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So, how “sticky” are your friends?  Just yesterday I had the opportunity to make a stop in a town where I used to live and visit with some friends I haven’t seen in well over fifteen years.  Besides the fact that each of us has matured from a physical appearance (some more “gray-cefully” than others) it was as if the conversation picked up right where we left off.  While certainly the continuum of time has traveled significantly over the course of the years since our being away from each other the familiarity and comfortableness of each other’s presence remained intact.  As I was alone with my thoughts in my travels home I found myself thinking on and trying to put my finger on why this was the case.  What is it that is unique about these friendships that enable them to stand the test of time?  Or to put it into modern marketing vernacular, what was is that makes these friendships “sticky?”

The term “sticky” historically was universally reserved for the valued characteristic of adhesives.  Hmmm…does this angle provide an answer?  Or what about this thought?  Today there is much made about the notion of “sticky content” in the world of website development.  The purpose of such content is to hold the user’s attention and get them to spend longer periods of time at a given website.  Ultimately this strategy is employed to build an ever increasing community of users who return frequently to the site.  Just think about a few of the parallels.  What are the characteristics that cause friends to adhere one to another?  What are the characteristics that would cause us to want to spend time, even more frequent and longer periods of time with one another?  What about our innate desire to build authentic and meaningful community within the context of our friendships?

So, what is the “glue” that makes friendships stick and endure over the long haul?  Well, as I reflect on yesterday’s encounters I come away with a few key descriptors…a heart-felt love for the person(s), a longing to see them know the joy of their limitless worth as individuals, an immense gladness for their being a part of my life’s story and the simple but noteworthy satisfaction of hearing the familiar and healing sound of their laughter.  You know it’s been said that “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Do you have such a friend?  My heart’s desire is that you do.  By the way, as I think further about it I’m reminded that the adhesion of authentic friendship is more akin to double-sided tape.  So, I guess the question then is…how’s your “stickiness?” Are you such a friend to others?  Peace.          

So, what are you settling for?  What comes to your mind when you think of the word, “settled?”  Perhaps the cliché, “settled in for the night,” indicating that all is well and you are staying put for the night.  Or perhaps you’ve heard the expression used to describe how the foundation of a house or building “settles” over time; a condition which often causes those unwanted cracks in the foundation.  Or maybe you’ve thought of this more as a term indicative of giving up or compromising one’s position on something.  Often times it can be characteristic of one who has simply adopted a defeated view of life.  Well, I’d like to consider the word in a different light; one that just might cause the light of your life to shine so brightly that even what might have once held you captive in the darkness now begins to free you up to walk in the marvelous light.

Consider this statement…”Once we settled in on the idea it became an adventure.”  Wow, this is certainly a different look on a word that typically means, as we’ve noted, anything but “adventure.”  As I’ve considered how I might apply this in my own life I’ve found myself to be captivated (the antithesis of being held captive) at the possibility of this being one of, if not the key, missing link to living a “go for it” life.  Historically, my issue has stemmed from taking a more let’s say, conservative, make no mistakes vs. take no prisoners approach to going hard after a pursuit.  The idea of being “settled” on a pursuit or a direction of adventure seems to suggest that you have fully embraced with confidence the direction you are heading thereby leaving very little room for the seeds of doubt to encroach into your thinking.  After all, aren’t we called to living a life of adventure as captives who have been set free?  So, what stands in our way?  Could it be that we need to simply redefine the word “settled” as we move away from a static view of life and run freely towards life with a more dynamic mindset and outlook.  Just consider how the possibilities of life change as we begin to see them through the lens of the dynamic vs. the static.  Defeat can give way to optimism in a nanosecond as we take hold of a future that is “settled.”  I only know of one such future?  This future paradoxically is found in the words, “it is finished.”  Imagine that…a life of adventure that can be had once we embrace once and for all the one and only “finished work.”  Oh, I forgot to mention that there is something miraculous about being settled on this “finished” direction for your life.  It is the only way to walk in the marvelous light. Peace.        

