Having lived in northern Iowa — and now southern Minnesota — for most of my life, I find interesting the pessimistic stoicism expressed by those of us in the upper plains.

I don’t care how nice the weather is, we will still complain about it or what might happen tomorrow or next week.

While walking my dog, Toby, on a recent evening, I stopped for a short conversation. We commented on the beautiful weather that day but then came the familiar response, “Yes but we know this won’t last.”

The weather is always okay but we are almost always skeptical that it won’t last.

It is not just the weather that seems to elicit this kind of response. We seem to go around expecting that something bad is about to happen. If things are going well for us then we expect an even greater dose of bad or unfortunate things to happen to us. It is almost as if we are afraid if things get any better we won’t have anything to complain about. Maybe we are afraid that if things get too good for us and we act like we like it, that it will draw attention to us and we can’t have that happen. (Note the hint of sarcasm)

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That is quite the opposite of Tevya’s complaint/prayer to God in the musical, “The Fiddler on the Roof.” He starts thinking of all the bad things happening to him and then satirically complains to God, asking if things could get any better. Yet in the midst of this complaining we hear him acknowledging — even thanking — God for the simple gifts.

In our Midwestern sensibility, I wonder if in some ways we aren’t doing the same thing as Tevya? Is our constant grousing that something bad is about to happen really a prayer that God be present with us no matter what the situation? Are we possibly being good Calvinist Christians and acknowledging that we have all fallen short of God’s glory? Are we expressing the attitude that we don’t deserve any of God’s blessing and gifts in our life? Are we saying that God really should punish us? Are we really just embarrassed by the abundance of goodness we receive?

I may be exaggerating those statements slightly, but I think there is a fair amount of truth in them.

While there is a certain level of pride in our lives about our ability to endure suffering, we are conscious of God’s greatness and provisions in our life. More importantly we recognize God’s providence with a sense of gratitude we just aren’t quite sure how to live in this state of grace.

The psalmist seems to have captured that same sense of God’s greatness and our finiteness.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers — the moon and the stars you set in place — what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4 New Living Translation)

The psalmist, rather than complaining, seems instead to marvel at God’s grace. There is the recognition that in the midst of the grandeur of creation God’s presence, care and grace is focused on “mere mortals.”

The psalm goes on to recognize the blessings God has given also contain responsibilities to care for and tend creation. Surely God could do this without our action but then again that is part of the majesty of God’s creation, calling us to care for that which nurtures our life.

As you enjoy these gorgeous autumn days God has provided, may you see the finger of God touching your life. May God’s blessings fill your heart. And may your spirit be renewed and restored by the majesty of God.