Disengaging the clutch.

I’m now the proud owner of a 1981 Kubota B7100. This 30+ year old tractor came to me after several years’ worth of hope, 6 months of searching, and a rearrangement of money that made just the right deal possible at just the right moment. I still beam and almost clap my hands when I think about the way it all worked out, the deals I turned down because they weren’t “right,” and the way this one did work out.

You could say, though, that this deal didn’t work out “perfect.” The tractor came to me with a problem with the clutch. I went ahead and bought the tractor with the problem after negotiating the price down by the amount we expected the repairs to cost. Fair enough. It’s a 30 year old tractor, with a loader, with a mower, with 4 wheel drive, and even with a pretty good paint job and very little rust… you’re going to have to do SOMETHING to the thing. Thing is, 1 day after getting the tractor back, the problem started all over again. What they’d fixed was not the problem… or something else was causing to re-occur. So here my tractor has sat for over a month, waiting on a local guy to come fix it, but he’s of course busy with the REAL farmers right now. So I wait. And wait. And wait.

But then I stopped waiting. And asked a mechanic friend if he thought WE could do it. And he did. What scared me the most about doing it myself was that “myself” part. And now that’s not there. Now it’s “we.” But that’s a side story. What I’m writing about today is the clutch. Disengaging the clutch.

My first car was a manual transmission, so I learned to operate a clutch early in life – over 20 years ago, I guess. The thing is, I never knew how one worked until now. You push the pedal, gears release, you move to another gear, and put everything back under a load. Easy enough. Yeah, there are parts that wear out from friction or overuse, but what actually goes on inside, I never knew until recent exploration on my own and explanations of a good friend.

You see, to DISENGAGE a clutch, you actually apply PRESSURE to the pedal. You push, and something pulls away. Now that I’ve seen the internal components (and will soon see them actually all connected up when we work on the tractor), I see how it works. You push the pedal, it pushes it’s way through some linkages to this bearing (I’m still learning what a bearing is), and it in turn pushes against this plate, which by some force of nature causes springs to pull the friction plate of the clutch away from the flywheel, setting your shaft and gears free of the load. It’s actually quite simple.

So what’s that mean for me?

I have a hard time disengaging. I go at full speed for hours, days, and months, and then when I try to shift gears, it’s like I don’t have a clutch. I either can’t get into the lower gear to enjoy life for a bit, or I grind life to pieces in the process. I forget to find, and to use, that “something” that will act as a clutch in life, giving me time to release, to be in neutral, and THEN to shift into a new gear and slowly reapply the pressure of what drives life.

[As I write this, I know it’s not all neat and complete. This is a bit rambling. But it’s putting into words what I’m walking in life, which feels much the same.]

On a side note, my tractor doesn’t have synchronizers (I think that’s what you call it). In a car (where you have these), you can shift from one gear to another with the clutch disengaged and not stop your motion. Not so in a tractor. You’re supposed to come to a stop, shift gears, and THEN start back up again. This allows the gears to line up properly without having to do so on the fly.

Again… such is life. Sometimes you can’t shift from HI to LOW while moving at MEDIUM. Sometimes you have to come to STOP – to NEUTRAL – before you can reengage.

Hmm… good stuff here. Glad I woke up early to write and listen to the rain fall. I’m glad I get to take Monday off to work with a friend and split my tractor in two to work on something I’m not familiar with. I’m glad.

I’m also thinking it may be about time to disengage for more than a day. Maybe when the kids go to Pennsylvania to be with their grandparents we’ll do something special. GO somewhere we can’t work. Go somewhere where nature speaks, where the stars pour out wisdom.

I like that idea.



The Puny Life of Freedom

spacious sky

An undisciplined, self-willed life is puny;

an obedient, God-willed life is spacious.

Psalm 15:32 (Message)

Puny. Ever felt that way? It’s a very touchy-feely word. You hear it, and you can visualize it immediately. I’ve never really thought of what the word meant, so I looked it up today:

  1. pu·ny  

    1. Small and weak.
    2. Poor in quality, amount, or size.
    little – small – petty – feeble – slight – weak – weakly

That’s the definition of puny. Small. Weak. Petty…. yeah, that’s puny. Of course none of us wants to be puny. So we imagine the opposite… strong. big. massive. necessary. That’s what I want, yeah. The thing is, though, you can’t just flip a switch here. Being puny is the result of a life of “puny-ness,” if that’s a word. It’s the result of accepting your role in life as insignificant and “less.”

