Monday, September 12, 2016


I'm not getting old. Really I'm not. But today made me wonder.

My wife has provided me with a technological marvel called Tile. Tile is a little 1 inch square doohickey that you can attach to anything. (I've got one on each of my key chains, one in my wallet, and one in my sun glasses case). This little device is amazingly helpful to me. I have a problem. I leak stuff. My stuff falls out of my pockets and gets wedged in chairs. I leave stuff on tables. I drop things in the car. Essentially my stuff leaks out everywhere.

The tile is sync'd with your cell phone. Through bluetooth it keeps track of the last place your cell phone "saw" it. If another phone with the tile app on it gets close enough to a Tile, it will transmit the location to the Tile network. Finally to top it all off, if you are close to your stuff, but still can't find it, you can push a button on the tile application. The Tile will play out music helping guide you to whatever you lost. It saves time and worrry. For example, I commute almost an hour to work and there have been countless times I can't find my sunglasses. I sit there and wonder, did I leave them at the office or somewhere around here.  Now, a glance at my app tells me.

Which brings me to my story. I overslept this morning and hurried to my car. I dumped my stuff in the car and realized I didn't have my sunglasses. I paused for a long moment. Shall I lose yet more time? Or leave and arrive at work with a headache brought on by the blazing sun in my eyes? Not much of a choice. And besides, maybe I actually left my sun glasses at work.

I whipped out my phone and checked my Tile app. Nope. The phone is here. 

I walked back up to the second story of the house and pushed the find button. Immediately the music sounded. But it sounded like it was coming from downstairs.

How odd, did it fall out of my pocket downstairs? It was hard to tell, sometimes the music is indistinct. I turned to listen better. My son, who was watching me, said he thought it was coming from the kitchen. I went to the kitchen. It sounded the same. I traversed the whole of the living room and couldn't ascertain the location. I looked helplessly at my wife.

"I can't figure it out." I said. "Just can't isolate it."

"Hold on a sec," She said and walked over to me. She shook her head. "How odd. It sounds like it's right around here."

I looked around again and then started to walk away. 

She stopped me and said, "Honey, it's getting quieter as you walk away from me."

I raised my eyebrows. "I don't understand."

Her eyes twinkled as she said, "Is it in your pocket?"


It was. 


Now I know I checked my pockets down in the garage but there it was. 

"Well how about that," I said.

My son burst out laughing and my wife smiled. I shrugged, kissed her, thanked her, and was on my way.

The experience got me thinking. Not about how old and distracted I must be to make that mistake. Instead my mind dwelt on the impact of perspective and how hard it is to understand your own issues. 

People who act as mirrors in your life are invaluable. Some of us luckily have spouses who help with this. Spouses and children are our clearest mirrors. But I think there is a lot of value to also having a less biased perspective.  It's helpful to be able to share your deepest heart with others outside your immediate family.

As a guy, I find it difficult to share deeply with others. As a manager, it's even harder. There are two major interrelated barriers: Risk and Weight. 

Deep issues are generally about flaws or weakness in ourselves. The flaws are attitudes or thoughts or actions that we aren't proud of. Things we have a hard time processing and understanding but we know aren't right. Weakness are sorrows. Pains that come from some loss or tragic event or even an ongoing struggle. As we expose those flaws or weaknesses to someone else, we are risking the loss of their respect and regard. Further we are risking this for a nebulous gain. How valuable is sharing really? What is the the payoff for this risk? Is it worth it?

The other barrier is weight. Our flaws and weaknesses are a real, almost physical weight upon us. What right do we have to burden another with that weight. It is our issue, our flaw, our failure. Shouldn't the burden remain with us.

I think this is why "anonymous" groups work. It mitigates risk and everyone who is there has agreed to share the burden. 

As a manager these issues are intensified. Respect is critical to what you do. You cannot afford to lose it. And if I am the boss, is it fair to share my burdens on those I'm supposed to be leading? I am supposed to be helping them to carry their burden, not hand them mine. I imagine this is intensified again for pastors.

