Sunday, August 31, 2008

How to Solve Your People Problems by Dr. Alan Godwin

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It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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Today's Wild Card author is:

and his book:

How to Solve Your People Problems

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)


Dr. Alan Godwin is a psychologist in private practice in Tennessee. For over 20 years he has helped individuals, couples, and organizations develop better ways of handling conflict. Certified in Alternative Dispute Resolution, he conducts seminars, writes magazine articles, and consults with businesses. He and his wife, Penny, have been married for 30 years and have three children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736923519


Chapter One

The Porcupine Dance

Love is the irresistible desire

to be irresistibly desired.

Mark Twain

Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight,

a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.

Proverbs 27:9

It was a big day for me. I had recently passed the driving test—on the second attempt, I might add—and successfully convinced my mother to let me take her Blue Pontiac to school. In my mind’s eye, I pictured this occasion unfolding in the following manner. First, I would pull up to the school and park. Then, as I emerged from the vehicle, groups of girls would gather and watch from a distance, impressed beyond words, yearning deeply for the chance to date me. Members of the “in-group” would say to each other, “We need to ask that guy to hang out with us. Man, he is so cool.” Driving the car to school would be my ticket to popularity.

Assured that all had gone as planned, I smugly took my seat in first period, having confidently crossed the threshold into the world of cool-dom. Just then, our principal switched on the intercom and said the following: “May we have your attention, please. May we have your attention, please. There is a blue Pontiac parked on Riverside Drive. Uh . . . the doors are locked and the motor is running.” The class exploded in raucous laughter, as did other classes up and down the hallway. “What kind of idiot would do that?” some questioned. “What a goob!” others exclaimed.

For a fleeting few seconds, I actually considered joining in to ridicule this anonymous nit-wit. “No way I’m going to admit this,” I internally reasoned. “I’ll leave it running. It’ll probably just run out gas.” But then, the little sense I did possess kicked in and I walked to the front of the classroom to confess that the car was, in fact, mine. My teacher displayed a mixture of graciousness along with a manner that suggested, “I’m so glad I’m not you.” As I ran the gauntlet to the principal’s office, classrooms were still racked with laughter laced with words like “nincompoop” and “loser.” I was told later that my friends (I use that term loosely) in other classes all loudly proclaimed, “Godwin. That’s Alan Godwin’s car.” For a single day, I had the dubious distinction of being the most conspicuous person at school but not in the manner I had envisioned. My mom wasn’t so pleased, either.

At times, what we desire the most, relationship, is the source of our greatest consternation. I was thrilled about taking the car to school that day not because I liked driving it—it was a powder blue Pontiac Catalina, for crying out loud. Instead, I was pumped about the relationship enhancement possibilities. My motivation had not been automotive but relational. And the discomfort I felt for the rest of that day had little to do with understanding the potential car damage and everything to do with the damage done to my esteem in the eyes of others. Relationships fulfill us the most but can also hurt us the most.

John Ortberg talks about the “dance of the porcupines” which works like this. A desire for connection draws us toward people. But the fear of hurt causes both of us to stick out “quills” for protection. The pain of getting poked causes us to move away. Alternating between moving in and moving out is the dance. Let’s look now at the individual dance steps and what must happen to alter the pattern.


Understanding the fundamental need for connection, many songwriters have penned lyrics that reflect this deep human longing. That’s why our radios are flooded with romance songs that express notions like: I can’t live without you, I can’t get enough of you, I’m only happy when we’re together, or I’m not a whole person without you.

Throughout the lifespan, we need and desire what psychologists refer to as attachment. Infants need attachment so much that depriving them of it may even cause death in some cases. Adoptive parents are warned about possible difficulties if an adopted child’s early attachments were deficient. As we proceed through the developmental stages, we relish inclusion but hate being excluded. We form friendships, join clubs or teams, enroll in associations, join fraternities or sororities, go to parties, hang out together, visit chat rooms, text message each other, connect ourselves to the worldwide web, date, get married, and attend family gatherings. Some people join gangs. Others join churches, sing in choirs, enroll in small groups, serve on committees, or travel with others on short-term mission projects. We yell with others at sporting events, laugh together at comedy clubs, and cry together at funerals. We’re intrigued by TV shows that portray friendships or bars where “everybody knows your name.” Ex-soldiers recall fondly, not the combat they endured, but the deep friendships formed in times of battle. Retiring athletes talk about how much they’ll miss the locker room camaraderie. If we get sick, studies show that restoration of health is facilitated by healthy interpersonal connections. At the time of death, we prefer to be surrounded by those we love. From one end life to the other, we spurn loneliness and seek the company of others. In short, the “moving in” step of the dance is driven by this universal need to attach.


But when we attach ourselves to someone, we invariably discover that this sought-after object of attachment has flaws, rough edges that hurt when encountered. Indeed, there is something wrong with all of us. Psychologists call it “abnormal psychology” or “psychopathology” while theologians call it the “fallenness of man” or “depravity.” Most of us use colloquial terms like “screwed up” to express it. Someone once said, “There’s a little larceny in us all.” We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world with other imperfect people. We’re drawn to people’s positives but experience their negatives when we move in close. And coming in contact with those negatives can hurt.

