Poetry And Plumbing

Making sense of art and craft

Meet Stewart.  Stewart is 42 years old and decided it was time to come to church.  The first couple of weeks he is excited.  The pastor shares messages that encourage and equip him to get through the week.  He makes some new friends.  Life gets better.  Then his wife dies and he loses his job all in the same week.  As quickly as he came through the front door, Stewart is gone.  Sound familiar?


As a pastor, it’s often saddening to see how many people start out running in the right direction and stop.  It’s especially discouraging when you see them beginning to make progress.  But while the pattern is difficult to understand, it’s not so difficult to recognize.  In every case, there’s a lack of persistence.

Lets have some fun and use poetry and plumbing as metaphors for a flourishing life.  Pipes make it possible for water to move from point A to point B.  They are everywhere; in our homes, our cars, in the ground, even in us- miles and miles and miles of them, making life as we know it, possible.  If I asked, you would agree pipes are important.  They are an engineering marvel, yet so commonplace that we take them for granted.

While you may agree pipes are important, you may not feel the same about a good poem.  But did it ever occur to you that people who love poetry feel the same way you do about pipes?  They’d be quite happy living off the grid with no running water, with only their poems to keep them happy.  Hot water?  Who needs it when you have Robert Frost?

Then there are the Plumber/Poets.  These people love both plumbing and poetry.  Their lives are a combination of practicality and possibility.

Now imagine what happens when a Plumber and a Poet live together.  The Plumber comes home after plumbing all day.  Lets call him Stewart, for fun.  All day long he’s been working under a timeline.  His job is important.  It has to be performed accurately.  The water has to flow freely from point A to point B.  There can be no leaks or breaks.  On his arrival at home (Stewart even thinks of his travel in technical terms), Penelope- his wife- runs to meet him.  She’s excited to show him the poem she’s been writing all day and talk about the books she read.  Are you with me?

Staying with our metaphor, the reason people don’t persist is because they fail to see value in both plumbing and poetry.  The bible is packed full with both plumbing and poetry.  Plumbing wise, there are loads upon loads of principles and applications just waiting to be piped into your life.  Gushers, drips, and trickles, filled with life-giving properties and possibility.  Poetry wise, there are things in there which contain no connection between point A and B.  They just are.  Mysteries.  Yet so beautiful and profound they add rather than take away.  The book would be far less majestic without them.  They stand on top of the walls and sing like piercing trumpets and warble in other places as the strings of a harp under cunning fingers.  Their notes are unintelligible but they resonate with your heart.  They make perfect sense in God’s economy but are hard for us to fathom because of our humanity.

“Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?  She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.  She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors” Proverbs 8:1-2.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

Drilling down deeper into this metaphor (keep listening to the trumpets and harps as well as the tightening of pipes in the background) plumbing and poetry can be taken to extremes.  That’s probably what causes most of the melt downs in our marriages, friendships, pursuits and hobbies; in our churches and jobs.  It’s so easy to get running hard in one direction plumbing and being practical and checking for leaks.  Meanwhile, life loses its meaning and beauty and profundity.  You get so focused on your work that you tune out from the live-stream.

Or, you get so in tuned with the poetry of what’s streaming out of your speakers that you fail to stick with the craft; the mundane; the details, or plumbing; the connections that have to be made for life to move from point A to point B.  The oil changes, the annual physical, regular church attendance, exercise- the list goes on and on.

Water can’t flow through a broken pipe.  What if you looked at life is a matter of poetry AND plumbing?

Right now, there may be some broken pipes in your life and you’ve got a choice.  Ignore the problem and hope everything is going to be alright or be ready to look for a new place to live when the basement gets flooded.

By now I hope and pray you’re coming alive to the grandiosity of a world filled with both plumbing and poetry.  While you may never whistle while you work, I hope you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for those who do….the artists, preachers, poets and lovers who make the world a nicer place to live.  Life is art and craft.

Remember Stewart?  He changed his mind and decided to stay on course.  His life isn’t perfect, but he’s making progress.  It’s been two years and he’s still mourning the loss of his wife.  In the meantime, he’s learning that God loves him, especially because of his faults not in spite of them.  That doesn’t mean he’s not willing or wanting to change.  He is.  But while he’s doing so, he’s also aware of and basking in a love beyond his wildest dreams!


One Thing You Should Do No Matter Where You Are

The Future Is Now

I hate running. There, said it. Feel much better now. But I do it anyway because I like the rewards. So lets talk about something you can do no matter where you are, especially when there are other places you’d rather be.


