Posts Tagged ‘randy hasper’

Ever tried to do something, and it didn’t work?

I recently got some nice portabella mushrooms out of the frig to grill and had to throw them away.  

The mushrooms had grown hair!

It’s weird, but I prefer my mushrooms, like my babies — bald.

This week I drove to a meeting only to find it had just been cancelled —  by text —  but I hadn’t looked at my phone for a half-hour and didn’t know that. You don’t check this  (hold up mobile phone) every 15 minutes — you’re history.

Then last week my daughter and I went to our backyard to clean it up and we got so frightened we had to run inside and call the fire department.

I often experience “failure of purpose.” 

And this … has led me to a startling and unexpected conclusion: 

I’m not God! 

Wow! How disappointing.

 And you aren’t either.  

But here is the truth.

Isaiah 46:9-10, God speaking says:

I am God, and there is no other;

    I am God, and there is none like me.

I make known the end from the beginning,

    from ancient times, what is still to come.

I say, ‘My purpose will stand,

    and I will do all that I please.’

God is so different from me. He can do all he pleases!

He can clean up the backyard.

Isaiah 46 is called the book of comfort. It is Isaiah’s words addressed to the Jewish exiles returning home from Babylon. 

After sending his precious ones into exile for their idolatry, God is bringing them home again to Jerusalem.  

Why were they exiled? They had looked to Bel and Nebo, Mesopotamian and Canaanite gods of fertility and wisdom for help, not the one true God.  

And so God said to them, “No, I alone am God. There is no other. Only my purpose stands.”

In other words, God was telling them, I am sovereign.

To say God is sovereign is to say he is in control and that his purpose will be fulfilled.

And what is God’s purpose?

His purpose is clearly stated at the end of Isaiah 46, in verse 13. 

I am bringing my righteousness near,

    it is not far away;

    and my salvation will not be delayed.

God’s purpose is bring us home, from exile, to return us to himself, and make us righteous. 

I spent a good deal of time during July painting the inside of a house. 

I hate paint!

Paint won’t mind. Paint loves to migrate. 

Pry up a paint lid and the paint will literally jump out, and fly onto your hands, up your elbows, onto your face and into your hair. 

Paint reminds us that … we are not sovereign. 

Paint is sovereign! 

No, God is.  

Rev 21:4-6 confirms what we read in Isaiah 46. 

“I am making everything new!” …says God in Christ. “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true … It is done. 

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

God, is in control of newness, of cosmic paint, of the end product, even when we mess up. 

And, like Israel, we do mess up. 

We bow to the modern, mini-gods of success, image, health, money and work. 

But  God alone … can save. 

He can paint justice where there was oppression, and righteousness where there was sin.

God is sovereign …  and … He is good.

Why add good? 

Why add, “He is good.”

 Because his power can make him seem scary, and some theologians have taken sovereignty too far, and have claimed that God even wills and ordains evil. 

They extend his sovereignty to everything.

But, this not correct. 

Evil is something we do, not God, with our free wills. 

And here is where sovereignty gets quite mysterious.

What is God responsible for and what our we? 

Scripture tells us God is sovereign and yet it also clearly indicates God has given us free will.

This is not a sermon on free will, but when Paul writes in Romans 14:12 that “each of us will [have to] give an account of ourselves to God”  This clearly indicates we have agency, and will be held responsible for our actions.  

It’s quite a complex mess really … and when we add in nature’s role (earthquakes, viruses, dangerous beasts) the whole sovereign thing gets even stickier. 

Last week — as I mentioned earlier — my daughter Rosalind and I were working in our backyard picking up old baseboards we took out of the house. 

Some of the wood was under a roll of carpet we had thrown out, so she asked me to move the heavy carpet. 

I picked it up and underneath, right at my feet was — a diamondback rattle snake!

I went airborne.

 In one-half a nano second Rosalind and I were back inside the house. 

And the equally terrified snake was … back under “his” carpet. 

Life is out control!

Three phone calls later, the fire department came, and they calmly caught the snake with their pincher stick, and put it in a bucket and took it away. 

 I love firemen!