While romance music expresses our attachment wishes, some country music speaks to the pain experienced when affections turn sour. I once heard a few spoofs on country songs that expressed these notions: “Now that we’re so miserable, I hope you’re happy,” “She chews tobacco but she won’t choose me,” and “Ain’t been no trash in my trailer since the night I kicked you out.”

Anticipating the potential pain of connection, we instinctively stick out “quills” for protection, the internal thought being, “If I let you in too close, I could get hurt.” When we move in, we get poked, and then the next dance step occurs.


We crave attachments but hate pain, so we move out. For protection purposes, we distance ourselves from the relationship—the very thing we desire the most. This strategic maneuver of using “relational geography” is displayed in several common renditions:

Buffered Connections

The basic stance here is, “It’s OK for us to be close, but not that close. We’re not going to talk about it, but I only let people in just so far.” These people have relational moats and drawbridges used to deny access to the castle’s inner sanctum.

I once watched a TV interview with a notable public figure and his wife. When the questions turned personal, his wife said, “Most people see my husband as friendly, gregarious, and warm. And that’s true. But what people don’t see is the steel wall that drops when you get in close. We’ve been married for a long time and even I have never seen on the other side of that wall.” The intrigued interviewer turned to the man and asked him to comment at which point the camera framed his head and shoulders. He paused, stammered, and began talking about his public achievements. The interviewer interrupted him and repeated her request for him to elaborate on his wife’s comments. The camera then zoomed in for a face shot only. Once again, he paused and began waxing eloquent about his career accomplishments. The television audience got a chance to see for themselves the very wall his wife described.

Walls aren’t bad as long as they have gates. In healthy relating, we need walls and gates to let some in, to let some in closer, to let a small number in very close, and to keep others out who don’t belong there. But for some people, “We’ll do fine as long as we keep our distance” is the unspoken relational imperative that governs all of their relationships.

Pretend Closeness

Here, the thought is, “Real relationships are way too risky. Let’s have make-believe intimacy for a while, what do you say? That way, nobody gets hurt.” This is the philosophical underpinning of friends-with-benefits, the casual hook-up, or the one-night-stand.

Anesthetized Connections

Since actual, up-close relationships involve pain at times, some people numb the pain with pain-numbing substances which serve as relational lubricants. “Closeness requires anesthesia to kill the pain if something goes wrong,” the thinking goes. Little wonder, therefore, that drinking holes often double as popular pick-up spots.

Purposeful Distance

When families move frequently, some kids sidestep attachments to avoid the pain of detaching. They deliberately keep their distance because they know how much it hurts to lose a friendship. Soldiers sometimes purposely decide not to get close to other soldiers, having experienced the pain of losing comrades in battle. Some people deliberately isolate themselves from others to avoid the complexities of relationships. There was a time when most houses were built with front porches, a place where neighbors could sit and visit. Now, we’re more likely to build houses with privacy decks that hinder us from knowing our neighbors.

Vicarious Closeness

“I get my closeness needs met by watching others do it. That way, I don’t get hurt.” Some people are spectators in the stands watching characters from pop culture, television, movies, or books taking hits on the relational field of play. Another form of this is pornography in which paying customers substitute contrived connections for ones that are real.

Techno Connections

“I’ve been burned so often in person that I prefer cyber-anonymity. It seems safer and quicker and, if I encounter a loser, I can always hit delete.” In some ways, technology is a means of connecting with others. But some people use it for protection, a way to form what they perceive to be low-risk attachments.


Distancing, in whatever form it takes, protects us from pain. But it gets lonely out there. Eventually, we’ll move back in, seeking the attachment we so desire. The cycle has now run its course only to repeat itself.


The porcupine dance is an attempt to handle the tension between two competing drives—attachment wishes and pain avoidance. We want to be close but don’t want to be hurt. We seek what relationships provide but shun what relationships bring—problems. But the dance doesn’t resolve the tension, it only perpetuates it. And for some people, it’s a marathon dance that lasts a lifetime.

So, how can porcupines ever stop dancing? Or to ask the question in human terms, how can we be close to people when closeness is certain to bring problems with people? This book attempts to answer that question. Porcupines get close by relaxing their quills. People get close by fixing their people problems—problems that stem from being flawed and imperfect. Closeness to others necessitates fixing our problems with others. But our natural tendency is to handle those people problems poorly. That’s the subject of Chapter 2.

In a Nutshell

(Chapter 1)

We are all driven by two conflicting forces—a drive to attach along with a drive to avoid pain. When we attach to others, we have problems with others and that’s painful. So, we have a dilemma: how to be close to others when closeness involves pain. We become like porcupines whose quills protrude whenever closeness occurs. We want to be close but we don’t want to get poked. It’s a tough dilemma but if we could resolve it, we’d have what we seek—close relationships.


