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Day after day, it reappears.

I have this friend.   I’d like to say our respective roles are part mentor, part mentee, but in truth we are men at work, to borrow a phrase.   Therein, may I suggest, lies the rub.

He and I were touring through an exhibit yesterday dubbed “National History Day”.   In the course of conversation, he mentioned how over a third of all submitted written work is likely partially or heavily plagiarized.   Is it from laziness, or could it be mankind is caught up in the knowledge that there are new questions or problems under the sun?   

Solomon, himself, could not have said it any better, and yet I believe he did.   Touché?

In the spirit of “turnitin.com”, may I suggest some, if not much, of our work and daily walk is being vetted in this great algorithm we call life.

Truth be told, this idea drives a proverbial stake toward the heart of issues I am living with in many current friendships, each of which defines me as “the older guy” in the equation.

Friendships dealing with work.

Friendships dealing with disease.

Friendships dealing with temptation.

Friendships questioning purpose, and meaning.

Friendships abounding in love.

In my younger days, “Men at Work” was an Australian rock band.   While their stardom may have been short lived, at best, their lyrical musings came to me in a conversation with one young friend just the other night.   See if my plagiarized memory strikes a chord with you:

I can’t get to sleep

I think about the implications

Of diving in too deep

And possibly the complications

Especially at night

I worry over situations

I know will be all right

Perhaps it’s just imagination

Day after day it reappears

Night after night my heartbeat shows the fear

Ghosts appear and fade away.

  
Day after day, it reappears, indeed.  It did again today.  So, too, do the words of the LORD:

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:25-31‬ 

Overkill?   I think not.

Plagiarism?  Perhaps, but there is no problem new under the sun.

We all just need to turn it in, to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

Yes. I too read that somewhere.

Amen.

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I have a confession to make. I likely have several confessions to make, but will limit this to admitting I have a thing for cheesy movies. Spoofs, Chick Flicks (my weakness, to be sure), and clean B- comedies all strike a chord with me. It may have something to do with laughing with my kids, but I confess it likely goes beyond said moments.

A particular favorite of my kids and I is Paul Blart, Mall Cop. Kevin James has a unique brand of physical trauma comedy, and the movie contains a sweet and redemptive storyline. At one point in the movie, Blart finds himself making a mistake or two while seeking acceptance among his peers, and it leads to a most unfortunate (and large) tattoo. His only defense is to acknowledge his great weakness: “I really don’t drink“.

I don’t drink, in the physical sense of the term. Seriously. It’s a personal thing, one that I won’t burden you with the details of here. If you ever want to know why, there’s probably a time and place for that conversation.

I have another confession to make. I don’t drink, generally speaking, in the spiritual sense of the term, and that is unfortunate. Allow me to explain this analogy further.

When I was back in high school, one of my earliest “on my own” adult experiences was to drive myself to the dentist for some repair work on my teeth. The nurse got me all prepped before the dentist made his grand entrance into the room. After the cursory “how are you doing” conversation with me, he proceeded to put his hands into my mouth and began the requisite small talk with his assistant.

The conversation that followed almost brought me up out of the chair. His nurse asked about his especially good demeanor that day, and he responded by admitting “I’ve been drinking a new wine”!

Thankfully, he did not stop talking there.

You see, my dentist back in good old Shreveport, America was a man of faith, and on this particular Friday afternoon, he was feeling especially grateful to his Lord and Savior. It is a verbal exchange that I have never forgotten.

God is good, all the time. God is faithful, even when life seems too hard to understand. The older I get the more I see that everyday, in the lives of those around me, and in the blessings in my own walk.

The choice to truly enjoy His faithfulness is up to me, however. Psalm 34:8 says:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Such joy is found in the little things: the sound of the rain on the rooftop, the sweet spirit of my cat as it climbs into my lap early every morning and after I return home every afternoon, the laughter of my children, and the wry smile of my wife when we are both quietly thinking the same thing. Sometimes, such joy even comes in the middle of a sinkful of dirty dishes.

This morning, the music of Brandon Heath’s rendition of “Shout to the Lord” was playing during a requisite loading of the dishwasher, and just hearing the words were like a new wine, indeed, or so I assume. You see, I don’t drink, in the physical sense of the word, and I’m not about to start.

However, I may take up drinking more deeply, in the spiritual sense. It seems like a good idea, and I’m likely not at risk of tattooing anything permanently…

My Jesus, My Savior,
Lord, there is none like You;
All of my days
I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love.

My comfort, my shelter,
Tower of refuge and strength;
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You.

Shout to the Lord, all the earth,
Let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King;
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name.
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands,
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand,
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.

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Unknown

Plumb: a lead weight attached to a line and used to indicate a vertical direction.

out of plumb or off plumb:  out of vertical or true.

