous job. He did this eight hours a day, week after week, year after year.

I respect my dad’s loyalty to the company; his loyalty was a means to his ultimate end – providing stability for our family. That company, which had produced 145,000 tons of gray and ductile iron castings annually — ranking it among the top ten independent foundries in the United States — closed in 2016 coaxing my dad into a much deserved retirement.

My dad worked at that foundry, so I didn’t have to. I was saved from this fate. My vocation is not so punishing on my mind and body. The demands are not so obvious. My life work will never be on par with the dramatic tangibility that only comes from working with one’s hands. I do not stand over a crucible.

The noun crucible is the same word we have to describe a severe, searching test or trial.

This is what author Sue Monk Kidd refers to when she says this: Her crisis was the transforming crucible of her life. Crisis is a holy summons to cross a threshold.”

It is a comfort to me to think about the pressures of severe trials as a means of transformation, an actual summons to create. The use of the word crucible in this spiritual fashion is an interesting choice for Monk Kidd. She encourages us to use struggles as an opportunity to take something whole, break it down to its melting point, slag off the excess, and reset it.

When a crisis can be thought of as a crucible, we can tinker with the matter and create something new and purposeful. We only need the strength, mental dexterity, and loyalty to keep watch over it. We need to know where to go with the embers of possibility.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

A Word On Wednesday: Season

In Wisconsin, the seasons change, drastically. The hardest transition for many is the end of summer to the start of autumn. It is hard to say good bye to fun in the sun.

With life being short and summer being shorter, I enthusiastically lather with sunscreen, sail with the wind in my hair, fire up the grill, walk after dinner, and sit at the patio where it is still-light until bedtime.

In September, we will lose 80 minutes of daylight. This is gradual, the sun setting two minutes earlier, day by day and accelerating as the weeks go by and we near the Autumnal Equinox. Already, I can feel the winds bringing in a cold front, snapping us out of basking in sandals and shorts to reaching for socks and pants.

Soon enough, my drive home from the day job will be with headlights on. Soups and stews will replaced grilled meats and vegetables for the evening meal.

For me, autumn means a return to pen and ink and tapping my keyboard. For me it means a welcome return to my well worn, soft brown sweater that I only wear in my office while writing.

Since July, I have dedicated little to no time at the writing desk. Over the past two decades, my writing has settled into a seasonal hobby. Reading more in the summer, writing with a bit of rust in the fall – often poems and essays, breaking for the holidays, tackling big work in the winter, and frenzied attempts to finish projects in the spring before the big break of summer.

A season is just one of four periods of the year, literally beginning astronomically at an equinox or solstice. Each with their own character of weather conditions and temperature. As the years of seasons pile up, there is a predictable rhythm, which is a comfort. I’ve been here before and here I am again.

Every time we transition to a change of circumstances, I recall Chapter 3 from the Book of Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” The Word goes with a list of temporary figurative seasons, “a time to mourn and a time to dance” for example.

There is reason to rejoice in each of our seasons. Go ahead and embrace your pumpkin spice, jump into a pile of leaves, pull out your favorite sweaters, hunt, or harvest. Ready or not, on the calendar, fall begins next week. Already, I have anticipated it’s arrival. Good bye ice tea. Hello hot chocolate.

A Word on Wednesday: Vibe

Vibe is an informal or slang of vibration. When you are picking up and more importantly putting out good vibrations, you are living right.

Recently, fortunately, our family took an unplugged vacation. We had awesome weather day after day, amassing two weeks of fun in the sun on the coast of a great lake in lower Michigan. 

My teenage son uses the word as a verb, “I’m vibing!” When he caught a fish, he was vibing, when we grilled, he was vibing. When we were boating, he was vibing.  Prior to our family trip, I hadn’t realized young people were using that slang. 

Recently, I read a few books about energy, positive energy in particular. Where does it come from, can it be sustained, and how can I make it work for me. My first read in my pursuit to mastering the law of attraction was Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness by Vex King.

I came away with practical insight on how to invite great opportunities into my life. I learned techniques to manifest goals, and I learned how to flow with the universe. 

I had been reluctant to believe in the Law of Attraction. I have pride in my blue collar family roots of boot strapping, hard work, and Christian values. I also have a journalism background of well-honed cynicism.  How could manifesting the life I want really be as simple as asking the universe for it?! “Imagining” greatness was certain to have no affect. What some hogwash, that I could just swig down with essential oils while basking in the scent of aromatic healing candles. 

But I read on: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Vibe by Robin Openshaw. 

 
Good vibrations is nothing new, The Beach Boys sang about it in 1967.
 
And good vibes is here to stay. 
 
On the foil wrapper of a Dove chocolate, I received the reminder, “Your Vibe attracts your Tribe.”
 
I recently attending an essential oil class and googled green smoothies, albeit with a hard-to-shake skepticism. It’s a process to remain optimistic. I invite book suggestions on the topic of the Law of Attraction and creating good vibes. 
 