1. Name some situations when you’ve noticed your quills pushing someone away. How have you overcome that? Or have you?

2. Do you think there are ways to be close to others and never be hurt? Why or why not?

3. What life events contributed to any reluctance you might have to be close?

4. Has our technology (TV, internet, video games, etc.) helped or hurt us in our quest for closeness? Explain your answer.

5. Can we live happily without close relationships? Why or why not?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Making of Isaac Hunt by Linda Leigh Hargrove

Tour date: August 27

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It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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and his/her book:

The Making of Isaac Hunt

Lift Every Voice (June 1, 2007)


Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her writings include two novels: The Making of Isaac Hunt (June 2007) and Loving Cee Cee Johnson (September 2008). The former environmental engineer currently resides in North Carolina with her husband and three sons where she occasionally designs a Web site.

Visit the author's website and her blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Lift Every Voice (June 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0802462693
ISBN-13: 978-0802462695


Chapter One


On an ordinary afternoon in late October I discovered the truth about me. Like fire, that single truth stirred a hunger and created a hurt, but in the end it opened the door to a wholeness beyond my wildest dreams. All in all, I don’t regret embracing that truth. I only regret the time I wasted in running from the freedom that came with it.

I was planning to drive to Richmond that Sunday afternoon a few hours ahead of my parents. I told them I wanted to visit old school friends before our Sunday visit to the rest home where granddaddy stayed.

“I know it’s kind of a last minute thing,” I said, hoping it didn’t sound like another one of my lame stories. “But I haven’t seen any of them in a couple years.”

“Oh?” was mom’s response. It had been a long ‘oh’. She had stared at me with those big brown eyes over her half glasses and brought her Eartha Kitt-like voice up a half dozen notches. “Sounds interesting, Isaac,” she added like she expected to be invited along. Then she winked and said, “Give Senator Holloman’s daughter our love.”

Dad gave my hair a once-over, wagged his head, and grunted. “Behave yourself. Your mother and I will meet you outside your granddaddy’s room around two. Don’t go trampling in bothering him before we get there. He needs his rest. You need a haircut. How can you even see to drive?” He screwed up his brown face and went back to rummaging through his briefcase. Making preparations for upcoming meetings at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals took front seat to his concern over his only son’s dishonesty.

Later, I had sat in the Alzheimer’s wing outside my grandfather’s room for over an hour waiting for the woman I had lied for. A single white rose in my lap.

Her name was Rose. She had eyes the color of milk chocolate, skin like the choicest cream, and the pinkest lips. She was real and easy to be with. Every third Sunday for more than three months she’d dodge work at the front desk and meet me on the bench outside granddaddy’s room. We had a special spot in the woods.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the mud colored cinderblock wall and pressed the rose to my lips. Then I placed the rose on the seat beside me and linked my hands behind my head.

Someone was walking toward me. The footsteps were muffled and slow. I kept my eyes closed, faking sleep. The footsteps stopped and someone poked me in the chest.

“Wake up, Isaac,” came the whisper.

Another poke to the chest. “Isaac.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Patterson,” I said without opening my eyes.

He snorted and moved in closer. I felt his warm breath on my cheek. “We’ve been waiting all day, kid.”

He had been eating raw onions again. I coughed. “I’m not doing it anymore. That’s what I told you last time, Mr. Patterson.” I looked up into his blue-gray eyes “It’s over. Remember?”

He stuck out his bottom lip and gave me a squinty-eyed frown.

I shook the hair out of my eyes and looked at him hard. “I’m not doing it anymore.” I waved my arms like an umpire calling a man out. “No more.”

“What do you mean, you’re not doing it no more. Kid, it was your idea.”

“Well, it was a bad idea. And I don’t want to do it anymore. Besides, they know.”

Mr. Patterson sat down beside me and placed his silver cane across his lap. He stroked it with the heel of his hand. His age spots looked like coffee stains on white china. “They don’t know a thing we don’t let them know.”

He looked at me sideways and winked. “You know what I mean, bro.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Little white men with canes should only say the word bro if they want to be laughed at. “They know.” I winked hard and tipped my head toward the surveillance camera down the hall.

“Playing checkers,” he whispered, “That’s all they think we’ve been doing. Nobody has to know it’s anything more.”

The squeak of a wheel cut Mr. Patterson short. He was looking over my shoulder with wide eyes. The scent of cheap aftershave rose around me.

“Yes, Isaac. It’s just a friendly game of checkers,” said the voice behind me.

I turned and nodded to the thin clean-shaven man in a wheelchair. “Good afternoon, Mr. Smith. Getting a little exercise?” I forced a smile. Sweat glistened on the loose skin of his neck. There was a bead of sweat on his upper lip that made his face look dirty. His eyes, as pale as mine, sparkled irony.

He was pulling at his black leather biking gloves. For a few seconds I couldn’t take my eyes off them. That’s when I noticed what he had tucked in the folds of the blanket spread across his legs – an envelope marked I. Hunt.

