Sunday, January 31, 2010

Did You Hear the One About. . . ?

Sometimes, life and blogs get too heavy. It's time to laugh a little.
Here's some funny stuff friends and family have sent me in recent years. I hope some of these bring a smile to you, as well.

* Several blogs ago I made reference to Jesus turning the water into wine. Some conservative Christians have a problem with anything but total abstinence from alcohol or anything sounding like endorsement of having a good time. Morris Dees, founder of The Southern Poverty Law Center, grew up in a small town in the South and tells a story about his Sunday school teacher who was a committed teetotaler. She even wore a button announcing "Lips that have touched wine will never touch mine". At some point he got up his courage and reminded her that Jesus had turned water into wine. "That's true, Morrie, but we would've thought a whole lot more of Him if he hadn'ta done that".

*Some Bob Hope quips:
on giving up his early career in boxing, "I ruined my hands in the ring. . . the referee kept stepping on them."
on never winning an Oscar, "Welcome to the Academy Awards, or as it's called at my house--Passover."
on his family's early poverty, "Four of us slept in one bed. When it got cold, Mother threw on another brother."
on his six brothers, "That's how I learned to dance--waiting for the bathroom."
on his early failures, "I wouldn't have had anything to eat if it wasn't for the stuff the audience threw at me."
on going to heaven, "I've done benefits for ALL religions. I'd hate to blow the hereafter on a technicality."

*Several simple tests to determine your preparedness for having children:

Obtain a 55-gallon box of Legos (you may substitute roofing tacks or broken bottles). Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not shout expletives as this could wake a sleeping child.

Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you to the grocery store. Keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.

Obtain one unhappy, live octopus. Wake it up early and try to stuff it into a small net bag. Don't forget the mittens.

Obtain a large plastic jug. Fill halfway with milk. Suspend the jug from the ceiling and start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of applesauce into the mouth of the jug while pretending to be an airplane. Once you've succeeded, dump the contents of the jug on the floor.

Fill a small cloth bag with 10 pounds of sand. Soak it thoroughly in water. At 8 p.m. begin to waltz and hum with the bag. At 9 p.m., lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10 p.m. Get up, pick up your bag, waltz and sing every song you have ever heard until 1 a.m. Repeat between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Set alarm for 5 a.m. Get up and make breakfast. Keep this up for three years. Remain cheerful.

Obtain a large beanbag chair and attach it to your midsection. Leave it there for nine months, then remove 10% of the beans.

*A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to helping the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand. He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript. So, the new monk goes to the head abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up! In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies. The head monk says, "We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son." So, he goes down into the dark caverns underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts are held as archives in a locked vault that hasn't been opened for hundreds of years.
Hours go by and nobody has seen the abbot. So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him. He finds him banging his head against the wall and wailing, "We missed the R! We missed the R! We missed the R!" His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he's crying uncontrollably.
The young monk asks the old abbot, "What's wrong, father?"
With a choking voice the old abbot replies, "The word was C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E!!!"

* The guy "in the doghouse." Go to:

*Just about anything Brian Regan says. e.g.
"You see weird things driving... I've never understood log trucks, sometimes you'll be out on the highway, you see two big giant trucks loaded up with logs, and they pass each other on the highway... I don't understand it. I mean, if they need logs over there... and they need 'em over here, you'd think a phone call would save 'em a whole lot of trouble."
"I was driving and saw this sign that said, 'Blasting Zone Ahead'. Wow... shouldn't that read: Road Closed. What do you mean there's a blasting zone; what am I supposed to do? 'Hey-- ah, you might wanna buckle up, blasting zone coming up. Yeah. Just saw the sign. Put the helmets on back there! Yeah I think we're-- (Pow!)-- Oh! We're getting close! (Pow!)-- Oh! This is gonna be a bad blasting zone! Remember that last one--we lost Billy?"

* And last. ( Why does this joke make me laugh REALLY HARD, and my wife just rolls her eyes?)
A man, shocked by how his buddy is dressed, asks him, "How long have you been wearing that bra?" The friend replies, "Ever since my wife found it in the glove compartment."

Do you have a favorite you wanna share?

Friday, January 29, 2010

You Never Know

Shoulders slumped, my disheartened friend told me of her lifeless marriage and loveless husband. Her life before her marriage had been no better. I listened to her story--her heart--and offhandedly assured her, "You are special," and was about to continue talking when I noticed she began sobbing. Alarmed, I asked her what was upsetting her at that moment. What was wrong; did i say something to upset her? She assured me her tears weren't fueled by sadness. They were tears of gratitude. "No one has ever told me that." Three words mediated deep affirmation to the core of her being. Three words. Who would have thought?

