69. Once In A Blue Moon

Once In A Blue Moon

    It happened last week for the first time since 2018.  That year it actually appeared twice, which is an extremely rare occurrence.   It won’t happen again until August 31, 2023.  Because of the moon’s 29.5 day cycle, we normally get 12 full moons a year, or one each month.  However, these 12 cycles add up to just 354 days, giving us the occasional 13th full moon in our 365/366 day calendar year. Because of this, every 2-3 years a second full moon will appear in a single month.  This 2nd full moon in any calendar month is called a “Blue Moon”.

      Much to my surprise as a kid “Blue Moons” aren’t blue!  What a disappointment!  Blue Moons are actually the same color as any other full moon except in two rare cases. During a lunar eclipse the Moon may look blood red, lit only by the light that is bent around the Earth. The Moon can also appear blue on even rarer occasions, but in this case it is a color added to the Moon by viewing it through a haze of dust particles in our atmosphere, perhaps from a recent volcanic eruption. 

       I found out that in my lifetime I could have seen 29 “Blue Moons”.   Evidently I’ve “missed” most of those doing other things!  I know I’ve caught a few over the years, but I don’t think I ever really thought much about them before last week’s show.   Perhaps it’s just because I’m getting older, but I was struck last week by the rarity of the sight I witnessed. This was something I haven’t seen very often or ever will again.  It came, it went, and now it will be almost 3 years before I get a chance to see it again. 

      That’s what got me to thinking (I know, that could be dangerous!). Like me, I’m sure you’ve often heard the phrase “once in a blue moon”.  While I certainly understand what it means when someone says that, I had never seriously considered if there could be a deeper meaning to this cliché.  The obvious interpretation of that phrase refers to something that doesn’t happen all the time.  It is a “rare occurrence”, a “unique opportunity”, or something that the Oxford dictionary says “very seldom, hardly ever, almost never happens”.   In essence, you just don’t see this every day so you have to act quickly if you want to take advantage of the moment before it passes. Once it’s gone, it’s gone….at least until the next time. 

     Given that normal interpretation, this principle could be applied to lots of things in our lives.  When I stopped to think about it, I’ve had a lot of those “blue moon” moments in my life.  I’ve had the privilege to see or experience numerous things that I may never see or experience again.  They came, they went, and I have no idea if I’ll ever experience that kind of moment again.  That thought is somewhat sobering. 

     My “blue moon” moments have come through all types of life experiences. Since sports has been such a big part of my life, there are more than a few from that realm.  There was the time in Junior High when I actually made the winning basket from the corner….one of the few times I ever scored!   I’ll never forget when, at age 9, I went to Candlestick Park for the first time to watch my hero Willie Mays play for the SF Giants.  That started a lifelong (50+ years) love affair with the Giants, highlighted by finally getting to see them win the World Series in 2010.   They liked it so much they repeated that feat in 2012 and 2014, much to my delight. I guess fans of the LA Dodgers understand those feeling this year after watching their team win the whole thing for the first time since 1988.  I’ve celebrated when my beloved Oregon Ducks won Rose Bowls and the Oakland Raiders won three Super Bowls (though the Raiders have frustrated me the  last 20 years).   I’ve cheered, jumped up and down, and been amazed at highlight plays, dramatic comebacks, and impossible victories by the teams I love.  These are “blue moon” moments I may never forget….and I have no idea when, or if, they’ll ever come again.

        But my “blue moon” moments are certainly not limited to just sports.  There was the moment I proposed to Chris and later saw her walk down the aisle to become my wife.  On our honeymoon we went to Disneyland, a first for me.  I was 21 at the time, but I was mesmerized by the experience just like a little kid.   It was truly magical…..so much so that we’ve been to a Disney Park somewhere together every year since!! I guess those “blue moons” come a little more regularly than others! 

        Watching all three of my children be born were also moments I will never forget.  They were a thrilling and scary experience all at the same time.  Shortly after Marci was born to join her two older brothers, I finally got to walk across the stage to “graduate”. I received my Masters of Divinity degree that day, but it was actually my first ever graduation ceremony. Since I hadn’t officially graduated either from High School or College (that’s a long story), the graduation ceremony on that day in 1984 meant much more to me than most of the others participating.  Shortly thereafter I knelt at an altar as the denomination I was serveing ordained me as minister.  It’s hard to explain the emotions I felt at reaching that lifelong goal.  Those were certainly “blue moon” moments  I had waited for my entire life

      In the years that followed, my public ministry gave me a number of “blue moon” experiences.  I was entrusted with the responsibilities of planting a new church shortly after graduating from seminary.  Though I sincerely thought I would stay at the church for my entire career, God  later moved me to other ministries I could never have dreamed of, serving on a national scale, first with Promise Keepers and then with the YMCA.  I was given the privilege of speaking to youth camps, regional and national conferences, annual meetings, community-wide prayer breakfasts, CEO retreats, and much more. Each of those opportunities were “blue moon” experiences that just don’t happen every day. 

     On family vacations, or during my years of traveling on behalf of Promise Keepers and the YMCA,  I saw and did things I never thought I would do or see.  I enjoyed a fondue dinner on the top of a Swiss Alp,  kissed my wife on the observation deck overlooking Paris on the Eiffel Tower,  stood at the actual birthplace of the YMCA,  toured both the White House and Buckingham palace,  saw live musicals on the Broadway stage,  worshipped with 1.4 million men on the Washington Mall,  personally visited 48 of the 50 states,  witnessed the majesty of Niagara Falls,  walked the streets of Hong Kong, ate Thai food in Thailand,  investigated my family heritage in Whittlesey, England,   navigated the various underground “platzes” and the Olympic sites in Munich, Germany,  rode the elevator to the top of Gateway Arch in St Louis, the Sears Tower in Chicago,  the Space Needle in Seattle,  the Empire State Building in NYC  and the Washington Monument,  cruised the Caribbean,  walked across the Golden Gate Bridge,  marveled at the beauty of Lake Tahoe, admired the courage of the men honored at the Alamo, visited the  sites where our nation was formed, and witnessed history in the making on more than one occasion.  Each of these adventures could be considered a “blue moon” moment!  They weren’t my every day experience, but are the moments that create the framework of the memories of my life. 

     Perhaps the message in this blog is that we need to take advantage of those out of the ordinary times that come “once in a blue moon”.  I believe God has granted us these opportunities to lighten the load of our everyday troubles and brighten the path to our future. If God is anything, He is definitely not boring!   John 10:10 says that Christ came to “….give us life, and that abundantly”.  Certainly that first and foremost has to deal with our spiritual life now amidst life’s trials and tribulations, plus the promise of heaven in the future.  But I also think He wants us to enjoy our life on earth until we ultimately reach our final destination. The experiences we have here and now are not just “fillers” to pass the time.  We must learn to avoid getting lost in the “routine” and miss the privilege that is ours to enjoy the people, sites, and opportunities around us.  They don’t come around every day….some just “once in a blue moon”…..but when they do they are spectacular!    Here’s to enjoying your own God-given  “blue moon” moments!