Life from the rear-view mirror

Are you Stuck? Vol 53

BenelliI started riding a motorcycle for real when I was 15. It all began when my dad let my brother and I ride these little 150cc Honda mini-bikes on the beach in Daytona FL back in 1970. The bug bit me hard. And I began to dream of having my own motorcycle one day….soon I hoped. Turns out that Dad had a hankering to do the same and we began talking about, and looking at motorcycles in earnest! Our search was most centered in the papers and swap sheets but sometimes we found some great bikes in someone’s front yard. We didn’t have much money then and most of the bikes we looked at were out of our reach. But one day dad found a non-running Benelli single-cylinder 250cc in pieces for sale (see picture) on the side of the road in Munnsville, NY. I don’t remember how he heard about it or how we got it home for that matter. What I do remember is that the bike was in pieces and it’s single piston was seized…stuck. Rusted in place. There was no starting it..and no two wheeled fun to be had until the offending piston could be un-stuck.

My dad was raised during the depression…and as a result, he learned to do all things mechanical for himself and mostly by himself. He had an old Indian motorcycle when he was a kid so I think the idea of having a bike again was nearly as exciting for him as it was for me. We surveyed the pile of parts now in our garage…it was hard for me to imagine this box of parts running again…but I was short-sighted.

Now I don’t remember all dad did to get that piston un-stuck…only that it required a lot of patience and a lot of oil. As the oil was working it’s way down the cylinder, persuading the metal of the piston and cylinder wall to play nice once again…dad was cleaning and assembling the other pieces and parts…with me mostly “holding the flashlight”…which is code for…”actually holding the flashlight.” I am, and will always be….”mechanically declined.” But put a flashlight in my hands and boy-howdy…I am one “heck-of-a” useful instrument.

Over the course of a few weeks the bike started to come together. We got a new battery, pumped up the tires, changed the brakes, adjusted the clutch and did all the pre-flight checks we could while we waited for the penetrating oil to work on the stuck piston. And one day…a few weeks into the project…dad went out to garage…he gingerly stepped on the kickstart and it moved freely. The cylinder walls had relinquished their hold on the piston and although it didn’t start right away…I could sense the motorcycle was close to having a working motor and that meant I was close to being gone! Open road here I come, bugs in my teeth and all!

Dad continued to work with the motor. The penetrating oil was drained and replaced with linseed oil then the motor was run for a while. That linseed oil was replaced with regular motor oil and the motor was run some more. When dad was confident that the bike wouldn’t quit…he ventured a ride around the block. Success! Now it was my turn. I hopped on the bike…and after a couple of quick kicks…it fired up. I oriented myself to the stuff I’d need on this short trip. Brakes, Clutch, Speedometer, shifter…then off I went…The motorcycle was fixed and maybe not good as new…but I was riding and that’s all that mattered.

It’s not hard to draw some significant spiritual analogies here…which is my intention after all. The analogies are so obvious on the one hand…but also so easy to miss on the other. The secret to getting them is that you have to be “willing to see what you look at.” I mean see like the Na’vi sense… (You know…the big blue people in Avatar…c’mon!) To be redundant…(unless you haven’t seen Avatar..) The type of “seeing” I’m referring to is what you do with your eyes and heart and mind and soul. Let’s call it spiritual awareness only possible via the Holy Spirit.

I’m finding that many of us are “stuck” spiritually these days. We need an overhaul. We need our oil changed…we need re-building and re-purposing. Not at our own hands…but by the Master mechanic. Only God has the tools at his disposal to “un-stick” us. To fix us…to get us back on the road to fulfill our destiny in Him. The process is often long and slow. But as one of my friends used to say when he was in a particularly sticky situation…”this isn’t where I started….and it’s not where I’m gonna stay”

I don’t know about you…but I’m on the way to the shop!

Who is going after the lost sheep? Vol. 52

BabySheep72There is no doubt as to whether Jesus cares about one lost sheep….but do we? And if we do what are we willing to do about it?

Sometimes the theological “what if?” questions are interesting to banter about (even though they are usually unproductive) like this one…”if you (an obvious sinner) were the only person in the universe…would Jesus still come and die on a cross for you?” The missing logic, (and logistics) in that question should be obvious, but you get the point. Given that…I’d still say the answer would be “YES!” …that is… if Jesus really meant that he was not willing that any should perish…but that all would come to repentance. He’d still set his glory aside for a while… and with great love and sacrifice provide a way for his child to be with him…forever.

OK. so let’s deal with reality for a bit. I would bet that there is at least one person in our lives that we know well, maybe even love…who is far from the Lord. Maybe they were close once…maybe not…it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s your child. Maybe one or both of your parents. Maybe your sister or brother. What is it worth to you to know that you will see them in heaven one day? Or does it depend on just how lost they are?

What Jesus did on the cross, he did once, forever. What he asks us to do takes a renewal of hope, of love and of sacrifice…daily. Our words and actions are temporary. Our words and actions are often muted by the way we REALLY live. Our longing for those far from God to come close, into relationship with Him again, or for the first time, is tempered by time, distance and desire. Until one day we look around and we see ourselves as unfruitful servants…wishing we knew how to be better communicators of the gospel. Wishing we were as bold as Paul or as sensitive as Timothy. Wishing our loved ones and friends and people we don’t even know would get to know our Jesus in a personal, saving way.