It is difficult to give advice on this issue. I am like most men. I only have a few confidants and even with those men, I am rarely entirely free with my thoughts. But, consider this: The issue of risk may be an illusion. Those close to you may know or strongly suspect your burdens already. Your words and actions come from the overflow of your deepest heart. In your heart is where those burdens live. As to the weight, I find that the burdens of others are rarely as heavy as my own. One of the important and most difficult lessons to learn as a manager is that no matter how good you are, you can't do everything. You can't bear every burden and it is important to share those burdens. To enlist more minds, more hearts, and more backs to carry those burdens. There is a kind of synergistic power in sharing work. Two threads are stronger than one, three makes an unbeatable bond. Burdens are much the same. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dragon Con 2016: Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions

Every Dragon Con something awesome happens. One year Leta and I met a 60 year old fan-boy priest waiting in line for a Firefly panel. (For the uninitiated, Firefly is a show that while little known outside the geek world, is huge within it.) The line was long and we got to chat with him for a long while waiting. No surprise, the line cut-off immediately after the priest got into the panel. Leta and I did not. Coincidence or divine favor? Think what you will, I figure God takes care of those who dedicate the main part of their lives to Him.

Believe it or not, that was not the only time we met a priest at Dragon Con. I have a picture of Leta with another young clergyman a couple of years later. It is so cool to me that these men of the cloth have a heart for fantasy or science fiction. God loves the Geeks!

This year I got to experience something else awesome. It happened while I was in line to have Jim Butcher sign a book. I’m not really much on celebrity signatures, but Jim is a NYT bestselling author many times over and he’s a really nice, funny guy. I decided to get one of the hard cover copies I had signed. I left the dust cover in the car and stuck the book in my backpack.

The line was long and conversations started. I am not chatty, but I struck up a conversation with the guy behind me. This fellow was curious about some of the lesser known books Butcher had written. As always, I can’t really shut up about the things I know about. I told the guy about how cool Jim’s other books were. The guy let me know that he was really glad to be here and that he was going to have Jim sign a program because he had no book for Jim to sign. All of the guy’s books had been burned up in a house fire 2 weeks before. I was thunderstruck. We chatted more and he let me know that his wife had encouraged him to come despite the recent disaster. She said that he deserved a chance to get away. There was a break in conversation and the guy started to chat with a lady nearby.

As I waited, I was intrigued. My mind kept going back to the poor fellow behind me and a plan developed.

I got to Jim and thanked him for his wonderful writing. He took my book and looked at me expectantly. I leaned forward and said, “Hey Jim, this guy behind just lost all of his books in a house fire. Could you sign mine and give it to him.”

“Sure,” He said. “What’s his name?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “You’ll have to ask him.”

Jim nodded. I thanked him again and turned and walked quickly away, not looking back.

Now, I hope you aren’t thinking that I’m sharing this with you because I want accolades from you. I am sharing this with you because, WOW! That was awesomely cool! I mean I don’t really know what happened. I wasn’t there. Maybe the guy and Jim just exchanged items and nothing significant happened. But in my head, the guy tears up and Jim smiles. The exchange makes the guy’s con. It’s memorable. A story he will tell forever. And maybe it affected Jim too. Gave him a joyful lift in the middle of a busy con. And neither of them knew or know who I am. From their perspective I’m just an angel who showed up and vanished away after creating an explosion of joy. It’s like the whole pay for the guy behind you at a fast food drive-through gig, on steroids!

Why did I do it? I can think of a few reasons.

First, I thrive on impact. Impacting people’s lives is what does it for me. More than success, or money, or fame, I like to think that I move people’s lives in a positive way.
Second, it was cool. I mean it was like the cool guys in movies who walk away from the explosion they just set off and don’t look back. Like the song Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions. ( It’s a trope and it’s funny. The awesome superheroes in movies light the fuse and walk away, not looking back. I suppose it’s because they know what to expect. They’ve seen explosions before and it’s no big deal.

I could have offered the guy the book. Told him who I was and he would have either rejected the charity or thanked me. But the meaning would have been less. The surprise is what creates the explosion. I got to light that fuse and walk away like I knew what I just set off. I don’t, not really. But because I didn’t look, I get to imagine what it was. And hope that it went as well as I thought. That the explosion lit up the room and the con for those two men.

Opportunities like that don’t come every day. But when the spirit prompts you, light the fuse and walk away. It’s God’s secret way of lighting up people’s lives. And in His eyes, you look cool as you don’t look back. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Forgetting my habits

I have read that it takes 60 days to form a habit. In other words, if you consistently do something for that length of time your internal systems sort of log it as a regular activity and encourage you to do it.

Unfortunately sometimes I forget to do my habits. That may sound odd but it is true. It seems that habits fade at a much more rapid rate than they are created. Losing a habit takes a week or two. Then you are back to disciplined rebuilding.