Mr. Smith finished looking me up and down then nodded back at me. “Mr. Hunt.” Then he gave Mr. Patterson a smile that did nothing to warm the air and barked, “Bye, George Patterson.”

Mr. Patterson stood and gulped. “Afternoon, Mick,” he said and left.

Mr. Smith stared at me some more. I stared back some more.

“You’re quite the young entrepreneur for a shaggy-headed college student, Isaac Ulysses Hunt.” He jerked his head toward my grandfather’s door. “Old Ulysses would be proud.”

I glared at his white face then clenched my teeth and looked away.

He wheeled himself closer to me and lowered his voice. “They don’t know. That note you received came from me.”

I looked at him. He was a thin pasty old man. His Aqua Velva or whatever it was was starting to burn my eyes. The insulated shirt he wore only concentrated the aroma. His blue eyes were set back under a heavy brow with wild salt and pepper eyebrows. He narrowed those eyes and smiled at me. I looked away.

“That’s a very nice rose you have.”

“What do you want from me?”


“Yeah. This is where you ask me for that little favor so you can keep my little secret.”

He sighed. “If I wanted to black mail you I would have done it a long time ago. Besides it was kind of interesting watching you operate. Getting all these old white folk to trust you with their money. It beat Bingo and reruns of Diagnosis Murder, that’s for sure. What’d you do with the money?”

I stared at him. That’s for me to know and you to find out. My turn to narrow my eyes and smile.

His smile faded. “Doesn’t matter, I guess. Push me.”

“I’m waiting for someone.”

“Rose? She’s not coming.”

I frowned.

He glanced down the hall past me. “I’ll tell you outside. Just push me, Isaac. Too many eyes here.”

I laid the rose across the back of his headrest and I pushed.

Mr. Smith directed me toward a back entrance and down a wide leaf-littered path to a clearing with stone benches overlooking a small pond. Dry leaves rattled in the breeze. A few squirrels frolicked on a log nearby. I knew the spot well. It felt empty without Rose.

Mr. Smith shifted in his chair and reached under his blanket. He pulled out a half empty bottle of whiskey.

“Here, hold this.”

I took the bottle and sat on the bench beside his chair.

He reached under his blanket again and pulled out two crinkled paper cups. He handed me one and took the bottle back. His clammy white fingers brushed mine. I flinched.

“Hold your cup closer.”

And you’re against me gambling? I almost said. I rolled my eyes and placed the empty cup on the bench beside me.

“I take it you don’t care to drink with me then.”

Mr. Smith shrugged and screwed the cap back on the bottle before tucking it under his blanket again.

“I need to get back. My parents should be here soon.” Upsetting my parents was only a distant thought, I still had Rose on the brain.

“She’s not coming back, Isaac. Rose, I mean.”

“You’re repeating yourself. How do you know that anyway?”

He slumped and looked out over the pond. “Yesterday, Rose and I sat here and we talked about you.”

I frowned at him.

“Rose was my daughter.”

I couldn’t help but gape.

He shrugged and with a smirk said, “She got her mother’s looks.”

Mr. Smith shifted in his chair and gulped the rest of the whiskey in his cup. He poured himself another and continued. “She’s a bright girl most of the time but put her in the same room with a handsome face and a single white rose and she turns into a naïve flighty little thing. I asked her what she knew about you. Your work. Your family. She said she thought you were in finance and came to visit your mother every month.” He looked at me.

I winced. “We haven’t exactly talked about ...”

“She said she thought your mother was the widow Inez Hunt, a white woman that lives across the hall from me.”

I winced again.

“Then she went on and on about you. Your clothes. Your car. Your looks. ‘He has the most exquisite coloring, daddy.’ That’s what she said.”

Exquisite? She was one for strange words.

He shook his head. “That’s when I knew I had to tell her my little secret. Though I knew as soon as I opened my mouth that she’d do the same thing her mother did ten years ago. Leave me.”

He hung his head and stayed quiet for several minutes. He coughed and ran the back of his hand across his top lip. I stood up. Rose was a wash and I didn’t want to hear the rest of what this old white man had to suggest about me. “Mr. Smith, I …”

“You know what passing means, Isaac? Passing for white, I mean.”

A stiff breeze blew between us. I pulled the collar of my pea coat in tighter and leaned over him. “I’m not trying to pass, Mr. Smith.”

He tucked his cup and bottle away and stuffed his hands under the blanket. “My daddy was about like your folks. Real fair. My mother she could have passed. But she didn’t. She was a proud woman. Proud to be black. When I was seventeen, they were both killed in a car accident. Daddy’s brother took me in. I graduated high school. Enlisted Army. Did nine months in Korea. That’s where I was wounded.” He pointed at his legs. “And that’s where I discovered the benefits of passing. I came back. Conveniently forgot my uncle’s address. Fell in love with a white woman. Married her on her daddy’s front porch overlooking the Chesapeake. Had our lovely Rose. Made a nice living passing for white.