They told me. “Yeah, the snakes are good. They control the rodent population.”

Sheesh!  I’d rather have furry little mice and Ratatouilles.

“Snakes, why did it have to be snakes!”

And the terrified snake is now saying, “Humans, why did it have to be humans with a pincher stick, and a bucket!”

Why?

 Because our sovereign God decided on snakes as part of a healthy natural ecosystem, and then he let them go … where they please!

God is sovereign, but he is also wild, and he made a wild, free world. 

And that wild world is not safe, yikes!

I am learning something else I don’t want to learn. 

God is in ultimate control, but that doesn’t mean he that he micromanages life to be easy or perfectly safe or just what I want.

I think the hardest part of sovereignty is when things don’t go my way.

I want no snakes!

I want no problems!

But the world God made is empowered, wild and free — fires, bacteria, poison beasts, poison people.

And so from a wild, beautiful, snaky, diseased, idolatrous, sin-sick world we cry out Papa, help!

“Oh great God, come save us within this dangerous-beautiful world!

And here is where we can gain hope.

As Isaiah recorded, God saves, he restores, and he brings us home.

And it is in Christ that God works out his ultimate sovereignty and his salvific purpose.

Colossians 1:17-18

 He [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The salvation promised in Isaiah 46, and confirmed in Rev. 21,  is completed in Christ. 

Jesus is the supremacy and sovereignty of God and by his death for our sin, he has cleaned up our back yard and he will remove the snake!

Jesus fulfills God’s purpose in us — and we are best when we look to him, no matter how out of control life seems. 

My brother Steve has cancer. Many in our church pray for him. 

I asked Steve recently, “How do you pray for yourself. 

Steve wrote back his answer on Friday night:

“How do I pray and live?

 I don’t ask for the cancer to leave. 

I don’t even ask for a mitigated, lighter response.

I ask for God to help me not be a grump, to be thankful and kind to Joyce [his wife], to keep my mouth shut or think and pause a bit before I speak because I am in such an agitated state [because of the chemo, Benadryl,  and steroids].

I am asking God to help me live into the values or ways God calls me to live, Thy kingdom come not mine. 

I’d like to be healthy and not have bruises up and down my left arm & hand from doing yard work.

 I’d like not to be up right now, in the middle of the night. 

I’d like to carry the idol called health and image, the one most bowed to here in Southern California, but it ain’t happening.

[But, he finishes] I do believe God will bring good to me during this season.”

Steve is rejecting the lesser-California gods of health and image. 

And he is rejecting the false notion that he is god, and can control his life. 

 Steve is looking to Christ to fulfill God’s purpose in his life.

 Bruised and battered, Steve is living Romans 8:28, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Using our free wills wisely, we can align with God’s purpose, and pray to be loving — no matter what is happening — and choose to whine less. 

Do this: Choose no other god than God.

And do this. Believe that God is sovereign.

He is sovereign over mushrooms, meetings, paint, snakes, California culture, our bodies, our souls —  over everything.  

God, has got it! 

God, has got us! 

God alone will save us and brings us home from our exiles.  

It is a great mystery, but we, his people, through God’s sovereignty, will be okay. 

I am God, [says the Lord] and there is no other.

Isaiah 46:9

Reality — you can learn something from it. You can learn how to work with it.

First you must accept this: Stuff will resist.

Time and money are particularly ornery. Estimate how long a project will take and how much it will cost, then double that and you might be close — or still a bit shy. Cost is like shaving cream in a can. Press the button and it expands in you hands. Time is like a cumulous cloud over the mountains; it billows into the stratosphere.

Then there are objects — put them to work and they will war with you. You pick up one thing and other things move with it. They jump, fall, dive and zipline together — usually in the direction of the floor, and chaos.

Take long, stingy things —  they are the worst! They knot, wrap, tangle and snag. Garden hoses are particularly uncooperative. Walk anywhere with one, it will reach out and hook on a door knob, a sprinkler head, a plant. And it gets worse. Hoses are also kinky. No matter what virtuous, moral and cooperative nature was claimed on the cardboard they came with, they bend back on themselves and resolutely refuse to give water, until you walk over to them and give them what for.

