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C.S. Lewis Themes and Threads, is available for purchase at $2.99. Purchase supports the author'
s planned mission to Belfast, Ireland. Click here to download it directly to your Kindle or your Kindle bookshelf on your PC or smartphone.

 


Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
his sojourn in Northern Ireland'

Don't sweat the big things


Jon Kennedy  

JONAL ENTRY 1269 | March 24 2013

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."

— John 1: 51 (RSV)
from today's lenten Orthodox
lectionary readings

A few posts back I said I should give some thought ("philosophize," was the term used then) about why, when I consider myself very optimistic in my overall outlook on life and its big issues, I'm often pessimistic about smaller things. I gave as a recent example my expecting a worse scenario about my visa coming than turned out to be the case. What does this say about my faith and relationship with God? Being snowbound for the past two days provided opportunities to think about that topic again (and again). Connecting with my family in San Jose yesterday via Facetime, in order to be part of my youngest grand-daughter's first birthday party, also played a part. Facetime is a "video chat" application that let me see closer than I think I ever had before the faces of my children, as well as the party decorations and lavish food spread in my son's back yard. The temperature there was double what it was here (70 degrees vs. 35) and the bright sunshine bathing that back yard was something I'd almost forgotten about. Why suffer with the weather in Belfast when I could be basking in San Jose? San Jose also often has cold wet weather in March—also April and even into mid-May—but it seemed yesterday that someone was teasing me. At least I could have seen it that way if I were more pessimistic than I am.

On the micro-level, my hands are cold even inside the house (pressing the typing keys is a chore), I'm unable to venture farther than the next-door convenience store for fear of slipping and breaking something (which at my age...). My bed is so lumpy that my spine is likely to get deformed. Those are frowns. But in the big picture, I'm living a dream of a lifetime, experiencing the land of my roots, Northern Ireland, in a longterm and real-life facetime. I'm hearing the accents, picking up on speech patterns that give me insight into why "Pittsburghese" says "slippy" when the rest of the world says "slippery." I'm hearing the concerns expressed and the historical reflections of these people that my people once lived with and even talked about in Pennsylvania. I'm experiencing life, including the weather, in the same environment as one of my favorite saints, C.S. Lewis, did. Now I understand his observation about how cold his grandfather's church was on a certain Christmas morning better than I could ever possibly have without this opportunity. God has given me a call to be here and I can expect that He'll grace me to bear some fruit or at least to consume some, even here where, generally speaking, Christian enthusiasm runs higher than it does anywhere in California.

But in many small ways I'm fairly pessimistic. I never bother sending in a product warranty card, for example, because I'm just "sure" that if I ever had to make a claim, it would not only not be honored, the grief I would be given would make me regret making the effort (this is even true of automobile warranties, at which many of you, I'm guessing, are shaking your heads in pity mixed with contempt). I can't remember when I've played a game, for a variety of reasons, though in the back of my mind I suspect the main reason is that I know I'd lose if I did. In many situations (other than writing) I figure it's better not to try than to risk failing (though I suspect that there are many things in most people's lives about which they have this attitude). Even more pitiful than fear of failure is fear of success, which also paralyzes many people, though I can attest that I've failed enough times that I can't be accused of being paralyzed by fear of success.

The man who diagnoses his own ailment has a fool for a patient, it's been said, but the flip side of that is that the unexamined life—including the examination of our efforts, failures, successes, and attitudes—is not worth living. And if we don't criticize ourselves, we won't grow, and life, especially spiritual life, is all about growing. But I won't claim to know why I sweat so many small things while facing the big challenges with not only no sweat, but with eager anticipation. I'd like to say it's because I have given all the big things to God to work out and that I have myself to blame for all my small failures and failings. I'd like to, but that would be arrogant, proud, self-righteous. But I hope. I pray, may it be so. Kyrie eleison...

Diary: Now the forecast says most of the snow outside my windows will not be melted tomorrow, or even the next day, but that we can expect some more flurries on both of those days. Ah! A new coat of white to hide this slushy grey!

I am sending these posts to two mailing lists, my home town (Nanty Glo, Pa.) website blog list and my San Jose parish list. This morning I stumbled on a YouTube video that I found a delightful surprise, a 24+-minute bike trip from the town where I was born, Vintondale, through Twin Rocks where I attended school, and Nanty Glo, to the countyseat of my home county, Ebensburg. So I'm embedding it here for the enjoyment of all those who are too old and frail, or too hemmed in by late winter weather, to enjoy a bike ride of their own, and of any who may have wondered, where in the world—and what—is Nanty Glo (the footage of my favorite town, by the way, begins about 10 minutes into the video; how appropriate that the microphone picks up chimes being played in one of the borough churches when the bike arrives in town).

§     §     §

If you missed my overview of my venture in Northern Ireland, check it out here.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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