“My sweet Leslie thought the sun and moon rose and set at my command till the day my uncle shows up and I have to tell her my little secret. She took Rose and left. All these years I thought she’d told Rose. Yesterday, when I realized Rose didn’t know …

He shook his head and ran a shaky hand through his thinning hair. “You know what your granddaddy told me one day? He said ‘A lie is a lie is a lie. No matter how pretty you tell it or how long you live it, it’s still a lie and in the end when it’s brought to light, it breeds misery.’ Right out of the blue. That’s what he said. I was sitting in his room playing old Al Green and he kinda woke up and came to his senses just for a few seconds.”

He glanced at me and stopped short. I was trying hard not to roll my eyes. I’d heard that lie line many times from my grandfather. It was as tired as Mr. Smith’s blanket.

“‘I’m not black, daddy.’ That’s what my Rose said before she left me.”

He stretched out a hand, palm down, and looked at it. His hand started to tremble and he caught his breath. Tears dropped into his lap. I looked away then turned to go.

“Isaac. Wait.”

He handed me the envelope, “From Rose.”

I took it and stood there for a few seconds. Looking at that wilted rose and the shrinking old man. I remember thinking as I shifted on my cold feet that this talk had really been more for him than for me. It was obvious he didn’t care any more for me than the man in the moon but he needed to say these things to unload some guilt. He was old and guilt ridden. I knew the truth about who I was. I wasn’t living a lie, I told myself.

Man, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

# # #

“Where’s Betty’s boy?” came the scream a second time. It was my grandfather’s voice a few thousand decibels louder than anything I had heard coming out of him in a coon’s age, as he would say. And it was certainly louder than anyone at Glenbrook Rehabilitation Center would appreciate.

I chuckled and said something about his medication needing adjusting as I entered granddaddy’s room. My parents weren’t amused. Dad was hovering over his father’s bed. Mom was standing near the door wringing her hands.

When I walked in she pushed me back and pointed to the bench outside the room and said, “Sit.”

“I want to see Betty’s boy.” came another yell. “Can’t a dying man have a last request?”

Last request?

I pushed past my mother. “No, Mama. I want to talk with granddad.”

“Isaac …” my father started, then muttered, “Chloe, honey, stop him.”

Granddaddy’s eyes widened. He smiled and stretched his yellowing brown arms toward me. “There’s Betty’s boy. Come give me a hug, Isaac.”

I studied the old man from where I stood. His light brown eyes didn’t look like they had three months ago – wild and glassy like those of an animal in pain. During that visit, he’d talked endlessly to an invisible person named Mimi. The woman, I found out later, had been his secretary for a few months during his many years at the Department of Justice in D.C. Their affair had lasted for several years.

“Guilt will do that to a man in his last days,” Ricky Hunt, my father the wise judge had pronounced on the ride back to Raleigh.

Granddaddy had on one of those 9/11 tee shirts with a large bald eagle and flag enfolding the Twin Towers, and the words ‘In God We Trust’ across the top. I stared at it for a few seconds, not sure what to make of the words. God and Granddaddy? I chalked it up to another slip in reality for him.

I glanced behind me to where my parents stood – their eyes stretched wide. Dad shifted toward me a bit but stopped short when his foot hit the corner of a bulging duffle bag propped against the wall.

My mind went briefly to Mr. Smith out there crying in the woods. Racked with guilt and regrets. Weighed down with the burden of lying all his life.

What kind of burdens were weighing on my grandfather I wondered?

I stepped closer to the bed. His blue bathrobe, the one I had given him when I was twelve, was stretched over his thighs. I placed my hand on the worn terry cloth and leaned in. “Who’s Betty, granddaddy?”

“Your mama, Betty Douglas. She lives in North Carolina. In Pettigrew.”

The two adults behind me descended on the old man like an ER team, doing everything but cover his mouth with their hands. Looking back on that day, I think if they hadn’t been so obvious I wouldn’t have gotten so suspicious. I would have marked it up to another Mimi incident. Maybe he had had more than one tryst. He was a handsome old guy with those eyes and that square jaw, and probably had played the field as a younger man.

“What’s going on, Chloe?” asked granddaddy. His body fell back onto his pillow and he gasped, “Good Lord, help us all.”

Ulysses Hunt, the man I had grown to love and trust and learned to call Granddaddy Ulysses, died the next morning. Two days later, I hired a private investigator to help me find this Betty of Pettigrew.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson

Tour Date: August 26

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It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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and his/her book:

Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God

Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)


Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger ( He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590527194
ISBN-13: 978-1590527191


Chapter One

Yawning Angels

Living a Life of Spiritual Adventure

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

The Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit that has always intrigued me.They called Him An Geadh-Glas, or “the Wild Goose.” I love the imagery and implications. The name hints at the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger and an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious at first earshot, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to pursue the Spirit’s leading through life than Wild Goose chase. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something that institutionalized Christianity hasmissed out on. And I wonder if we have clipped the wings of theWild Goose and settled for something less—much less—than what God originally intended for us.

