I don’t like March.
It has the misfortune of lying between the cold days of February and the warm promise of April’s spring. It may come in as a lion and depart as a lamb, yet it is as likely to do the opposite. March teases us with lovely spring days and then betrays our hopefulness with cold rains and threating ice storms. For me, the worst part of March is the mud. In the distant past I raised hogs and when the frozen ground thawed and combined with the early March rain, I had to contend with mud up to my axles. At one point my tractor, skid steer loader and pickup were sucked into the mire that was once frozen earth. I had to walk a mile to my neighbor’s and borrow his bigger tractor to extricate my equipment from their unyielding tomb.
I no longer need to battle the fickle weather of winter turning to spring. Still, March is not my favorite month on the calendar. It is the season of Lent and though I rejoice we can once again acclaim the Risen Christ, it creates a perfect storm of activities beyond the celebration of redemption. Questions and forms need to be filled out and submitted to the District Committee on Ministry to prepare for my annual review, income taxes need to be paid and no less than 5 services planned for Holy Week shared between two churches. There is a deep satisfaction when all these activities are completed, a renewal of life after the long struggle of winter and tumultuous emergence of spring. There is still the storms of spring and the hot dry days of summer ahead. Doubtless we will complain of the heat, the bugs, the dust, and daylight savings time (which begins in March) just as we complained of the ice, cold and mud of March.
The one redeeming virtue of March is also another grievance against it. The Wind. The battle between winter’s cold and the emerging warmth of spring gives birth to the wailing and persistent onslaught of the wind. As a boy this meant one thing: Go fly a kite. During my childhood, the high winds had me begging my Mom for 25cents so I could rush to the local 5 and 10 to purchase that wonderfully simple and elegant toy which would free my entrapped soul from the surly bounds of earth. The excitement of building a kite from two thin sticks of wood, colorful paper, tape, and string was a ritual of childhood and marked the arrival of spring more indubitably than any robin or crocus.
I would beg my Mom for rags, adding each piece till I achieved the right balance which kept my wonderous toy suspended in the air. The frail paper miracle was sent aloft in defiance of the wind and was a declaration of my mastery over it.
We didn’t have twitter or smartphone and events weren’t planned or organized. As migratory birds instinctively left their winter homes and returned to their northern nesting grounds, kids would emerge from their homes, kites in hand like an ancient knightly shield. They would gather in open lots and field. Barren skies would soon be filled with the colorful contraptions soaring, twisting, diving, and careening across the blue heavens. There would be competition. Loops and figure eights, dive bombers, the highest and furthest. Kites would chase each other in dogfights. Some would sail beyond the flock, seeking the lofty heights where angels dared to tread.
There would be crashes and entanglements. Strings would break sending our treasures careening to the earth. Kids who had not learned the fine art of tail-engineering would struggle to launch their kites into the stratosphere. Occasionally someone would have a box kite which their parent helped build. They would be universally mocked because they did not construct their own kite yet secretly, we envied them and swore to make our own next year.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a kid flying a kite. There are no 5 and 10’s left to take your quarters. * Perhaps Walmart or Dollar General sells them. They would be nothing like the simple paper kites I made. My brother, as an adult, belonged to a kite club. Theirs were elaborate contraptions made to professional standards and flown at organized competitive events planned months ahead.
The spontaneity of kite flying, the impulse to cast aloft a simple toy on a windy March day, to imagine oneself as a bold aviator challenging the wind and sky is an expression of renewal and hope. Those kites, swirling and soaring in the March skies, are an announcement that we have come through another winter, a declaration of freedom and defiance, a time of carefree fun and joy.
I have spent much of the past year planning and organizing worship which is now online and requires a great deal of work and structuring. I hope viewers enjoy and are encouraged by the services. I do wonder if in the process of planning and attending church we have lost that childlike joy of sharing the fellowship of devotion. Is it possible to engage in worship with the same spontaneity as flying a kite? How many enter the Lenten season thinking of the mud, the cold, the ice, and the winds that encumber and assail us. Have we become unable to freely engage in the opportunity to share our faith without highly organized and structured service? When a windy spring day fills a child with the desire to fly a kite, they are responding to a desire to live that day fully and joyously. Instinctively they seek to immerse themselves in the happiness that the day offers. Perhaps some of you do enter worship with that innocent desire to experience the Spirit. Perhaps some have forgotten what it feels like to fly a kite, to gather with others and share the joy of fellowship. Have our lives become so structured and organized that we no longer see the true happiness of worship, the joy of fellowship or the renewing experience of sharing our faith. I hope not. And if it has, then maybe we need to go fly a kite.