So defined is the term by Merriam-Webster online.

As one who has done a little wallpapering in my day, I’ve learned the value, sometimes the hard way, of being out of plumb.

Is it straight?   Is it true?    Does it stand tall?   Does it risk falling over?   Or, much less risky but much more visible, will the condition call attention to itself for years to come?

My first experience was as a teenager helping my mother re-paper our dining room in Shreveport, Louisiana.   Having never done the job before, we just jumped in.  While the work was done quickly and the wall surfaces felt nice and smooth, it was soon evident when standing back a few feet that the vertical stripe pattern had a distinct tilt to it, even though it looked like we were putting it up straight.   Fortunately, the china cabinet just happened to fit nicely in a place that would hide our error, and on we went.   Undoubtedly, it was noticed by others in the years that followed.plumb

The building I office in at my employer is vintage 1950’s, and is the product of a noted west coast architect from that era.   It recently underwent a major gutting and renovation, and only at that time did we discover one of the most visible outer walls, leading from the ground up to a 7 foot window ledge and bounded by ground to ceiling windows on each side, is far from plumb.   The error was hidden in the past by a particular sub-wall and door facing, but cannot be hidden any longer. The tilt is now prominent for all to see, and makes for an interesting story.   And yet, it is still a great building, with wonderful history and an impactful legacy.   So, being “out of plumb” is not always equivalent to fatal failure, even if less than desirable.   Sometimes great character comes from such flaws.

I recently attended a concert event with some friends.   One of the opening acts was a singer who calls herself “Plumb”.   Her most current hit song seems to hit the nail right on the head, or maybe more appropriately to be straight and true.   Consider the lyrics for yourself and see if you agree:

Well, everybody’s got a story to tell

And everybody’s got a wound to be healed

I want to believe there’s beauty here

‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on

I can’t let go, I can’t move on

I want to believe there’s meaning here

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

Standing on a road I didn’t plan

Wondering how I got to where I am

I’m trying to hear that still small voice

I’m trying to hear above the noise

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

Though I walk,

Though I walk through the shadows

And I, I am so afraid

Please stay, please stay right beside me

With every single step I take

How many times have you heard me cry out?

And how many times have you given me strength?

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to

Just keep breathing?

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

I need you now

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

I need you now

I need you now

I’ve reached a place in life where many roads are converging.  Some call it the sandwich generation.   Our parents have aged.   Our kids somehow suddenly reached a point that their actions are more impactful.   I look in the morning mirror, and am starkely reminder that both statements are true of myself, as well.

Some call it mid life, and refer to it as a time of crisis.   I believe all of life presents moments of challenge and crisis, but may I suggest our response and reaction is every bit as important, even more so, as finding out we may have been “out of plumb” to begin with.   Maybe it is in mid-life that we are better equipped to reflect and respond to the inherent flaws in our prior efforts.

There’s another word called grace, and even another called forgiveness.   They remain with us, even if the evidence of a tilt remains.

Nothing says it better than Hebrews 14: 12-16:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.  

 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

 

 

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I woke up this very early morning thinking about several weighty things.

In the midst of it all, wrists deep in a load of dishes in need of cleaning, a song came to mind. Little surprise in that. Fancy meeting you in the purple stew, indeed, to quote a phrase.

It very much falls in the category of “we don’t sing that one, anymore”. Little surprise in that, as well, and it’s sad.

Anyway, I could talk,about the song and why I think it came to mind, or I can simply share the thoughts of another who has already done so more eloquently than I likely could, or would. Most likely, I might be guilty of “not mentioning it” at all. See what you think.

Don’t mention it…

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I’ve been challenged this morning. I’ve been challenged by words. Words like “maudlin“, which I admit I had to look up a definition for, were awaiting me this morning. I will confess to being occasionally, if not frequently, guilty of demonstrating said word. I might be sorry, or I might not. For now, I will settle for “guilty”.

And, I have been challenged by The Word. The Word was also awaiting me this morning in the form of an email challenging me to accept a reading plan. Would’nt you know that it started me in John chapter 1?

I don’t want to be maudlin about all of this. I don’t want to lose my head. Or, maybe I do. Maybe that is what He is calling me to. It certainly was the case for John, and he was but one to help point the way for others.

It is Mothers Day today. On this day of recognition, I hope to be learning the path to be a better father.

I may be losing my head. I’m OK with that. If I come across as maudlin in the process, I will plead guilty.

Word up?

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What is killing you?

No, I didn’t just call Neil Arter a monkey, but if I had, it would have been a complement, for I have been imitating him in some ways for a while now.