I understand that “wild goose chase” typically refers to a purposeless endeavor without a defined destination. But chasing the Wild Goose is different. The promptings of the Holy Spirit can sometimes seem pretty pointless, but rest assured, God is working His plan. And if you chase theWild Goose, He will take you places
you never could have imagined going by paths you never knew existed.

I don’t know a single Christ follower who hasn’t gotten stressed out over trying to figure out the will of God. We want to solve the mystery of the will of God the way we solve a Sudoku or crossword puzzle. But in my experience, intellectual analysis usually results in spiritual paralysis.

We try to make God fit within the confines of our cerebral cortex. We try to reduce the will of God to the logical limits of our left brain. But the will of God is neither logical nor linear. It is downright confusing and complicated.

A part of us feels as if something is spiritually wrong with us when we experience circumstantial uncertainty. But that is precisely what Jesus promised us when we are born of the Spirit and start following Him.1 Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: adventure.

I think it is only fair that I give aWild Goose warning at the outset of this book: nothing is more unnerving or disorienting than passionately pursuing God. And the sooner we come to terms with that spiritual reality, themore we will enjoy the journey. I cannot, in good conscience, promise safety or certainty. But I can promise that chasing the Wild Goose will be anything but boring!


Not long ago I visited what must be the closest thing to the Garden of Eden left on earth. It almost felt wrong arriving in the Galápagos Islands via airplane. Washing ashore on a bamboo raft would have seemed more apropos.

We spent most of our time island hopping in a boat that didn’t seem large enough for the twelve people on board or the twelve-foot ocean waves we encountered. And sure enough, we discovered that the boat had capsized not long before our visit. That tidbit of information would have been nice to know before we climbed aboard—
but it definitely added an element of adventure.

The entire week was full of new experiences. I went snorkeling for the first time and saw some of God’s amazing underwater creations. Where did He come up with those color schemes? In an unscripted and unforgettable moment, my son Parker and I went swimming with some playful sea lions. And I accomplished one of my life goals by jumping off a forty-foot cliff into a narrow river gorge at Las Grietas.What an adrenaline rush!

The trip consisted of one adventure after another. So the saying in Spanish that we saw on a Sprite can that week seemed fitting, and we adopted it as our mantra: Otro día, otra aventura. Translation: “Another day, another adventure.”

I love those four words inspired by Sprite. They capture the essence of what we experienced day in and day out in the Galápagos. I think those words resonate with one of the deepest longings in the human heart—the longing for adventure. And I’m not sure I could come up with a better description of what it’s like to pursue God. Take theHoly Spirit out of the equation of my life, and it would spell b-o-r-i-n-g. Add Him into the equation of your life, and anything can happen. You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll go, or what you’ll do. All bets are off.

If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you’re following the Spirit but have actually settled for something less—something I call inverted Christianity. Instead of following the Spirit, we invite the Spirit to follow us. Instead of serving God’s purposes, we want Him to serve our purposes. And while this may seem like a subtle distinction, it makes an ocean of difference. The result of this inverted relationship with God is not just a self-absorbed spirituality that leaves us feeling empty, it’s also the difference between spiritual boredom and spiritual adventure.


Situated five hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos chain is one of the most primitive places on the planet.While many of the islands in the forty-nine-island archipelago are inhabited, most of them are absolutely undomesticated. When I was there, I felt as if I were as far from civilization as I could get. It was Edenic.

Somehow I felt a new affinity with Adam in the Galápagos environment. It helped me imagine what life must have been like before the Fall. Scripture tells us that one of the first jobs God gave Adam was naming the animals.2 And we read right past it. But it must have taken years of research and exploration to complete the project. I don’t think God paraded the animals past Adam in a single-file line; I’m guessing God let Adam discover them in their natural habitats. Imagine how thrilling it must have been for Adam to catch his first glimpse of wildebeests stampeding, mountain goats climbing, or rhinos charging.

That’s how I felt when I was in the Galápagos. And it was there that I discovered the difference between seeing a caged animal at a local zoo and getting within arm’s length of a mammoth marine iguana or walking a beach with hundreds of barking sea lions or floating above manta rays as they glide along the ocean floor. It’s one
thing to see a caged bird. It’s an altogether different experience to see a pelican that looks like a prehistoric pterodactyl circling fifty feet above your boat, dive-bombing full speed into the ocean, and coming up with breakfast in its oversize beak.

Few things compare to the thrill of seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat. There is something so inspiring about a wild animal doing what it was created to do. Uncivilized. Untamed. Uncaged. So a few weeks after returning from the Galápagos, our family spent an afternoon at the National Zoo near our home in Washington DC. It’s a fantastic zoo. But it just wasn’t the same after the Galápagos. I’m ruined for zoos. It’s not the same seeing a caged animal. It’s too safe. It’s too tame. It’s too predictable.

At one point we were walking through the ape house, and I had this thought as I looked through the protective Plexiglas window at a four-hundred-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals.