So, are you hard of listening?  Well, this may not be the typical question we’ve come to expect but I’ve often wondered if it’s not the better question to be asking ourselves and others from time to time.  I’m sure over the course of time we’ve all been through the battery of tests to determine the accuracy of our hearing but my guess is few of us have ever had our “listening” tested.  As I’m writing this however I’m remembering some of those group dynamic exercises where a statement would be passed from person to person to demonstrate just how difficult it is to listen with any real sense of accuracy.  Typically the beginning statement morphs into something quite unlike its original form as it gets to the end of the line.  Though this exercise also pointed to other difficulties of communication it always amazed me just how quickly our listening skills could fail us. 

As I’ve thought about this a bit in my own life I’ve realized that part of the answer might just be making a simple shift from having a “listening” ear to having an acutely “attentive” ear.  On the surface It sure seems like these ought to be one in the same but that hasn’t been the case for me.  In fact, I’ve even found myself at times “listening” right past someone as they’ve spoken to me.  This is anything but being “attentive.”  Perhaps we would do well to consider some of the descriptors embedded in the word “attentive” itself. Hear these words…devoted, thoughtful, offering, comfort, affectionate, close.  Each of these certainly suggests something much more than a casual interplay of conversation.  Come to think of it these words seem to define the characteristics of the divine presence known as the “still small voice.”  One thing is for sure.  When we listen to this voice with an acutely attentive ear we will hear the very things we need to live a life of unbridled joy and freedom.  So, attune your ears…do you hear Him? Peace.  

So, are you being pushed or pulled along the track of life?  Just this morning in the darkness of night NASCAR completed the 54th running of the Daytona 500.  Arguably this race was characterized by some unique occurrences not ever seen before in the history of the race.  For example, this year was the first time ever the race had to be postponed to Monday.  And if you stayed awake to see it, this was the first time ever that an accident actually occurred between one of the race cars and one of the trucks used to jet dry the track.  That explosion was a sight to see!  But one constant that remained was the predictable element of “drafting.” 

If you’ve ever watched racing you know that drafting is a technique where two vehicles align in very close proximity to each other, like bumper to bumper, one behind the other.  The benefits of this yields a two-fold effect;  first, as the vehicles get in alignment one to another the lead car is in effect “pushed” faster around the track while the second car is in effect being “pulled” along by the slipstream created by the lead car thereby reducing the energy (gas) required to finish the race.  In both instances, it’s a win-win at least while the two remain in tandem with each other.  So my curiosity has me thinking about what the implications of “drafting” would be if we were to apply it to our lives?  Let’s think about it for a minute. 

As we find ourselves in close proximity “one to another” we are in given the first-hand opportunity to apply the “push/pull” of relationship dynamics.  As long as we are operating in tandem we are able to push each other let’s say, outside of our comfort zone which in turn stretches or pulls us outside of ourselves.  This reality can, for example, mitigate our resistance to change which in turn enables us to operate more “streamlined” within our intended design as relational beings.  As we apply the effects of let’s say, accountability one to another, we are pulled towards the truth about ourselves as the lies that so often frame our lives are being pushed away from us.  This alone has the effect of freeing us up to run the race with greater efficiency and endurance.  So, perhaps the right question is, “are we putting ourselves in position to finish the race?”  In order to do so we need to build relationships that allow us to enjoy the energy- giving, “drafting” effects that comes from the push and pull of close, enduring friendship.  After all, isn’t finishing all about our endurance as we press on towards the ultimate prize?  Peace.        

So, have you determined who you don’t want to be?  Over the years I’ve told my kids that one of the surest ways to find out what you want to do in life is to find out what you don’t want to do.  This is in effect the process of elimination, a method used to identify something of preferred interest among a choice of several options.   The culminating objective of the process is intended to lead one to determine the best choice among several by excluding all choices but the right one.  Seems like I can even remember reading in years past how one of Thomas Edison’s most tried and true methods of inventing was to simply find out what didn’t work.  This methodology is what ultimately what gave us the light bulb. My guess too is that if you were anything like me, using the process of elimination was one of your most dependable methods of determining which answer was the right answer on those famed and highly preferred “multiple choice” tests.  I know I always preferred this method of testing since it kind of made me feel like I had a much higher probability of getting the right answer. 

