R and R

Relief or Restoration?

I rattled through two sleeves of upscale buttery, saltine crackers like a couple of clips from a machine gun. This was after I found an old war flick, A Bridge Too Far, recounting the failed mission of WWII code named Operation Market Garden. I just wanted to veg, find a bit of relief from a busy weekend. Eventually I fell asleep in the glow of sound and fury.

Relief…

Back in the day it was peanut butter banana toast and Gilligan’s Island. It was an after school relief from junior high, that prison of halls and doors and peer pressure positioning. I’d make it home to lounge in the sunporch, give my pimpled persona a rest, and watch the Skipper run into the tree for the umpteenth time.

Such a pattern still exists if I let it. The space is there to get spaced out, relieved of the duty of adult living. I mean don’t we all want to escape some of the realities of the “real?” But is escape and relief the optimal way through?

Right before the Covid lockdowns last year I went to a men’s gathering in the mountains of Colorado. Buena Vista to be precise. Buena Vista means beautiful view, which it definitely was. So beautiful that there were times I wept at the scenery. Throughout the weekend the idea of choosing between a way of relief and a way of restoration was posited. In hindsight, I came away with the realization that I was using.

I began noticing the carbs of comfort, the plopping in front of the T.V., being strung out on the news cycle like crack cocaine and using social media as affirmation of my existence. I had become a hollow man. I was using, and it manifested in–“squirrel!”– and punching new holes near the end of my belt. When my kids had to use my first name to get my attention something wasn’t right.

I needed restoration. Relief serves a purpose, sure, but often it leaves a hole. Escape drops everything for a bit and leaves me empty handed. But restoration, I found, replaces, refurbishes, and refills. It’s not a substance but sustenance.

In that most famous of Psalms it says “He restores my soul.” Don’t we all need that? Not just because of the last year, but because life is edgy, full of wonder and wander, a Tale of Two Cities as it were. Read it here. https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=first+line+of+tale+of+two+cities&id=F2C6F65F1727439F9B7DB0139DAEF5CE23143DAC&FORM=IQFRBA

Our interior life needs consistent restoration. It takes more effort than relieving ourselves. Sorry for that image. But seriously, find the things that restore. Some of you are way ahead of me on this journey. I’m getting there.

Here are some restorative acts in which I engage:

Cutting down on news intake.

            Reading and journaling.

            Praying.

Hugging my wife and maintaining eye contact.

Listening to music.

Hitting some trails with a friend.

Getting out in nature in general. (So thankful for my job in that department.)

I’ll end with this. Over the weekend I went to my mother-in-law’s to pick up a piece of furniture she no longer needed. Walking into her house is like swimming in sunshine. Excess of color, artwork everywhere I looked. I found that when I left I felt lighter, happier, and comforted. I told her so. She is versed in restoration. Her life hasn’t been all bright and cheery, but you wouldn’t know it upon entering her gallery.

I pray you will find the avenues of restoration to fill you. What are some of the restorative acts you pursue?

PSALM 23

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

3He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

5You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

forever.

ESV Version

Happy New Year!

I don’t want to abuse the metaphor of 2020 as a vision of the year to come. Honestly, metaphorically, most days I can’t see beyond the tip of my nose, with or without glasses. I glance back occasionally, but there is really “no use of looking up a dead horses arse” like coach Walker said after a Jr. High football loss. So, in effect, 2020, is like waking up to another good old new day by the grace of God.

Twenty some minutes into 2020, on our way back from festivities in Allegan, our Ford Flexed as a deer got all up in our grill. We hit it dead on. The deer timed it perfectly to square off with 55mph bullet. I didn’t swerve. No time to. The brakes were applied like a knee-jerk afterthought. Was the animal suicidal or just trying to beat a train of sorts? The doe, fortunately, didn’t come through the windshield. Instead, what happened, at least to those of us who were watching, couldn’t be described without the onset of nausea. All of the humans were startled, but safe; the deer…oh, deer.

Makes me wonder what startling things lay in the year ahead. I mean, last year many things got up in our grill. Think about it. If we have a heartbeat, life has its double edges, does it not? Last year was so 2019 with “Oh, the humanity” splayed throughout. I admit, this is from me, Forrest Grump (My self- imposed term of endearment from this holiday season), and I tend to see through a glass darkerly. The blessings arrive as surprises too, if I am paying attention. The daily reading from Frederick Buechner, January 1st, encourages listening to your life.

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” Frederick Buechner

Not only that, but mercies are new each morning. Forrest Grump is double covered by the God of the universe. Grace and mercy. Mercy and grace. Speak Lord. Teach me to listen. Whether the deer is up in our grill, or a calming vision in a cornfield at dusk, help us God, to wend our way through 2020 with our hearts wide open.

Happy New Year!