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Failure isn’t fatal

It’s fortunate.

It tells us

we have reached the point

where we can no longer continue without change,

without a new approach,

a new learning.

We have reached the limit of

our current ability.

It gives us a measure

of where we are today, and

how far we’ve come.

It is a limit without limiting,

a boundary without bounding.

To the extent we can see beyond our point of failure,

it shows us what we can be,

what we might be,

if we commit ourselves to

being better,

by doing better,

because we know better is out there

calling to us.

It doesn’t taunt or tease.

It bows our head in defeat

showing us

the line

we stand on

is the starting line.

Drawing Distinctions

Where is the line between heaven and earth? When people pass, what do they pass? Where do they cross from here to there? If we’re headed toward something, shouldn’t we see it so we’ll know when we get there?

I see you…. you line on the horizon. But you are fickle. Yes, as the sun rises, you take shape. But as the sun sets, you fade and I can’t see you anymore. Certainly not in the distance. Up close all I can see is darkness. It feels firm at my feet, yet I can reach into it. The air has a different texture. Which is you? Where are you? Where is the line between?

Ah, when the sun rises, I’ll see! But wait: the fog obscures; the snow covers; the rain pelts; everything tosses to and fro in the wind. Where is the line? Where can I step to safety? Stand fast? Reach across? I just want to know where the border line is, so I’ll know I’m close.

If I crossed and looked back, would I see it then? From over or beyond or within, would the line be clear between terrestrial and heavenly? Between what was earthly and what was not?

No, I think not. Because Lord, when You stepped down from Kingdom into Dominion, You brought the line with you. Wherever You went, the Kingdom was. When you died and returned to heaven did you take this distinction with You? Did you erase the line? Obscure the evidence? Muddy the waters?

Or did you leave it with us?

As we enter our days, could it be that we cannot see the line between heaven and earth because it surrounds us? Actually encircling our travels, an amorphous heavenly goop (okay see-through slime if you will), that moves as we move. It goes before us and behind us and hems us in on each side. Perhaps the earth we see, the darkness and the poverty as well as the lightness and joy, we see through this heavenly plasma around us. Perhaps, it’s meant to tint our sight if we tune our eyes to just the right frequency. Oh, the strain and squint of the effort.

My eyes need rest. I count on them for so much. How can I count on them for this? Why must I work so hard to distinguish lines on the horizon or boundaries near at hand?

I want to trust that You are the line between and the passageway from here to there. Whether darkness or light, You are there in the middle. Perhaps I don’t need to know where the line is, just that it is. Perhaps there is no line, just a distance which is narrowed each time I reach out or over and feel for what’s in the darkness and pull it closer.

Goldilocks and the lukewarm problem

You don’t have to tell me twice. Nope, usually it takes 4 or 5 times. Still, I am listening.

On Sunday our pastor, who is talking about generosity and giving – let that not be confused with stewardship, which is money and giving to the church, because people do not want to listen to this – says, “saying yes to funding these things also tells you what you need to say no to.”

This is, I admit, a new thought to me. Call me slow, but I hadn’t exactly thought about the relationship between these. You only have so much money. When you choose to put it in ‘these pots’ then you don’t have enough also to put it in ‘these pots.’ It’s an automatic – for him.

Not for me. I fill up those pots I’m sure about and then I scamper about trying to dig up money, time, talent, resources of some sort, to put in those other pots. Because they’re standing there like trick or treaters on my doorstep holding out their buckets. We’re supposed to give to all who ask of us, right?

Well, no. We’re supposed to be discerning the right proportions. For the trick or treaters, it may mean giving out less candy to each so you have enough for the bunch of them because you do want enough to go around. But in general, this scraping-up-giving is really not God’s way. But the notion that chosen-giving also illuminated not-giving was new to me.

Next day, I am faced with a decision about something that will commit a good deal of time. Saying yes, would mean investing in yes. And there were so many things I could say yes to. I would be limiting my options. Was that really wise? Prayer led me to say yes. This was something that had potential to pay large dividends. I had evidence of its effectiveness, even though the pay off wasn’t assured.

Oddly, when I said yes, I realized what other option was a no. I knew this without guilt. Didn’t feel like I must scrape something up for the losers. I declined that offer and wished them well in their endeavor. Really quite painless.

But, just to hammer this home, God sent me Tim McCarver on the World Series broadcast. He explained that the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t sign Albert Pujols, who was so expensive, allowed them to spread the resources they saved around to make offers to other players. “Who you don’t sign is as important as who you do sign,” he said.

Not quite done, God sent my online class marketing professor (UVA MOOC) to say, “when defining your brand you must be as careful to say what your product is as to say what it is not.” We can’t be all things to all people or we ‘ll lose them all. She related this to selling iced tea or hot tea; no one wants lukewarm tea.

Four prompts under my belt, I am thinking about little miss Goldilocks. Too hot. Too cold. Just right. She chose the middle ground every time and it worked out for her, in the story. I think most people can relate to this. We’re not extremists. We like to dabble in both sides, investigate our options, research the course of action, perhaps read what others in the know are saying. And then, hopefully, we make a choice. We are middling folks. We don’t want to be deceived and we really don’t want to make a mistake. We are shoppers.

But if you’re in the business of selling, you must decide what your product is and what it is not. You must decide where to put your resources so that you know where they don’t go. You must say yes, so you know what to say no to. In the words of St. Paul, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” He was a salesman to beat all salesmen.

I am a salesman for Christ through youth athletics. I believe in what I’m selling, not because it’s right for all people but because it was and is right for me. I want to get it to everyone for whom it would also be right. It’s my mission. They are my mission field.

Goldilocks has not served me well. It’s a place for shoppers. I’ve never been a very good shopper. I’m a seller. I’ll offer you what I have, who I am, and what I know at a fair price. I won’t cut corners to try to please the middle because that unbalances and depletes. It also blurs the lines between what I am and what I’m not, what I can give you and what I can’t.

You may be lukewarm about buying. That’s reasonable. It’s only fair, then, if I am firm about what I am offering. That’s good for business. And my mission. I don’t want to sell you something you don’t want. Just invite you in for a chat, show you around, find out what you’re looking for. Whether you buy is completely up to you.

That frees both of us.

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