So, I’ve been thinking recently about whether there are any parallels to consider between the process of elimination and how we go about finding the identities of our lives.  For example, is it even plausible to consider the question above and think that we can determine who we want to be by finding out who we don’t want to be?  My initial sense is this answer should be an emphatic “no!” since to do so would mean that the basis of our identity would in essence be found in comparing ourselves to other people.  I guess in large measure though this is how we do it today as we compare ourselves to those we might like to pattern ourselves after versus those we wouldn’t seek to emulate for anything.  But then when I think on this a bit more it seems to me that this idea of comparing ourselves to others might begin to be credible if the “other people” in the equation were us.  In other words, what if we were to compare ourselves to ourselves to determine what we like and didn’t like about ourselves?  At first glance it sounds a bit off the wall to me but doesn’t it seem like this is what we are doing when we look at ourselves in the mirror and recognize that we don’t like the person we see.  Isn’t it in this very tension where we find ourselves wrestling with the outward face we are presenting to the world versus the person we know ourselves to be on the inside?  Isn’t this the place where we come face to face with what or perhaps better stated  “who” we know to be true “behind the mask”?  And isn’t this the place where we wrestle with knowing the “real” us versus the “multiple choice” personas we present to the outside world?  

By now I imagine most of us have come to realize that even this approach doesn’t allow for long term authenticity.  It seems it too should be eliminated.  So, from where I sit we’re left with only one right answer and that is to find our identity as an image bearer of the One who created us.  No more need to play the higher probabilities of hoping we made the right choice.  Finding our immeasurable worth in the One who made us is one of those arenas in life where there is only one right choice. Maybe in the end we should be pursuing the process of illumination instead.  So, how about it? Has the light bulb come on for you?  Peace.  

So, are you interested?  This seems to be the question that is at the heart of the matter.  Let me explain. Just this past week I learned of a relational theory entitled, the Principle of Least Interest.  This theory, coined back in 1951 by sociologist named Willard Waller, suggests that the power in any relationship lies in the hands of the person who cares the least about the relationship.  Imagine that. The less you care about someone the more power you have over them.  Hey, this wasn’t my idea just what the theory seems to suggest.  Could it be true?  Well let’s examine it a bit further.

First of all in the arena of having and nurturing meaningful relationships it seems there should be no element of power one over another.  But here again isn’t it our nature to want to make sure we are the one who holds the control (my replacement word for “power” in this theory) in our relationships?  In fact, our focus should be the antithesis of this as we move towards a common bond of love for one another.  So, I guess in the end it really does get at the heart of the matter…the heart.  How does the power shift in this theory if we begin to see it through the eyes of the heart?  Let’s think on it for a minute or two. The more we love the less power we have.  It seems you can’t express love and power at the same time so one has to win out.  Shouldn’t it be love? The more you love the more vulnerable you’re apt to become thereby rendering yourself “less powerful.”  In the end though isn’t love the missing link for so many of us?  Isn’t it the key that unlocks the real power of our being?  Isn’t it what enables us to experience the fullness of intimacy with another? Come to think of it you could replace the word “interest” with “intimacy” and the theory still seems to hold true.  So, the question we have to ask ourselves is what “shift” needs to occur in our lives. This is a shift that will certainly not be automatic.  It will require some manual intervention and intentionality on our part for sure.  But can’t you just feel the power now?  Peace.        

So, are you a “curious” person?  Just this past November the folks at NASA launched a new mission to Mars whose primary objective is to determine whether Mars is or has ever been able to support life though as reported, “it will not look for any specific type of life.”  Aboard the spacecraft is a rover named Curiosity whose primary role will be to comb the surface of Mars to scoop up soil, drill rocks and analyze samples taken from the surface.  Now I’m all for the discoveries and resulting benefits that come from space exploration but for some reason this particular mission has left me wrestling and wondering if there is a life parallel to be discovered here as well.  Consider with me for a moment these questions. Why does man need to travel 350 million miles to explore Mars when there is a world that waits right before our eyes?  Could it be that we are the ones that need to become more curious?

