“This past Thursday’s Thirst got a little too political – I almost unsubscribed.” STRIKE ONE. “You really should have included a ‘Spoiler Alert’ when you talked about New Amsterdam.” STRIKE TWO. “Dad, we are disappointed that at 67 years old you are not retiring.” STRIKE THREE. I may have three strikes, but I am not out! In fact, I am in a fertile atmosphere for maturity to thrive.

Family Systems Theory (see Bowen, Friedman, or Steinke) speaks of two essential – though often seemingly anti-positional – ingredients in maturity. The one is being one’s self in a non-defensive, and non-attacking, manner. The other is to stay connected. Put these two together and you will find the potential for exciting, creative things to happen. Or, expressed in different terms, the ability of one person “to take responsible action while resisting overactive attacking” opens the door to transformational change in individuals, relationships and actions.

As the people of God in Christ Jesus, I believe this is our calling.

Jesus says it in a simple and straight forward manner. “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5.13) Salt is made to interact with others. By itself it is nothing to look at or to eat by the spoonful. And if it does not function as God has made it to function, it is worthless.

As a child of God in Christ, I have the opportunity (hear “responsibility”) to be a positive influence upon the culture around me. In order to do this, I must interact (hear “build bridges”) with the culture. However, I must also act as a child of God.

How does one do this? An Old Testament prophet gives us a hint: “(God) has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Malachi 6.8) This is really where the fun begins. If I listen to you without taking your comments personally, you are less likely to attack – and more likely to continue the interaction. As the conversation continues, the door opens for more listening … understanding … personal growth (in me and others) … and positive change that ripples out.

And, then, when I fail again (hear “STRIKE FOUR”), my Savior says to me, “Mark, I forgive you. I love you. You are mine.” And then he pushes me back into the conversation – to listen … ask questions … grow in understanding … and keep the interaction going – knowing that God in Christ works in these very conversations … and that, in fact, the only way I will ever be out is if I take myself out of the game. Wow – life on the edge creates great (hear “fun”) opportunities (but over the edge can destroy them). My friends, let’s have fun this week!

Strike Three, but NOT OUT!