Don’t Just Do Something…Stand There

I attended a funeral a couple of days ago for a young man I never met. It was gut-wrenching.

I have a son just six months younger than this young man was at his death. It’s scary to see this kind of thing happen. The specific circumstances are not relevant to my purpose, but suffice it to say that the young man’s family has been devastated by this tragedy.

I see around me people here and there dealing with struggles of various sorts. As a pastor, it’s expected that I will be one of those who walk in where the hurting are even when everyone else is staying away. People look to me and hope for words of comfort, insights of wisdom…something. But what I have learned is that no words or deeds can take away the pain.
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What’s With the Name?

I’ve been asked a couple of times recently about the name of this blog. Let me try to explain it.

In 2007 I left my last pastorate soon after a diagnosis of a severe depression. I spent several months working for a landscape company – digging in the dirt, playing with rocks, and other fun, sweaty labor. The owner of the company had a shovel with the tip broken off of it that puzzled me. He would go digging through a truck full of tools to find that broken one.

I finally asked him about it. He said, “Well, it’s like this: this particular shovel, even though there’s a chunk broken off of it, is the perfect tool for some situations.” He went on to explain that he didn’t have and had never seen a tool with which he could more effectively do what he could with that broken tool.

Over weeks and weeks of reflection and first-hand experience, I began to recognize that God has always used broken tools to do great work.

Recently a friend shared with me a story about a musician that had taken a box of broken violins and was making some amazing music. I want you to watch the video below, but as you do, put yourself in the place of one of those broken violins and imagine yourself in the hands of the greatest Maestro – the originator of music.

I have spent too much of my life thinking I was the one that should be making the music when, all along, He was simply wanting to make music through me – despite my brokenness and inadequacy and selfishness.

You may ask, “Why would God want to make music with broken instruments?”

It’s simple. It is so that anyone listening will know that it’s Him and not the instrument that gets the credit.

I’m a broken tool. So, if God uses me, you better know that it’s Him and not me.

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

What about you?

Murphy, Me, and a Good, Strong Rope

I don’t really know who this famous “Murphy” is or why his “law” seems to have drawn a bulls-eye upon my forehead.

I’ve always been prone to stuff falling apart and crisis is kind of a significant part of my work.

But, even while there are so many good things happening around me, I feel like I’m at the epicenter of an earthquake of trouble.  I’ve been arguing with my insurance company over a “lapse of coverage” during which my wife had an ambulance ride and ER visit.  I spent pretty much all of yesterday trying to get the starter off of my pickup only to have it test ok at the parts store.  Last weekend I spent several hours trying to unclog a kitchen drain only to have to call a plumber the next morning.

My first child graduates this week and, being the ridiculously emotional person that I am, it’s already a shaky time.  When you add the frustration to that, it can easily add up to a collapse.

I’ve had a few moments the last couple of days where I felt like a high-rise window washer dangling by his safety rope.  Through my struggles with depression, I had many moments when I felt utterly alone.  I was never alone, but I felt like I was.

There is a desperate tension at these times between how I feel and what I know.  If you’ve never been there, you’re probably thinking that this doesn’t make sense.  Of course it doesn’t make sense.  That’s why they call it mental illness.  You feel like you’re falling off of the edge of reality.

But for me, my safety rope holds.  But I want you to know why.

Obviously, it’s very strong.  It’s strong because it’s got a lot of cords wound tightly together.  My relationship with God is the unbreakable cord at the center.  My wife and I are very tightly wrapped around that cord and there are a good number of very close relationships that are tightly wrapped around us.  Even when it feels like I am going to break, the reality is that I’m just one of many cords.  I think that’s what Solomon was trying to teach me when he wrote these words:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

I am in a big rope with lots of great friends – and we’re all bound together by the Holy Spirit.  I’m never alone, even when I feel like I am.  It’s okay when I am afraid (or a-frayed, perhaps).  I may stumble and fall, but they are there to hold me up and pull me back to my feet.

So Murphy, take your best shot. Even if I can’t take it, we can.