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Archive for March, 2012

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Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God
. Micah 6:7-9

Travel makes me think. That may sound odd, but time away from my own element, especially extended time spent with strangers, many of which do not even speak my native language, causes me to reflect and consider things in ways I normally might not under more routine circumstances.

The realm of material things has been a consistent theme recurring on this trip. It began a week or so back during a visit to our campus by international travel writer and PBS personality Rick Steves. His message prompted me to “pack light” and make the current trip with nothing more than I could carry with me comfortably. With the possible excuse of carrying something with me to deliver for a friend, one bag became two, and yet an item or two of clean/not worn extra clothing went back into the bag as I packed tonight for the return trip coming in a few hours. Oh well, more room for Shokolade and Butterkerks to make the trip home, yah? I digress.

As I prepared to board the connecting flight to leave The States on Saturday, people were clamoring to gather their “Duty Free” purchases. That word for taxation takes on a whole “double entendre” context when it comes to buying for ourselves.

Back to my original point. The joyful and loving house church gathering I was blessed to attend yesterday was studying from Ephesians 5:

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.

As the discussion of these verses followed their reading, the conversation focused heavily, if not solely, on the concepts of greed and idolatry. At least, that’s what my sleep deprived ears gleaned from the one who was translating the dialogue into English for me.

Wait. What about the “heavy sins” that command so much of that text? These were my thoughts. We (my Euro based American missionary work friends and I) discussed this all over lunch, a very nice lunch, complete with extended time, sunshine, and ice caffee. “Europeans just don’t see the need for a bunch of stuff” was one of their insights. Touché. In exchange, most live on less, in turn buying less, in turn feeling better about their smaller spaces, in turn having more free time from cleaning, insuring, self storing, garage sale-ing, and so on, and so on, and visa-versa. And they don’t mind sitting, and sharing, for hours over coffee, and Communion, and prayer, and loving consideration, all before any of them worried about lunches not yet planned or eaten, and it already being after 1:30.

Covetousness, Idolatry. These were words they used. I even heard some of them switch to English for our benefit. Maybe these are “heavy sins” as well?. After all, they are included in Ephesians 5 right along with other “immoralities”.

If it takes you away (consumingly so) from time with God, it is an idol. These were their thoughts. If it takes us away from one another, equally so? These were my thoughts.

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God
.

Duty free? Not hardly. Hauling home the shokolade and butterkerks may be more taxing than I first imagined…

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I’m reading Rick Steves’ book as I await my hop to Wien.   My favorite quote this far is from a Dutch couple:

“GOD created all the world.  It was.marvelous.  But France..it was just too perfect, so he put in the French to balance things out.

…and Canada could have had it all: British culture, French.cuisine, and American know how.   But they messed up and got British food, French know how, and American culture…

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Somewhere in a lonely hotel room
There’s a guy starting to realize
That eternal fate has turned it’s back on him.

It’s 2am….

It’s 2 am
The fear is gone
I’m sitting here waiting…

Maybe my connection
Is tired of taking chances

Yeah, there’s a storm on the loose
Sirens in my head
Wrapped up in silence
All circuits are dead
Cannot decode
My whole life spins into a frenzy

Help I’m steppin’ into the Twilight Zone
Place is a madhouse
Feels like being cloned

My becaon’s been moved
Under moon and star
Where am I to go 
Now that I’ve gone too far…

OK, so its not 2 AM here, but it is somewhere, and when I heard this old 80’s Golden Earring tune in the car today as I pulled into the airport, yet again, before 6 AM, the lyrics resonated with me a bit.

Don’t you judge me, Paul Blart.   I’m a bit sleep deprived, and it is about to get worse.   But, as I sit here in Virginia, going on Vienna, I can’t help but think on sojourns past, some even through this very airport.   Debit cards and “Rent A Wreck”, anyone?   Good times, good times…

And, just think, 48 hours after touching down on the old continent, I will turn around and do the whole thing over again.   At least the Westbound movie is different from its Easterly brother.

In the meantime, I can sit here (lay over, moreso) and contemplate trips past, and what needs to be accomplished on the trip about to come…

My becaon’s been moved
Under moon and star
Where am I to go 
Now that I’ve gone too far

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Now come and listen to my story about a man named…Dan. But, first, some background is in order.

Author Donald Miller defines “story” in the following way:

The elements of a meaningful story are the same as the elements of a meaningful life: A character that knows what they want and is willing to overcome conflict to get it.

Do you know exactly what you want and why? And do you appreciate or bemoan the conflict you endure? Is your story more interesting to you than television? Is all of life boring or is just your life boring? Do you believe you can make changes that will make your life more interesting?

Back to Dan. No, I’m not confusing Ackroyd for Bill Murray and his “Cinderella Story” portrayed in the film Caddyshack. Murray’s character wanted something, which was to kill the groundhog. Murray’s character, rather than overcoming conflict, created conflict, and blew up the landscape along the way.

No, my Dan character is in real life, and coaches college basketball. For years, his teams have known what they wanted, and have been willing to overcome conflict to get it. But, at some point, you have to ask yourself if the goals of all the combatants are truly the same, and if the same rules of engagement apply to all.