And then there is the dry stuff —  it gets on you. Sawdust, Splenda, flour, sanding dust — they are the worst. Sand a cabinet, the dust generated will cover the walls and floors and blinds of your home. Dust loves your hands, your face, your hair; give it a chance and it will go for your lungs, and try to kill you.

Wet stuff, the same — extremely irritating. Take caulking, take paint — it wants to go, to be free.  Pry up a paint lid and the paint will run, jump and fly up your elbows, up your neck and into your hair. Water, it covers over 70% of the planet, and wants more.

What to do?

Make friends with reality, as it really is — volitional. Accept this. The material world is full of will, intention, agency — and conspiracy.  You are in less control than you think. Stuff will have its way!

The answer, the way to sanity, the route to hope — it lies in letting stuff go about its business as it will.  Let stuff have its say, its day, its moment in the sun. Let it act, as it will — and be dangerous if it must — where it can do the most good,

Dollars, hours, hoses, flour, paint  — you have to work with them; you have to let them resist. Then you have to be nice; you have to talk sweetly to them; you have to talk them into helping. And if you do, they can help you renew and restore the world!

Today, I hammered to pieces a tile countertop. It was messy and loud. The hardest hammer blow was the first. To strike the gleaming white, uncracked tile seemed wrong, but it was a “Wham!” toward better. 

I’ve done this before, destroyed a kitchen, but it’s been awhile so I Googled how.  Seconds later, there it was, my exact white, tile counter on the screen and a guy knocking and prying it into oblivion.

Perfect! 

Got it! 

You whack off the outside edge first — with a bucket below to catch the debris — then you shove a power bar underneath the supporting plywood, and you the pry it up  — plywood, mortar, tile, grout and all.  

What did we do before Youtube?

The mind is constantly seeking knowledge, the “how-to,” the “Why?” “ and the very best buy. We want to know the conveniency, the piquancy, the frequency and the decency.  Sometimes we need answer for, “What the heck?” 

A friend of mine just got diagnosed with acute leukemia. Tough! It’s rough! “Heck!”

Why does she have cancer,  and not me? “Hmmm,” even just thinking of this question, I detect a smidgeon of survivor’s guilt in me  — and some survivor’s gratitude.

I can figure out how to do some things — break stuff — but not how to fix some stuff, and not why some things happen to us, especially the things that cave  us in. Google has some answers. They don’t always satisfy.

Chance, choice, DNA, fate, karma, acts of God, poor diet, chemicals, providence, rats, flees, volcanoes — we all want explanations, something we can grab on to, something we can live with. But we don’t always get them. We can Google “countertop demolition” and we can Google “leukemia” and we can Google “housing market, “ but we still might not know why life comes to our door the way it does — or does not. 

We know; we don’t. We keep trying 

Maybe we shouldn’t. Some things don’t have  satisfactory answers. A child drowns. No explanation will do. Often a combination of answers come to mind, sometimes only anger comes to mind, sometimes all we have is blinding, numbing loss.

We are shattered tile. 

But what if having an answer doesn’t always matter. Not knowing where the hammer came from, admitting that we don’t really know — it’s at least honest. We don’t know every how or why or what, so what if we don’t pretend to. 

Why disrespect great suffering with goofy platitudes? Every demolition doesn’t make things better.

 Why demean complex problems with simplistic euphemisms?

 The brave often go on, move on, live on without answers. We don’t have to explain everything in order to live with it.  Perhaps this is the meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6.

Hammered, we may yet live well within a cracked and courageous quietness.

“You can’t fix me,” an older person told me recently, then proceeded to hangup.

I hadn’t said much. I had simply shared a picture of a possibility for dealing with his negative feelings toward himself. I had said, “When the baby cries, we hold the baby, so when our soul cries, we might  …”

He wouldn’t have it, the self-care in it, the personal gentleness with the crying child within.