I love the church. I bleed the church. And I’m not saying that the way the church cages people is intentional. In fact, it may be well intentioned. But too often we take people out of their natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the struggle. And what we end up with is a caged Christian.

Deep down inside, all of us long for more. Sure, the tamed part of us grows accustomed to the safety of the cage. But the untamed part longs for some danger, some challenge, some adventure. And at some point in our spiritual journey, the safety and predictability of the cage no longer satisfies. We have a primal longing to be uncaged. And the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die on the
cross to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.

Praying for protection is fine. I pray for a hedge of protection around my three children all the time. You probably pray that kind of prayer too. But when was the last time you asked God to make you dangerous?

I would like to think that when I pronounce the benediction at the end of our church services, I am sending dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the Enemy.


Every once in a while, I have random thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. Here’s a thought that fired across my synapses not long ago: Do angels yawn?

I know it seems like an inane theological question, but I seriously wonder if angels have the capacity to get bored. More important, I wonder if some of us are living such safe lives that not only are we bored, but so are our guardian angels. If they could, would our guardian angels coax us out of our cage and beg us to give them
something dangerous to do?

In the pages that follow you’ll meet some dangerous people. Mind you, they’re ordinary people. They have doubts and fears and problems just like you and me. But their courage to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ will inspire and challenge you to follow them as they follow the Spirit’s leading. I think of Ana Luisa, who used her award miles to fly to India and sacrificially serve some of the poorest of the poor at a medical clinic. I think of Mike, who started a dangerous ministry in a dangerous place—a porn show in Las Vegas. I think of Adam, whose
sensitivity to the Wild Goose resulted in a life-changing encounter on a mission trip half a world away. And I think of Becky, who made a conscious decision to endanger her own life by becoming part of the crusade against human trafficking.

Since when did it become safe to follow Christ? Maybe it’s time to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ.


The Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard believed that boredom is the root of all evil. I second the notion. Boredom isn’t just boring; boredom is wrong. You cannot simultaneously live by faith and be bored. Faith and boredom are antithetical. Against that backdrop, consider the gospel story of the rich young ruler. On paper the rich young ruler had it all: youth, wealth, and power. But something was still missing. The rich young ruler was bored with his faith. And I think it is evidenced by the question he asked Jesus: “What do I still lack?”3

I’ll tell you exactly what he was lacking: spiritual adventure. His life was too easy, too predictable, and too comfortable. He kept all the commandments, but those commandments felt like a religious cage. I think there was a deep-seated longing within him for something more than simply not doing anything wrong.

Listen, not breaking the prohibitive commandments is right and good. But simply not breaking the prohibitive commandments isn’t spiritually satisfying. It leaves us feeling caged. And I honestly think that is where many of us find ourselves.

Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of serving as lead pastor of National Community Church inWashington DC. As with every church, our demography and geography are unique. Seventy percent ofNCCers are single twentysomethings navigating the quarterlife crisis. And most of them live or work on Capitol Hill. So the observation I’m about to share is undoubtedly shaped by the life stage of our congregation and the psyche of our city. But I also think human nature is human nature. And here is what I’ve observed: many, if not most, Christians are bored with their faith.

We know our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We know we will spend eternity with God when we cross the boundary of the spacetime continuum. And we are trying our best to live our lives within the guardrails of God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. But still we have a gnawing feeling that something is missing.

I think the rich young ruler is representative of a generation that longs to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ. But too many among us end up settling for spiritual mediocrity instead of striving for spiritual maturity. Jesus speaks to that deep-seated longing for adventure by challenging us to come out of the cage. But coming out of the cage means giving up the very thing in which we find our security and identity outside of Christ.

In the case of the rich young ruler, his cage was financial security. Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”4

A part of us feels bad for the rich young ruler, right? How could Jesus demand so much? He asked him to give up everything he had! But we fail to appreciate the offer Jesus put on the table.

I live in the internship capital of the world. Every summer tens of thousands of young adults make the pilgrimage to DC to try and land the right internship with the right person because they know it can open the right door. It’s amazing how many members of Congress were once congressional pages and how many Supreme Court justices were once Supreme Court clerks.

I don’t care how much this rich young ruler had to give up—Jesus offered him so much more. This was the opportunity of a lifetime: an internship with none other than the Son of God. Come on, that’s got to look good on your résumé! You can’t put a price tag on that kind of experience. But the rich young ruler turned it down. He opted for the cage. And he made the mistake so many of us make: he chose an accessorized life over a life of adventure, over a life of chasing theWild Goose.

Now juxtapose the rich young ruler with the twelve undomesticated disciples who accepted the unpaid internship. They heard the parables with their own two ears. They drank the water Jesus turned into wine. They filleted the miraculous catch of fish. And they were there when Jesus turned the temple upside down, walked on water, and ascended into heaven.

