Muscatine Living

The wheels on bicycles (and skateboards, baby strollers, and motorized vehicles) go round and round, reminding us that life has its circles of motion. Circles and cycles are neither good nor bad, just a construct designed to help us as we try to keep moving forward. We all bear some responsibility for that motion and where it takes us.

Plants are a good example of such cycles. We think of fall as harvest season, but right now, the rhubarb is bolting and becoming stringy, the radishes and green onions are ready to be harvested, and the tomatoes and peppers are just coming onto the vine. Mulberries are the seed formation stage of the plant, signaling the harvest and perhaps the need for a different parking spot than normal; cucumber season only lasts a short time.

Life, with its ups and downs, is a glorious cycle, but it does not all happen at one time. Indeed, babies are born on the same day that someone breathes for the last time. Attributed to nature, or our creator, there are other factors at play, including weather, planting time, amounts of water and fertilizer, and the heat of our days. God may provide the spark to start the cycle, but our choices come into play as well.

Sometimes a cycle can start to be wobbly, creating the possibility of a rough ride or even a crash. Many of us are experiencing that spinning feeling financially, as gas prices, inflation, and shrinking package sizes for food all take a toll on our budget. It’s tempting to blame this on one government party or another, but that’s unjust, as legislation cannot fix all of these problems. Fuel is higher due to world conflict, but forces such as corporate monopolies, greed, and shareholder returns are also placing unfair demands on the ordinary folks. Safety nets enacted for the pandemic, including free school lunches for all kids, are reaching the end of their funding cycles. It’s much more complicated than a sound bite on a video or the daily close number of the stock market.

Sometimes a cycle becomes broken and in need of repair. We saw in the last two years that our systems are more fragile than we realized. Not having enough workers due to resignation or retirement or COVID deaths means that goods and services are harder to come by. The laws of supply and demand mean less availability or a bigger cost for the service. It causes huge frustration. No amount of yelling, impatience, or rudeness can fix that. If I’ve learned anything from these systems, it’s that kindness and humble requests, as well as a sense of humor, make the world a little bit better when everything is out of whack.

Humans are capable of repairing much of what has been damaged in this world. We patch tires, and then we reinflate them. We bandage scraped knees and worry about our loved ones. My own faith asks me to go just a little bit further, reflecting on the ministry of a man from Galilee who was both human and divine, who helped fishermen mend broken nets and gave comfort to others in all the cycles of their lives, including those that are wobbling or falling apart. What mending and humbleness and listening do we need to do for our neighbors this month? May you find some time to ponder the circles and cycles in your own life this week.

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