My kids grew up on Sea World – how lucky. My best animal adventure was a school field trip to Roger Williams State Zoo in Rhode Island – how lame.  Talk about apples and oranges.

While I never experienced the magic of watching people ride dolphins, I wasn’t clueless about underwater life. My older brother had a paper route and that allowed him to save enough pennies for…wait for it…wait for it…a fish bowl.  He never went without a fish.  They were sometimes gold and sometimes neon.  Eventually he discovered his favorite variety, a Siamese fighting fish.  They were terribly boring so I thought it was a good fit for him (we had our share of contention).  I can’t remember any of those fish living very long.  Unfortunately they seemed to go belly up within weeks, and while I don’t know the exact cause of death, I’m sure my generous contribution of fish flakes didn’t help.

Occasionally we took a summer vacation across the country all the way to the beehive state. We quickly learned that there was no way to frontload the fish food.  If they didn’t die from overeating, starvation was certain, even after cannibalism ensued.

As humans we tend to scoff at the scaly creature circling the fishbowl. We might suppose that fins and gills equate to a complete lack of human characteristics.  But the aforementioned observation changed my mind.  Hunger is as real as it gets!  Gluttony isn’t too far off the mark either.

Hunger makes the world turn. Let’s face it, we get up and go to work so we can eat.  Joey Chestnut got up one day and decided he would set a world record by devouring 74 hot dogs.   But hot dogs or not, no matter how full you get… it won’t be enough.  It won’t sustain.  Give it some time and before you know it that tummy starts to grumble.  Bears stock up for hibernation, but soon enough even they roll out of the cave for a midnight snack.

The takeaway (and please don’t nuke this one) is this. For anything to sustain maximum vitality and life, it needs a daily dose of nutrition.  Forget burning the midnight oil.  It’s not sustainable.  “Two-a-days” at the gym?  When did this become a thing?  How about “five-a-days” or “ten-a-days”?  Stupid right?  Work a job for the overtime?  Not for me.  Why?  Because you still have to flip burgers, drill oil, or file paperwork the next day.  Run a marathon in your 20s, cool…but what can you do in your 60s?  Maybe a mile per day, or even a mile per year is more sustainable for the long haul.

THE CHALLENGE:  Keep it simple.  Don’t overfeed your fish!  But don’t let them eat each other either.  You have to feed the things you want to keep alive.  You want to be a great artist, welder, pilot, musician, or mechanic?  The formula is simple, feed your craft.  Sure there are times to put in a little extra, and there are times to back off.  But remember this – play the long game!  Be consistent!  Watch how many flakes you put in the bowl and don’t go on vacation for too long.

Nature’s Sermon

I’m on a pew
front row…this is my norm
I’m 20 minutes early
I can tell my ears will be exposed to a typical “amen”

Time is scheduled to expire in one hour. I review the speaking assignments and make a hasty (but accurate) assessment that the meeting is bound to go longer than scheduled. I tend to tune out speakers who cannot honor the constraints of time. It’s painful, but I’m okay with it. I think of Paul’s words, “not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” I’m middle gray myself, so I suck it up. 1 Corinthians 1:27.

To my left is a door
Glass stretches from top to bottom
The pulpit is to my right but my head gravitates to the left

Outside the door is an old tree. The canopy is breathtaking. Healthy green leaves stretch heavenward while offering refuge to a variety of birds. I observe a butterfly dancing across the scene. A lizard bathes in the sun. Bees are buzzing. This sermon never fails me. I listen to it every Sunday. Nature and all of creation are a perfect model.

I feel a vibration
It’s a text message
“When is the last time you climbed a tree?” Ben
“Feb 11th.” I send a photo to supplement 1,000 words.
I follow up with a question…
“When was the last time you climbed a tree in which you planted?”

I discovered my green thumb about 7 years ago. Putting hands in the soil awakened me to the fact that a part of me had been dead.  The more I garden, the more I’m alive. Difficult to explain, but easy to understand – that is, if you’ve tried it for yourself.

THE CHALLENGE: Plant a tree. Climb it. The time between those two events is where you will hear the greatest sermons!

Photo by Guyon Moree