Storm of Opportunities

Well, folks, it’s been an interesting week of weather here in south central Kansas. We’ve had a bit of freezing rain with lightning and thunder, some sleet with lightning and thunder, freezing fog without lightning or thunder, freezing drizzle, and some non-freezing rain. And, to sort of right out the work week in right good fashion, we have a chance of thunderstorms this evening.

Whatever complaints we’ve had, car to ditch drills, spills on icy sidewalks and what have you, “boring” hasn’t been among them. (I should note here, however, that I haven’t had to deal with adolescent children who’ve had at least two days of cancelled school and no snow for outdoor recreation.)

In point of fact, we’ve had some downright interesting moments and events aside from the afore-mentioned mishaps. Just looking at the weather radar map has been a bit intriguing. On at least one day, we saw the illustrated intersection of high pressure and low pressure extending in a uniform path of green and red stretching all the way from Mexico to Newfoundland. That’s not only interesting; it’s downright impressive.

Of course, some folks have been more impressed than others. For the folks living in the flood plains in the Ohio River Valley and such like, the weather has become quite a bit more than a topic for conversation. As if winter itself isn’t enough to deal with! There’s never a good time for having a creek or river make itself at home in your home. But I’d say winter has got to be about the worst time for it.

So far, in a very selfish and precise way, I’d have to say that this week’s weather for this particular Arnett household has been a mix of annoyance, inconvenience and welcome break from the routine work week. It was nice to have a day off and laze around a bit. For other folks, though, between the incidents and accidents, it’s been a rough week.

While we’re all being careful out there, let’s remember to be full of care for one another.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Nature, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Fire and Ice

Out in the cold darkness of a winter morning,
I felt the sting and knew that ice was forming
on the thin steel skin of the car parked in the drive.

Freezing rain drizzled down, bending the tall shrubs
and everything else limber enough toward the ground.
Beads and strings of ice barely glimmered
in the low glow of the porch light.

Four hours before dawn I walked out to the street,
sliding my feet to see whether there was a glaze
on the pavement.

There was none here but forty miles away
sleet was raining down on Cowtown,
a slick sheath layering above a slicker coat beneath.
This sort of thing turns the streets into wagers
and those who bet “fast” will pay up sooner than later.

By mid-morning, the berms and shoulders,
ditches and banks showed the tracks
that lead to where wreckers and EMT’s
are called to deal with the lasting effects
instigated by a moment’s passing indiscretion.

This isn’t quite the rain for which we were praying
but with wildfires torching the prairie a hundred miles away,
we’ll take it.
We’ll take ice and sleet, and flood and mud if we have to.

And though it might seem a bit callused to those whose tracks
lead from asphalt to ditch bank,
we remember miles of burnt fence and blackened timber,
the twisted frames of barns and buildings,
and thousands of heifer-shaped corpses
bloated in the corners of pastures that turned into prisons
in the roaring pass of flaming grass
and a sixty mile-an-hour blast
that changed every dry and windy morning
for the rest of your life.

H. Arnett

Posted in Farming, Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weird Weather and the Search for Wisdom

Freezing rain? Yes. Sleet? Yes. Wind chill near single digits? Yes. Ice accumulating on vehicles, streets and roads? Yes. Anything else? Yep; thunder and lightning.

There are some things you don’t typically expect with sleet and freezing rain and lightning would definitely be one of those. Certainly does make for an interesting start to one’s day. Even if one’s day starts a few hours earlier than usual.

It wasn’t concern about the weather that roused me out of bed at three o’clock this morning but it has been weather that has kept my attention. Watching Wichita news, checking weather forecasts, walking outside and checking the street. Offering my input into the president’s decision tree to determine whether we forge ahead with the regular schedule, cancel classes or compromise. Currently, we’re in compromise mode and going with delayed start.

Maybe by ten o’clock, the streets will be fine and the roads will be clear. Maybe not. Conditions vary considerably across the area. Last time I was outside, there was a light film of ice on the car but the street and driveway had none. Thirty-five miles from here, they have a half-inch of icy sleet on the ground. The radar map shows the color of winter storm lining up from Oklahoma City to Wichita with a transition to the color of rain at the eastern edge of the colliding fronts. Ark City is right in that transition fringe.

We find ourselves in life’s little fringe zones from time to time. Somewhere between inconvenience and danger. Somewhere between sad and tragic. Caught in the buffer between a yawn and a scream. Sometimes, the kids get a snow day and we trudge off to work anyway. Sometimes we slide off into the ditch on our way. Sometimes we take a look at the sleet piling up on the windowsill and figure taking a few hours of earned leave time might be better than risking the drive.

No matter the situation we ultimately take responsibility for our own well-being. Sometimes we also have to take responsibility for the well-being of others. Neither of those is as simple as we’d sometimes like to think. Especially when our thinking rouses us out of bed at three in the morning.

H. Arnett

Posted in Nature, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation, Work | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Good Start to a Great Day

Some mornings I roll right out of bed, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, rested and ready for the new day. Today isn’t one of those days.

After a night of fitful sleep, I beeped the snooze alarm three or four times, hoping each time for some sort of miracle that would cram eight hours of sound slumber into a few five-minute intervals. That didn’t happen.