Of course, the “you can’t fix me,” has some truth to it. I can’t. We can’t. But such a defiant declaration, in this case, felt like a shield, a barrier thrown up, a protective rationalization to avoid changing, to avoid any solutions, to avoid taking responsibility for feelings — a decision to avoid self-care.  This may, indeed, be one of the great temptations of old age, living with a ubiquitous “I’m too old to change” mantra. This can problematize, pathologize and negativize a life.

One person loves their inner person, another hates the self inside, and other doesn’t think of self much at all. We live in the world we create in our minds.

But can change that world, the story, our biography, using insights, using new thoughts,  perhaps using information given us from others. It is possible to re-see our lives and re-story the past. Possible is a post-mythic stage of life, a post-stuck stage, a post-hurt or post-wounded stage of life in which we embrace reality, listen to new voices, seek the corrective perspectives of other family member’s stories, see things and people differently, even accept and experience redemption.

I was always a bit jealous that my older brother was sent away to a prestigious prep school when he was thirteen. It seemed to me, in this, that my parents were more invested in him than me. Recently, he told me that the experience caused him to experience an acute homesickness. Being separated from his family — it was full of pain.

Story-listening, I realized I would have felt the same. I would not have wanted to be away from home, family, hearth, pets, privacy, the safe harbor of mom and dad and brothers either. So, I can drop the envy. It was misplaced. I have; I do. I am now glad I wasn’t sent away to school.

It’s narrative psychology. We live in the world we create in our minds; we can change that world. We can, with other family member’s help, even perhaps co-author a new world, a different story, a more positive narrative.

We can. 

Perhaps — if we are open to grace, and healing.

“Nature is, above all, profligate. Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a manic-depressive with limitless capital.

Extravagance! Nature will try anything once. This is what the sign of the insects says. No form is too gruesome, no behavior too grotesque. If you’re dealing with organic compounds, then let them combine. If it works, if it quickens, set it clacking on the grass; there’s always room for one more; you ain’t so handsome yourself. This is a spendthrift economy; thought nothing is lost, all is spent.”

Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

My brother Steve is making friends with randomness — kind of.

This morning he mentioned to me that during his hospitalization for his stem cell transplant — four years ago — a butterfly came to the window of his hospital room everyday.

It was a snatch of beauty, experienced in a tough season, and it helped carry him through. The bright, fluttering wings —  it was mobile brightness and beauty much needed in a shadowy moment.

Was it providential?

Was it random?

He and I both think the fly flies somewhere in the cracks of the flyway.

God isn’t up there — or somewhere — pulling the puppet stings for every small event in the universe, sending out insects, calling in winds, pronouncing sneezes.  Surely God isn’t sending butterflies to sick people, but not all of them. Not everyone gets one.

I am sure God can do what he wants, intervene when he wants, intrude if he wills — and he does —  but I really can’t imagine God as a universal micromanager. He couldn’t possibly be that bored, that controlling or that tyrannical. He may know every sparrow that drops, but he doesn’t map all their paths, fly them into windows — which they are prone to do — or continuously fly them past all invalids, and the valids too, in need of a sign.

First off, and perhaps last too, God already has sent stuff our way simply by making us and making so freakin’ much of it —  of stuff.  God is Annie’s “manic-depressive with limitless capital.” He made extra, he has gone overboard. He’s a virtual sybarite! He’s a holy, unrestrained debauchee. That much is fairly obvious. Look for yourself.

God made millions or even billions of everything — grass blades, flies, bacteria, spores, mushrooms, rabbits, ideas, daisies. They multiply and die like crazy, the flora, the fauna, butterflies, Madonnas.

Why? Why so much of everything? Well, in this way we an keep running into stuff, randomly, or not, the natural wonder at the right moment, the white tailed deer along the road, the fish jumping in the lake as the sun sets over the shy lovers.

God made enough of everything for the coincidental, for the happenstancial, for the random, for the vigorous and voracious vagaries to just keep showing up. He made so much it just keeps flooding the stage.

God planned plenty for us, from the beginning —  but the plan included not controlling everything. Don’t we have a will? Hasn’t he given us freedom? Is there no instinct? Can’t we make horrible choices? Don’t some things happen by chance? Can’t we reject him?