I believe EVERYTHING we say or do is sacramental. Let me explain. The Church defines a sacrament in varying ways: 1. a rite in which God is uniquely active 2. a religious symbol or often a rite which conveys divine grace, blessing, or sanctity upon the believer who participates in it, or a tangible symbol which represents an intangible reality 3. signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. In church life, baptism and the Eucharist would be two sacraments, i.e. two rites or acts which convey or dispense much more than what would appear to be the case. It's just a wafer. No, the church believes that in the eating of that wafer or piece of bread something very deep and intimate occurs in terms of encountering Christ's presence.

It's ALL sacramental. Everything we do has the power to dispense, to impart something deep and loving to another person. Three words. Who would have thought?

Many years ago, in my early 20's, I went through a divorce. It broke my heart. The dissolution of that relationship rocked me. It was an existential earthquake that left me in ruins. I catapulted from remorse to rage, from pleading with God to cursing him. I remember one day I was sitting in the sand at Ocean Beach (San Diego) where I lived at the time. I was a hippie and had thick wavy hair. I was absolutely despondent, looking down into the grains of sand, thinking and thinking. I was feeling so alone and unwanted, so discarded. A young woman walking by, reached down, tousled my hair, said something to the effect of "Hi," and continued her way down the beach. When she reached down and rumpled my hair, her touch served as a sacrament. Those two seconds of touch stuck with me the rest of my life. She had no idea, but her doing so assured me that though feeling so utterly discarded, I, indeed, was not a leper. I was still touchable, still worthy of being loved. Two seconds of touch.

Though we live in the same city, I don't see my son all that frequently these days. However, when we do get together we invariably greet each other with a three-step ritual handshake. I don't greet anyone else in that manner. It's only a handshake but it speaks volumes. It says we're still tight, we're still father and son, we still love-- and are loved by-- each other. A handshake.

It's ALL sacramental.

You never know the healing impact you may have on another person. You never know and you may never. That girl walking down the beach thirty-five years ago had--and has--no idea the what she did. She didn't merely tousle my hair. She touched my heart.

You never know.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dogs Always Hump Each Other; They Never Make Love

If you are a dog-lover then insert "cats" in the title. If you are a lover of both dogs and cats insert "ferrets." If you love ferrets, sorry. Deal with it.

There is a prominent and prevailing worldview, a mindset of our culture which believes and asserts that we, i.e. human beings, are not any different than the animal kingdom. It would assert that we are merely the most highly evolved--that is the only difference. It is the belief that the material world is all that exists. Only that which can be scientifically quantified--seen, heard, touched, tasted, or smelled-- is real.

Something within me rebels at the thought that I am not categorically different than the lowly ferret or even the highly esteemed dog or cat, or even the chimpanzee who, at times, evidences more intelligence than my Uncle Fred.

I believe there is something inherent/innate within us as human beings that knows we are different from the animal. Nineteen years ago when my dad died at 66 years of age,why did I weep? Why were there days when I sobbed because I missed him so much? When the pallbearers solemnly carried the casket I knew the casket didn't simply contain a 150 lb carcass of a formerly upright bi-ped. This was not merely the body of my flesh and blood, but a kindred "spirit." A spirit unmeasurable by empirical research methods, but, nonetheless, so real, so actual that 19 years later I can see him just as clearly as if he were sitting here beside me as I type this.

I believe one difference between "us" and "them" is that we have a conscience. It would appear that animals have a conscience (e.g. when they flash you that "paws in the cookie jar" glance), but I would contend it is not conscience, but a conditioned response. It's called operant conditioning. B. F. Skinner was one of the most influential of American psychologists. A radical behaviorist, he developed the theory of operant conditioning -- the idea that behavior is determined by its consequences, be they reinforcements or punishments, which make it more or less likely that the behavior will occur again. Clarence the canine or Freakshow the ferret doesn't experience a guilty conscience when he chews up his owner's $150 Nike running shoes; he has been conditioned by now to know that punishment ensues when he chews on something other than his designated doggie-bone or ferret flavo-ring. It's conditioning. You and I, on the other paw, assuming we are relatively healthy moral beings, do not vandalize each others possessions. We refrain from doing so not because we fear we will be caught, not because of fear of present or future punishment, but because we know it is wrong. To do so is a violation of the other person.

