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Punxsutawney Phil and Grace

It’s Groundhog Day! This is one of my favorite holidays – at least since I saw the movie. Some of you may remember Bill Murray and Groundhog Day. It’s a comedic delight with a powerful message of grace that rings true beyond the rom-com story it is. It’s also about second (and third and fourth and… well, you get the picture) chances, redemption, transformation, and grace.

The basic premise involves Bill Murray as a conceited, arrogant narcissistic weatherman who is sent off to do a story about Punxsutawney Phil, the famed groundhog that crawls out his burrow to see, or not see, his shadow thus predicting the duration of winter. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is far away from the big meteorologist’s job in New York that Murray’s character covets and his obnoxious attitude towards the town, its people, and its star resident is quite evident. Misogyny and cheap sex mark his initial attitude toward the female producer (Andie MacDowell) set to cover the story. Blizzard conditions force his little crew to find a hotel and stay in town until the roads are clear.

Photo by Steve Wrzeszczynski on Unsplash

The alarm goes off the following morning and he awakens to a repeat of the day before. The same thing happens the next day and the next until his transformation is complete and, as all rom-com movies go, he wins over Andie MacDowell’s character. It’s a happy ending. It’s kind of like grace…

I guess that’s why it ranks high on my favorite movies list. I can relate. I’ve been given chance after chance to leave self-centered ego behind and become more God-centered. Believe me, I spent a long time enduring the “same day” over and over again (most addicted people can relate) until I awoke to a new day and a life filled with new possibilities. That is grace, pure and simple.

I’ve gone through many changes since that first day of waking up and receiving the grace so freely offered. I’ve come from a place of coveting pleasure, control, and wealth all the time to seeking God’s steadfast love, justice, and righteousness. I still fall woefully short many days but each new day brings a closer walk with the God of my understanding and more grace…

“but let those who boast, boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord”. Jeremiah 9.24

By the way, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, but it’s in conflict with what all the long-term forecasts say…

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Whatever Happened to the Golden Rule?

Webster’s Dictionary defines nostalgia as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” I usually associate nostalgia with the old guys who long for the good old days when there was little question of white supremacy, where anyone who wasn’t a white male knew their place, and women had no rights over their own bodies. This is not nostalgia. That’s called right-wing conservatism. Thus, I tried to avoid waxing nostalgic.  Besides, I was born at the end of the fifties and I’ve drawn a blank on much of the sixties and seventies…

Fortunately, I found the real definition was much closer to the way I’ve been feeling lately and that folks, is nostalgic. It hasn’t been a longing for my college days or the party life I enjoyed as a young person (which I try NOT to think of, by the way). It’s been something far more trivial in the grand scheme of things. I long for the days when people drove with some degree of civility.

I know that sounds silly, but when I learned how to drive, I was taught to “drive friendly”. That meant acknowledging someone coming the opposite way with a small hand wave, particularly in the neighborhood. It included things like letting people in on the freeway or pulling over to let them pass on a two-lane road (that happened a lot in the country) and thanking them when they did the same for me by waving appreciation. It also meant staying out of the fast lane if I wasn’t passing other vehicles. Fast lanes were “fast” lanes. Don’t slow them down. I don’t know if this was just a Texas thing or not, but civility seems to decline in direct proportion to the influx of new Texas residents moving here each year.

I was coming home from the farm the other day. Traffic was abnormally heavy, and people were more impatient than most days. They’re always impatient – got to get one car link in front of anyone else as if one car link is the difference between life and death. I’m the one who’s often impatient if truth be known. However, this day the Golden Rule popped into my head, and I found myself becoming more patient and at ease.

Most everyone is familiar with “The Golden Rule” – “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets” (Matthew 7.12 – NIV). If you’re my age, we even learned it in school. That simple phrase was a guide for living that somehow came to mean do unto others only like they do unto you. I thought about how that had manifested in my own life and realized how such a misinterpretation made me angry and resentful. I’m at the point in life I really don’t have the time nor the desire to be like that.

I got home and pulled out my Message version of the Bible I like the simple “umph” that comes from a translation closer to the “umph”) of old Aramaic. “Here is a simple rule of thumb guide for behavior. Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” (Matthew 7.12 – The Message Bible).

I thought about that over and over. I was looking for some kind of caveat or exception, but I didn’t see one there. It was up to me to treat people the way I wished to be treated no matter what they did. I simply had to act how I wished others would. It’s rocket science. It’s my responsibility and no one else’s.

Ms. Opal always reminds everyone to be a “committee of one” because one person can be the catalyst for change and an example to others. I understand and do that in many areas of life, but I can’t manage it in even the simplest things like driving (Yes, I’ve been guilty of laying on the horn and flying a one finger salute…). It’s the simple things that make the more difficult things go easier. I decided then and there I’d start exercising this simple rule of thumb when I got behind the wheel. If I’m nostalgic for the “good old days” then maybe I can act like it.

An amazing thing has happened over the last few days. I’ve noticed that there are others who drive friendly – the Texas Way – and even appreciate me when I do the same. That makes me feel happy and much more at ease. Maybe it does the same for them.

If you’re new here – welcome. Hopefully, we can show you how to drive friendly too…