So, what parallels might we draw from overlaying a Mars mission with discovering more of life here on earth?  Well much like the rover Curiosity perhaps we too need to give ourselves the freedom to explore the vast array of opportunities of our lives that are yet to be discovered.  I mean what would our lives look like if we were to “turn over every stone” along the path of living?  It certainly seems as if we might find a person or two who are just waiting to be “scooped up” and invited into a life of discovering more of themselves.  Or from another view, what if we had the patience needed to “go the distance” with someone to help them discover more of who they’ve been designed to be.  What if, much like the case with distance, the time to travel for meaningful relationship was no longer our preeminent concern?  In other words, we adopt a “we’ll get there when we get there” posture that helps us arrive at life’s destination having enjoyed more of the journey along the way.  What if unlike the Mars mission we were less concerned about whether or not life had been or could be supported here and we were more interested in finding life like we’ve never known it before?  Come to think of it much like Curiosity we too could find ourselves looking for water and just like on Mars we would have to go below the surface to seek to find it.  But by going deep to find it we might just find the very living water that brings life to our otherwise mortal bodies.  Does any of this interest you?  Just curious.  Peace.               

So, were you a “finder’s keeper’s” kind of kid growing up?  If not then you most assuredly knew the type.  Can’t you just remember the days when you or “a friend” would find something that once belonged to someone else and would exclaim, “Finder’s Keeper’s?”  Sometimes I wonder if this was just a foreshadowing of the more likely adult version of this…“possession is nine-tenths of the law.”  Heck, maybe these early years were just fertile ground for sowing the seeds of a self-preserving spirit.  Can you say, “It’s mine and you can’t have it?”  It’s so fascinating to me to look back and see how our formative years of adolescence were so instrumental in shaping the underlying tone of our character as adults, both the good and the bad.  I’m particularly intrigued when I think of those character traits that we typically reserve for “our eyes only” and we veil to the outside world.  You know the ones that we find at the “magma level” of life where we wrestle with not being the person we project ourselves to be.  For example, the place that tends to act as the repository of our sins of omission, those things we know we should do but don’t do.  Or the place where we clearly see the person we see in the mirror but others don’t see.

So, I’ve been thinking about how our lives might look different if those “formative” traits were repurposed through the crucible of the “transformative.”  For example, what would it take for us move from a world constrained by the inward focus of self-preservation to a world unrestrained by an outward focus of sharing.  Perhaps a return to the childhood playground may hold a critical clue to how we might move towards this kind of life.  Remember back with me for a moment and put yourself at the scene.  You and a number of your boy or gal buddies wanted to play a pick-up game of some type but to do so you had to pick teams.  Though you might have wanted to insure you got the best players on your team there was typically a reasonable approach arrived at to divide up the players.  In the end, all parties were ultimately motivated to be fair because above all else you wanted to “play ball.”  Either way you wanted to enjoy the fellowship of being together not to mention the friendly competition.  But like then the element of sharing had to be in play in order for the game to go on. 

So what does this look like to us today?  What does it mean for us to live in such a way that our giving is seen through the lens of sharing?  Could it be we might just experience the joy of giving more often if this were the case?  What if we once again recognized the essential need for sharing our lives in the context of community and fellowship?  It’s here that we are more apt to both find and be the very persons we have been designed to be.  The truth is we were designed as relational beings with an innate longing to belong.  Could this be one of those keys that unlock the doorway to living life out from behind the curtain?  Could it be the very place where we allow ourselves to be loved for who we are and not the façade of who we’re not?  That place where self-preservation gives way to selflessness.  Maybe it’s time where our conformity to the ways of the world gives way to the transformative effects of living a life marked by authenticity.   For sure it will require some sacrifice on our part.  After all to be transformed and not conformed will require the sacrifice of putting others before ourselves.  But can’t you just imagine how great and freeing it would be to simply come out and play on the playground of a life well lived.  Peace.              