I just don't think people with this prevailing worldview can live consistently with their beliefs. Here's what I mean. I can't imagine the secular humanist, upon the delivery of his long-anticipated child, exclaiming to his wife, " What an intricate formation of respiratory, neurological, and vascular systems in our newly birthed fetus! Note the weight and length of this epidermically-housed ectoplasm." NO!!! He says, "What a beautiful son/daughter!!" He says something equivalent to that because, in truth, he cannot live consistently with his worldview. It's mere fetal ectoplasm--until it's his own. Now it is "my son," my "daughter." That's because there is something--someone--beyond mere "material" that has been born. There is a person--spirit housed in flesh--that his worldview cannot account for, but which he himself, in his very words, cannot deny.

Can you imagine a couple who deeply loves each other, and after an evening of celebrating an anniversary and reminiscing about their years together, they culminate this endearing time together by making love. Does he then turn to her and say,"Now THAT was certainly an acceleration of the central nervous system. I noted a rapidly increased heart rate, blood pressure significantly beyond normal ranges, reserves of adrenalin activated, and a jelling of body fluids." NO!! He says, "I love you." Because there is more going on than mere physiological response. Something you can't measure or quantify is taking place at the deep level of the soul. (He also says, "I love you," because his wife would kill him if he were to utter the other response.)

From a faith-based perspective, a person is unique from an animal in that in the Genesis account of creation, only man and woman are described as being created "in the image of God."
The entire remaining created order is described as "good"--no doubt about it. But you alone, my friend, are an image-bearer of God. the creator of the cosmos. I encourage you to celebrate your dignity and to view and treat others as being created in God's image.

We are more than we appear to be.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scientific Treatise Evaluating Veritably Every Situation (S.T.E.V.E.S)

Hopefully the following will provide you some screening guidelines to evaluate your relationship with your spouse or significant other. Many are serious in nature; many will ruin any hopes of me being a guest expert on Dr. Phil.

*Do I feel like I am both their friend and their lover—or just their lover?

*Do my opinions matter—or do I spend more time listening to theirs? Conversely, am I having to do all the talking in an effort to make this happen?

*His back hair reminds you of the English sheepdog you had as a child.

*Am I being given time for the relationship to develop—or am I being pressured to commit?

*For Valentine’s Day he got you the Biggest Loser wii.

*Do I hear affirming words from them, but see something different, or does what I hear them say match how they treat me?

*You don’t want to hurt his feelings. How do you tell him the negligee is beautiful—just not on him?

*In conflict situations, do they consistently win/get their way? Do you?

*She loves to talk. . . and talk. . . and talk. . . and, dear God, if she doesn’t button it I could end up on the 10:00 news.

*Do you find yourself minimizing their behavior? e.g. “(s)he doesn’t drink that much.” “At least he doesn’t hit me.”

*Am I frequently being asked where I was, who I was with, what I was doing, why did it take so long?

*You wanted a more physical relationship, so she took steroids and is now a defensive lineman for the Packers.

*Does (s)he respect your sexual boundaries/values, or do you find yourself being pressured to go beyond them?

*Typically, a woman’s word-count is much more than a man’s each day. He’s up to 117 words—not for the day; for his lifetime.

*Do I truly like or love this person, or is it the security of the relationship that attracts me?

* Does touch usually serve as a prelude to sex, or are you giving and receiving touch without expectation of further sexual activity?

*He’s successful, financially solid, and draws six figures. Usually with crayons.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hell in Haiti

A year ago my wife and I were in Haiti for 2 weeks on a mission trip. Within 24 hours I was ready to return home. On a good day, Haiti is hell. The depth of poverty is unimaginable. There is U.S. poor and then there is Third World poor. No comparison. Most Haitians have nothing and look forward to nothing--on a good day. It's oppresive. Thousands and thousands of people who have no idea where or what their next meal will be. No running water, no electricity. Life there is harsh and raw. We were walking through a large outdoor market. Very crowded, shoulder to shoulder. I noticed up ahead that people would either step to the left or right a few paces and then converged again. Another ten steps and I see a corpse lying in the main walkway. People are nonchanlantly walking around this dead man as they continue looking for fresh fruit and vegetables. Apparently, this man had attempted to steal something and a mob beat him to death, and went about their business. The flies had started gathering by the time I saw him. Just another day in hell.