This all applies to positive habits. Good things you wish to develop are hard to create and difficult to maintain. Negative habits, or unhabits as I like to call them, are easy to create and nearly impossible to dislodge once they are imbedded. It seems to me that perhaps a bad habit is nothing except the lack of a good habit.

Thus, the problem is not that you smoke, but that you have not developed or have lost the habit of not smoking. Stop smoking for 60 days and you will have created a not smoking habit. Smoke for a week or two at some point after that and you will have to start over.

Over-eating is easy. It is an easy unhabit to start. It is a difficult unhabit to break. To break it usually requires disciplines like calorie counting, food quality, and portion awareness be diligently observed for the prerequisite 60 days. After that you have developed the habit of eating reasonably.

The other fun about habits and unhabits are the side effects. Unhabits carry numerous nasty life impacts. Overeating leads to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a difficulty climbing the stairs. Smoking leads to numerous lung complications, high blood pressure, and a difficulty climbing the stairs. Drinking too much leads to liver disease, relational problems, work performance issues, and at times, difficulty climbing the stairs. Watching too much TV seems to drain you emotionally, encourages many other unhabits, and… well it doesn’t seem to affect your ability to climb stairs.

Good habits have positive effects. Exercise makes you a lean, mean, stair climbing machine. Prayer clears your mind, gives you insights, and prepares you to meet the day. Then there are good things like bathing and brushing your teeth that not only help your health but tend to have direct impacts on your luck in love.

It is unfortunate that creating good habits is such work and creating unhabits is so easy. Why is this? To understand it, I think, requires the realization that our hearts we are basically broken. Inside all of us is a black hole that unceasingly howls to be filled. Like the musical character Pippin or like Solomon in Lamentations, we charge for meaningless pursuit after meaningless pursuit and find ourselves sicker, lonelier, and emptier than when we began. There are only 2 ways I know to forestall this chaotic internal collapse.

The first is an external focus, the more uplifting the better. Love, career, profession, family, and personal credo are great examples. We grab a hold of them and let them lift us away from the darkness within. They make us more than we are. They take us farther than we alone could go.

The problem with external focuses is they never really last. Love alone fades. Careers fail. Professions are proven to be less noble than we first thought. Family drifts away or disappoints us. Ultimately even the strongest man will bend his personal beliefs if they stand alone. All must fall before the internal vortex that swirls at our center. The yawning pit of our spiritual emptiness gapes and devours our life and at the end of our life, our soul.

Sin is not a single failing. It is a bottomless ocean of emptiness. What can be done then? How can we fill the void? There is only one answer and that answer is God. One of my favorite songs is Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Rise.” It’s a beautiful song but one phrase captivates me. “And the grave is overwhelmed.” The grave is sin. That empty, bottomless void at the center of my heart is what is overwhelmed. Imagine a mighty pit, more massive than Niagara Falls that is sucking down everything good and graceful around and in me. Then there is this rush of water like Niagara itself except intensifying each second. After a few moments the water is pouring so heavily into the pit that even bottomless it cannot absorb it all. The limits of its diameter, though in some ways measureless cannot absorb it all. So it begins to overflow. It flows out in all directions.

Now try combing that inward pressure with Love and it cannot fade because even when we tire the internal force keeps us moving forward. Careers collapse only to be buoyed up by old faithful geysers into unexpected windfall circumstances. Professions which sag under the reality of the world find their centers held up by the knowledge that you are working for Him regardless. Family forgives and forgets wherever God’s hand is felt. Slowly we are knit tighter even though we may be miles apart. Finally our personal credo is shored up by the concrete bedrock which is not our personal belief. No matter how we question or search a written code clarifies truth. We may fail, but there is no question that the code is real.

I find that whenever I begin to lose sight of God, the wind howls. My focus is lost. Unhabits become irresistible flotsam pulling me towards the now draining pit. Habits, great dams built to redirect me into stronger directions shatter. I am pulled inexorably towards collapse.

Ultimately there is one goal, keep my focus on God. Then the downpour begins again in earnest. Refreshing water hammers down and pushes outward with unmatched force. When that pressing energy is at my back, what cannot be achieved?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Here there be dragons… Bite Down Hard!

