Cold and Hot

 As I write this it is 60 degrees (Fahrenheit, the scale God intended us to use). I am in a coffee shop with my Camino backpack; this was an opportune afternoon to get used to carrying it again. Walking here I passed several signs: “Freeze warning. Let faucets drip.” They are old signs; there is no freezing weather in the Dallas forecast.

 I now have friends in the diocese of the Arctic and I wonder how they are doing. They were praying, back in November, for the weather to get cold and stay there. “Cold” meant minus 20 degrees (Celsius, the scale man made to defy God). They don’t get much sunlight, either. For our ten-and-a-half hours, currently, they get eight or nine. 

Not long ago it was cold here. Yesterday, for instance, it was windy and in the 40s. I went walking then too, with Camino backpack: I put on all my “Camino” layers: wool T-shirt, fleece, puff jacket, and hooded windbreaker/raincoat. It may have been excessive. I suppose my New York self (d. 2016) would have mocked my sensitivity to merely 40 degrees. 

The memory lingers. When I lived in New York, I got used to walking without a cap over my ears. I have reverted to knitted stocking caps and the inevitable “hat hair.” There’s less hair now so, really, who cares? But I wonder about the younger man who could brave the cold with bare ears.

It is uncomfortable to realize how closely my emotions are tied to my body. After a week of cold, warmth changes everything; after a week of clouds, sunshine ditto. I head out as quickly as I can, and there, on the walking trail that is the old train track—there is everybody: the young and beautiful, the mid-aged trying to keep up, and the stooped and those who limp. There are also lots of dogs, lots of baby carriages, and even some dogs in baby carriages. I’ve not yet seen him, but I’m sure I will soon see the unicycle guy. One week, you are alone outside; now, when you venture out you find the whole city has preceded you.

And man, it feels good. When it is warm after being cold, warm but not hot, warm but still chilly in the shade—then you feel almost perfect. You feel: this is what I was made for. You feel: I really can write that book this year. I can walk the Camino. I can preach and teach and be a grandfather and be a dutiful son and do everything God puts in front of me to do.

Yet you know: it will turn cold again. Or, it will get blazing hot. Or, and perhaps also, you will get a bad cold, or a fever; a blood test result will send you to a new doctor; a new medicine will make you strange to yourself. This feeling of excellence, this feeling of being on-top-of-the-world, it will pass.

What will you do then? What will you do, to be precise, when your emotions start to impede what you feel called to do?

Will you . . . pray?

Lent is coming. The word “lent” means “spring”: it is basically a hopeful thing, Lent. But it is also our annual confrontation with reality. God wants us when the thermostat is in our favor. But he also wants us when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when we’re sick, when we’re down. He wants us, I think, even when we don’t want ourselves.

— 

Out & About. The next Good Books & Good Talk seminar draweth nigh. On Sunday, February 11, we will discuss the charming “children’s” story, The BFG by Roald Dahl. The seminar starts at 5pm at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas; everyone who reads the book is welcome.

Earlier that Sunday, I will be preaching at St. Matthew’s at the 9 and 11:15 a.m. Eucharists.


The End of Mortality

 

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The Rev. Canon Victor Lee Austin. Ph.D., is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Friendship: The Heart of Being Human" and "A Post-Covid Catechesis.: