Here Lies a Ragamuffin

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“Shalom, be at peace. I understand your fears, your failures, your brokenness. I don’t expect you to be perfect. I have been there. All is well. You have my love. You don’t have to pay for it and you can’t deserve it. I expect more failure from you than you expect from yourself. You only have to open and receive it. You only have to say yes to my love – a love beyond anything you can intellectualize or imagine.”

It was three years ago, and I was on a time of personal spiritual retreat. On my drive to the retreat location I had stopped at a bookstore and picked up a book called Souvenirs of Solitude by one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning. He words above are from the first chapter. They were words he felt like God spoke to his soul during a similar time.

Brennan Manning died last Friday. Far from perfect, he was a man who struggled with grace. He was a Korean war vet, a Franciscan priest who left the priesthood to get married and then eventually divorced, and an alcoholic. Far from being remembered as a Saint, I think Brennan would want to be remembered by the moniker he proclaimed in one of his books: A Ragamuffin. In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan described himself this way:

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

Continue reading →

Blessings,

The Burden of Complexity

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Buying light bulbs used to be simple.

I would go to the store, find the portion of the isle that held light bulbs, find the ones I needed, and buy them. It took all of 30 seconds of my entire shopping trip.

Today it is an entirely different procedure. Light bulbs now take up most of an entire aisle. Gone are the days of hurrying into an aisle and grabbing a package. Now you have choices, and a LOT of them.

Your first choice is what kind of bulb. There are the old incandescents (for now), then there are the Compact Fluorescents, halogens, and LED’s. Buying lightbulbs has become not only an economic decision, but now a moral element has crept in. One bulb is suppost to be better for the planet than another. Of course, I will then weigh environmental impact vs. my ability to also buy food that week. I know LED’s will save me money 5 years from now, but spending $25 on a light bulb makes me want cry.
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Blessings,

Christmas Grace

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I hope this finds you well, and enjoying the anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus! The following is a short story I wrote for this Christmas. This will be my last post for this year as I will be taking some time with family as we celebrate together. Merry Christmas!


The young boy moved through the city in godlike fashion, his eyes swimming in every scene at once. Soft lights in front of him reflected in his eyes as pinpoints of magic mixed with wonder. Snow crunched softly below black boots. A distant bell softly called for donations, carolers sang of Noel.

People moved quietly about their lives. A young couple laughed at a joke only they would share as they carried bags laden with gifts. A car with a Christmas tree strapped to the roof navigated the street, passing a park where a group of teens threw snowy missiles at each other, their younger siblings creating snowmen nearby.

The boy longed to join in the fun, but knew it was impossible. Continue reading →

Blessings,

Reckless, Foolish or Just Plain Dumb?

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I was dumb.

There really isn’t any other way around it. I was dumb and it landed me in the emergency room over the weekend. I’ll tell the whole story in a minute.

Here we define Reckless as living without care for the consequences. The idea being that there are times when we are called to accept negative consequences. Too often our decisions to do or not to do something starts with the question: “How will this affect me?” This places us and our own good at the center of the universe, rather than the people around us and how God might want to use us.

Reckless is different from being Foolish, which we talk about as acting without thought of the consequences. Foolish people get into trouble, not for noble purposes, but because they didn’t think things through.

Then there was me this past weekend. Our family started a tradition last year of going to a local Christmas Tree Farm and cutting down our own tree. I think my wife and I may enjoy it more than the kids at this point, but it’s an adventure. We walk through rows of pines looking for the right one. We weigh width vs. height vs. what will fit in our Living Room. And eventually we settle on one and I take a saw to it.

There is something manly about cutting down a tree. Even if it’s trunk is only three inches in diameter and it can’t fight back. I let out my best Tim Allen grunt when the tree fell to the ground.

Eventually we got the tree home and set up. The lights are on, the ornaments are in place and we are ready for Christmas morning.

Except for one thing.

The star isn’t on the tree.

It was an oversight my five-year-old-son reminded me of daily in the week since we got the tree up. When we packed up Christmas last year, the star got put into a separate box from the rest of the tree decorations. We had yet to pull out that box. So Saturday morning I decided to rectify the problem. I went digging through boxes of decorations and found the star and proceeded to try to put it on the tree, only to find that the tree was slightly too tall.

