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Archive for November, 2010

Today was Christmas Tree decoration day for the family.     The oldest daughter had been with the family for Thanksgiving break, and was needing to get back to campus, friends, and homework.       Before she left, we wanted to share with her that oldest of family rituals, the decorating of the Christmas tree.    Like most family events, this one has a unique flavor to it: Christmas music on the CD player, a large bin containing four decades worth of accumulated heirloom tree ornaments, and a festive, goofy mood possessed by all.

One thing, one predominate thing, was different this year:  the family had a new member with us.    We have been sharing our life this fall with a group of students from overseas, one young lady from Japan, in particular.    It was a joy and pleasure to have her with us for the tree decorating today.   As we understood that the Christmas experience was not familiar to many Japanese, we began trying to explain things: what we did, why we did it, where the Christmas tree tradition emerged (Germany in the 1600’s, by the way, which our kids did not even know) what different ornaments mean to us, etc. 

When we began to try to explain the star at the top of the tree, it became difficult to convey our mixed paradigm message.    The Christmas tree is fun, family tradition, American tradition, a place to put presents, etc, oh, and by the way, we top it off with the star that symbolizes Jesus birth.    The message was hard to convey, likely lost in translation, both cultural and contextual.

My daughter was trying to convey sound bites to her friend in order to explain the story of Christ’s birth and the tie in with Christmas, my wife was doing the same, and I was (surprise, surprise) tooling around on my iPhone looking for a picture like the one shown above.     We had been getting blank looks that conveyed “I don’t understand”, until I showed the young lady the picture.    Suddenly, her eyes lit up in recognition, and she said “I know this story”.     Just as suddenly, though neither of us understood at the time, my wife and I both had the same sinking feeling.   An hour or so after our friend left with our daughter to go back to campus, my wife and I sat down to discuss the moment.    We know this story, as well.     We are supposed to be living this story, much less doing a good job telling it.    And yet, we could not both help but feeling that the story was reduced to a trite slice of the American commercialized Christmas ritual.     And that did not feel good.

As Christians, specifically as worshipers in a particular southern restoration movement, we spend a lot of time at Christmas (and Easter) telling ourselves and others that we celebrate the story of Jesus, his birth, his life, and his death and resurrection every week, and every day.    “We don’t need a special day or two a year to celebrate the story of Jesus”.     Huh.     Huh?     The feeling hit me today.    We’ve known our young friend from Japan for three months or so now, and while we have seen her at church, have prayed with her over a meal, and know our daughter has had some conversations about Christianity with her, it took a moment with a Christmas tree decoration to bring up “This Story”.

So, there you have it.    I’ll never quite get over the feeling of “is this all there is to it”, or “is this what we have reduced Christmas to”, and I suspect my wife won’t either.    I found her later today researching on the internet about pagan traditions and viewpoints regarding Christmas Trees and what the prophet Jeremiah might (or might not) have had to say on the subject.   

Needless to say, the Binghams find Christmas to be about joy, love, family, sharing, reminiscing, giving, and yes, even tradition.     I don’t think we will be getting rid of our Christmas Tree traditions any time soon, but I suspect we will do an even more intentional job of living and incorporating “This Story” into our every day lives, especially in the month of December.  🙂

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A recent post here dealt with the concept of, or  more accurately the fallacy inherit in, trying to achieve mistake free living.    If you don’t make mistakes, you are not trying hard enough; you are not taking the appropriate risks in life.

So what’s the difference in appropriate risks, versus inappropriate?    Judgement.   Experience.   Discretion.    Guidance.    God’s Wisdom.

I had an opportunity a few weeks ago to pass thru a small community where I lived until the age of ten, a Christian home where my father worked that served children from troubled homes.   One of my most vivid memories of those years were all the young men who died during those years.    Each passed, without exception, as a result of fatal errors in judgement.   The picture above was taken during the recent visit.    Names, faces, stories, and memories came flooding back to me as I walked thru the tiny graveyard.     Poor judgement in handling a firearm; playing thru a dare.    Poor judgement handling an automobile, losing control at a high rate of speed.     Poor care and lack of oversight on a hunting trip.     In each case, a tragic loss of young life the result.

In thinking over this post, I Googled the words “fatal errors”, and found numerous sites devoted to Ten Fatal Errors That Have Killed Experienced Lawmen.     A detail of those errors follows:
   1. YOUR ATTITUDE   If you fail to keep your mind on the job while on patrol or you carry problems from home into the field, you will start to make errors. It can cost you or other fellow officers their lives. Are you wearing your bullet resistant armor? It could save your life.
2.  TOMBSTONE COURAGE   No one doubts that you are courageous. But in any situation where time allows wait for the backup. There are few instances where alone, unaided you should try and make a dangerous apprehension.