Peace and love to the universe! 
 
 

A Word on Wednesday: Adventure

Having a spirit of adventure is one thing. Having the faith, courage, and confidence to act on that spirit is another. Lucky are those who have an adventure partner to share the journey. Luckier still, are those who have the same adventure partner for journey after journey.

adventure

As a noun, adventure is participation in an exciting undertaking or enterprise. It is an exciting or very unusual experience. As a verb, adventure is to risk or hazard; to take a chance of; dare.

When we think of adventure, we don’t necessarily consider it as a risky behavior. Especially, those who seek adventure when they are young. We seek fun: joy of discovery, pleasure of fine things, and thrills of exhilaration. 

However, the meaning of adventure — derived from Old French aventurer and from Latin adventura — was directly developed through risk and danger (a trial of one’s chances). The meaning later developed from “perilous undertaking.”

When we risk, when we adventure, what are we hoping to gain?

We seek sites of awe. We seek a glimpse of humanity displayed in an array of culture different from our own. We seek strength as we stretch beyond our comfort zones. We seek a break from routine. We seek a place to rest. We seek an interruption to complacency with the mundane of daily life. We seek meaning. 

In the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, we learn of the perils of his adventure. In Chapter 11, verse 26, he writes: “I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea.” Yet, Paul later boasts of the reward of visions and revelations of the Lord he received on his journey.

We all adventure to acquire. We gain perspective. That is why we take the risk. At minimum, souvenirs and stories and snapshots are amassed. Ideally, as we gain exposure to novel experiences, we learn peace through love and tolerance. We are unable to remain stagnant when we dare to adventure. There is growth as we witness new horizons and accomplish daring feats.

To you, today, I ask you to rejoice in all there is to be gained by adventuring. Perhaps the more roads you travel the more you will see they all lead to the Lord, our steadfast adventure partner.

 

A Word on Wednesday: Jeopardy

The Lord is our shelter in the storm. In the book of Luke (8:22-25), we learn of Jesus getting in a boat with his disciples. “So they set out … And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger.” The disciples, who were afraid, woke Jesus in a panic saying “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Jesus “rebuked the wind and raging waters, and they ceased, and there was a calm.” “Where is your faith?” He questioned.

jeopardy

I draw upon this story, because it is a tale of lives in jeopardy. Corona has put all our lives in jeopardy.  This virus has claimed, as of today, more than 122,000 lives in the United States alone.  That is one-hundred, twenty-two, thousand deaths.

Yet, I do not live with anxiety. I socialize with friends and family. I put my health in jeopardy. This is not because I think I deserve to survive because of some strong faith that I have. I do not delude that Jesus will spare me. It is not because I think I am healthy enough to survive.

I accept the risk, because I am tired. Tired of being cautious. Tired of living in fear. Also, it is because, I live in a rural area where I feel my chance of contracting the virus is less than those living in densely populated areas. However, I have been as close as two degrees of separation from tested-positive patients. This worries me enough to not jeopardize myself in large crowds. It concerns me enough to wash my hands excessively while at my day job.

Jeopardy is hazard or risk of or exposure to loss, harm, death, or injury. In this jeopardy, I consider my risk. I am comfortable rolling the dice, moderately, with caution.

However, as I consider this jeopardy I dance with, I must also consider my responsibility to others. To that end, I wear a mask in public settings. Yet, hypocritically, not with friends or family.

There are absolute life and death consequences associated with Corona. Should I resume sheltering in place and require my family to do the same? I am responsible for my actions and would feel terrible, guilty if my actions caused an infection to another.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai to serve as principles of moral behavior for the human race. The fifth commandment is thou should not kill, specifically, referring to murdering an innocent person.

Responsibility is the state of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management. I suppose I take comfort that the virus and its spread is outside of my control, and therefore what responsibility do I really have?

Still I am left to ponder, what right do I have — even unknowingly — to put others in jeopardy?

Therefore, I pray. Pray for an end to this pandemic. Pray for life to resemble the normal we had known. Pray for the lives of my loved ones and me. Pray for the scientists to come to a solution. Pray for the families homeschooling their children. Pray for sensibility throughout the lands. Pray for our leaders at all levels to guide and protect us. Pray for economic recovery for businesses. Pray for financial relief for individuals. Pray for a new normal to emerge of greater compassion and gratitude.

A Word on Wednesday: Accolade

I always found doing something for the reward was less than. I found it better to forego credit and attempt to remain humble. It was my aspiration to be more altruistic, to do good work without recognition.

There is honor in notice. Accolades are not to be shied away from. The noun referrers to any award, honor, or laudatory notice. 

I think of the graduates this year, be it from college, high school, tech school, graduate school, or even the eighth grade. Their achievement is without ceremony. The applause is missing.

accolade

I think back on my own graduations. From high school, I wore a white gown and cap with an orange tassel and stood with the others from my small class. My parents were there, my teachers, my grandparents, my sister. I found the pomp and circumstance less than necessary. When, I graduated from college cum laude, I skipped the ceremony all together.  I shied  away from recognition, avoided the accolades.

