I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to get to go to the doctor for a quick check up today… I can tell you I have postponed it twice already. I can tell you I am doing just fine, and my lab tests I took yesterday show that I am doing even better than I was last year, so that’s a good thing, right? I’ve dropped some weight, I am eating “better” which is always a relative things, and by my FitBit watch, I am sleeping better than a baby, since I’m not waking up crying every three hours. Still, when you get to “my age,” as my lovely wife tells me, you have to take better – more regular – care of yourself, than when you were a carefree 20 or 30 year old. So, I have a 9:40 appointment this morning. Whoopee.
As I took Cheri to work in the dark this morning – I’m not one to complain, but when we are halfway through January and it remains as dark as night until after 8am, that’s the pits, and doesn’t help a happy morning – I used my remote start to fire up my car, It worked like a charm. We waded through the additional two inches of snow, which doesn’t have the same magical charm that snow does when it falls a week before Christmas. We climbed into the well-heated car, as the temperature hovered around 7 degrees, and just before I started to put the car in gear, I looked at the dashboard, and there it was: the glowing, ominous yellow “check your engine, buddy” light had turned on, glaring at me.
I noticed the car was running fine, the tires were inflated, and there was no funny noise coming from anywhere. Actually, it sounded better than it has sounded, for being as cold as it was. Maybe it would go out when I started driving… Nope, there it glowed, all the way to Cheri’s work, and all the way home. I stopped back in the snowy driveway, turned the engine off, and quickly turned it back on, hoping I could fool it, and it would forget to turn back on. No such luck. Well, I have a doctor’s appointment this morning, so I can’t take the stupid car in right now, I thought. Being a computer savvy creature – at least I can check out websites – I decided to get on the computer and type in “2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring vehicle has check engine light on…”
In a moment that made me think that this is a normal occurrence, I ended up with a variety of websites to choose from, all ready to tell me what was wrong with my car. At least it wasn’t a skull and crossbones red light, laughing at me… I pulled up what seemed like a legitimate site, because how would I know, and it began to educate me at 7:10 in the morning. First good news was that it told me that if the “check engine” light is flashing, I must either call the car ambulance, or drive as reasonably fast as I should down the snow-covered slippery streets to my car dealer, because something dire has happened to my vehicle. I said it was good news, because the light wasn’t flashing at all – it just sat there, glowing with its sassy yellow light.
I read further. Apparently, my car has an “evaporative emission control” system. Yippee. That means that, instead of when I drove our 1964 Volkswagen Bug home from the gas station and forgot to put the gas cap on, in today’s models, all gas is part of a closed, sealed up, pressure powered, nuclear active fuel system, and if you somehow neglect to put the gas cap on just so, you will have disrupted the ecological balance of the planet, and as a result – your little engine light will start to glow. I had recently filled my car, and really hadn’t driven it far since then.
My 32-year old son, who is knowledgeable about mostly everything in the world right now, informed me that close to 100% of the time, when your engine light glows, it’s because of “user error,” meaning the driver – you, or in the case, me – didn’t do a wonderful job putting the gas cap on the gas tank. As a result, the car was required to humiliate me, and tell me I needed to seal up my “system” so it could do the voodoo that it does so well.
I was already inside, nice and warm, so I will check on the gas cap when I leave to go to the doctor’s in a while.
Allow me to ask first of all: why? I know it was probably some federal government regulation that was produced to make sure we had one more thing we needed to watch for, but kind of like that “tire pressure warning” light, that goes off when your tire pressure is about 2 pounds less than its friends, this one is what I consider unnecessarily dire. Why not have a little light, or better yet, a nice soft voice that would say, “Uh, Randy – I don’t think you put your gas cap on right… you should stop, and close it up the way you should, instead of being so reckless…” Nope. Just a glowing, possible yellow light of death staring at me. Not a fan.
Second, when I hopefully will be able to remedy all of this, now that I know the secret procedure to turn off a light, instead of having to remove all the spark plugs and valves (whatever they are) and rebuild my engine in my own driveway in 7 degree temperature, I did begin thinking: why don’t we humans have our own “check engine light?” Sure, we have the equivalent of the flashing yellow light, which normally means we had better hightail it to the emergency room, but what about just a little yellow light – maybe more specific – that says, “you’ve put on a bit of weight over the holidays, haven’t you?” or “that pain in your shoulder is not going away because you probably have screwed up your rotator cuff, like everyone does on television…”
No – instead, we are expected to spend a lifetime guessing what’s not quite working right in our lives. Physically, or in relationships, or mentally or emotionally, when something doesn’t feel quite right, or especially spiritually, we may go quite sometime with the check engine light on, just sensing something is out of sync, or just wrong. Of course, you know what I’m going to say, don’t you? I’m going to say that the remedy to all of that is living in a way that is not simply accidental, unsure of what we should do or just going along with something wrong, but hoping it’s only “something” and not the worst it could be. Each of us will have things go wrong in our lives, and some are very apparent, while others are very subtle and just nag at us. It is only when we approach our lives intentionally, in the same way we are called to approach our world, that the little yellow lights that go off in our lives have meaning, and we can then take action to figure out how to best get them to shut off, and we can return to a good, healthy, whole and meaningful way of living.
I guess prayer is probably the first and best step. When we ask God to help direct our paths, to make more clear the next thing we should do, or to simply heal, or move us into a healing way, we at least intend to find the way to wholeness and joy and strength.
Little yellow lights will always go off. “Things” will always happen to us. Remember though, that it is not what happens to us that matters – it is what we do with what happens to us that reveals the character, and makes all the difference. Intentional living is real living. Blessings.
Word for the day: maugre. Pronounced MAW-ger. It’s either a preposition or an adverb, depending on the sentence, but it comes from two competing Latin words, which gives it its meaning. Malus, meaning “bad or unpleasant,” and gratus, meaning “pleasing or agreeable.” Maugre looks at the bad or horrible, and instead wants to see something better. Despite all that appears to be, see hope when you can. “Maugre our experiences, the sun will shine tomorrow.” Kind of a nice word, but rarely used today. Maybe we can revive it?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.