When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to do basic household chores, one that rises to the top of the list of purely adult tasks – more than mowing a lawn, or vacuuming or even doing laundry – is changing the furnace filter.
You see, it’s something we just don’t think about, sort of like making sure the tires on your car are filled. The filter is just there, gathering dust, literally, and hopefully making the entire house cleaner and all that kind of stuff. All the years we lived in parsonages, they had old furnaces, as though there was a great sale on parsonage furnaces back in the early 60s, and every church at least in our region bought one. Every furnace had a filter, of course, which was an inch thick, and expected to be changed out every three months.
Three months? Are you kidding? Who remembers to do that? So, usually, the filter just sat there, getting dirtier and dirtier, making the furnace less and less efficient (I guess – at least that’s what “they” told me…). There was never a warning light, or a little chirping sound, or anything to warn me that the ol’ filter was filling up, and I needed to go down to the hardware store, or to Target, and by a new one to put in… and what size was that again? 14 x 20, or 16 x 24, or … so when I finally did change the thing, it was usually more embarrassing than anything else, and I would make a resolution to mark the calendar and make sure I didn’t miss the next three months. No one ever tells you when you are a little kid that this is going to be one of your jobs when you get to be an adult. It’s like a secret hidden away in your childhood, that is only exposed when you think you are old enough to rule the world. At that moment, the universe opens up, and a voice whispers in your ear, “Ok, big shot – now you are in charge of changing your furnace filter from now until you die…” There is nothing fun, exciting, or entertaining about it – just a little burden that sits on your shoulders… “Don’t forget now!”
So, also in the course of human events, it happens when we bought our own house. that we started that fine hobby of replacing the entire house, piece by piece, over the years. In 6 years, we have replaced the oven, stovetop, garage door openers, back patio, three large egress window constructions, the back flower garden, every light bulb, it seems, the plumbing for two bathrooms, and the kitchen, including the garbage disposal and a few more items. Oh, and the sump pumps and all three toilets. Oh, and also the entire guts for the gas fireplace. Then, two years ago, as we were doing the yearly furnace check, the furnace guy reminded us that the furnace was installed new with the house in 1996. It was the kind of furnace that was pretty efficient, but they no longer made replacement parts for. He then gently informed us that the furnace, without warning, decided to go to furnace heaven, and would not be functional the next winter.
God provides. We had been able to save up a nice sum of money, thinking that it was almost time to do some fun redecorating, or even carpet replacement. Instead, we were able to direct the money toward purchasing a new furnace and air conditioner and thermostat that promised to make our world somehow brighter and rosier, and our cats more talented. We plopped down the mass of funds, and over the course of a day, our big ol’ furnace was replaced by a little thing that must be nuclear powered, because it promised to heat and cool and I think provide a French supper every month, or something like that.
There was one catch. Instead of a one-inch furnace filter that was to be changed every three months, we now were in charge of changing a 4-inch filter every six months! Of course, it was triple the cost, but who’s counting at this point. So, in the past, my method for trying to stay up with the filter changes was to write the date I put the new filter in on the filter itself. Of course, that meant when I would think about whether it was time to change the thing, I had to go down to the furnace, open it up, pull the filter out, and read the date. Looking back, it probably could have been more efficient to just go ahead three months on the calendar and write, “Change filter.” Life is a learning process, isn’t it?
So, the pandemic last year kind of screwed up everyone’s sense of the normal passing of time. Here in June, I began to have the itchy feeling that perhaps I had missed the furnace filter six month anniversary, and with a new furnace, I really didn’t want to mess stuff up, because I knew if it had to be fixed, it would be way more expensive than the old model. We come to know that somehow – new things always cost more to maintain. My first level of thinking about it was just that – I thought about it. I even mentioned to Cheri that I thought that maybe the filter was overdue to be changed. Again, even to hear that just fills me with great boredom.
My second level was to be pretty convinced that it probably was time to change it. Cheri, as always, had the perfect plan: Go downstairs, pull the filter out, and read the date when you put it in and wrote on the filter, like you have for the past 40 years with every single filter you have changed. After a couple of days, I went ahead and checked the thing. I pulled it out, and I swear I looked on every side, every edge, and there was no date written. Maybe it was changed by the furnace guy when he came? Nope – they always put in the cheapest things, and I like a more comprehensive filter, since we have three cats in the house.
I looked at the thing, and then actually did notice that it was kind of dirty, so we made the trip to the hardware store, bought the new filter, and I brought it home to change things out. I was on a roll at this point. I went to the furnace, pulled out the old filter, and put in the new one, having written in three different places the date, and then planned to also log it onto my computer calendar. No missing this again. As I was carrying up the old filter to throw away, I looked once again, and there, somehow, in some mysterious way, the date of the installation appeared before my eyes. I was only three months early. I blame it all on CoVid, just as most every store and delivery company also blames everything on the disease for making things late or backordered.
So, now we have a new furnace filter, and all is right with the world, and at least I don’t have to think about the dumb task that adults have to do – at least for another six months. I have it marked in the calendar, by the way…
There are many layers of living intentionally. Unfortunately, the farther apart the interval between taking care of something intentionally, offers the greater opportunity to miss it completely, or to undershoot the time. I guess the most important thing is to try. Try to take care of your life, and try to be self-aware. The greater disaster comes, of course, when we stop doing that, and live accidentally, only reacting to things that come our way, and often doing so chaotically or missing over and over the important things that we can and should do. Check your furnace filter date, and check the other things in your life that need your attention – not because it’s necessarily dangerous or lethal if you don’t, but simply because it’s better if you do. I’ll try as well – at least I have it on my calendar now.
Word for the day: pervicacious. Pronounced per-vi-KAY-shus. Not one of our more used words, but still holds some pretty strong power with it. Of course, from the Latin root, pervinco, or further taken apart, vincere, which means “to win or conquer,” plus per, which often means “thoroughly.” If I thoroughly win, then there is a real sense of the attempt to dominate and subdue. Pervicacious means, “stubborn, or willful or obstinate.” Two year olds moving into toilet training time are the best example, as are teenagers who have their new driver’s licenses, or actually anyone who is just being stubborn about something – your best response to them at that time – even the two year old, is “Will you please stop being so pervicacious?” And wait for them to ask what it means…
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.