I just got back from Dragon Con. What is Dragon Con? Dragon Con is energy. It is thirty or forty thousand fans of the future, of fantasy, of what could be. In that maelstrom of positive expectation you will find enormous, exciting, exuberant energy.
On Saturday morning the wilds of imagination walk downtown Atlanta in a parade of fantasy, fiction, and movie magic. The energy is fantastic as people line the road 2 and 3 deep to catch sight of their favorite characters. Pixies and fairies in skimpy outfits follow knights and goblins. A company of Ghostbusters complete with Ghostbuster cars follow a small army of howling zombies, monsters, and madmen. Groups of Star Trek Klingons escort various denizens of Shatner’s universe down the road. Warriors from Halo, Aliens, and the 300 charge down the street. A DeLorean souped-up to go back to the future drives by. At last, the 501st Legion, Vader’s Fist, tromps into view leading a massive wave of Storm Troopers, Sith, Jedi, and Bounty hunters.
After the road show, the denizens retreat into bowels of the hotels. The three main hotels and food court are connected. This creates an enclosed labyrinth of wonder. These caves of steel and concrete lend an Asmovian atmosphere producing one of the most wonderful people watching experience ever. A real He-Man walks by with a beautiful sprite clinging to one arm. In the central alcove is a lovely full sized stone statue of an angel. It is so perfectly rendered and still that you expect pigeons to fly down from the ceiling. Then her cell phone rings, and the illusion is shattered. T-shirts abound with funny quips. On the wall above the blood donations center is a nosferatu disparaging sign that says, “Come see us, the REAL blood suckers.” I wonder what the IRS thinks about that.
The con is filled with special guests, scientists, actors, musicians, authors, and dozens of other fields. They fill out the convention’s numerous panels, sign autographs, and generally make the convention memorable. Here is perhaps where the energy is greatest. In some panels guests discuss popular shows. In others every imaginable topic is discussed: politics, religion, dragon reproduction, and books.
I stumbled on an opportunity to go to the con two years ago. Last year something came up and going was impossible. This year things looked the same and in an unexpected surprise the opportunity emerged. I guess God knew I needed the recharge.
Dragon Con is an environment that encourages creativity and I came away feeling ready to write again. I have taken a three month hiatus, encouraged by a demanding job and relentless travel. What a joy to be excited to scribble down some ideas again.
I also, think I learned something else. I spend far too much time succeeding at life and not enough time enjoying it. Have you noticed that we hard driving personalities sometimes get so focused on where we are going that we forget to enjoy where we are. It doesn’t necessarily mean a difference in action so much as attitude. I am going to make a real effort to focus on the joy of the moment and less on the sorrow of the day.
Life is a fruit. It has all the flavors that you’d want. It’s sweet and savory. It’s bitter and sour. It’s salty and spicy. The succulent skin surrounds a core replete with juicy goodness. Don’t hold onto that fruit wondering where the bruises are. Grab a hold of life; and bite down hard! Let the luxurious skin slide down your throat. Let the meat fill your mouth with flavor. Let the juice run down your cheeks and drip on your shirt. Let people see the joy as you chew mouth full and smiling. Let them think, “He’s living his life to the fullest.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I'm maimed and intend to stay that way.

Oswald Chambers has an interesting interpretation of Jesus’ “If your hand causes you to sin cut it off.” He points out that it refers not only to your physical hand but more generally to “good” things in life. The hand is definitely a good thing. And yet if we cannot live a pure life with it intact, we must remove it from our lives.

This applies to nearly anything. Things and people who cause us to stumble in our walk must be removed to a distance where they cannot trip us up. This can lead to some peculiar situations and ones that make a person or a group of people seem legalistic, when, in fact, they have removed the offensive action, behavior, or limb only because of their own weakness.

In the south, people make fun of Baptists who traditionally are against drinking, and dancing, especially dancing. Why Dancing? Because dancing leads to sex. I know what you’re thinking. This seems extreme and is thus funny. But it’s actually based strongly in truth. Dancing is inherently a couple’s activity and leads to increased intimacy. Naturally this increased intimacy leads to a stronger likelihood of sexual interaction. The early Baptists limited dancing, not because it was inherently wrong or evil, but because it was a frailty they saw in themselves. It was better to eliminate the good thing then risk the bad result.

I have similar things in my life. Not dancing. I don’t dance because I move like and ogre with a groin pull. No I am speaking of things that were wonderful in their time but which I have had to severely limit: Playing Music, Playing Computer Games, and Eating Pizza. Each of these things has negative effects on me and so I have had to either cut them entirely out of my life or limit them severely. They aren’t bad. I don’t judge others who do them. Sometimes I envy those others. But they do not belong in my life.