3.  NOT ENOUGH REST   To do your job you must be alert. Being sleepy or asleep on the job is not only against regulations but you endanger yourself, the community and all your fellow officers.

4. TAKING A BAD POSITION   Never let anyone you are questioning or about to stop get in a better position than you and your vehicle. There is no such thing as a routine call or stop. They are all “unknown risk” calls or stops.

5.  DANGER SIGNS   As a lawman you will get to recognize danger signs . Movements, strange cars, warnings that should alert you to watch your step and approach with caution. Know your beat, your community and watch for what is out of place.

6. FAILURE TO WATCH HANDS OF A SUSPECT   Is he or she reaching for a weapon or getting ready to strike you? Where else can a potential killer strike but from his or her hands?

7.  RELAXING TOO SOON   The rut of false alarms that are accidentally set off. Walking in and asking if the place is being held up. Observe the activity. Never take any call as routine, or just another false alarm. Its your life on the line.

8.  IMPROPER USE OR NO HANDCUFFS   Once you have made an arrest handcuff the prisoner and do it properly. See that the hands that can kill are safely cuffed.

9.  NO SEARCH OR POOR SEARCH   There are so many places to hide weapons that your failure to search is a crime against fellow officers. Many criminals carry several weapons and are able and prepared to use them against you.

10. DIRTY OR INOPERATIVE WEAPON   Is your firearm clean? Will it fire? How about the ammo? When did you last fire so that you can hit a target in combat conditions? What’s the sense of carrying any firearm that may not work?

As I read thru each of the 10 capitalized topics above, each can be read as an analogy for components in our own life.   Each is not characteristic of mistakes made in a purpose filled life; they are characteristic of putting yourself in a bad place.        Poorly chosen words.    Flashes of anger.    Lust.    Inattentiveness.    Lapses in Judgement.   Foolish courage to expose oneself to temptation.   Stress laden scenarios: not enough time, not enough money, not enough physical reserve and stamina.   Failure to pray.   Each, a contributor to potential for fatal error.

David knew a little about this.     David lived thru some fatal errors; not fatal to him, but fatal to others.     Uriah.  Bathsheeba’s unborn son.   Abasalom.   David’s relationship and influence with many.    And yet, David lived with purpose and direction sufficient to draw him back to God, time and again.    So, too, can we.

Psalm 18: 1-6

I love you, LORD, my strength.

  The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
   my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
   my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

  I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
   and I have been saved from my enemies. 
The cords of death entangled me;
   the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. 
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
   the snares of death confronted me.

  In my distress I called to the LORD;
   I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
   my cry came before him, into his ears.

Yes, there is a difference in a life lived with some mistakes, and fatal error.     A fatal error is one that does not allow full recovery, but there remains hope in the end.

May we all live with the purpose, passsion, patience, and prayer to live free of fatal error.

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“THE THANKSGIVING SONG” / Adam Sandler (family version)

Love to eat turkey
Love to eat turkey
Love to eat turkey
‘Cause it’s good
Love to east turkey
Like a good boy should
‘Cause it’s turkey to eat
So good
Turkey for me
Turkey for you
Let’s eat the turkey
in my big brown shoe
Love to eat the turkey
At the table
I once saw a movie
With Betty Grable
Eat that turkey
All night long
Fifty million Elvis fans
Can’t be wrong
Turkey turkey doo and
Turkey turkeydap
I eat that turkey Then I take a nap
Thanksgiving is a special night
Jimmy Walker used to say Dynomite
That’s right
Turkey with gravy and cranberry
Can’t believe the Mets traded Darryl Strawberry

Turkey for you and
Turkey for me
Turkey and sweet potato pie
Sammy Davis Jr.
Only had one eye
Turkey for the girls and
Turkey for the boys
My favorite kind of pant
Are corduriys
Gobble gobble goo and
Gobble gobble gickel
I wish turkey
Only cost a nickel
Oh I love turkey on Thanksgiving

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Chase what matters

Chase Ultimate Rewards?    We are running for the roses, indeed, but are we “chasing what matters”?

We’ve likely all seen these ads.    A credit card company inferring that use of their product, like many product claims, can help make your life better.    Chase what matters!    These ideas are about to be even more pressing as we approach the Christmas wish list season.

Most of the thoughts that follow below are not original to me as I pondered this question.     I read several advertising websites, some by Chase Bank itself, as well as advertising critique and religious blog sites, and compiled some of the thoughts and ideas that resonated the most with me.

