Mothers have an intuitive nature about their children. I think they can sense when something isn’t quite right with a child.
Perhaps in a different way, people who are responsible for taking care of a building might be intuitive too.
Last week, when I walked into the church where I work, I heard a pump running. It was one of the pumps that helps keep our Sanctuary cool on these blistering hot July days. I knew the thermostat was turned up past the 80 degree mark. No way that pump should be running.
Turns out a tiny relay switch decided to misbehave. Truth is the switch was wearing out. That allowed it to send out just enough electricity to make a pump or an air handler run without reason.
Thankfully, the technicians from the HVAC company who take care of our building tracked down the out of sorts switch. Our electricity bill would have been even higher if the pump or air handler had run for days unnoticed.
For me the last scene in the movie, Cast Away, has always been worth noticing. The film stars Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt. And one line of the dialogue in that scene has stayed with me.
The character Mr. Hanks portrays was given up for dead after the Federal Express plane he was in goes down in severe weather out over the ocean. Just in case you haven’t seen this 20 year old movie, I will not tell you anymore about how he endures.
But in that last scene, Mr. Hanks pulls his SUV over in a flat Texas cross road. He is looking at a road map on the hood of his vehicle trying to figure out where he is going.
A young lady in an old pickup truck sees him and stops. Her first comment to him is “you look lost.”
I love that line. Because it makes me reflect about times in my life when I have been lost.
Now, I wasn’t lost, but a few nights ago that scene hit me as I was a few steps away from my bed after a 2 a.m. potty break.
And in terms of being lost the first word that popped into my brain as I tried to return to sleep was America. I thought to myself—“America, you look lost.”
Personally, I think America has been lost for a long, long, long time. And I think the most frightening part of being lost is our stubborn unwillingness to admit that we are lost.
When our presidents announce that the “state of the union is sound,” a voice deep inside of me always wants to whisper out “our union isn’t sound.”
If we are sound why do we have so many problems and challenges? Why are we in such denial about these on going issues? Why can’t we solve our problems and challenges?
Perhaps, the answer to that question is found in the National Extremes.
Not everyday, but quite often I note that section on the weather page in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The National Extremes are the high and low temperature readings for the 48 contiguous states.
I am always amazed when the national high and low are in California. Recently, Needles was the high at 111 degrees while the low was 28 at Bodie State Park. If you ever have the chance to visit Bodie, go—it is a ghost town.
According to Google Maps, the distance between Bodie and Needles is 449.1 miles. Truthfully, one of my fears about America is distance, the distance between our hearts, our souls, and our thinking.
Why are we so far apart? Why is it so hard for us to find common ground and work for the common good? Where is our courage? Where is our sacrifice?
I know there were differences of opinion in World War II, but if our Greatest Generation had been this far apart during the war, might the unimaginable have occurred?
Right now, we Americans are reluctant to make the simple sacrifice of wearing masks during this pandemic. When I think about the sacrifices families made during World War II to support our country, quite honestly I am ashamed of our current inability to sacrifice during this crisis.
Drew Willson is a Methodist minister. He is also an accomplished songwriter, singer, and musician. His second album, Ritual Matters, contains a beautiful song titled “Between the Fences.”
I am drawn to the last two stanzas:
Now who will take a place between the fences?
Who will make this no-man’s land a land for you and me?
Now I’m yours and you’re mine
We reject the battle line
Now we’re making peace in places in between
Now I’m yours and you’re mine
Break the bread and pour the wine
Come on, set the table in the in between
Why are we afraid of the gap, the place between the fences, the no-man’s land, and the in-between between us? Why can’t we reject the battle lines? Why can’t we make peace in the places between us?
Bernard M. Baruch once stated: “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”
Maybe that is our problem—we have failed at listening.
If my ears can hear the muffled sound of a pump that should not be running through layers of concrete and steel, then why can’t my ears hear the brokenness of my fellow man?
What is wrong with my listening skills?
In his book My Losing Season, Pat Conroy wrote: “The great teachers fill you up with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life.”
Jesus was one of those great teachers. And maybe his best pedagogical skill was his ability to listen.
That is Jesus in Drew Willson’s lyrics.
Jesus knew the turf in between the fences, he knew the people in the no-man lands, and the places in between. And in all those situations Jesus stopped and listened.
Why can’t I?
I am afraid to go between the fences, into the no-man lands, and the places in between.
And if fear is really driving me then that means I am ignoring these words from Joshua 1:9:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Yes, I believe my country is lost.
If I want to help America find its bearings, then I must improve my hearing, drop my fear, and understand the people between the fences.
And I must never let go of hope.
And I must trust that the good Lord hasn’t given up on you, me, we, and America.
A cross road in my neighborhood