My first love was playing music. I chose to play the tuba myself. I taught myself. I was successful and enjoyed it immensely. I can honestly say that I have from time to time felt that playing was better than sex. I have started and walked away from music twice in my life: once in high school and again in college. Each time, I found that it was an obsession that took more than it gave. After college I tried to play casually, but I just can’t do it. The cost is too high. The desire to chase an empty dream is too strong. Proverbs says that only a fool chases dreams. My Tuba lies unused and untouched in our spare room. I’m hoping that when we are all made new, perhaps God will see fit to let me play music for a few thousand years, but for now I have given up that dream.

I have been playing computer games since I was 12. They are, again, something I obsess about. I can easily sit and play a game for 10 or 12 hours straight. When my wife first met me, I had a house full of clocks with alarms to help me remember time was passing. I would lose myself in the games. How many days of my life have been lost playing computer games? I do not know. How many days have I drug my tired body through because I was exhausted from an all night gaming session? I cannot count them. It’s called sloth and it must go. I also discount real people for the game and that’s just not acceptable. This one is a little easier for me, because I don’t love computer games the way I do music. I’ve been able to back off and keep them in my life, but I now play them only occasionally and usually then as a family activity.

Finally, there is Pizza. It has been a staple food in my life. Indeed, at my funeral I think that Pizza and Chili should be served. Surely, at least 50 percent of my body is pizza and pizza sauce flows in my veins. The problem is I lose control. I just love the flavor, the taste, and the texture. It has to go. Now, I eat it when people serve it, but I no longer order Pizza for myself. I’m trying to end gluttony in my life, and Pizza is a stumbling block.

These are things I’ve cut off in my life. Good things but things that make me sin. It also reminds me that those who live a purer life are not judging me. Often times they are not stronger than me. They may in fact be weaker, but need strong boundaries to keep themselves from falling.

I’m maimed. I’ve cut off things I loved. I’ve amputated pieces of my life. But by pruning myself like this, I’ve allowed the other parts of my soul to grow.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The road to the dentist is paved with good intentions.

I was grinding my teeth. I’m not sure what caused my abrasive mastication. Perhaps I was envisioning an encounter with an irritating co-worker; or, perhaps I was reliving a long wait at the doctor’s office. Whatever was going on, I was asleep; and I squeaked.

That was my wife’s claim. “Squeaky, Squeaky, all night long,” she said pointing to my choppers. “You grind your teeth.”

I knew I ground but was a little shocked at the squeaking. Surely that could not be good for my teeth. I decided to visit the dentist. He might be able to suggest some sort of mouth guard to preserve my teeth for a few more years.

The dentist’s office smelled like a dentist’s office. You know that awful scent of fluoride mixed with bubble gum mixed with the hot dry smell that can only be burnt enamel. The waiting room was further scented with fear as we patients considered our likely fate.

A little girl in the next seat tried desperately to convince her mother that she was fine and didn’t need a check-up. I felt the same way but my mom was no where around for me to argue with. I had decided to come to Doc Tooth’s Torture Fun House on my own. I sat and contemplated my feet wondering if I could convince them that I was ok and leaving was a better option.

My last trip to Doc Tooth had been several years before when my wisdom teeth needed pulling. They were hurting me; so I found Doc and asked for help. He was happy to oblige.

His grin was devilish as he said, “Most dentists would send this out to a dental surgeon, but me, I like pulling wisdom teeth. You know, I played football in college, so I’ve got the upper body strength to yank them right out.”

He leaned me back, put his knee on my chest and said, “Open wide!”

The device went in and the pressure on my chest increased. Doc wrapped both hands around the handle to get a stronger grip. Crack! Crack! Crack! The sound exploded from my mouth as my head jerked to and fro. Another one of those Faustian grins lit up Doc’s face as he pulled the bloody molar from my mouth.

“One More to go!” He exclaimed and dove back in.

Now I was back and re-living that wonderful memory. A door opened and a perky young sadist poked her head out and said, “Mr. Coussens.” She grinned and waved me in.

The condemned followed her to her chair, a torture device for the ages. She poked me, prodded me, and put sharp sticks in my mouth pretending them to be x-ray film. “Bit down on this,” she smiled, and I felt the cardboard slice into my gums. Finally, she had exhausted the immediate torture tools and announced, “Doc Tooth will see you in a moment.”

Have you ever noticed that the dentist office is a bit like a car repair shop? No matter what you go in for, they still want to lube your chassis and replace your pads. If you’re really unlucky they will have found a cavity, or six.