While running, it’s so easy to look forward to the finish line. You just want it to be over, so that you can rest. Unless of course you’re sadistic. But what if you just focused on the next step, not the finish line. Rather than looking down the road to the end, just focus on running.  One step at a time.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals or dreams. Those aren’t bad things. It’s easy to miss out on all of the beautiful things in life when you’re overly focused on the destination.

Rather than thinking about how much work your relationship needs, why don’t you take a moment to just celebrate the milestone you’re at right now- difficulties and all.

Instead of worrying about how your meeting is going to go tomorrow, take a few moments to better prepare today.

Maybe the pain you’re experiencing right now is confirmation you are heading in the right direction.

Instead of thinking about how much fun you’re going to have on Saturday, why don’t you be joyful today, right where you are?

The ironic thing is that people who emphasize the beauty of the destination are least inclined to make the world a better place here and now. The journey is just a means to the end.  When they reach their destination they hurriedly strike out for the next one.

Life becomes something you chase.  Everything you do is just to make it to the next level.  You trade happiness today for success tomorrow….wash, rinse and repeat.  For some, death is the ultimate finish line.  Life on earth is garbage, but when you die, everything is going to be better. Why wallpaper the living room if it’s only going to be burned eventually?

Jesus, on the other hand said he came so that we could have an abundant life (John 10:10). Yes, there are challenges, but with the overcoming of each one, there is joy and fulfillment, and so much more. If there were not challenge, there’d be no satisfaction.

What about Cancer? Well, what about Cancer? You tell me. Some of the happiest people I’ve ever met were those who had an increased appreciation for life because of their illness or loss. That’s not just a rosy glasses philosophy, that’s reality.

Wherever you are, be all there!

No matter what you’re going through, you’re the first one to experience this planet in this particular way. Nobody’s ever been the parent to your fourteen year old daughter before, including you. You’re the first one to live exactly the way you’re living right now. You’re unique. Nobody has ever experienced the world quite the way you’re experiencing it at this very moment!

The past is past and the future doesn’t exist. The only thing you have is the present. It’s a gift, so where ever you are, be all there! Each day you receive twenty four golden hours to spend as you choose and you can’t save them or get them back again. Each one must be cashed in on a moment by moment basis.

Most of the time, rehashing your past can lead to regrets and focusing on the future can lead to worry. It’s not that you shouldn’t plan for the future. You should. The point is you don’t need to worry about the future. In fact, Jesus commands us not to!  “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers-most of which are never seen- don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?  What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving” (Matthew 6:30 The Message).  “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself” (Matt. 6:34 KJV).

As I type, Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton is playing on the radio. When my wife and I met over twenty years ago, I used to play it for her on my guitar. How cool is that? Right now, I have nothing to do but enjoy this moment and feel wonderful. How about you? What’s one thing you can do right now, no matter where you are? Be all there!

Thank You!

Two Powerful Words

Have you ever felt unthankful?  Before you read any further, I want to thank you!  Thank you for checking out this site from time to time.  Thank you for your words of encouragement and feedback.  Your friendship and kindness are greatly appreciated.  The time you set aside to read these posts means a lot to me.  I treasure you.  You matter.  You are loved.


However, time can play some pretty funny tricks on you.  It’s always fun to start out on the Yellow Brick Road, but then something begins to change.  What was once a source of joy and gratitude can become a burden.  You want children and then they become teenagers.  You love your new car, but then notice some rust one day while washing it.  You wanted the new job but now it’s become a source of frustration and there’s never enough left over at the end of the month.  So what’s really happened?

Lets face it, our zeal for life and all things new can deteriorate quickly.  It just seems to come with the territory.  Worse yet, the problem only compounds the more we carry out our inventory.  Not only do our cars rust, but so do our relationships, our finances, our devotion, our physical fitness.  It’s especially painful to watch our loved ones struggle.  Our aging parents and pets are daily reminders that things are changing.

If you’re going to safely navigate hardships and change in life, you’re also going to have to change your attitude.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 says this, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  This verse wouldn’t be so difficult if it weren’t for the word all.  But notice it doesn’t say be thankful for all things.  What it says is be thankful in all things.  No matter what happens.  No matter how you hurt.  No matter what the weather forecast is or the state of the stock market, unthankfulness is never an option.

In fact, mature people are thankful people.  Not thankful for what happens to them, but thankful regardless of what happens.  The point is, no matter what happens, we all still have something to be thankful for.  If you lose a limb, but you’re still alive, you’re still in the game.  If you’ve gone through a divorce and you still have a place to live, you have something to be thankful for.  If the stock market crashes and you still have something to eat, you have something to be thankful for.  If your church splits tomorrow and you still have a family, you have something to be thankful for.  You get the idea.  An attitude of gratitude helps you find the gold in the ashes.

