Friday, November 14, 2014

Natural rhythms

It's mid-November as I write this, and I find myself thinking about the fact that rifle season for white-tailed deer is coming to an end in Minnesota. The rifle season is scheduled to coincide with the whitetail rut, which is really what I spend my time thinking about. Today I had to drive up to Rogers and passing little patches of woods along the way, I pondered the fact that in those woods, a massive stir is taking place. The bodies of does are coming into estrus, and bucks are wound up tighter than springs to find and breed them.

It's a natural cycle that goes on every fall like clockwork. You can wander the woods and field edges during the last week of October and see the evidence that the bucks are getting ready for the rut. They create scrapes, using antlers and hooves, along their most traveled trails. Urine and other scents mark these scrapes and they become a sort of bulletin board for the whitetail community. During the rut a buck will travel along those scrape lines and check out the scents of other bucks and of does who may be leaving scent messages.

Frequently a buck will find a doe that is not quite ready to breed and he'll begin chasing her through the woods. I've often seen these chases -- a buck scrambling along with his tongue literally hanging out of his mouth chasing a doe who looks more than a little frightened of him. Often such a chase careens right past a hunter. This is one reason why hunting seasons are scheduled as they are -- because wary bucks become a lot less wary during the breeding season.

Here's why I was thinking about this: It bothers me that there are these natural cycles going on around me all the time, and more often than not I'm unaware of them. The rut is totally dominating the whitetail deer population right now -- but even as I drive past the woods and fields where this is going on, I'm more concerned with whether I'll be on time to my next appointment, or whether the traffic on I-94 will be backed up. I live almost entirely disconnected from the natural world.

I often ask myself this question to gauge my connectedness: Without looking at a calendar, do you know if the moon is waxing or waning? At this moment, I don't. I haven't been outdoors to see the moon at night, or I haven't paid attention what phase it's in. Yet the moon and its phases is one of the most basic of all natural rhythms, and one of the most accessible. My schedule lately has been dominated by an artificial rhythm of meetings and banquets and appointments and social gatherings. All good things, but things that keep me from connecting with the natural world.

So I grieve for that disconnect. And this is a rhythm, too - because when I find myself grieving in this particular way, I know it's time for me to schedule some outdoor time, to go into the woods someplace and walk the deer trails, to reconnect, to see the crescent moon hanging in the sky just after sunset and watch the stars come out at night in different places than they were in August.

It's not a bad thing to live in the city -- but it separates me from a critical piece of my life. I need to get back to some natural rhythms.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Well, we've transitioned to winter since I last wrote on this blog. This year it was a little like flipping a switch -- we just went from fall to snow NOW!

So here's my thought lately. I'm not sure I'm ready to go very far out on this limb but maybe putting it out for you all to ponder with me will help.

I've been studying Matthew 6:19-34 for quite a while now. Actually, Matthew 6:25-34 is one of the first passages I remember ever studying in depth in a class at the Lutheran Bible Institute back in the fall of 1983. Inductive Bible Study with Josee Jordan. Good stuff. We picked out key words, questions, wrote in the margins, analyzed, pondered, circled back and reread until we had that passage totally pegged. Or so we thought. Little did I then realize that the Bible has greater depths than I can understand.

This weekend I'll be preaching -- the second installment in our three-part stewardship series -- on this passage. The title of the sermon is "Live in Trust."

So here's my potential heresy:

I believe Jesus calls us to simplicity. Maybe we're not all called to the radical simplicity of the Amish, though I think there's something gorgeous about that level of world-rejection. No, I think it's quite possible to be a Jesus-follower and use and iPhone. BUT here's my thesis: The more complex my life is, the more likely that I have fallen prey to idolatry somewhere along the way.

Of course I know it's possible to idolize simplicity, and that legalism and Pharisaism are quite possible in the quest for simplicity. Yet, I think Jesus calls us to a kind of hold-on-loosely simplicity that sees worldly goods as tools to be used, not toys to be accumulated.

So one simple question is, do you use your stuff, or do you accumulate it?  If you had to throw away anything you haven't used in two years, how much of your stuff would go in the trash?

I'm afraid I have some bins of tools in the garage that would be bound for the garbage.  That voltmeter that seemed like such a good investment would certainly be trash.

Or maybe I'd recycle it. Let's not be poor stewards.

What is the challenge of simplicity for the modern suburban life? And where do you draw the line to avoid simplicity becoming legalism?

Perhaps most important, does simplicity really help one to be a more single-minded Jesus follower?

These are a few of my favorite ponderings lately. I don't know the answers. I think that not having broadcast TV of any kind (cable, satellite, bunny-ears, etc.) in my house has simplified my life a bit. Of course, I can be on the internet anytime. Our attempt to go without wi-fi when we first moved in didn't last very long. I think I have more expendable time since I'm not following any NFL teams very closely this year. I haven't had a clue for a year or two about any new TV series starting up. (Julie and I had a brief dalliance with "Revolution" but NBC cancelled it last year, so I'm back to no TV.  Feels good.)

Probably an important question in all this is, What does one do with the extra time Simplicity provides? That opens a whole can of worms, doesn't it?

Curious what you think about all this. Is it possible to live a complex life (think: hectic schedules, multiple vehicles. multiple devices cross-linked to one another, multiple sources of information, etc.) and remain a single-minded follower of Jesus?