Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Loose Grip

unfriendI “unfriended” a guy on Facebook the other day. (If you’re finding this through the link on my FB page then it’s not you… ah, right?) I did it because I realized that I wasn’t a friend to him. Didn’t mean for that to happen. Just something in the way I talk or write or whatever and what came back to me was clarity. I was a pain. I wasn’t a friend.

So, it seemed like a good time to disconnect.

My network is less. It doesn’t mean I won’t connect in the future. It doesn’t mean I won’t be glad to see him if we bump into each other at some convention or airport. It just means that he’s probably better without me. I loosened my grip.

There are words for people who tighten their grip when they realize that the relationship isn’t going the way they hoped. Words like “stalker,” and “insane crazy stalker.” But there are also words like “stupid” and words of guidance like “get a clue.”

So, I loosened up a bit ‘cause I think that’s what Jesus would do. That’s at least part of the way I read “The Prodigal Son” story… you let the person who’s upset go. But then there’s the other end, you just never stop watching for things to take a turn back around.ProdigalFather

There’s another good word I find in Scripture, “As far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) So, my hope is that this will be a step toward living at peace and that peace will grow and will bear some fruit in the future. That’s my hope at least.

So, I take a big sigh and walk out into the streets of the glorious day that fills Lancaster city today and remember my friend whose hand I loosed and say a prayer for peace and well-being. And I look toward being a better friend, learning what I should from this moment and getting back into the game. God says he uses all things for good in the lives of those who believe. He doesn’t say all things are good or that we won’t be overwhelmed. He just says he’ll use whatever’s put in front of him. Whatever and wherever we mess up, he says he’ll use that. That’s a good thing to pray for as well, I’m thinking.

Reminds me of the “Throne Room”. A guy named James Hampton made a throne room for Jesus out of scavenged materials, just gradually collected and incorporated all this junk until it worked. Hampton Throne new 001It’s interesting to think that our hearts might be like that. Maybe all that garbage that God is picking through from my life, the stuff that still makes me wince 10 years after it happened, is being used to create a place that worthy of his habitation. Yeah… I’ll pray in that direction, too.



Did you ever fix something? I’m thinking of those moments when you get focused and pay attention to an issue, figure out what’s gone wrong and then do what it takes to fix it. I remember in Scott Peck’s book “The Road Less Traveled” that moment when he helps a woman with her car. She knows something is wrong with her brakes (I think that was it.) He knows he’s not a mechanic, but she’s in the parking lot, alone and a little desperate to get going. So, he pays attention to her as she says that whatever is wrong has happened before and there’s some little thing down by the pedal that fixes it. He gets himself down under the dashboard in front of the driver’s seat and discovers a small wire that has popped loose. He slips it back into place and the woman is very grateful and goes on her way. He walks off feeling like a mechanic.

Solutions work… for a while. Then they don’t work anymore. The wire popped loose before and it will probably pop loose again. Did you ever notice that solutions don’t remain?

What seems to continue in life is the need to repair or replace, but not the solution. Solutions don’t seem to continue. I remember hearing a long presentation on “entropy,” the third law of thermodynamics that says things naturally move toward disorder. Things break down, stuff dissolves, life gets loose and solutions dissipate. It is such a fragile existence we share.

Is this why faith takes on such a grand scope? Because it opens the door to never-ending, to always, to the eternal? The life we share is so fragile, so temporary. We ache for the substantial that won’t change.

Hmmm… Is that why granite countertops are so popular? What are we going to do with all those when we get tired of the way they look or feel, when they no longer answer our desire? Entropy can be both external and internal, eh?granite-countertops

But, there is another doorway that seems to be opening right now and it is different. It also makes an impression on me that speaks to faith. It is the ever-changing. We live in an age when the ever-changing is all around us. Discovery moves into such exponential development that we can hardly keep up or get our minds around what’s now in front of us before the next thing comes into view. And if we were to admit it, this is the way of the world.

Every daisy that blooms is different, extends itself differently and doesn’t rely on our perspective on what the perfect as it fills out. It just becomes the next and always different daisy or sunrise or moonset or breeze or leaf or human being. Climate_Change<There is something tangibly stable within the ever-changing and I find it to be the echo of eternity, God’s presence that we perceive. It’s ever-changing but always. God’s nature doesn’t change but our perception does.

In Ephesians Paul talks about the open secret – a mystery that has always existed right in front of us. Everyone knows it but no one gets it until one day it is expressed. What that leads some people to is throwing out all that’s come before to say, now we have it in hand. But we don’t really, do we… what we actually have is the reality that we don’t have it at all. open-doorWhat we have is the open door to humility, to our own fragility and limitedness. We have the means by which we are moved to bow our heads and hearts and to admit that the One who knows has it all and we need further explanation… and exploration!