As I’ve said before, it was Neil and his posse that coerced, if not forced, me to participate in my first ever OKC Memorial event three years and four races ago. I quickly caught the bug, and have done a few more events since then. Mostly, I’ve tried to just be more active.

Yesterday was my 4th time in this specific event, and I was not alone. After completing it with my family, some of us walking, and others running like the wind, it was great to reflect on something Little Frau had said to me in the car much earlier that morning as the six of us headed toward Downtown OKC: “This is your deal”. She was right, but it was great to have some with me, both those who had been coerced, and those who were becoming fellow imitators.

As we arrived at church later that morning, the lesson was entitled “Monkey see, Monkey do”, and was all about becoming imitators, and encouragers.

Ephesians 4:1-3: Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Ephesians 5:1-2: 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.

Philippians 2:1-4: Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

I don’t have it all figured out. I need to be better about taking care of my health, both in level of activity, and in what I consume. I need to be a more diligent student of the Word. I need to be better about taking care of things, whether it be my lawn, my car, what I say, or otherwise. And, I need to let my kids (and others) see me doing it. Hopefully they will be encouraged to imitate the same.

The first time I participated in this Memorial event, there were two of us. By the next time, there were still just two. Two times two is four. By the third time, there were four of us running. Four times four is sixteen. This time around, there were five of us running. Five times sixteen is eighty. Fourscore, indeed.

Four. Score. Yes, I think we did. We have the medals, muscle aches, and memories to prove it. I hope we continue to run to remember. And to imitate, for whatever is killing us, we can help each other by word and deed.

Just like Neil does. Monkey see, Monkey do. Yes, I just called myself a monkey.

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Two years ago, the university I am affiliated with began the process of moving our athletic affiliation to the NCAA. It was not an easy decision. We were accustomed to the traditions of our old association. There were established, sometimes bitter, rivalries that we were accustomed to. And then, there were the rules and regulations.

Yes, the NCAA is known for its rules, and the enforcement thereof. Violating a rule at this level can get you a handslap, a public flogging, or even “the death penalty”, depending on the severity of the violation. And yet, for a myriad of reasons the NCAA is the right affiliation for our university.

The history of intercollegiate sport, and certainly athletics in general, long predates the founding of NCAA, but don’t tell that to some in their leadership circle. It can be our little secret. The 26.2 mile race known as the marathon, in fact, dates back to the namesake battle around 490 BC. The famed James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891, 15 years before the creation of the NCAA.

Speaking of 1906, another organization dates back to that year, give or take a little time on either side of that date. The university I am affiliated with is a Christian university, and is affiliated with an American Restoration religious movement identified by most religious census data as having begun in 1906.

We are accustomed to the traditions of our association. There are established, sometimes bitter, rivalries that we have become accustomed to. And then, there are sometimes rules and regulations.

The history of faith in these United States, and certainly Christianity in general, long predates the recognized founding of a certain movement in 1906, but don’t tell that to some. It can be our little secret.

Actually, forget what I just said. I must be suffering from March Madness. Everyone knows, or should come to know, that Christianity officially came into its own in 33 AD, after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

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Today is a day known to many in Christianity as Palm Sunday, they day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem to begin his Passion Week. Many Christians recognize this week with pomp and circumstance, just like that Sunday in Jerusalem. Pomp and circumstance is not a big deal in the associated group of Christians that I relate with, unless you are talking about weddings. Sorry, I digress.

My point is, or maybe should be, that we maybe should be open to sometimes being more in tune with ceremony and tradition, for it can be an outlet for our passions. The spiritual leadership of AD 33 was passionate about their rules and perceptions, and they ultimately killed Jesus over them. We would do well to avoid similar crimes of passion today. March Madness, indeed.

Basketball fans are passionate. That much is an understatement. They love their teams. They dress up in colorful garb. They sing, and they dance, and they cheer. So do some Christians, when celebrating their Love. Is that wrong? I’m not necessarily convinced it is.

I’m feeling my way along here. To say I’m thinking out loud may be an understatement, as well. I’ve been reading lately about the divisions in Christian movements in the United States (and, not surprisingly our related/supported universities) dating back to 1906, it the irony struck me as I was looking in the car mirror yesterday at my NCAA hat and saw the “Est. 1906” looking back at me.

Don’t get me wrong. I think rules can be good. The same can be said of order. But, too many rules can diminish the flow of the game. Naismith would tell you that, were he here today. So would Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:18-28:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

I often find myself more passionate and expressive about basketball than my faith, and that just shouldn’t be. The faith group, the church, I am affiliated with is a Christian faith, and is affiliated with an American Restoration religious movement identified by most religious census data as having begun in 1906. And yet, the passion dates all the way back to 33 AD. I would do well to work to ignite it each and every day, just like for a good contest on the hardwood. Bring on the madness. It’s game time.

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