The suffering is unparalleled. The hygiene deplorable. The hope for the future bleak. And that's on a good day.

And now the earthquake has hit. There will be no such thing as a "good" day for a long, long time. Years, if ever. The devastation is apocalyptic. The news showed a bulldozer with its large bucket scooping up dead bodies from a pile, turning, and dropping them into a dump truck which then was going to haul them to a mass grave.

Haiti needs OUR help. If you haven't already, I ask you to contribute financially to provide them relief. There are a number of credible relief organizations to which you can contribute. I suggest the Red Cross as an agency that is not faith-based. Several organizations faith-based in nature are World Vision, Samaritan's Purse, and Crisis Response International. Go to their respective websites to contribute.

I would like to go to Haiti in the coming weeks or months to directly provide hands-on relief. Please let me know if you become aware of others doing so, and I will try to keep you apprised of the situation. as well.

The photo that heads this blog is one I took of two children at the orphanage we worked in a year ago. They form a lasting impression. Please don't forget them.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Casual Christianity--or--"God, wassup?"

I have a friend who's so laid back I check his pulse every 15 minutes. Many of our churches, too, seem to have a corporate heart-rate of 40 beats per minute,so laid back, so casual--so absence of awe--I wonder if we are truly encountering the Transcendent One, or merely meeting each other. Or have we reduced God to one of us. a good, but holy "bud?"

High fives and let's bump fists with Jesus!

Don't get me wrong; I'm as casual as anyone. In the spring and summer months and as long as I can stand it in the fall I'm in jeans and sandals at the office, shorts and flipflops out of the office. I've got my hoodie on, flannels and flipflops as I type this. On Sunday morning I will stroll into church, hands in my jean pockets, grab a latte, and, while nonchalantly sipping, sing a few words of worship between caffeine uptakes. With my cup in right hand I may raise my unoccupied left in praise, or slip my left hand into my pocket and assume an apathetic-looking slouch. I'm both hip and holy, man. Flippant but faithful.

Understand, I would never want to return to the era when going to church consisted of 3 hymns, a prayer, and out by 11:00. There was a lifeless rigid conformity consisting of going through the motions while going through the rituals. The unspoken mantra was "Dress up and get there; shut up once you're there." No thanks.

However, I fear our casual attire simply reflects a casual attitude. How can we be casual-hip and nonchalant in the presence of One who, while He became one of us, is nonetheless, completely Other than us. This One is absolute beauty, the ground of being, the truth in Person, infinitely holy. God is with us yet beyond us. God is in time and space yet transcends our categories and cannot be contained by them.

Have we lost a sense of awe? Walking into most churches you'd think it was a Seinfeld concert we were attending. Everybody is loose and loud, a loud drone of banter emanating from us as though settling in for a good time. The worship leader beckons us to enter into singing our praise and rather than being consumed with and by the One in whose name we gather, we are still consumed with continuing conversation while a few attempt to worship.

The Psalms frequently speak of a posture, a response missing in our churches--awe. I'm not referring to "fear" in the sense of thinking I'm sinful and in the presence of holy God who is angry at me. Rather, the Psalms, and the Scriptures as a whole, speak of "awe." That is the response of someone who encounters One who is beyond all imagination, One who whose beauty is blinding, whose truth is piercing, whose holiness is impeccable, whose compassion is heart-breaking.

Have you ever seen or experienced something that was so poignant or tender that it made you cry? Has there been a time when you were privileged to witness or participate in something so amazing, so beyond belief that you were rendered either speechless or boisterous with celebration? Awe. Psalm 114:7 reads, "Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord. . . who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water." This One is not so much fear-inducing as He is awe-inspiring. And this is the One whom we worship. This is the One, as the Scriptures describe, "in whom we live, and move, and have our being."

An April, 2004 Christianity Today editorial reminds us of the impact that Jesus, God become flesh, had on people who encountered him. "His teachings and miracles elicit not love and peace but shock and awe. [As described in the gospel of Mark] onlookers are "amazed" at his first healing (1:27), "overcome with amazement" after he raises the dead girl (5:42), alternately "amazed" and "astonished" at his teaching on wealth. Even worse, the disciples are frightened after Jesus stills the storm (4:35-41) and "terrified" at the Transfiguration (8:6). On the first Easter morning, the witnesses respond with "trembling and astonishment," and they run from the tomb "for they were afraid" (16:8)."