Sports were never a part of my life. I wasn’t raised to be a competitor. I never stood on a podium for a metal or ribbon. I never learned the lessons of pride from an athletic achievement. Instead, I was an introvert, reading, writing. I did compete in Swing Choir and Forensics. But those activities drew few spectators and the state competitions were quiet and far away. We didn’t ride a bus with painted windows to the capital.

Somehow, at my middle age, I have yet to learn the poise of confidence. I have yet to become comfortable in others highlighting my professional, literary, and personal accomplishments.

Accolade originates from phrasing roughly translated to embracing around the neck. It was originally a word used for a tapping of the sword on the shoulders to confer knighthood. Extending meaning is as praise, award.

Certainly, what could I do that would warrant such a gesture as this!

I think of  The Parable of Talents from the Book of Matthew. Those who were able to multiple the talents given were given more. The one who buried his talent away had that too taken from him.

With confidence, I can sow what I have been given and reap what is possible. From this, I can hear the following verse: 

“His lord said to him, ‘Well donegood and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'” (Matthew 25:16-23).

A Word on Wednesday: Opportunity

Opportunity means conditions are favorable to achieve some end.

People say, “opportunity is all around us,” and they also say, “Don’t waste a good opportunity.” Which one is it? How many times does opportunity knock? How can you be ready for it?

opportunity

From Old French in the late Fourteenth Century, opportunitie, translates to “fit, convenient, or seasonable time.” Opportunity’s current definition does not deviate far from that root: “a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal.”

Therefore, it stands to reason, that to seize opportunity, the goal should be top of mind and clearly defined. I recommend reading the late Zig Ziglar’s many motivational books on business, specifically sales, success.

Opportunity, in so much as having the occasion to succeed, is like luck. Thomas Jefferson once said, “The harder I work, the more luck I have.”

This expression used by farmers, “make hay while the sun is shining” reminds us to use the opportunities when they are present. We are not guaranteed endless days of optimal conditions. From the book of John when Jesus gave sight to a blind man, we hear the advice, We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4.

The opportunity we must most be mindful of is the opportunity to live out Jesus’ will. What talents has he bestowed on you to use for the good of the world?

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10.

With this blog, I have the opportunity to share the word, albeit without the benefit of a theological degree. This is my quiet, subtle promise to be an evangelist. From 2 Timothy 4:2, I am reminded to “Preach the word; be ready in season and out to season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching.”“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5.

For me, it is the written word that has been bestowed upon me and developed through opportunities. What is your opportunity to please the Lord?

 

A Word on Wednesday: Appropriate

Appropriate, having the right thing for the right occasion.

appropriateA week ago, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order, essentially leaving the state a free for all. There is no government policy guiding how to reopen with suitable precautions in place. 

Immediately after the action, the Wisconsin Tavern League issued a statement encouraging bar owners to open. And they did. Pictures of bars throughout the state packed with people shoulder to shoulder flooded the internet. As a resident, it was a complete source of embarrassment.

In the aftermath of the ruling, counties and municipalities put out their own guidelines, which also were overruled a day later. Now it is in the hands of business owner to business owner. And resident to resident to be appropriate. This is not the time to live with reckless abandon.

Politics aside, I believe it is inappropriate to ignore the pandemic, which cannot be legislated into extinction. I acknowledge Wisconsin isn’t the hardest hit. (As of today, 12,885 cases and 467 deaths in the state.) 

However, I will not buy into the idea that this virus only kills those who are “expendable.” Someone living with advanced age or an underlying health conditions do not deserve to die from a horrendous virus.

Therefore, I think the following guidelines, as outlined by the CDC, are appropriate.

  1. Wear a mask in public.
  2. Maintain social distance.

Of course, the list is longer than that, and you can read it here.

As I struggle to remain diligent in my behavior to slow the spread and flatten the curve, I pray that the lead researchers on this pandemic can be guided to a solution.

A Word on Wednesday: Daffodil

This concrete noun is a bulbous plant, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, of the amaryllis family, having solitary, yellow, nodding flowers that bloom in the spring. 

More than that, it is the sign of spring as sure as a fat robin here in Wisconsin. In my garden, I have seen these blooms as soon as early March. This year, it is late April, and the daffodils are stunted and sad, limp and weeping.

Daffodil

April can seem the longest month. Winter began last October with the children trick-or-treating in the snow! We thirst to be outside without bundled layers. After the calendar announced the first day of spring more than a month ago, we await Mother Nature to do her part!

The childhood rhyme goes, “April showers, bring May flowers.” This April, I still have down-filled puffer jacket on the hook by the door. How nice to think of an umbrella and rain boots instead.

However, this too, shall pass. Other years, the daffodils will be stronger, more vibrant.