Easy to solve right? And I knew that I should have gone to the garage and gotten our gardening shears. But I didn’t, because much closer was one of my backpacking knives. I grabbed it and went to town on the top of the tree. Only a few seconds went by when my brain said “You should really move your other hand because if you slip…”

Just then the knife slipped from where I was cutting and ran across the top of two of my fingers, cutting both badly. Blood gushed, kids ran, and my wife almost threw up. It was quite the scene.

We got the bleeding under control and headed for the ER. Four stitches and some super glue later and I am good as new.

I was processing later where I had gone wrong. I use knives all of the time, and I know how to be safe with them. But this time I ignored that voice just a little too long. I’m not so sure if I was foolish so much as I was just plain dumb.

But at least I should get a cool scar to show for it.

Unfortunately the star still isn’t on the tree.

 

Blessings,

One Year Giveaway

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UPDATE: The drawing has been held and the winners notified. Thank you everyone who shared or subscribed during this giveaway! Look for more as we approach the launch of Resonant Frequency!

It’s been a whole year since Reckless Living kicked off! What began as promotion for my book Completely Reckless has been a year long oddessy of sharing stories of Reckless people and of exploring the concept of intentionally living without care of the consequences. Thank you to all of you who head over here on a regular basis and humor me. :) To thank you I am going to give away some free stuff!

We will get to that info in a minute, but I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to my next book project, Resonant Frequency.   This past spring I helped coordinate a Writers Retreat for several aspiring writers (myself included) to write and challenge each other. I went expecting to work on a book from the life of Jonah. Instead this is what poured out. They were thoughts that had been percolating for a while.

How do we discover the things we like?

We try new things.

But how do we challenge ourselves to try new when our equilibrium brings us back to the familiar? Life tends to settle into routines and trends and interacting with new things requires intentionality. Resonant Frequency uses the life of Moses to challenge us to seek new, and listen for the direction of God.  It is a journey of discovery that will have lasting consequences.

If you would like a sneak peak: Click here to download the Introduction. (It’s still going through some editing…)

Resonant Frequency will be coming out at the beginning of 2013.

Now for the free stuff…

To celebrate one year of Reckless Living, I am going to give away:

Prize #1: $25 Amazon Gift Card

Prize # 2: Eden and Completely Reckless (both books) mailed to your door.

Prize #3: One copy of Eden or Completely Reckless (your choice) mailed to your door. 

To enter you can do one of three things, or you can do all three. For each thing you do, you get another entry.

1. Subscribe to Reckless Living
Did you know you can get Reckless Living in your e-mail inbox? Towards the top and on the left hand side of this page is a box called Subscribe. Enter your e-mail address. You will be asked to confirm (I don’t want to spam anyone). If you are already subscribed you have already completed this and are entered into the drawing!

Special bonus, everyone on the e-mail list at the end of this giveaway will be sent a link to receive a free .pdf of Completely Reckless!

2. Comment
Enter a comment below using Facebook. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Simply post “I’m in” if you want to.

3. Share on Facebook 
Click on the share button below to share this giveaway with your Facebook friends.

I will draw winners this Friday, so be sure to share with your friends in the meantime! Thanks again for your support. I am excited about what the coming year holds!

Blessings,

The Harmonica Man

I’m in process of a few projects right now,  so my Blogging time is being pinched. (an announcement is coming…) In the meantime, I wanted to share this video of a man who really was Reckless:

Special thanks to my Mom and Cousin Rick for passing this video on.

Blessings,

Agree to Disagree

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Picking up the Pieces

Whoever you are planning on voting for tomorrow, most of us can sympathize with how this little girl was feeling:

There is light at the end of the tunnel! Tomorrow we vote and hopefully by Wednesday we will know who the next President of the United States will be. (I say hopefully because the polls have the race so close we may be in for a very long tabulating process)

There is a problem that has begun to plague the relational landscape in our country, and it has been brought into sharp contrast by this election: We have forgotten how to agree to disagree. We either don’t engage in conversations that may be harrowing, and so avoid the conflict, or we engage and get so passionate that we destroy whatever relationship was there in the first place.

I have seen far too many adults who allowed disagreements to become permanent wedges that drove people apart, because they couldn’t agree to disagree. A recent Rasmussen poll reported that 27% of people reported that this election cycle had negatively affected a relationship with a friend or family member. It has pitted brother against brother, father against son, Facebook friend against Facebook friend.