The proverb for today on the Daily Audio Bible jumped out at me, not because of the word puny, but because of the alternative…. SPACIOUS. Not a common antonym, but accurate nonetheless. It make me imagine a Montana sky, although I’ve never seen one. An astronaut in orbit. A diver in the ocean.

These situations do not describe the person. They describe the environment that person lives within… where they dwell. Those who live undiciplined live the puny life because they actually stick themselves in a box that is so SMALL only THEY fit into it. It may feel free and easy, but in reality, it’s not. It’s small, tight, cramped, and nobody else wants in. The life that’s lived in light of something – of someONE – bigger is where it’s at. That’s where the space is. That’s where we can run, play, and grow strong. Where we can laugh, love, and enjoy.

I want space. I want to explore. To be free. To laugh. To relax. To fully engage. And even to fully DIS-engage.


montana sky

Lectio Divina – Psalm 23

This weekend I was able to be part of a men’s retreat led by Brian Hardin of the Daily Audio Bible. It was a great chance to get away for a day and enjoy God’s presence with some other men – some who I share life with, and some that I had never met before. That sounds like the cliche description of a men’s retreat, but it really was a great piece of the weekend.

During the retreat we shared a few discussions about the importance of having the Bible in our lives. Not as a ritual or something we check off our list every day, but as a true companion through life. I’ve come to love the time I spend in the word through the Daily Audio Bible, but have been wanting to find a way to step back and dig in a bit more lately beyond my daily chunk of the Word and a weekly visit to church to hear a sermon.

Brian shared a model with us known as Lectio Divina. It’s an ancient method of diving into God’s word in a way that, to me, is much more “whole” than the simply reading or listening to of a passage and then going on with life. It’s almost like making a meal out of the Word… you pick your food, you chew on it, you chew on it some more, you process it, and it eventually is transformed into the energy that gives you LIFE. I’m not going into detail on Lectio Divina here, though… I want to jot down something specific to my story (since that’s what I do here).

We spent some time diving into Psalm 23 together in this method. First we read the Psalm together – out loud – in several translations. Then we chewed on it, privately, and together. Then we shared, and then we chewed… much like a cow, chewing it’s cud, over, and over, and over… and every time, more began to jump out. Even in this familiar Psalm, we heard things we’d never heard before.

What jumped out at me were these particular words as read from the New English Translation:

You prepare a feast before me
in plain sight of my enemies.

In all my years, I’ve heard this line – “you prepare a table before me…” and never really thought about what that meant. A FEAST. Not a quick snack. a FEAST. Right there, smack dab in the middle of warfare and enemies on all side, the Lord prepares me a FEAST. When we’re feasting, we’re not worrying. When we’re feasting, we’re laughing, sharing stories, and completely relaxed. I get that, but “in plain sight of my enemies?” That is not something I’ve ever really thought was offered.

This weekend I received that very feast. Between the men’s retreat, my friends from the DAB being in town, a family gathering, and wonderful fellowship on Sunday, this weekend was truly a FEAST for me. Blessing abounding, here, there, and everywhere. 

The thing is, though, enemies were all around. Busy-ness as we prepared the weekend. A death in the family. A demand letter for $900 that showed up unexpectedly in the mail that I must address. An upset client. Enemies. Fear. Dread. Stress. Worry. Those are my enemies. And yet in the midst of that, the Lord prepared me a FEAST of fellowship, and even of actual food (man, was that good stuff!).

In the midst of my battles, my God prepared me a feast. He brought it to my doorstep, dined with me, and put my enemies at bay. As I launch myself back into the fray, I don’t consider that weekend lost or even a distant memory. It is an integral part of my walk, a rest along the way and a reminder of my Father’s love.

I’m so glad that I had the chance to glean this new insight from Psalm 23. To chew on it for several days and relish it. Wanna give it a try? It is hard to stop. To unwind. To read out loud when you could skim. To read again, and again, and again. To stop. To listen.

But it’s good.