One of the TV ads in this campaing follows a man shopping for a new television who uses Chase Mobile to check his account balance via a simple text message to determine how much he can truly afford to spend. Another TV spot shows a woman actively rock climbing when she receives an alert that her checking balance is low. She is easily able to call Chase to transfer funds into her account so she can avoid an overdraft. Chase is clearly trying to brand itself as the bank to keep up with the needs and desires of people with busy, dynamic lifestyles.    The newest ads show a man using all types of “good luck” rituals in an effort to have “Chase pick up the tab”.    So, we are encouraged to spend more in hopes of winning big?    Sounds a lot like a trip to a casino.

Depending on which side of the coin you’re looking at, it is either insinuating that you should chase what matters to you (and they’ll give you the money for whatever you want) or they are telling you that Chase is what matters. Isn’t this how we got in this whole Credit Crisis mess in the first place?  Don’t have the money to buy that boat you’ve always wanted? No problem, we’re a big established bank so you can trust us to give you the money to go and get what matters to you – whether you can afford it or not.

We’re a country so driven by stuff.  Our love for ‘gear’ and things has us spiraling out of control into debt, divorce and discontentedness.  We think “we’re chasing what matters”; when in fact, we’re just chasing our tails.  We’ve become so off center in our love of money and things that we often times even make our decisions on parenting, church attendance and even political voting based more upon money than we do upon morals.  We focus on an economy in shambles or personal finances that probably won’t be fixed any time soon instead of living meaningful lives.

 ‘Chasing what matters’, means pursuing the dreams He’s put in our hearts for both our lives and His Kingdom!  Those dreams are not about getting, rather they are about giving. 

 What matters to God is people!

So chase what really matters; don’t Chase any camels. They are loaded down, are not going anywhere fast, and because the entry gate is defined, they are likely to not make it in such burdened fashion in to the ultimate destination.

Luke 18:24-26 

Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 

 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is

rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

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Run for the roses?

I was thinking about different moments today, not an unusual exercise on a quiet Saturday at home, and the old Dan Fogelberg tune “Run for the Roses” came to mind.

While this song is about a race horse, and running the Kentucky Derby to be specific, it got me thinking more about the great race we are all in.     It is indeed a “run for the roses”, and I don’t mean an all out effort to be the winner.     What do those horses think when they are in the heat of the moment during the race?     Likely not “I have to get around this track faster than every other horse if I want to get that blanket of roses placed on my back and my picture taken!”.    No, I believe they simply think about running, maybe the stress being forced on them by their riders, but mostly on running the way they were made to run.

So what does this simple analogy say to me?     Run the best I can, and enjoy the race “just for the act of running, the way I was made to”.    Don’t get me wrong: as implied with the picture above, there are “rose moments” to enjoy along the way.    

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.     (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

Not every prize involves coming in first place.    Often the prize is in finishing well at what you started, and in the run itself.

And it’s run for the roses
As fast as you can
Your fate is delivered
Your moment’s at hand
It’s the chance of a lifetime
In a lifetime of chance
And it’s high time you joined
In the dance
It’s high time you joined
In the dance —

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I am reminded daily by this item on my desk that it is OK to make mistakes; it’s how we learn.       Mistakes, even Texas Size mistakes, are not the same as fatal errors.    More on that thought in a later post.      Just keep trying, keep your eraser handy, and take a few pointers from the shared wisdom of others…

It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something.  ~Ornette Coleman

If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems.  And that’s a big mistake.  ~F. Wikzek

While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.  ~Henry C. Link

An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.  ~Niels Bohr

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.  ~John Powell

The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.  ~Edward Phelps

If a mistake is not a stepping stone, it is a mistake.  ~Eli Siegel

One cannot too soon forget his errors and misdemeanors; for to dwell upon them is to add to the offense.  ~Henry David Thoreau

As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes.  ~Mel Brooks

Our blunders mostly come from letting our wishes interpret our duties.  ~Author Unknown

Mistakes fail in their mission of helping the person who blames them on the other fellow.  ~Henry S. Haskins

When you realize you’ve made a mistake, make amends immediately.  It’s easier to eat crow while it’s still warm.  ~Dan Heist

Just because you make mistakes doesn’t mean you are one.  ~Author Unknown

Admit your errors before someone else exaggerates them.  ~Andrew V. Mason

In the game of life it’s a good idea to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season.  ~Bill Vaughan   

(you’re welcome, Mack Brown…)

 

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The Financial Times (London) concluded a headline article today(or does the GMT make it yesterday?) dealing with gold prices, exchange rates, and currencies with a lyric vault moment of their own, quoting the obscure 80’s band Spandau Ballet.

Vindication at last.    If this venerable UK publication can make a point with obscure pop music lyrics, all the better for us to share meaning from the same genre, as well as lines from favorite old movies, and of course, scripture:

Psalm 119: 72-73
Your instructions are more valuable to me
      than millions in gold and silver.
You made me; you created me.
      Now give me the sense to follow your commands.
 

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