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Archive for December, 2011

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,000 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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On the left, a symbol of the ancient Chinese practice of “high tea”; on the right, the embodiment of Western Culture infringing on “Tea Boy’s” place in his world. He looks a little worried, if you ask me, and I certainly would feel the same staring into the eyes of a dragon like that.

But, stare we must, and stare down even. You see, left ignored, our dragons (and we all have them) will not simply go away.

So, what are our dragons? Fear? Insomnia? Anger? Need? Pain? Disease? Loneliness?

I am deep into reading the biography of Steve Jobs that was released after his recent death. The book is a fascinating account of the development of the personal computer industry and how it so rapidly ascended and began to change the world. Imbedded within that amazing story, however, is Jobs, and the man was apparently as much a product of his demons as he was a visionary. He had amazing insight and some philosophical views that make great sense, and yet, he struggled to stare down his dragons, as well as to exercise out his demons.

In the middle of this read, I can’t help but see similarities between the multiple characters in this book and their experiences to those I know, myself, and to our own experiences.

At the heart of so much it all is the great dragon of worry. Jesus talked about it in Matthew 6:

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[d] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

What interested me most after reading this earlier today was the context in which Jesus began to discuss worry. It was not from the point of need, but from the place of those who already possess:

24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

We have a lot in this country, and in this era, our world. There are those in need, but so many in abundance. I wonder which of those two groups has the most worries?

So, casting fears aside, I think I’ll go drink some calming Chinese tea. I would have coffee, but that dragon looks a bit ominous for this time of the day…

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How long? Nine hours to life, I hear they say.

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Baby B boarded a bus this morning, destination Rome. And from there? Her life is open to new definitions. I believe we may have passed the point of know return.

As our car continued south this morning, the chartered bus caravan carrying her local school band veered onto the highway ramp and out of sight. And I wondered, is her trip now past the point of no return?

A bit later in the day, a tune from my past, and the band Kansas, came on the radio and began to bring my thoughts into sync:

I heard the men saying something
The captains tell they pay you well
And they say they need sailing men to
Show the way and leave today
Was it you that said, “How long?”

They say the sea turns so dark that
You know it’s time, you see the sign
They say the point demons guard is
An ocean grave for all the brave
Was it you that said, “How long, how long
How long to the point of know return?”

Your father, he said he needs you
Your mother, she said she loves you
Your brothers, they echo the words
“How far to the point of know return?”
“Well, how long?”

Today I found a message floating
In the sea from you to me
You wrote that when you could see it
You cried with fear, the point was near
Was it you that said
“How long to the point of know return?”

These lyrics were eerily in tune that moment with the song on my heart, and yet, before preparing this post, I did not know that the lyrical “no” was, in fact, penned as the word “know”. Eery, indeed.

Tonight as the balance of the family sat watching the online flight tracker and the evening news, a story came on about two young men who lost their lives yesterday in a nearby car wreck. The culprits: youth, testosterone, and ignorance. And speed: too much speed. But, for them, it is past the point of no return.

Baby B has a twin. A sonographer from years ago originally tagged him Baby A, and he and I sat together, watching and discussing the news of the car accident and the implications for him learning from another’s fatal error. While he is yet to be a driver, I hope he is continuing to a point of know return.

The plane is almost halfway over the Atlantic as of this writing. It can’t turn back now: past the point of no return.

Baby B is due back in about 8 days, but we assume the young lady who boarded today’s bus will return a changed woman, for she will have past another point of know return, and we trust it will be good.

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Red letters, red ties, red sweaters…

There was quite a bit of red on display at our church on Sunday.

You see, Sunday was Christmas Day. Fitting that Christmas Day this year, and the celebration of His birth, fell on the day we celebrate His victory over death. People were out in force for the combined morning worship, new red sweaters, ties, scarves from “Santa”, and such on display.

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The red tie shown here is from my eldest, a Christmas gift hand procured from a street market in China. It is but a small token representing the joy of having a child.

We sang later this Sunday morning with our church about the expression of Mary’s joy over the coming birth of her son Jesus:

My soul magnifies the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God my savior
My soul magnifies the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God.

Glory be to God the Father
Glory be to God the Son
Glory be to God the Spirit
Glory be to God.

He has been mindful of his servant
He has been mindful of me
I will be blessed forever, forever
I will be blessed by the Lord.

God alone is mighty, mighty
Our God alone has done great things
God alone is worthy, worthy
Holy is his name.
*

Joy is a universal emotion. So is sadness, especially at separation. Not the sadness of Mary, per se, at knowing that Jesus could not stay, but maybe more a sense of melancholy.

You see, Christmas is about tradition, and for the Bings, tradition has included full days of family time and not leaving the company of the nest on the magical day.