How do human beings actually work?
That’s been a life-long question for me, something I’ve explored in a lot of ways. When I walk through Lancaster it feels like every third person smokes. (That’s not true; I actually counted one day, but it felt like that). Smoking isn’t good for you and everyone knows that. People who smoke know that even more than people who don’t. And people who have given up smoking know it even more than those who haven’t. smoke Ray Charles was quoted as saying giving up smoking was harder than getting clean of heroin. But people still smoke. How natural is it for us to do things that don’t help us?

There are two moments in Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick” that are sermons. The first is in the chapel in New Bedford where the preacher tells the whalers heading out that when they shouldn’t have sexual relations with the women on tropical islands where they might stop. The other sermon is from the pulpit of the ship where the cook is telling sharks not to eat the whale tied to the hull. Melville must have seen a connection between these two moments. Isn’t the preacher speaking against what’s natural for human men to do, just as the cook is trying to get sharks not to do what they only do naturally? How silly is that?

This is one of the reasons why I have gotten clear that God is not about rules. He’s about relationships. By nature we choose things that damage us or damage other people. But, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, our natures change and we feel an inward challenge against damage. We recognize more easily and more immediately when we’ve crossed a line, hurt someone, challenged our own integrity or well-being and we feel called to correct our heading. What we are convicted of in those moments is sin – that little death that robs us of sensitivity or feeling or actual relationship.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s not to make us sorry for breaking rules. The work of the Spirit is to give us the insight that we missed the mark, slid off coursesailing_to_the_sunrise and need to correct our direction, back toward life. This causes us to go to another and express sorrow – “I’m sorry” – or to explain – “allow me to apologize” – or to nurture renewal – “please, forgive me.”

We choose what damages us or others naturally, until we are moved by the Holy Spirit or indwelt by the Holy Spirit to create life. The more the Spirit is allowed to flourish freely the greater our nature changes. And when we are with those in whom the Spirit is deeply at work, it is a wonder to experience.



I know that the 4th is supposed to be about fireworks. It’s supposed to be about grills and BBQ sauce and potato salad. It’s supposed to be about flag waving and celebrating our heritage. I spent most of the day clearing my desk at home.

I have this great roll-top desk that I received as a gift because the people who owned it were downsizing severely and didn’t want to move it. Right place, right time kind of thing… I just happened to be there. When my daughter came to visit, shortly after we moved into our home in Lancaster she commented that it looked like I closed it in Tampa and opened it Lancaster. What’s NOT funny about that is that I actually cleaned all the stuff out of it for the move. Which might tell you how it looked up here… it was just full of piles and things stuffed into the cubby holes and drawers.

We’ve been getting the house arranged in the last couple of months and I’ve used the desk but just used it, got done what needed to be done and then left it. So, yesterday was the first real moment I’ve had to do something more with it all. I pulled every piece of paper and whatever else and put it on the floor and then went through it all. I chose and sorted and threw out a ton. Anything that went back into or onto the desk had a place. Then I did the bills, created the Lancaster budget and sat down and ran through it all with Beckie.

Do you know what I created yesterday? Freedom.

Truth is what sets us free, right? I got down to the truth of my situation right now, here in this place and time. Truth is what makes things work. When things work, when they actually have fallen into place and are given the opportunity to do what they are supposed to do, what they were designed to do… we find truth. We find freedom.
And that’s what I was thinking about more and more as I came to the end of this task. I kept thinking about freedom. I was being made free and that freedom was going to allow me to keep up, to make sure and to relax. As I thought about it all, it struck me that there was something different in freedom tied to faithfulness from freedom tied to politics. Because, although… “in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political band which have connected them with another…”, in the course of faithfulness, freedom declares interdependence rather than independence.

One of things I discovered yesterday… amid the mail that should have been answered (and now was), the files that should have been sorted (and now were), and the piles that needed to be tossed out (and are now gone)… was my dependence on others for their assistance to me and their dependence on me to do my part, that is, interdependence.
Freedom for Christ followers is not independence, it’s not what separates us from others, it is our interdependence that we find and celebrate. It’s what ties us with, unites us to and creates our shared dependence.

Yesterday was a day of freedom. Beckie and I got clear on the infrastructure of life in Lancaster and then we strolled downtown, got a couple of burgers and climbed out on our roof to watch some fireworks. Freedom… and I slept like a log.