Annie Dillard is a wonderful writer and crafts thoughts into words in ways few others can. She shakes the cobwebs out of my casualness. She writes, "Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews."

That's entirely too heavy. I gotta run to Starbucks. Hey, man, where's my Birkenstocks?
Peace out.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Clueless Serving the Homeless

I get up at 5:30 every Sunday morning to help feed the homeless. What are you doing that time of day?

I do it, not because I'm noble or loving, but because I am neither. It's not a calling; it's a corrective. I do it because I need it.

I hate getting up at 5:30 on any morning, much less on a "Sabbath rest" morning. My wife, on the other hand, wakes up singing "The hills are alive. . . " and I have to suppress the urge to permanently silence her melodic voice.

She and I are part of a team from our church that feeds the homeless every Sunday morning. She does it because she loves these men and women. I do it because I don't. My infatuation with myself is so entrenched that I do this as a means of ripping the attention off myself and making me consider someone else's needs. She does it because she has compassion; I do so, hoping it will create compassion.

I serve the homeless because it forces me out of my ever-expanding comfort zone. I'll always take flannel over frigid; the warmth of the fetal position under the cover of warm Lands End flannel is sweet comfort. The problem is. . . my whole life is quite cushy and comfortable, and there are millions who have no assurance of food or shelter on any given day, and as long as I keep them out of sight and out of mind, I would continue to cultivate my life of consumption and acquisition. Prying the remote out of my right hand and, instead, shaking the cold hand of a homeless guy keeps me real.

I serve the homeless not because of what I can give to them, but because of what they give to me. They are financially impoverished; I am not. Many of them are "rich" in spirit and faith; I am not. Consequently, I am blessed by their presence. Last week, as one of the homeless was leaving our crowded quarters he stopped and assured me, "You are in my daily prayers." Now I'm flooded with conviction. First, I don't have the discipline of a daily structured time of prayer. Secondly, I don't pray for anybody daily. I was moved by his care and humbled by the life he models for me. Third, he has nothing, no one, no place and I would think he'd be consumed by his plight. Yet he prays for us daily. Who is more like Christ here--the giver or the receiver?

Doing this makes me take that proverbial look in the mirror. Sometimes the look is an "a-ah" look; often, it is an "ooh" glimpse. To say that many of the homeless smell is not a judgment; it is simply fact. Serving them makes me take a hard look at and wrestle with that part of me that wants to recoil and distance myself from those who are dirty and smelly. Doing this causes me to check that initial impulse to bristle and, instead, greet or embrace.

Acqua Di Gio Man has to get dirty.

I also do this, not because i want to, but because Christ told us to. I wish he had commanded us to support the Caribbean economy Nov. through Feb. That I want to do. I have to believe that if Jesus urges us to do something his desire must pre-empt mine.

It is my hope that in the doing of this service I will, indeed, want to. I hope that serving the poor will progress from a conviction to compassion. I hope that these men and women will eventually see not a do-goder, but a Christ follower.

Acqui Di Gio Man is encountering a Brut world.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Plastic Jesus

When I was a little kid I carried a soft, cuddly , cloth "wittle bunny wabbit" wherever I went. It was safe and harmless and I derived much comfort from him. Years passed and when I turned 16 my mom made me a deal--I could get my driver's license if I agreed to quit carrying around "wittle bunny wabbit." I got my license when I was 19. It was tough.

When I was a little boy and eventually a pimple pummeled adolescent I also carried with me--everywhere I went--a soft, cuddly and safe Jesus. He never struggled with a bad thought, and viewed women through the most platonic of eyes. My soft and safe Jesus was scrupulous and compliant; he dotted each and every "i" and crossed all his "t's," while I, on the other hand, was crossing my eyes and making faces at the teacher. For that alone, I knew I was hell-bound on a speeding locomotive.

I didn't have a chance.

My Jesus, when he was about 12, came up missing, according to the gospel accounts, and his frantic parents found him in the temple, of all places. When I was 12 if I had come up missing the absolutely last place my parents would have looked would have been the church. "Oh, I bet Steve's studying in the preacher's office!" Yeh, right. While sinful boys like myself were engaging in everyday sinful activities like baseball and fishing, my soft and safe Jesus, in contrast, was asking his buddies to remove their yarmulke from their head and join him in a bible study.

I didn't have a chance.