Winning championships is great, but operating with consistent high goals and integrity is even better. Graduating your players, rather than seeking out the highest short term gain via “rented” NCAA refugee mercenaries, is the true objective.

This year, Dan’s last in the NAIA, saw him starring in a “Cinderella Story” of sorts and unexpectedly winning his final conference crown. Moving on to the national stage, the story did not play out.

Or, will it play out after all? You see, Cinderella lived long in the shadow of her evil stepsisters and unfair and abusive stepmother. Despite it all, she got to go to the big dance, but that was not the final prize.

As I returned to the OKC airport after a disappointing day at the tourney, the following Toby Keith tune greeted me on the car radio:

Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we’ll sing a victory tune
We’ll all meet back at the local saloon
We’ll raise up our glasses against evil forces…

Evil forces, and your rules of engagement, we bid you adieu. Look out Heartland Conference, here come the mighty Eagles. You know the Eagles, they are the ones with the degreed alums and former Academic All Americans cheering in the stands…and the 2012 SAC Conference championship trophy in the case, earned the hard way. We couldn’t be any prouder of their story.

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Way back In 1985, I first heard the tune “Friends” during an OC Spring Sing performance. For the remaining weeks of that term, everyone was running around singing the tune. I had never heard of Michael W. Smith before, and had no concept of how his music would follow along the jagged path of adult life.

Not so many weeks later, I met an adjunct professor, a young man named Barry, and watched his courtship and marriage to a young lady named Tonda. Little did I know of the friends from our future families, young ladies yet to be born.

I struggled with what to say at this time. Smith’s words from 85 have been rattling thru my brain since learning last evening of the passing of Barry and Tonda’s dear Rebecca, and knowing what a friend she has been for my Hannah, but two of those “young ladies yet to be born” from our days past.

A short time ago, I read my Hannah’s words about Rebecca, and her use of Smith’s “This was her time” to honor her friend. In closing these thoughts, nothing seemed better to share about friends. Thanks to our Lord and Savior, they are forever. You see, back in 85, these young ladies were yet to be born, indeed. Born, and born again, they both were. And now Rebecca has arrived for life eternal. Her friends look forward to each of their unique appointed times to follow. It will be beautiful, indeed.

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter in your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

With the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you’ll live in
Is the strength that now you show

But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

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That tree was not there before, but I was. I believe it was 32 years ago, give or take a few days.

Today, students meet for “see you at the pole” days to pray and reflect. Back then, I would go out with a friend to put the flag up each morning, and do the same to take it down each evening.

Once upon a time, I was a student at Fort Worth Christian School. It followed several years (with my family, mind you) living at a children’s home in East Texas. What followed it was a brief sojourn to the” deep south” of Louisiana, and then my Yankee years in Oklahoma. The rest is history, or so they say. But, what happened in between, and along the way? What was good? What was not so good? What would they find if they uncovered all my tracks?

I attended a fund raising event for FWC the other evening, and it was one of my few times to look back and reflect on those years. Amy Grant was there to sing and help encourage people to support the cause, and she sang a song.

What if? There are few moments in life where I can say I was truly caught red handed in doing something wrong. Once was making an ugly face behind my mother’s back in East Texas 40 or so years back. Big sister ratted me out, and let’s just say it did not turn out well for yours truly that night. Mom even threw away my Captain Crunch cereal before I has a chance to eat it, but I digress.

Another time was indeed “there at the pole” on the campus of good old FWC. You see, as an 8th Grader, a friend and I were privileged to leave 7th hour each day 10 minutes early to take down and fold the flags. We got to be so “efficient” at this task that I could have the flags down and put away in about a third of that time, could go to my locker and get my stuff, and could be halfway up the street toward my house when the dismissal bell rang. “Star Blazers” (a great Japanese anime show) came on each weekday at 3:30, and I never missed it. Never, that is, until my 7th hour teacher caught me running out at 3:25 one day.

So, as we think over the “what would they find” moments of our lives, not so big moments, and the not so small, I’m glad we have grace. I’m also glad for chances to recall, and to smile at the memories…


What would they find if they uncovered all my tracks
Of roads I’d snuck down and darkness and never turn back
Well they’d find what they’re looking for
Secrets and so much more
What would they find if they searched for a heart of gold
They’d find sacrifices of time and money never told
Yeah they’d find what they’re looking for
Kindness and so much more

Cause there’s so much good in the worst of us
So much bad in the best of us
It never makes sense for any of us
To criticize the rest of us
We’ll just find what we’re looking for
We’ll find it and so much more

What would I find if I turned back the time on your face
Could I piece together the memories that have made you this way
I might find what I’m looking for
Understanding and so much more

Haven’t we all learned the best life lessons
By falling and falling down hard
If we’re looking for somebody’s failures
We won’t have to look very far

Cause there’s so much good in the worst of us
So much bad in the best of us
It never makes sense for any of us
To criticize the rest of us
We’ll just find what we’re looking for
We’ll find it and so much more

What would they find if they uncovered all my tracks

Lyrics by Amy Grant

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