The Stars, the Moon, and a Greasy Smelling Guy Named Joe



I learned an invaluable life lesson when I was in engineering school (wow....does that put you on the edge of your seat with anticipation or what haha #RecoveringEngineer).

Here it is....the life lesson that changes EVERYTHING:

You must START somewhere clear and specific. It's critical to choose a fixed point in space in time, from which everything else is defined.

An example of this is in the work I did as a tool designer (again with the breathtaking high drama).  

My job as a summer intern was to design custom tools that the folks on our manufacturing line would use as they built the product. The end product we made was a surgical medical device....so specs were TIGHT and quality could literally be the difference between life and death for a patient.

This job demanded that I be observant, meticulous, and utterly focused on details. Everything I created needed to be tested, tested, and tested again. Thankfully, I worked with an amazing partner named Joe.

Joe was simply known as "the man" in the machine shop. It was his job to take my design and bring it to life. He'd take my files with all the specs, and he'd use them to actually cut a piece of metal to MAKE the thing I designed.  

You'd never know by looking at him that he was so brilliant. He was about 6'4" tall, with a chest like a barrel. His hands were massive and his fingers like sausages. He wore filthy work coveralls, and he always smelled of machine grease and aftershave. He typically wore a look of concentration and confidence. You want it? Joe could make it.

He summoned me to the shop one afternoon, and the moment I walked in the door it was clear that I was about to get chewed out.  

Joe was not happy.

"What the hell, lady?", he scowled at me in his deep rattly voice.

I was wide eyed, and a bit stunned by how grumpy he was. Before I could reply, he launched into a colorful explanation as to why he was so ticked off...

I'll spare you the details....but the gist of his rant went something like, "I couldn't find my own butt with these drawings!"

haha! I really loved working with that guy....he was a dependable hard worker, an absolute artist, and you NEVER had to guess where you stood with him!

He tossed the pages of my tool design across the work bench in my direction. I scooped them up, sorted them into order, and I realized my error almost immediately.

It was the cardinal sin.

I'd forgotten the datum!
(ba ba baaaamm....cue dramatic music)

Stick with me here...I promise this is more than a boring engineering story!

In tool design, the datum is the starting point. It is literally a line on a piece of paper.  

From THAT unmovable line, everything else is created.  
Everything else is measured.  
Everything else is tested.

Now, I had a 3D image of of my design on the front page. Being the genius that he is, Joe could very well have looked at the image and made an educated guess about my measurements. He could have made some pretty good assumptions.

But it was an important rule...always define the datum. Remember...we were in the life or death business of surgical devices. There could be ZERO guessing and assuming. We needed solid and specific numbers.

Think about it....what if I came to you and I said "Hey, do you see that chair over there? What's the measurement of that chair from a spot? How far away is it from the spot? I need to know exactly because it's a matter of life and death."

Life and death?! Once you realized the importance of the measurements, you'd probably pay close attention and ask for more details, right?  

You'd probably say something like, "What spot?! Tell me EXACTLY the spot you're referring to and I'll measure very carefully."

Make sense? If you're going to measure something, you have to know where to START. It's especially important to be infinitely clear about where to start when the thing you're measuring is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT.

Why do I share this utterly fascinating story? ;-)

Well, friend, I believe we are spinning out of control in our society right now because we've lost sight of our Starting Point.

No one is measuring from the same place....we're all making assumptions and educated guesses.

We're having life and death conversations while assuming that we're all measuring from the same starting point...but we're simply NOT.

A.W. Tozer is one of my favorite authors, and he says it so well in his book "The Pursuit of God":
"It is true that order in nature depends upon right relationships; to achieve harmony each thing must be in its proper position relative to each other thing....The cause of all our human miseries is a radical moral dislocation, an upset in our relation to God and to each other"

Right relationship.

Proper position.

An upset in our relation to God and to each other.

It's all about the datum!

Tozer goes on to say,
"As the sailor locates his position on the sea by 'shooting' the sun, so we may get our moral bearings by looking at God.  We must begin with God.  We are right when, and only when, we stand in a right position relative to God, and we are wrong so far as we stand in any other position.  Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly.  We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image."

At the moment, there's very emotional conversation and decision making happening on personal topics like abortion, homosexuality, and religious rights.

As we approach topics like these (and any other topic for that matter) based on our "personal truth" or our "personal experience", we will be as lost as a sailor who is socked in by impenetrable clouds.

No sun by day, no stars by night.
Nothing to guide our sight.
In the pitch of a starless night, it's even hard to know which end is up....never mind which direction is forward.

You measure by your location.
I'll measure by mine.

There will be as many datums as there are people.

We'll remain lost and fighting against each other, and the surer we become of our "rightness", the more lost we become.

Here's the thing....I'm not the one who's right and it doesn't matter what I say.

Also...you are not the one who's right and it doesn't matter what you say.

The homosexual....is not right and it doesn't matter what he/she says.

The woman who's had an abortion....is not right and it doesn't matter what she says.

The man/woman who wants to outlaw abortion....is not right and it doesn't matter what he/she says.

The man/woman who wants abortion to remain legal....is not right and it doesn't matter what he/she says.

We are...every single human... like numbers written on a tool drawing.  And guess what...without an unchanging datum, we are, as Joe put it, "unable to find our own butts with this drawing"!

We're lost.

We are completely RELATIVE to ONE unchanging point in time and space, and until we know exactly where that point is, nothing else matters.

When it comes to LGBTQ rights...
Only God is right, and only what He says matters.

When it comes to abortion...
Only God is right, and only what He says matters.

When it comes to religious rights...
Only God is right, and only what He says matters.

When it comes to passing judgment on how "well" our government officials are doing...
Only God is right, and only what He says matters.

My prayer right now is NOT that I'm proven "right".

It's not even for a particular legal outcome for our current debates.

My prayer is that God makes Himself known to us in a fresh and overwhelming way.

My prayer is that our country humbles itself before Him.

My prayer is that our laws and our conversations and the way we treat one another reflects His goodness.

My prayer is that every person who reads these words turns to God and says "You are God and I am not. Help me to know the real you.  Teach me who I really am in you."

And most of all, my prayer is that my own heart is laid bare before him and brought into proper relationship with Who He IS.  Even if it's painful, there is nothing about me or in me or around me that is more important than seeing His purposes fulfilled...than God being who He is.

I know this for sure (not by my own word, but by His).  When we truly SEEK Him, we WILL find Him.  He desires us to truly seek Him...to truly invite Him in to have His way with us. He loves us like crazy and wants to do life with us.  He has a good plan for each of us if we will just let Him in.

Please join me, friends.  Join me in a heartfelt hunt for God's true heart and nature.  Join me in seeking His plans, his purposes, his desires.

After all, there can't possibly be a better guide through these dark troubled waters that the One who set the sun and stars in the sky.

"God Almighty, I seek your face.  Let all my preconceived or selfish ideas of you be wiped away and replaced with your Truth.  Please give me your words of love to discuss some of the hard stuff our country is facing right now.  Thank you for all the ways you've blessed the United States - please seek us and find many with our eyes upturned to you, seeking you, longing to please you and love you. Let our laws reflect your justice.  Let our culture reflect your love and righteousness.  Wherever we've stepped in the wrong direction, please guide our feet to get back on the right path where you want us.  Through your grace and mercy and love, please bless our country with your presence and blessing. Amen."















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