God seems to be into letting stuff choose, letting something choose, free will, instinct, volition, agency, even chance  — especially once the show was launched. I’m sure of this because anything less on his part would lack confidence, skill, humor, power and foresight.

“Nature is profligate” because God is profligate. God was, is and always will be recklessly extravagant.  It comes from being so resourced.

It means stuff happens.

When it does, is it for you?

Of course it is.

When I was growing up, I loved going out into the woods in the spring, looking down.

I was hunting morels, those delicious wild mushrooms that grow around old logs, in moist, rotten places that smell like damp soil, like mother earth, like tasty life.

They are the mycorrhiza, and they have a narrative.

The morel, the mycorrhizae, is a fungus that grows in association with the roots of a plant in a symbiotic or mildly pathogenic relationship.

Sounds like family.

Sounds like my family.

I well remember the warm, damp soil in which my parent and I and my brothers and I wove our roots together. It was good, symbiotic, mutually beneficial. I remember happily playing baseball with my brothers, quietly reading with my mom, going water skiing with my dad and brothers.

It was good!

It was also not always good.

Sometime it was competitive, combative, mildly pathogenic. I remember competing for the baseball win with my brothers, fighting down on the ground with them, arguing in the evening with my mom, being — in my mind — wrongfully and shamefully disciplined by my dad.

So looking back, which was it, my family?

Was it symbiotic and mutualistic or was it pathogenic and mildly harmful?

It was both.

It always is.

At an earlier and more naive stage of life, I thought relationships were one thing only, and stayed the same. I thought love was love.

It isn’t and they don’t —  the relationships —  remain the same. Relationships morph. Competition and jealousy and hurt sometime carry the day. We change. Over time we realize we are different. We bring some harm and some distance to each other. We unwittingly compete for the big thing — for love.

I love my family — they are some good people — but some of the relationships have slightly rotten edges.  They still exist as good, and as tasty, but also as mildly pathogenic.

Life — it’s not one thing. It’s a bit of a fungal narrative.

We love stories, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Lord of the Ring, the Cat in the Hat, but what is the greatest story of all? 

That story is the story of God. That is the story that absorbs and explains all other stories.

Charles Williams, the third member of the Christian literary group the Inklings — which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien — was fascinated by how God’s story involves a comprehensive connection to all of life.

To get at this, Williams coined the term co-inherence. Coinherence, describes how things exist in an essential and innate relationship with other things.

This is Christian. All humans exist within God’s existence. In Acts 17:28, Paul gives clear expression of coinherence when he writes: For in him [God] we live and move and have our being. 

In God we co-inhere, we symbiotically enmesh. In God we get sticky, and stick together. 

We don’t live The Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of one great hero. We live the Epic of Togetherness.  Ecc. 4:9-12, “Two are better than one,”  writes the wise one.

Ever eat a sticky bun? You start from the outside and work your way in to the last bite, which is the most sugary and buttery of all. Imagine it, the cinnamon, the sugar, it sticks on your fingers, you finish by licking them.

Welcome to sticky bun theology! Life is a sticky bun, and God is the sugary goo that holds us all together.  It’s true. We live within a sticky, inter-connected spiritual eco-system, held together by the Godhead. 

God in his three persons — Father, Son and Spirit — are equal, and they work as one; they honor and serve each other and they stick together. And this sticky-trinity of goodness is the model and source of all human stickiness, all love and all co-operation.

The greatest story ever told is the story of God’s gummy, adhesive, connectedness to us. 

Do you want in on this? Want coinherence, want connectedness? The how to get this is clearly stated in Galatians 2:20 where Paul writes, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

By accepting Christ’s death on the cross for ourselves, we come to participate in that death — we die to the old sinful self — and we enter into God’s interconnected, mutualistic, resurrected life. 

It is God’s sacrifice, his humility, his support, that brings all life into harmony. And here is the deal: God’s story  — a story of harmony through sacrifice — has huge ramification for our understanding of the family.

Good families adhere, come together, work well when they act like the God acts, like Jesus acts, and like the Holy Spirit acts. When families humbly serve each other, sacrifice for each other and empower each other just like the Trinity does, then they thrive!