I am asking myself this question right now at 4:30 AM on a Sunday morning…Does my life reflect Christ in such a way that people around me would want that kind of relationship. Is my life authentic? Do I live life with true conviction or have I just learned the lines? Will I leave the tough job of going after the lost sheep to someone else who is “called” like my pastor…or will I believe that God was serious about “going into all the world to preach the gospel” no matter what that looks like….no matter who it is.

We have four kids who I love very much. We have taken them to church since they could fit into a baby seat. They have heard the gospel more times than they can count. And while I hope and pray that the prayers they prayed at bedside or camp to invite Jesus into their hearts were real…it’s their choice as “sheep” to listen for their master’s voice and follow him. I have had a sheep or two try to escape…sometimes they have succeeded… and it has broken my heart. It has made me look at my life and realize that I can’t just tell them spiritual things…my life has to resemble or emulate my words in no small way for them to see that I not only say I believe it…I prove it to them by the way I live it. They have to see Jesus in me.

I had a “sheep break” the other day. It wasn’t a random break. This sheep tested the fence…it held for quite a while but after a while…it broke. I watched as the lone sheep took off through the fence…across the meadow and headed towards a big cliff.

I took off. As I was looking for that little sheep I started getting all my spiritual platitudes in order so that I could fling them (with great earnest) at this naughty sheep. As if that would have made a difference…Nope…my sad realization was that I had taught my sheep to want other things more than God by the way I lived my life on Monday through Saturday in spite of my “spiritual speak.” Even the best behaved sheep will test the fences now and then. But it’s a dangerous place for the sheep to be when they no longer recognize the shepherd’s voice.

I’m thankful for the army of believers who trusts God enough to go. To look far and wide. To search all the places they don’t want to be and in love, rescue sheep.

Are you up to that challenge? Am I? God help us to have a shepherd’s heart.

II Peter 3: 8-10

Matthew 18:12–14 and Luke (15:3–7)





I missed a chance to dance….Vol 51

1013833_10200755906314467_18029734_nLast night I missed a chance to dance with my wife. I didn’t think it was a big deal then. I wish I had now. Not because she gave me a hard time about it…she didn’t. Not because it was a great band…it wasn’t. Not because we would have shown up the other couples with our dancing prowess…we wouldn’t have. But simply because she wanted to. She wanted to dance with me. I wish I had said “yes” and got off the lawn chair and out onto the cement with the older couple and the little kids who were just enjoying each other (and perhaps imagining a much better band.) But I missed the chance to dance with my sweetheart. I won’t do it again.

From a moment to a memory.

I’m sure I didn’t coin that phrase…but I like it. God gives us a limited number of moments in our lives to accomplish something. To do something for Him….to do something with Him…to do something for him with someone else…and to do something that is just for us. You have to be looking for it. You have to be aware. You have to listen.. and then…if you recognize the moment…you should act. You should turn the moments God gives you into your memories…your legacy with God. Keep your memory banks full of God’s goodness to you and stay aware of His blessing in your life. It is a gift to pass on to your kids, your family… and… it is strength for you in times of challenge.

One of the sad things in my Christian experience is that so many times I have missed out on the chief end of man found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism which says…Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

If I were to use words that often describe how I feel about my relationship with God they would be somber words like obligation, duty, accountability, responsibility. All meaningful…all good. But lacking passion. Lacking the “juice” of enjoyment. I have often pushed off the enjoyment of God…waiting for heaven. And I am missing the chance to dance…

How about you?

I almost lost a friend….well…maybe I did…. Vol 50

A few weeks back I almost lost a friend. Not because I didn’t know where he was…but more because I didn’t recognize where I was. Has that ever happened to you? You get an email or IM that just cuts through all the noise of your life and hits you right in the heart.

Precious are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6)

Wounding is painful no matter what it is or from whom it comes. But maybe more painful when it’s from a friend.

I didn’t handle this one well. I was offended. I was angry. He was right, and well-intentioned. He said exactly what needed to be said…and though I read and re-read the admonition…I didn’t want to hear it…let alone own it. Now I had to deal with the issue… and with him.

I waited a good week and then I called. That didn’t go well either. After the abrupt end to the phone call in a fit of anger, I blocked him on FB (which also “un-friends”) in case you are wondering…which prompted IM’s and then there was silence from both of us.

A few days ago I sent a friend request and he accepted. Unfortunately, the damage is done…maybe not forever…but for now. Paul says to live at peace with everyone as you are able. The sad truth is that we may not be able to live at peace with some…

Occasionally Paul had some hard things to say to people and churches who were moving in the wrong direction. He sort of had an Rx for bad news…He started with a spoonful of sugar. He encouraged them first. He let them know he loved them and Christ loved them…. before he let ’em have it. That was his Rx…not necessarily ours. Sometimes, well… sometimes with our friends…we take the filters off…and just tell it like it is. Those of us on the receiving end sometimes miss the motivation of the message (or maybe we just don’t want to think…we want to feel) but any way you get wounded…hurts. Some wounds are deeper than others but all wounds need to be tended to or eventually you can “bleed out.”

My wound was really just a nick…a “flesh” wound. I didn’t need the tourniquet I tried to put on it. In fact the bleeding stopped without so much as a Band-Aid.

Have you been wounded from friendly fire? You can let the wound fester and infect…or you can take steps to cleansing and healing. It’s your choice.