The hygienist came back and said, “Doc will be a few more moments, but I need to talk to you. You need a good cleaning and your gums are looking bad, we need to irrigate them.”

I rubbed my x-ray tormented jaw and said, “My gums are already pretty irritated, you really don’t need to do more.” Then I grinned to show that I wasn’t afraid of her.

She frowned back at me, “Irrigate, Mr. Coussens. It’s not covered by your insurance, but it’s very important.” She raised her eyebrows expectantly.

I had not yet learned my car lesson, “Will my wheels actually fall off or my engine blow up? If not it can wait.” Lacking that experience, I nodded dumbly at her.

Doc Tooth came in shortly after. He poked, prodded, and scratched. Then he said, “Well there are a few spots to watch, but no procedures today.” Pausing a moment he tried to cheer me up. “At least you’re not in pain.”

The pain was yet to come. After the cleaning and the irrigating I was ready to weep. When I saw the bill my eyes actually welled with tears. Later that night, I realized I had forgotten to ask the doctor about the teeth grinding. I think I’ll wait quite a while to get that solved.

Something in this experience did strike a note with me. Tooth cleaning is one thing; but heart cleaning is another. Each day we have an opportunity to meet with Doc Heart, whose real name is Jesus, and have him look us over. Mother isn’t there to prompt us; we have to go on our own. It can be painful. It can be more costly than we anticipated when we sat down in the chair. In the end though, we come out white and shining. Our smile is brighter. Our heart is lighter. Our lives are made whole.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Death of the Fist Bump

I remember when Michael Jackson’s “Bad” hit the music stores. For Generation X, bad was good and cool was cliche. We loved our parents but they truly did not understand our culture or who we were. We barely understood it ourselves.

Bad went to Rad which later became Random. Each time the previous term became gauche and dropped out of common usage among the young. I never saw when Bad went bad or Rad deteriorated into nothing, but I believe I have spotted the death of the fist bump.

One night, as I was busily typing away on some manuscript or another, I heard my wife exclaim, “No way!”

I looked up at her and she waved me over saying “Watch this.”

She rewound the TV as I walked over and sat down. The evening news was on. The anchorman had made a spontaneous and slightly funny comment. Laughing, the weatherman leaned over and the unthinkable happened. They fist bumped. This wasn’t two athletes on the field celebrating a great play or two college men over laughing over beers. This was a pinstriped grey-haired regional anchorman and a double breasted white haired weatherman. The foundation of the fist bump was cracking.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; that wasn’t the first odd fist bump on television. Obama and his wife bumped on national TV after winning the Democratic presidential nomination back in 2008. Such national exposure could only serve to drive the practice into the hands of those who never had business fist bumping in the first place. In fact, in response to the Obama bump, Time magazine actually did an article on “A brief history of the fist bump.”

Ultimately, I knew I was watching the final days of this gesture when my friend, Lenny, walked into our men’s bible study the other night and bumped fists with every man there. I think I was the youngest fellow in attendance and I left my college days behind a decade and half ago. We all grinned as we amused ourselves with the youthful greeting.

What is in a touch? A pat, a hand shake, or a fist bump can go a long way to drawing others into your life. It is especially powerful in America where we Americans live in a world of relatively little physical contact. If you are not a hugger, one who comes up and gives unsolicited hugs, you could very well find yourself going for a week at a time with zero physical contact from anyone other than your wife and kids.

Part of this, I think, is because we are so self-absorbed. We can fake our way through a how-are-you-fine greeting without ever actually having to slow down and connect to the person. A handshake is a request for information. It requires focus and intent; offering one without focus is a clear and unmistakable insult. When a hand is extended in earnest and eyes meet there is an exchange that says, “Hello, you are important enough to me to stop my normal course, abort my hurried day, and stop to greet you.”

I remember my first day in Sunday school in 8th grade. I decided to go to church. I walked into the room and was introduced around. After the teacher took first honors, every young man in that room shook my hand and greeted me. The impression was powerful: This circle of young men really cared about me and they didn’t even know me. I was hooked.

As a Christians, we should try an experiment. Any time we meet someone, the first time for a day, every day, reach out to them physically. Smile and reach out a hand. Solicit a handshake or, if you can make it work, a fist bump. It’s awkward, because other than initial meetings most of us don’t do this. Our friends and co-workers will wonder what we’re doing as we’ve never done it before. Now here’s the opportunity, ask how they are doing and mean it. We won’t likely get a response, because they won’t expect it. The thing they will understand, however, is that we care.