Last week I put in some landscape irrigation pipe. To do so I had to water drill under two sidewalks. It was a muddy mess. I was up to my elbows in mud, to grow something.

Same with God. He got down in the mud for us. And when we do the same, when we get low, when we get down in the mud with him and with our family, we please God.

Paul commands this attitude in  Philippians 2:5-7.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.

Note Jesus’s example here. 

He didn’t hold on to power, but in the great kenosis, the emptying of Christ, God in Christ gave power up to bring us into close relationship with himself.

Therefore, to create unified families, we must follow Christ’s model and help and empower each other, not control and dominate each other.  

This is why Paul tells husbands to sacrifice for wives, just as Christ sacrificed for the church. God does not command males to dominate, as they have been so sinfully and addictively prone to do. He commands them to sacrifice. And Paul tells wives to respect their husbands too. The truth is that everybody is to sacrifice and to show respect to everybody in the family. Paul is telling us, in the family, act like the members of the Trinity act! Be mutually supportive.   

To be super clear, Paul instructs both husbands and wives, Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This is sticky-bun theology. This makes for a sticky family. We are brought into harmony by mutually submitting.

This undermines any idea that families should be based on the old Roman code of fixed dominant and submissive roles. When family members insist on dominant roles, when one person dominates and controls, and when the family members compete for power and control, then those families depart from the epic, people-uniting story of God. 

The Trinity that makes up God, shows us the way to connectedness. Harmony in the family is through sacrifice — not dominance. Authoritarianism in the family isn’t Biblical; it is worldly!

This is particularly shown by authoritarianism’s dark side    psychological abuse, spousal abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse and elder abuse. These behaviors ruin families. They don’t align with God’s story. 

To any of us who over-control in the family, who lord it over others. I would remind of Luke 18:14, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” 

To find the good model of the good family we must remember the grand, epic story of the Bible.  God’s intent from the beginning was for things to exist in an essential, innate, nurturing, supportive and loving relationship all other things.

Think of traffic. Traffic is competition, right? The goal is to get there first. Not. 

We leave the house in the morning around the same time as our neighbors. We mix together on the streets. We travel in one big connected, jockeying, competing mess. We are connected, hopefully, not too much — or bam!

But actually, to make traffic work, we must not compete; we must defer to each other and wait for each other.

Driving side-by-side, we stay in our lanes, we signal when we turn, we stop at lights — well some of us stop.

The only ticket I ever got was for a California stop — a rolling stop —  an I’m-in-this-for-me stop. But traffic —  at it’s best  — is stopping for each other; it is watching out for each other, not using hand-gestures when people make mistakes. Good traffic is team work. The goal is for everyone to get there safely!

Welcome to a picture of the good family, the theologically sticky family, the co-inhered family, the collaborative family. In the collaborative families, we travel safely to the destination together. 

Each family member signals when they want to turn, waits for others to go first, stops when another says stop, obeys the concept that we do what is best for the team.  

In good families children obey. So do husbands. So do the cats. What about the need for good leaders in the family? Good families are made up of good leaders, and leaders are best when they are servants and helpers. They take turns leading. 

Good families: 

Allow for conflict and dialogue.

Make decisions through agreements. 

Empower all the members.  

Cooperate for the common good. 

Leave no one behind. 

My wife and I have recently been trying to pick out some new hardwood flooring for our house. 

I got really sold on one color of wood.  My wife pointed out that that wasn’t the color we originally agreed would fit best. But I was stuck on what I wanted. So I went to Lowes and ordered it. No, I didn’t. 

I had to pause myself. I had to think. My wife and I have decided never to make decisions of consequence without agreeing. We believe in treating each other as equals, showing mutual respect.

So I said, “Okay, I’ll drop that color idea. You’re right, we should choose something we both agree on.” 

And so we have!

We are traveling together, within the safety of mutual submission. 

The story of God — which is the best story in the Bible —  should inform and dictate our everyday behavior.

 It is the gummy and adhesive story of co-inherence.

Therefore, we do best to model our families after the systemic, sticky, collaborative example that flows to us out of the Trinity, a model of mutual respect, sacrifice, servanthood and love. 