But I am up, relatively alert and making progress on beginning another week. I’m grateful for warm shelter, clean clothes and fresh coffee. I have a good job, great people with whom to work, a loving wife and a fine dog. I also have a large, wonderful family and a good number of friends who mean a great deal to me.

I suppose I could take another thirty minutes to reflect on my blessings but this makes a pretty good start. That means that I’ve already done two of the most important things necessary for making a good day: 1) I’m out of bed and 2) I’m deliberately aware of my blessings.

Put those two things together and add a prayer for wisdom and grace and you’re ready to make a great day!

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Prayer, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Grief and Pain, Loss and Hope

As a preacher and pastor over the past forty years, I have often been called upon in times of grief and bereavement. I have been at the side of the elderly as they have passed from this life into their rest. I knelt beside the lifeless body of a 21-year-old man who had crashed his ultra-light airplane in his parents’ backyard—as they watched horrified and helpless. I have spoken with the families of children killed in accidents and of a man murdered in his own bed. I have seen the baby and widow left behind by a man killed in a mining accident. I have lost family, friends, colleagues and church members.

Some of these deaths were tragic, some were horrific and some were a welcome release. Even in the ones that brought release from long, slow tortured dyings, there was still loss. While we might be grateful that a loved one’s suffering is ended, we still miss the relationship we once had. In some cases, the loss is so shocking, so painful and so unfair that there are no words to describe the agony nor are there words to take away such pain. In greater frankness than some people may find comfortable, I will admit that my own belief is that sometimes there is no “why,” no grand reason other than the uncompromising laws of physics. (I personally find no comfort in searching for reasons but rather in knowing that even in my greatest doubts and darkest angers, the God in whom I believe still loves me and will not abandon me, no matter how alone and lonely I may feel.)

Ultimately, it is not explanation and understanding that we want. No philosophy, no cliché, no rhyme or rationalization can heal the hole that we feel within us. Even the greatest expressions of empathy, though precious and treasured, cannot fill the measure of our loss. While the tears and prayers of others show us that we are loved, and our own deep faith somehow sustains us, these things cannot erase the blackness that sometimes sinks its fangs into us. Anger, wrath and rage, even vengeance may preoccupy us with darkness but they cannot take away the loss. Not even the heaviest justice of the courts can give us the deepest desire of our heart.

What we want, quite simply, is to have the thing undone. We want our friend, our child, our sibling, our student, our loved one given back to us in good condition. That is what we want. We want the empty chair filled, the empty plate served full and warm, the intimate place renewed. We want to hear the laughter, feel the warmth, see that special smile and know once again the closeness. That is what we remember, what we cherish and what we want.

And it is precisely that thing that we can never have again—at least not in this world, though perhaps in a better one—and it is that knowledge that brings us such sorrow.

But does this sorrow have to leave us in despair? Can we grieve and ache and yet still live on? Even though things will never be the same again, can we yet find strength to face another day and grace to move forward? Can we continue with Life yet still honor the love and memory of those we have lost?

I believe that we can; I believe that we do; I believe that we are.

H. Arnett

Posted in Aging, Death & Dying, Family, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Thursday Blessing

I pray that this day’s rising
finds you warm and rested,
ready for whatever lies before you.

May you greet those you meet
with a pure heart and a sincere smile,
and truly desire good for them
as well as for yourself.

May the God of peace and wisdom
grant you both
and may you be fed and filled
with Life itself.

May you find favor
in the eyes of those who matter most
and may you hold close
the moments of meaning and being,
and even closer those whose lives
give even greater meaning to your own.

May you walk in the Path of Light,
show love and mercy to both foe and friend,
and may the ending of this good day
find the work of your hands truly blessed,
your soul at ease,
and your mind at rest.

I pray that today
you make a good day.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Poetry, Prayer, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Elegant Solution

I got pulled into a discussion at work yesterday afternoon. An issue had come up that had triggered some problems for a couple of our people at the college. Early into the conversation, I realized that either there was an invisible cone of deafness over me or my hearing aid batteries had passed their expiration date.

I stepped away, replaced the batteries, the cone of deafness disappeared and I returned to the conversation. The small ripples of gentle laughter ebbed away quietly.

As the five of us talked, I realized that we needed another party at the table. “Folks,” I said, “There’s another party we need at this table.” One of my more energetic colleagues headed down the hall and returned pretty soon with the needed individual.

After listening carefully, he answered a couple of questions and then proposed a simple yet effective solution. By changing what he had been doing he would be able to save the other two people many hours of work. It would put a bit more work on him but he was happy to do it in order to make things better for them.

It was a classic example of people getting together and blending their efforts to solve a problem. It was not about blame or fault or who caught whom doing what. It was instead a living example of how open, respectful, direct communication among good people can resolve a situation in a way that promotes positive feelings. And solves problems instead of creating more of them.

A little listening, a bit of honesty and humility, a touch of creativity and a shared belief that we share a goal larger than any individual. That making things better is more important that finding fault or taking credit. That every one of us is valuable, worthy and capable.

When you work, worship or otherwise interact with people like that, there’s hardly anything that can’t be made better. Hardly anything is impossible.

Especially with fresh batteries…

H. Arnett

Posted in College, education, Higher Education, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation, Work | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment