Randy’s Ramblings


No Man is an Island


‘No man is an island’ is a quotation from the English metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631) and it appears in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and Seuerall Steps in my Sicknes – Meditation XVII, 1624: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Even had Donne written nothing else, his creation of ‘no man is an island’ and ‘ask not for whom the bells tolls’ in one brief poem, would have lifted him into the premier league of English writers. As it was he wrote numerous poems on the themes of love, sensuality and religion, many of which are still widely admired and he is considered one of the finest poets to have written in English. Of course, the second of the two proverbial phrases above was the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel For Whom The Bell Tolls, which is regarded as one of his best works. ‘No man is an island’ sounds like, and is, an old proverbial expression. Oddly, although it was coined in the 17th century, it only began to be used widely in the second half of the 20th century.  

I provide all that wonderful background in order to contrast that phrase with the concept of rugged individualism. Rugged Individualism is the belief that individuals can succeed on their own without the assistance of outside help. Sadly although I preach and teach the former sometimes I fall into the latter…..like a few weeks ago.


It all began with an ever growing puddle on the floor of the garage. It didn’t take much observation to determine the cause. The hot water heater had rusted through and was failing. Armed with the necessary specifications I headed to the nearest Lowes to pick up a new one.


Armed with all the necessary supplies I set to work on removing the old water heater. I hooked up the hose to drain the tank and disconnected all the water, gas, vent, and pressure relief hook ups. I prepped the new heater for installation. The water stopped draining and it was time to maneuver the old heater off its platform around the gas pipe past the steel crash protection post and onto the garage floor. I did a test “lift”. It was obvious that the old water heater was considerably heavier than the new one. The insulation was thoroughly soaked and it no doubt contained a good amount of sediment in the bottom of the tank. (Not unusual for a 6 year tank that made it to the 19 year mark)


It was at this moment that the two aforementioned phrases came to mind. No man is an island. That means I am part of a community. I am NOT meant to do everything alone. I SHOULD get some help with this or something could go very wrong. Rugged individualism. I CAN do it myself. I don’t need anyone else. Don’t be a wimp; you got this! In the words of the famous philosopher Larry the Cable Guy….”just gitter done!” So which should govern this particular situation?


Have you ever heard the phrase….”You have chosen poorly?” Well, I did. Choose poorly I mean. I leaned forward and bear hugged that water heater. I lifted it up and tried to navigate around the natural gas pipe. I distinctly heard a voice in my head say….”You bust that off and we are gonna have massive problems”. I cleared the gas pipe and had to spin around the steel impact prevention pipe. It was something in that last maneuver that caused a lightening sharp pain in my back that took me to my knees still hugging the water heater. It hit the floor with a bang…..and I couldn’t stand up.

This is one of those moments when you start to do mental math. How much money did I save doing this myself versus how much money am I gonna spend in the emergency room. The math was good….the inequity not so much. Long story short I managed to get back up after resting a bit. I finished the project which was another bad idea. Then I headed to the chiropractor to see how badly I messed my self up. The bad news was my alignment was fine….which meant that I really did injure a muscle. He gave me instructions. He also said….you might want to not do that ever again. Yah, duh, I thought. But truth be told. He has seen me for a variety of other less than brilliant physical stunts so his words were certainly warranted.


So, some lessons. It seems the Bible is way ahead of me on this issue. There are 59 “one another” commands in the New Testament. There are 85 references to community in the scriptures. And even though I can not find a single reference to water heater wrangling I am pretty confident that doing life together rather than apart is solid biblical advice. I am also confident that this principle applies to lots more than water heaters.

The wisest man in the Bible wrote Ecclesiastes 4:12-13
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Who has your back? I have people who have my back and if I had thought to call one of them I still would have had my back! We all need community. We all need to know and be known. Who are you doing life with on a regular basis? You never know when an enemy might appear and attempt to overpower you….or a water heater that might attempt to take you out of commission for a while!


It’s here! Cold and flu season is upon us. Earlier this month half our volunteer staff called out for Wednesday night ROCK’s. Our moment of silence during the worship service sounded more like a visit to urgent care than a deep introspective moment. Our new grandson Ryker is just rotating illnesses with nary a healthful day in between (and is generously sharing all the plague-filled germs with all he comes in contact with). AND that’s not all….I just heard a report that said the worst is yet to come! Yikes!

All this infectious sharing got me to thinking. Brian Hardin wrote a delightful book entitled Sneezing Jesus. Check this out.

Everyone sneezes. It’s a normal, human occurrence. And when you think about it, we are all sneezing something. Spiritually we’re either expelling the Good News of the Kingdom or spreading the disease of humanity. So, what if we were sneezing Jesus? What if the presence of the risen Savior were the residue we left behind – a trail of love that infected everyone? What if we are known by our love and not by the stereotypes? What if we became authentically infected with the love of Christ? What kind of influence would we have if we were sneezing a pure and true Jesus who was vibrant and alive in us and not just a mythical superhero?
I love that! Just think, every encounter we have is an opportunity to be infectious with the love of Jesus. How about infecting that grumpy cashier with the love of Jesus? Or instead of complaining and giving a terrible tip what if we took the opportunity to sneeze blessings on the waitress who was having a bad day? Maybe we could cough up some encouragement for that kid that made a bad choice and just about hit us with that ball he was throwing? And what about that neighbor that always lets his gigantic dog poop in our front yard and never cleans it up? Ok, I got nothing for that last one unless it is tossing it back in his yard. (See just when you thought I got all holy you discovered I got a ways to go too). So, piles of dog poo notwithstanding, we do have the opportunity to be spreading the “germs” of the kingdom. Paul put it this way.
So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once saw Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NIV) If we follow Jesus’ lead, we decide to live in grace “not counting people’s sins against them” and rather seek to be contagious with “the message of reconciliation.” That’s a pretty cool picture even if it is messy.
During this season of the creeping crud and flu, I see some diligently striving to remain uninfected. They put up barriers of face masks and isolation and gallons of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers. They refuse direct contact with anyone lest the germs attack. While an effective strategy to keep from getting sick, it is a terrible strategy for infecting the world with grace. Rather than removing ourselves and staying safe in holy huddles of sanitized religious bubbles the great news of Jesus compels us to be in contact with those humans around us…a lost and broken world so loved by Jesus.
So go ahead and sneeze. Sneeze all over everyone! Spread that infectious love of Jesus “as you go” (Matt 28:19). They need it! You need it! We ALL need it!

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