Two little Martians landed on a country road in the middle of a cold and dark night. "Where are we?" asked the one. "I think we're in a cemetery," said the other. "There's a marker over here. It says, hmmm,...this earthling lived to be 108!" "Amazing! Does it give the earthling's name?" The other Martian leaned closer and squinted, "Miles from Omaha."

At times we all feel like those Martians : far from home, in a cold, dark place, with no familiar landmarks. Sometimes this dark familiar place is within us. Then we have the terrifying experience of feeling cut off, a stranger to our very self. But sometimes the cold, dark place is all around us as we find ourselves on the outside of love, friendship and meaningful relationships, wanting to get in, yet not knowing how. It's a sad and lonely place to be.

Our hearts tell us how life is supposed to be. There is something inside us, something God put there, telling us that cold and darkness and being an outsider are not at all what we are made for. Something powerful and truthful inside us tells us that we are made to be family : the whole lot of us! Family: where everybody knows your name and there are no strangers, where everyone's face brightens when they hear the familiar sound of your step. Family is what we long for and what we're made for. So why do we get so little of it? Why do we spend so much of our lives as outsiders, cut off, living in the cold and the dark?

The answer lies in today's Scripture; within us and around us there are places that are wounded and broken : deep valleys and lofty mountains that keep us in exile, strangers to each other, perhaps even enemies. So what must we do to? We must identify and name these broken places. Their names are greed, jealousy, pride stubbornness, revenge, resentment, deceitfulness, laziness and the like. Each broken place is a barrier to our happiness and friendships, to our coming together as a family, as a community. These are the places that must be made straight, filled in, made even if we are to be family. The strength of these dangerous valleys like resentment and lofty mountains like pride is in their anonymity! When we deny them or fail to recognize their influence in our lives, they overpower us. But when with God's grace we identify and name them, they lose their power. So, name these broken places! Disown them. Give them up! Only then will God be able to make our journey safe and lead us to family where God intends us to be.

... Or we can remain like the two little Martians who find themselves in a cold, dark place, 108 miles from Omaha, and continue to wonder why we feel like aliens on earth, perennial outsiders to a true sense of family and friendship! The choice is ours.

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