In a day when the average person never traveled outside a thirtyfive-mile radius of his home, Jesus sent His disciples to the four corners of the ancient world. These ordinary fishermen, who otherwise would have lived and died within sight of the Sea of Galilee, were sent to the ends of the earth as they knew it. What a Wild Goose chase! According to the third-century historian Eusebius, Peter sailed to Italy, John ended up in Asia, James the son of Zebedee traveled as far as Spain, and even doubting Thomas chased the Wild Goose all the way to India.

Just like the rich young ruler, we have a choice to make. The same offer is extended.We can stay in our cage, end up with everything, and realize it amounts to nothing. Or we can come out of our cage and chase theWild Goose.


In the prequel to this book, In a Pit with a Lion on a SnowyDay, I retell the story of an ancient warrior named Benaiah to show how God wants us to chase the five-hundred-pound opportunities that come across our path. And I cite the aphorism “no guts, no glory.” When we lack the guts to step out in faith, we rob God of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.5 In Wild Goose Chase, I want to take it a step further and show you how all of life becomes a grand adventure when we chase the trackless, matchless Goose of heaven.We’ll retrace the steps of sixWild Goose chasers who come right out of the pages of Scripture. And my hope is that their footprints will guide us as we chase theWild Goose. But before the chase begins, I do want to offer one simple reminder.This book is aboutmore than you andme experiencing spiritual adventure. In fact, this book is not about you at all.

It’s a book about the Author and Perfecter of our faith,6 who wants to write His-story through your life. And if you read through Scripture, you’ll discover that His favorite genre is action-adventure.

Sure, you can choose the safety and predictability of the cage, forfeiting the adventure God has destined for you. But you won’t be the only one missing out or losing out. When you lack the courage to chase the Wild Goose, the opportunity costs are staggering. Who might not hear about the love of God if you don’t seize the opportunity to tell them? Who might be stuck in poverty, stuck in ignorance, stuck in pain if you’re not there to help free them? Where might the advance of God’s kingdom in the world stall out because you weren’t there on the front lines?

Jesus’ disciples didn’t just live an exciting life post-Pentecost; they turned the world upside down.7 And that’s what you can be a part of too. Wild Goose Chase is an invitation to be part of something that is bigger than you and more important than you.

Are you in?

In the pages that follow I will identify six cages that keep us from roaming free with theWild Goose and living the spiritual adventure God destined us to. I’m not sure which cages you may find yourself in. But the good news is this: you are only one Wild Goose chase away from the spiritual adventure God has destined for you.

The first cage is the cage of responsibility. Over the course of our lifetime, God-ordained passions tend to get buried beneath day-today responsibilities. Less important responsibilities displace more important ones. And our responsibilities become spiritual excuses that keep us from the adventure God has destined for us. Without even knowing it, we begin to practice what I call irresponsible responsibility. The Wild Goose chase begins when we come to terms with our greatest responsibility: pursuing the passions God has put in our heart.

The second cage, the cage of routine, is almost as subtle as the first. At some point in our spiritual journey, most of us trade adventure for routine. There is nothing wrong with a good routine. In fact, the key to spiritual growth is developing healthy and holy routines known as spiritual disciplines. But once a routine becomes routine, we need to disrupt the routine. Otherwise, sacred routines become empty rituals that keep us caged.

The third cage is the cage of assumptions. Our assumptions keep many of us from chasing theWild Goose. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m underqualified. I’m overqualified. It’s too late. It’s too soon. And the list goes on. As we age, many of us stop believing and start assuming. We stop living out of right-brain imagination and start living out of left-brain memory. And we put eight-foot ceilings on what God can do.

The fourth cage is the cage of guilt. The Enemy’s tactics haven’t changed since the Garden of Eden. He tries to neutralize us spiritually by getting us to focus on what we’ve done wrong in the past. Satan uses guilt to turn us into reactionaries. Jesus came to recondition our spiritual reflexes with His grace and turn us into revolu- tionaries for His cause. As long as you are focused on what you’ve done wrong in the past, you won’t have energy left to dream kingdom dreams.

The fifth cage is the cage of failure. And, ironically, this is where manyWild Goose chases begin.Why? Because sometimes our plans have to fail in order for God’s plans to succeed. Divine detours and divine delays are the ways God gets us where He wants us to go. And the sixth and final cage is the cage of fear. We need to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Instead, we need to start playing offense with our lives. The world needs more daring people with daring plans.Why not you?

I want you to know that before you decided to read this book I started praying for you. I prayed that Wild Goose Chase would get into the right hands at the right time. So I hope this book is more than a casual read for you. It’s a divine appointment waiting to happen. And I believe one chapter, one paragraph, or one sentence can change the trajectory of your life.

Let the chase begin.


O What’s your reaction to the ancient Celtic description of God as the “Wild Goose”—untamed, unpredictable, flying free?

O How have you been living “inverted Christianity,” trying to get God to serve your purposes instead of you serving His purposes?

O Right now, where are you on this spectrum?

O How does the call to spiritual adventure strike you? What is it inside you that resonates with that call?

O Of the six cages described at the end of the chapter, which do you think might apply to you the most and why?

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