How do we learn to have civil discourse, disagree, and still be friends? Here are a few thoughts to help patch those relational wounds that may have been caused in time to have Thanksgiving dinner together without throwing a drumstick at the other person:
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Blessings,

What I Don’t Know

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Does anyone really like going to the doctor?

No offense to the lone doctor who may find their way into my BLOG. I’ve heard lots of people (myself included) say that they hate going to the doctor. This assumes that maybe there are some people out there who enjoy the experience. I guess maybe Hypochondriacs and those who find lab coats attractive. For the rest of us a trip to the doctor is usually instigated by the sense that there is something wrong with our bodies. Already frustrated by our frailty we go and sit in a waiting room looking at Golf Digest waiting to be seen.

This was me several months ago. I had been having strange pains in my feet and after ignoring them for longer than I should have, I finally made the dreaded call. Before I went in I did what any self-respecting 30 something nerd would do.

I Googled it.

It only took 2-3 minutes before I had a pretty good idea of what was wrong with my feet. However, I wanted to be sure, so I found myself at the sterile office with the bad art waiting for my name to be called by a woman with a clipbaord.

After telling the Nurse Practitioner my symptoms she confirmed my self-diagnosis. She then gave me a few suggestions and prescribed a light pain medication for the days it’s bad. She said there were stretches that I could do to help . After looking for information about the stretches for a few minutes to no avail she told me to Google it when I got home.

Did my doctor just tell me to Google for the therapy?

I have to admit, I spent part of the rest of the afternoon wondering why I had gone to the doctor in the first place. I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t know before I went. And I had $60 less in my checking account.

So I asked myself, in the age of the internet, why do we need doctors for those kinds of issues? Sure there are times when they are necessary. If I ever get shot I probably won’t have the time to Google “how to heal a bullet wound”. But what about the in between issues?

Then I realized the reason.

I don’t know what I don’t know. Continue reading →

Blessings,

Stop the Crazy!

I decided my last post wasn’t controversial enough, so I thought I would spice things up this week.

(Just kidding by the way. My last post was my most visited, most commented and shared post since I started this BLOG. Thank you to everyone on both sides of the issue who weighed in. If you missed it, click here for the full post)

There is something about election season that makes me want to bury my head in the sand and not come up for air until mid November. I am embarrassed by the behavior, rhetoric, and tactics that both political parties use. I watched part of the Presidential debate last week and was pretty sure they were going to lower a cage from the ceiling and just have an MMA fight right then and there. (Which would have been amazing by the way…)

Nonsense issues are latched onto because they give traction, not because they are important. Romney talks about the death of the Libyan Ambassador as if President Obama pulled the trigger himself. President Obama talks about Romney’s bank accounts as if he were laundering money for the mob. Neither issue has anything to do with the larger direction of our nation, or their opponents ability to lead said nation.

Simplifying issues wins voters, and raises money.  Campaigns have no incentive to have nuanced views because nuance creates room for accusation, and doesn’t motivate people to action. Discussing the guts of economic policy bores people. Calling your opponent a Communist or a Tax-Evader, that gets the blood pumping.
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Blessings,

On Life and Light

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If you like me, stop reading now.

Seriously. I have struggled with how to express myself on this topic, because I know that I will make some people mad.

So…. If you like me, read at your own risk. If you don’t know me keep reading. And if you want to participate in gentle discussion at the end, I would welcome it.

Life Chain is an annual event here in Jackson. Nationwide, thousands of people participate. The goal is to gather people together to pray for an end to abortion in our country, and to be a public silent protest.

I have participated in Life Chain events in the past.  I agree with the organizers that abortion is something that should be stopped. I am Pro-Life.

Life Chain was yesterday, and I wanted to share for a minute why our church and I did not participate.

Many people that I know and respect participate in Life Chain. I respect them and their decision to participate. It’s not that I think Life Chain is bad, I simply think it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. It creates more polarization in an already charged atmosphere. I know the focus is to stand in prayerful solidarity, but we need to understand how it is viewed by the very people the church is supposed to be on mission to reach.

Abortion is one of the most polarizing topics in our culture. People on both sides of the issue can’t comprehend how someone could stand on the other side. Pro-Life advocates can’t comprehend how anyone could terminate a pregnancy and not consider it murder. Pro-Choice advocates can’t understand how anyone can call it murder. When one side sees the other as murderers and the other side sees that side as crazy, it’s hard to have an honest discussion. Continue reading →

Blessings,