“How ‘Bout This Weather!”

Last night my favorite t.v. weather guy said we could be in for it this weekend: polar air coming through, westerly moisture, gulf moisture and so forth. “It’s the Winter Express,” he said, “and we are for sure going to have some significant winter weather.” Which is to say nothing, really. But he’s my favorite weather guy because he’s smart enough to admit he doesn’t know. He didn’t even change the previous forecast, but said the models are unclear, and we’ll just have to wait and see. Humility.

This morning the girls and I headed out to the car (parked outside because the garage is full of woodworking tools, bikes, boxes and wood) and it was raining-and freezing-all over my car. I don’t recall this being in the forecast. But, then again, the man said he didn’t know.

The other local television channels boast of the most accurate forecasts. My favorite advertises that he will keep you advised, telling you what you need to know when they know what to tell you. After five years in the state this time, and seven previously, he’s right. When severe weather hits, that channel is on the scene without the histrionics, dead on accurate about what is happening, and pretty good with predictions about where storms are going.

It’s odd, though, how much we talk about the weather. It’s a good icebreaker, a way to fill the silence with someone that you otherwise don’t have much in common with. It’s a safe topic. Your conversationalist might prefer heat to cool, or vice versa, but who really cares? It’s not offensive.

But even good friends talk about the weather and the closest of family members can speak of the weather conditions several times a day. There’s six in my family, and of the five that speak, each one mentions how hot or cold they are several times a day, in addition to talking about the plans they will have if the weather is nice or not. Families tell stories of bad weather and storms we’ve been through over and over again. This must mean that weather-talk is more than safe-conversation filler.

Weather-talk is a shared experience, and strangers and friends alike grow closer when they suffer the same phenomena. If you and I have felt the same things, suffered or rejoiced in the same instant, in the same place, we must have one more thing in common, that is, the similar event and perception of it. That other person is more like you than perhaps you first imagined. Even enemies come together under shelter from lightening and hail.

All this is to say that conversations revolving around how hot or cold it is, how crazy the weather has been, are ways we learn to find common experience and empathy with others, an almost instinctual effort to find value in others, to see the good in them, to make friends, as it were. When your enemy approaches the weather is the neutral ground, the gift of God to see that you and your enemy are both stuck in this fallen world, both dependent upon the God who sends rain on the just and unjust alike. When the woman you find irritating is standing in the elevator with you, the weather is the opening to speak, to see that she basks in the same sun and shivers in the same cold as the rest of us–that there is at least one fragment of experience you have in common to share and be friends over.

The Holy Trinity…or Something Else?

Second Terrace has an excellent post about Mitt Romney’s upcoming “Faith Speech,” which is being compared to JFK’s speech long ago.

As usual, the observations are dead-on, and cut to the heart of the matter when Fr. Tobias writes this: “On Thursday, Romney will confess that he is a Christian. And the tragedy on that day will be — especially for Mitt — that no one will disagree for the right reason.”

What is the right reason? Read the post…and look for the reference to the great 1996 film Mars Attacks!

Santa’s In Trouble…

Yahoo News carries this story about Santa’s time crunch.

Christmas is hectic for all but particularly for Santa, who must live in Kyrgyzstan and make his rounds at lightning speed if he is to deliver gifts to all the world’s children on time, a Swedish consultancy has concluded.

Santa Claus’s route around the planet includes stops at 2.5 billion homes, assuming that children of all religions receive a present from the jolly man in the red suit, Anders Larsson of the engineering consultancy Sweco told AFP.

But the story gets worse.

But Sweco’s report on Santa’s most efficient route — which takes into account factors like geographic density and the fewest detours — shows that he wouldn’t be able to make his round-the-world trip from there in time.

“He has 34 microseconds at each stop” to slide down the chimney, drop off the presents, nibble on his cookies and milk and hop back on his sleigh, Larsson said.

Santa’s reindeer must travel at a speed of 5,800 kilometers (3,604 miles) per second to make the trip on time.

Another report circulating on the Internet suggested however that Santa’s sleigh, weighed down with presents and travelling at supersonic speed, would encounter such massive air resistance that the entire contraption would burst into flames and be vaporised within 4.26 thousandths of a second.

No Provision

The Epistle for Advent 1 is Romans 13:11-14, which ends with the words, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14 NKJV).

The Greek uses the word pronoia, which is literally forethought, planning ahead. Thus the English “provision,” that is, to provide for. So the Apostle is urging us to not provide to fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

But I fear we often get hung up on the word “lust,” thinking only of sexual matters. The lusts of the flesh certainly include those desires, but also much much more. The desire to have a full belly, to eat are favorite foods, to drink our favorite drinks, to have enough sleep, to be warm and toasty in the winter and cool in the summer, to have soft clothes and good shoes and otherwise coddle the body, giving it everything imaginable. The lusts of the flesh include entertainment and busyness, and each to the fullest amount, so that when we are not busy doing many things we are entertaining ourselves with juicy dramas and comedies and sports and talk shows, with the music we like and everything else.

The sinner in us throws our hands up and says, “What’s wrong with comfortable shoes and being warm in the winter time?” It’s a good question. By themselves, there is nothing wrong with good shoes and warm coats, with sports or those other matters. St. Paul is not commanding us to live a life of body-destroying asceticism, as if all creaturely comforts are of the devil. What he is telling us is to be watchful of ourselves, and not to be too quick in giving ourselves over to whatever our bodies are demanding at any given time. For our bodies are harsh tyrants, constantly complaining to us: “Too hungry! Too full! Too tired! Too lazy! Too warm! Too cold! Too fast! Too slow!” If we constantly heed the demands our flesh makes of us, we are slaves to it. And being slaves, we submit to it and sin.

Fasting and abstaining from foods at set periods is a Christian antidote to this (or at least the beginning of one), fulfilling this admonition to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Fasting allows us to be masters of our belly, to learn to say “no” to gluttony and to our flesh, thus preparing us for greater self-denial of destructive temptations and lusts, of the other passions, of greed and anger, of pride and covetousness, of lying and dishonor.

We are engaged in battle, after all. St. Paul writes, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal 5:17 NKJV). And, “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26-27 NKJV).