So, what’s your plan of escape?  Stop and consider for a moment every hotel room you’ve ever been in before in your life.  My guess is you’ve noticed posted somewhere in the room a diagram that shows how you need to proceed in order to find the most direct escape route in case of an emergency.  In other words how to “exit safely.”  Sometimes it seems everywhere we turn there are exit signs heralding how we leave somewhere.  Even in business the common device for leaving a company is known as an “exit strategy.”  Come to think of it many couples have adopted their own form of emergency exit from marriage.  It’s called divorce.  As I consider this it seems as if we’ve become in many ways conditioned to planning our exit even before our arrival.  This “conditioning” of sort’s points to what I’ve seen in many men over the years.  That being a condition where it appears men are more apt to be driven by what they are running from than what they are actually drawn towards.  Parenthetically this seems to be a clarion signal that something is profoundly missing in their life.  (More on that in the days ahead.)

Well, I’ve been thinking about this whole idea of “exiting” and was wondering just how different things might appear if we could begin to see life through the lens of a new strategy…an “entrance strategy.”  I mean what if rather than allowing ourselves to always be on high alert for the way out of something we were in a constant search for the way in? Just imagine how this could this be a “game changer” in our lives?  Just imagine the effects of choosing to “enter in” to the lives of those closest to us in a deep and abiding way rather than running from an incessant reluctance to be fully known.  Or just imagine the life giving effects of choosing to enter in to community rather than seeking to escape to the illusionary comfort of isolation.  I wonder too if such a strategy would even cause us to run towards our weakness and our pain.  Consider the “what if” effects of that for just a minute.  What if we begin to celebrate our weaknesses with each other rather than genuflecting like peacocks pretending that we can do this thing we call “life” all within our own strengths.  Come to think of it I seem to recall a timeless truth that affirms that our weakness can be made perfect in strength.  How you might ask? Well, it’s all because of grace.  But to find that grace it might just require you to pursue a new strategy and “enter into” a relationship with the Giver of all grace.  But here’s the good news.  When you do you’ll never need to concern yourself with escaping again. Peace.              

So, can you get it out of your mind?  You know what I’m talking about.  If you’ve ever been to the Magic Kingdom and found your way to Fantasyland you’ve no doubt experienced the iconic ride, It’s a Small World.  And long after you’ve left the park that tune is still ringing in your ear as if it is an endless sound, looping over and over in your mind.  Well, I’ve never taken time to even consider the words of the song by that name until returning from my recent trip to Africa; a time when, for me the world indeed became small again.  I’ve been wondering why this is  Why is it that this big world where far off lands and people once seemed so distant now seems as if it is the world next door?  Could it be that the very words of the song shed light on the answer? Consider some of these lyrics…

It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears

It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears

There’s so much that we share

That its time we’re aware

It’s a small world after all.

 

There is just one moon

And one golden sun

And a smile means friendship to everyone

Though the mountains divide

And the oceans are wide


It’s a small world…after all.

So, as I reflected on these words it hit me…that “aha” moment.  That place where the answers to life’s deeper questions are often found.  You see here I was half way around the world finding myself more the person I was meant to be.  So, what did this person look like?  I saw a person that was willing to laugh and find hope in the common and simple language of a smile.  I saw a person who stepped from behind the curtain and allowed others to see the tears that flowed from facing my fears.  I saw a person who was willing to share with a childlike desire.  Could it be that in large measure the answer came through the act of serving where humility opens the gateway to our heart and once again in our “bigness” we become rightfully small.  How is it with you?  Are you living life as the person you were meant to be? Well, be encouraged…this is one of those arenas where you can take comfort in knowing it’s never too late. Just know that it’s possible you might become that person where you least expect it.  But if your journey of discovery takes you half way around just remember it’s a small world…after all. Peace. 

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