A greater appreciation begins with an appreciation of what you have, not what your going to get.

A greater appreciation begins with an appreciation of who you are, not who you’re going to be.

A greater appreciation begins with an appreciation of who you know, not who you’re going to meet.

A greater appreciation begins with an appreciation of what you have left, not what you’ve lost.

No, thankfulness does not ensure an easier course, but it does provide a smoother ride.  Why not take a few minutes to thank God this morning.  Thank him for Jesus.  Thank him for your family.  Thank him for your shirt….Take a pen and paper and write down 10, 20, 30, or 100 things you’re thankful for.  Trust me, the expression ‘thank you’ is packed with two powerful words!  What are some of the things you’re thankful for?

Are You Growing?

A guaranteed way to find out

What if there was a simple way to guarantee you are growing? Strange question, right? But the fact you are reading this blog, tells me you think about this sort of thing. Wondering if you’re growing is part of what it means to grow.


Remember when you were younger and you wondered about this sort of thing. Maybe there was a door in your bedroom closet and you measured how tall you were every so often. At that time you wanted to measure your physical growth. Maybe you looked forward to the day when you were taller than your Mom or Dad or Sister or Brother. Chances are, you haven’t measured your height in a while. At some point you felt as though you’d reached your final height, so there was no longer any need to measure.

Have you ever wondered if the bible has anything to say about growth? The answer is yes. Plenty.  It even talks about how Jesus grew.  Luke 2:52 says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” Jesus grew physically, in stature; he also grew in his ability to apply the things he’d learned, in wisdom; and he grew spiritually and socially. That’s a lot of growing. However, none of this growth occurred over night!

Impatient people, on the other hand, are constantly checking to see if they have grown. They’re like the child who asks their parent to measure their height once a week.

Photo on 4-7-16 at 9.16 PM

Chances are, as an adult, you no longer measure your height. However, you are always measuring your growth in other areas, be it finances, leadership ability, or fitness, just to name a few. And when you do, you always end up feeling lousy because there is a perceived lack of growth. Let me state the obvious. Chances are you haven’t grown much in the last week or month because….well, that’s not the way growth happens.

Mature people realize growth takes time and they measure accordingly. What if rather than measuring every day or once a week, you began to measure monthly? Or annually? See the difference? It’s not that successful people don’t take the time to reflect on their growth, they do. The difference is, mature people realize growth takes time. So when they measure, they look back over longer periods of time while reflecting. They ask themselves, “How have I grown since this time a year ago?”

Growth takes time. It doesn’t matter if it’s physical fitness, spiritual maturity, social or intellectual growth. As a mature leader, part of your job is to realize this principle and to help your followers to understand it better. Encourage them to commit to the long haul before they bail out. Explain to them that growth takes time, but the results are worth it. Teach them to set small and large goals.  Challenge them to commit for six months to a year.  Emphasize the importance of journaling and records.  Both are great ways to record important information for later reflection.  Stop measuring their growth so frequently, that’s only a recipe for frustration.

Besides measuring too often, immature people compare their growth with that of others. When they want to feel good about themselves it’s easy to compare themselves to someone who is floundering. If they’re really delusional, they compare themselves to a star in their field. Big mistake. That’s a recipe for depression and heartache. Mature people take responsibility for their own growth or lack thereof. We’ll never reach our potential as long as we’re trying to measure up to others.

Mature people also measure themselves by God’s standards. They realize they’re responsible for how they live despite the actions and direction of their peers. They make it a point to seek God’s will for their lives and to follow his leading. When in Rome, they never do as the Romans do.

There was a man in the bible called Asaph who knew how to truly measure his own personal growth. In Psalm 73:24 he said this to God, “You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny!” The exclamation is mine. You see, it’s not that Asaph never got depressed. He did. Quite a bit, in fact.   However, whenever Asaph faced a set back and needed encouragement, he always reflected on God’s activity in the past. Why not take a few moments to stop reading and do that right now?

Feeling better? Good. When we stop to reflect, God’s goodness in the past reassures us of God’s goodness in the present and in the future!

So if you want a simple way to guarantee you are growing, don’t compare yourself to the person you were yesterday or last week. If you want a true estimation, compare yourself to the person you were six months or a year ago. When you do, you’ll be amazed! And while you’re at it, don’t compare yourself to others. That’s only a recipe for pride and/or depression.

I guarantee if you look back on the person you were a year ago, you’ll see that you’ve grown. Maybe not in every area, but probably in more areas than you realized.