I was led to believe that being a Christian--a follower of soft 'n safe Jesus--consisted of following the rules. And the rules were all prohibitive. "Don't. . . " "Thou shalt not. . . " "If you don't want to rot in Hell you better never. . . " I knew what I couldn't do; I had no clue what I could do.
The Christian faith was a negation of life. If it was fun, pleasant to the senses, or savored the moment it had to be wrong and "worldly." And I, on the other hand, was supposed to be "spiritual." God may have created this world for Adam and Eve's enjoyment, but they screwed it up for all of us, and now God is angry and regrets giving us all this "worldly" stuff, and now commands that we avoid, rather than enjoy, it. And besides, God created it for Adam, and my name is Steve.

Darn the luck.

So I guess we are called to live a life of begrudging obedience to the rules. We are to be a squeaky clean example to our unbelieving and used-to-believe friends and whatever we see them doing we are to abstain, while praying for them. That's what my Jesus would do.

Nonetheless, there are some troubling passages in the gospels which, at first glance, seem to paint a different picture of Jesus' lifestyle. Emphasis on "seem to ." There's that incident in John 2 where Jesus is at a wedding and they run out of wine and they go to him, of all people, with their dilemma. " Soft n' safe, life-negating Jesus, we're out of wine! Six stone jars, each containing 20-30 gallons, and we've drunk them dry!! Help!!" Jesus had to be upset with their slurred speech and that they had interrupted a bible study he was leading in the adjacent room, and to make his point and to show them their error of their ways he granted their request, but surely filled the jars with soy milk.
I'll drink to that.

I don't have a chance.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Treading Water with the Titanic Swim Team

There are times--too many--when I feel I am living out the chorus line from that 70's song,

"I'm in the dance band on the Titanic singing, 'Nearer My God to Thee,
The iceberg's on the starboard bow; won't you come dance with me?"

Do you ever feel like you're singing, but sinking? I get this dis-ease about the direction of my life. Am I sailing in a direction and toward a destination worthy of my life and please tell me that isn't the sound of rushing water filling the hull. Like the captain of the Titanic regarded his ship I claim my life to be unsinkable. As the joke goes, the captain had a lisp: "Thath unthinkable!" The fact that our lives may not be unsinkable is truly unthinkable. And yet if I don't get my bearings and eventually change my course I know I will run aground. I will sink and I may take those I love the most with me.

What are we doing with each day, each moment, each breath? I know I spend too many evenings grasping the remote and too few holding my wife's hand. Too many days seeing how it will unfold rather than stepping up and making it happen. Too much time spent merely surviving; why aren't I thriving? Is your life one of primarily enduring and very little enjoying?
I wish there were three steps to joy, meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. I know there are no shortcuts. And I just can't buy into the Oprah-like spirituality which claims we are all gods. All I know is my inner god is a limp-wrist and needs testosterone injections: my inner goddess is spoiled and bitchy and ought to be in time-out. So much for getting in touch with either of them.

I have this sense I am supposed to "step up" and simultaneously "reach up." What I mean is I need to man up, take responsibility for my life while, at the same time, entrusting myself to God who will empower me to do so. There's an old folk-wisdom adage that goes, "Work like it all depends on you and pray as though it all depends on God." I tend to do one OR the other, not one AND the other. I'll work and then become bummed because self-generated meaning seems to be in short supply, or I'll pray and then sit back and be bummed because nothing appears to be happening. Could the key be to trust God to direct and protect the ship while I man the helm and come hell or high water I refuse to lose my grip and jump ship?

Are you good with the course your life is taking? Are you good with the direction you are heading? To be honest, I'm pretty uneasy about mine. This needs to be the year in which a possible Titanic ending is averted. My hope for myself--and for you--is that we will not let fear dictate any longer. That we will step up. That we will make some courageous decisions. (courageous decisions are a double-edged sword; they are both good and bad news. The bad news about courage is that it jerks me out my of comfort zone. The good news is that it is by leaving my comfort zone that I chart a new and exciting course. Picture the captain of the Titanic hastily calling an urgent meeting. "I've got good news and bad news. What do you want to hear first?" An officer replies, "The good news." "We'll get 11 Oscars."

I don't want to receive all the kudos and accolades, only for my life to end in either tragedy or futility. I want to sail God's wild seas. I want my life to be not about consumption and acquisition, but about giving and creating. I'm tired of being fear-driven; I want to be faith-fueled.

Are you on board? Or do you wish I'd gone down with the Titanic?