Sticky bun theology — it makes for good, sticky families. 

I was on the phone with my dad recently. We chatted about books. I had previously recommended Endurance to him, Alfred Lansing’s riveting telling of the Ernest Shackleton story  He told me my brother Steve had picked up a copy for him.  It’s a great read, good for dad I think at this point in his life.

My dad is 90; he just lost my mom, he needs endurance, and really, he has it. He’s healthy, smart, active and provided for in a retirement community where he works as a furniture mover.

A furniture mover, at 90? Yup! I asked him if he had help. He told me he had a moving  team. I asked him if there were any young guys. He said he had an 85 year old. Then he told me with no hint of humor. “My strongest guy is 91!

Okay then, all set.

Toward the end of the conversation he came out with something I didn’t expect. He said to me, “You have an innate wisdom.”

I was a bit knocked over. I can’t remember my dad ever saying anything so affirming to me although he has often complimented and encouraged me. Actually, it rather gently stunned me — with pleasure. It warmed the space between us and flowed back into the past like a spring rain in my psyche.  It didn’t blow up my ego: it just gently affirmed the original grace in my life, something that has blessed my work, my marriage and my relationship with my daughters.

Affirmation — genuine and unmotivated any desire to manipulate or control — it adds to our ability to endurer.

Affirmation — it is sweet soul rain.

A person is a space heater; a group is a bonfire, an event is a conflagration

Recently, I had a friend over. He grew up in Zimbabwe, worked for some time in London, then in Montana, and now lives here in San Diego. He’s been around. I like that.

We watched a rugby match together and warmed ourselves with discussions of scrums, rucks and mauls. He is a big New Zealand rugby fan and so we viewed a match between New Zealand and Australia on Youtube that began with a fearsome haka. The quivering hands and intense war cries of the Maori people were awesome.

My new friend schooled me in the fine art of the rough art. As he was out the door I invited him back another weekend to watch some Cricket. We are socia-sportifying, internationalizing, warming up the place.

Every person close to every person is the potential for a cozy hearth fire. Every race, tribe, nation and people breaching, teaching and reaching every other people is the good within the transcendent social good. We were meant to warm each other up, made for congeniality, created for affability, programmed for closeness.

The problems seem to arise when we team up against each other. when we stereotype each other, label each other and hatefully oppose each other. The solutions come when we sit down together, focus on the same thing, explain stuff to each other, do something fun tougher, play together, laugh together.

My current thoughts, find someone from somewhere else, treat them as your personal space heater, fire them up with your own curiosity, ask questions, learn from each other and  warm up the place.

A couple of friends and I were chatting yesterday. One, an artist, said it simply, something like, “We are alone. We only know our selves by ourselves.”

She had a point, and until a person realizes that, perhaps they don’t know who they are. Only you are you, only me, me. We aren’t an appendage; we are an entity.

This is particularly important in the formulation of a healthy personal identity. To star, we can’t fix our wagon to another person’s star. To differentiate, to autonomize, to individuate we must separate.

When I write I do that. I please myself and so I experience freedom, autonomy. So does my artist friend. When she paints she becomes a self-sustaining farm; she nourishes herself.

But in pleasing myself — and in her pleasing herself — we please a few others too. They find in our experience their experience too.

And therein lies the rub regarding individuation.

No one is merely an isolated spec, a disconnected bit, a complete island. We all are dependent, interdependent, connected. We are each one an army of other people  — we come from parents, share life with siblings, we are sustained by farmers, clothiers, doctors and employers. Each one of us is indeed a community; each person is actually a horde. Our DNA was borrowed, our personalities influenced, our behaviors conditioned, our lives sustained  —  by others.

Recently my artist friend taught an art class. She found it extremely fulfilling. She was who she was, the artist, but she was alive and filled with meaning and identity as she shared what she knew about art with others.

Who are you?

Yes, you are a particular, a specific, a distinct, a discreet. But you are more than that.

And you are also a colony, a neighborhood, an association, a world.

We only know ourselves alone.

We only know ourselves together.

Both are true.