But the times, they are a changin’, and change brings new traditions, and new people, into our lives. And new can be good, even if it takes red tie giving sweeties away on Christmas day, to spend time with sweeties of their own.

Red ties, red eyes, red sweaters, red letters. Amen. Change can be a good thing.

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*Magnificat – by Randy Gill

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Night and Day

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Without a doubt, NBA basketball has been good for Oklahoma City. The game returns this next week, and I surmise that folks are ready for some gamers to hit the hardwood.

What the NBA has not been kind to is College basketball in our fair but finite state. There are only so many fans, so many dollars, and so many discretionary hours to go around, and they are going to the benefit of two great college football programs, and to the mighty Thunder Rising.

I’m currently in the mid two game lull of the 76th annual OKC All College Classic here at “The ‘Peake” Arena, and it is quite a lull. OU just had an impressive and exciting comeback
win over Houston, but the place is pretty quiet. We shall see if Keiton Page can fire up as many Cowboy fans as he does 3’s before this night is over.

Thunder Up. The town is ready, no disrespect to our College gamers. There’s only so much fandom to go around…

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There’s a great exchange in the 1996 movie “Twister” between two characters, Beltzer and Dusty, while they are chasing a tornado. As the scene unfolds, they are barreling down a dirt road at a high rate of speed in old trucks, and are shouting to each other over a CB radio:

Beltzer: Normal man spends his life avoiding tense situations.
Dusty: Repo Man spends his life getting into tense situations, Beltzer!

All the while, as the scene unfolds, a Van Halen tune accompanies them in the background:

There is just enough Christ in me
To make me feel almost guilty
Is that why God made us bleed
To make us see we’re Humans Being?

…Shine on, shine on.

This scene was playing in my mind as I awoke this morning. What is it about intense situations? Most of us avoid them like the plague, or at least we would like to think that we do.

Life tends to find us getting into such moments, often when we are not quite prepared. We go charging into the tornado, maybe wanting the thrill, maybe in the name of scientific inquiry, or maybe “to learn something that will help others down the road”. Irregardless, when debris, or even cows, start to fly by our window, we often wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into.

As a person sometimes characterized as “being too nice”, the lyrical soundtrack behind the aforementioned movie scene resonates with me:

There is just enough Christ in me
To make me feel almost guilty
Is that why God made us bleed
To make us see we’re Humans Being?

…Shine on, shine on.

Thinking this over today made me recall Jesus’ own words about getting into the Kingdom, and it made me wonder if he wasn’t really talking about money at all:

Mark 10:23-25: Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

Maybe Jesus was talking about the life situation, and all the baggage, responsibilities, and entanglements that come with being rich. As a nation that is arguably the richest in the world, we are really good at finding ourselves in intense situations. I guess that’s why we have so many lawyers.

Not much to conclude here, except that when we’re made to bleed, we need to dust ourselves off and shine on.

Hopefully there is more than enough Christ in me to do more than just feel guilty. Intense situations abound.

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Did I mention that Daughter-chan returned last week? If I did, let me
add that she brought me some sand from various beaches on multiple Isles/continents.

Why would she carry little bags of sand all around the world, you might ask? Well, maybe because her father is strange, and she knew he cared.

You see, several years back, I began collecting bits of sand from each beach destination. The Texas Gulf Coast, Alabama, Oregon, and California each represented a layer, or Strata, within the jar. Each band is different in color and composition, and each reminds me of a different time and place in life.

I can now add to that a shell from Japan, the heavy black sand of New Zealand, the thick yellow sand of Australia, and the volcanic traced white/grey sands of Hawaii.

A couple of “mental strata moments” resonate from last night’s exercise of adding to the jar. First, just the very composition of the sand within the jar reflects life in the past. Rich bits of organic material are spread amongst the millions of grains of silica in my relatively small jar. Second, the layers are distinct in color and appearance, but once added to the “experience base” they are impossible to remove or separate from the others. Third, obviously, is the acknowledgement that sand is sticky and sometimes messy. The act of filling the jar always leaves bits of each experience scattered about to be tiny nuisances from then on: sand is very hard to clean out and eradicate.

And, finally, even the vessel, the jar, is a gift not of my own generation. This particular jar, etched with my name, was a gift over 30 years ago from a now deceased Great Uncle/Great Aunt Combination, and the collection of
Memories would not be the same
without their contribution.

Even the very jar is a product of sand. It is shaped by fire, hardened, and refined, and yet has imperfections likely known only to me. Should time continue, one day the jar will break, and all of the experiences, matter, and memories will blend into a mass of matter that few if any will recognize or remember, but the experiences will have happened, nonetheless.

I’m grateful for the sand, those who’ve helped me collect it, and for the lessons it helps me to remember. Each of us have a “survivor story” to tell.

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