Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bigger than the Rain

I’ll be honest; I always get a little nervous when I see a dark grey cloud in the skies of sunny San Diego. Every time it happens I can feel a lump form in the pit of my stomach warning me not to go out on the streets because lets face it, if you drive in San Diego in the rain, you may very well die. San Diegans are not the greatest drivers, and rain greets our roads in a manner similar to Godzilla greeting the streets of Tokyo. This past week San Diego experienced minor (at worst moderate) rain storms, and as much as we as like to pretend that the weather is always a nice sunny 75 degrees, we are lying. It does rain for about a week every year and for about a week after that it’s a little bit chilly outside. This week however is by far the most dangerous week to be in San Diego and if you happen to decide to vacation here during that week, may God have mercy on your soul! The infrequency of the rain means that the citizenry has very little experience driving in any kind of weather and just to add to the fun, San Diegans have developed a few techniques to make driving in the rain “safer.” In the five years that I have lived here, I have observed three in particular.

1: The “Drive Fast to Arrive Fast” Technique
This technique focuses on getting to your destination as fast as you can. Driving in the rain is dangerous so obviously the best plan of action is to drive as fast as you can in order to spend as little time on the road as possible. This type of person may be known for forgetting things when they leave the house and usually have around seven different projects going on at the same time.

2: The “Let There Be Light” Technique
This technique says, “Since the combination of nighttime and rain make it extra hard to see, I’ll just turn on my high-beams so I can see better!” This person often compares themselves to Einstein because of their constant strokes of genius! However, if dear old Albert were still around, I am sure he would be quick to point out that using your brights in the rain is one step down from stupidity. The added light is going to reflect brighter off the water and actually make it more difficult for you to see. And lets not forget that they will also blind oncoming motorists making it more likely that they will plow into, well…anything really. Where light is good in the dark, too much light is blinding for everyone. If this is you, do us all a favor and stick to your low-beams.

3: The “Overly Cautious” Techinque
This is by far the most respectable of the three techniques employed by those adventurous enough to delve out onto the rainy San Diego streets; but it still is never a good idea to max out at 29MPH on an open freeway especially when you are sharing the road with people utilizing either of the first two techniques. No one expects you to drive that slowly. Even the ones who know what they are doing.

All of these techniques are fear driven response to the Godzilla like danger of driving in the rain, and ultimately they only make road conditions more dangerous.

When we are faced with a problem, or something we are afraid of, we often let our fears become our undoing. Like a San Diegan driving in the rain, when we are in danger, we often allow the things we are afraid of to drive us into an even more dangerous situation. Our fear motivated attempts to solve our problems actually lead us straight into them. Our fears become our realities.

I believe that this is the opposite of what God wants for us.

In a letter to his young friend Timothy, the apostle Paul encourages him saying “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

It seems to me that God does not want us to address our problems out of fear because doing so only leads us deeper into our problems and deeper into our fearful reactions. The more afraid we are of something, the more control we give to it and the less we allow God to work in our lives through hardships.

The Spirit of God is not one that plows through a problem wishing it to blow over. He is not one that tries to wash out a problem hoping that it can be covered by too much of a good thing. He does not proceed with apprehension, unsure of his chosen course and second guessing his decisions. Living like this will only make matters worse. Rather the Spirit of God encourages us to go out into the storm and face our problems head on.

I am learning to believe that God desires us to live and to address our problems out of our faith in him. Not with fear, not with timidity, but with boldness, strength and love; trusting that he is strong enough to weather the storms we find ourselves in. God is bigger than the rain.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Asparagus Lemon-Aid

It is often said that when life gives you lemons, you should use them to make lemon-aid. This is a misguiding statement because in reality you need a whole lot more than lemons to make any sort of lemon-aid worth drinking. Think about it. If life gives you oranges, you can make orange juice, all you have to do is squeeze them into a glass and you are good to go. If life were to give you apples, you could probably figure out a way to crush them into 100% apple juice pretty quickly. Sure it might get a little messy, but it would still be drinkable! If life were to give me a carrot, I would probably just eat it because I could use the extra vegetables in my diet and I really don’t know how to make carrot juice. But if life gave me lemons, it seems that all I would be able to do is make lemon juice, which if we are being honest, no one really wants to drink. All lemon juice is good for really is to be used as an ingredient in something else. I once marinated a shark stake in lemon juice and it was fantastic, but I would never want to drink straight lemon juice. No, rather for lemon-aid, added ingredients are necessary.

If life gives you lemons, you are going to need help in order to make that lemon-aid. You will have to go out and find the person to whom life has given sugar and the one to whom life has given water, and then maybe you will have some place to start and the three of you can get together and make some lemon-aid. I bet it would be pretty good too, but if you are anything like me, you won’t be satisfied with just lemon-aid. Your entire being is going to crave something more, something greater! You are going to want to go out and find the guy with the raspberries and the girl with the blueberries, and the new kid down the street who brought a bunch of strawberries with him when he moved in and invite them into the mix to see what kind of creations you can make with these new flavors. If I were the guy with the lemons, I would want to get a little experimental and see if I could convince the asparagus kid to join the party so we could try to make asparagus lemon-aid!

…yes, asparagus lemon-aid.

I know that sounds like a terrible idea, but people said that about the personal computer when it was first released and then naturally assumed that you would never need more than a 40 megabyte hard drive to store all of your information. Whether life gives us lemons, sugar, grapes, tomatoes, or asparagus we have a responsibility to use them to the best of our ability and to invite others into the process with us. This means taking risks together and potentially failing. Some things just should not be mixed, but sometimes we avoid mixing things because we are afraid that they will turn out poorly, and so what if they do? Asparagus and lemons are two things that should probably never be mixed with water and sugar to be consumed on a hot afternoon, but will we ever really know until we try? We learn the most from our failures. If we want to learn we have to be willing to fail because failure produces growth and if we are not willing to fail, then can we actually say that we were willing to try in the first place? Can we actually say that we truly desire the growth that we say we want?

I have never mixed asparagus and lemons for anything in my life, and I feel pretty confident that asparagus lemon-aid would be terrible, but who knows what potential creations the asparagus kid and the lemon man could make if they took the risk to mix two things that at first don’t seem like they belong together. Who can really know the true potential of something until they have taken the risk to try and see what might come of it.

Here is to asparagus lemon-aid. Lets see what we can make of it.

Scott E. McGhee