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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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There’s a repetitious musical line from the above referenced movie: “What comes around, it goes around”. That, from a movie about stealing, gold, and bad behavior in Europe: how ironic.

Yes, friends, those are German Pfennig coins, and while technically not worth anything, they are apparently still in circulation today. In a possible “widow’s two mites” moment, someone even put them into the church collection plate recently. Maybe they are on to something the rest of us have yet to accept.

To borrow/alter another movie title, all of this likely started with what could be called “My Big Fat Greek Beheading“. You see, the Greeks did not follow the rules, if there were any, about fiscal life inside the common currency that is, for now, still known as the Euro. The same
Is true for Portugal, and Spain, and Ireland, and…Italy. “What comes around, it goes around”, indeed.

Not to ignore the obvious, we have very similar debt and economic standing problems in this country, but our base, our banking, and behaviors are linked in such a way that we are not the issue. At least, not yet. The almighty US Dollar is the coveted currency of the world, at least for today.

But “The Times, They Are A Changin’ “. Who knew that Bob Dylan was an economist?

What comes around, it goes around“. Old German coins are coming around. Can the Deutschmark be far behind?

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Yes, it is “Black Friday”, and I’ve been up since before 5:00, but only because a train rolled thru this town, horns blazing. Speaking of “Horns blazing”, a quick sayonara shout out to our friends at Texas A&M is in order, but I digress.

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The guest abode we occupy south of the border on Black Friday is indeed dark and quiet at this hour, so I find myself checking in on the world via iLight. A friend (thank you, Coach Steph) shared the above picture from a Wal Mart sometime on Thanksgiving night.

And therein lies some of the irony: Thanksgiving Day, and people are sitting inside shopping carts in Waly World getting ready to likely charge a bunch of stuff they really can’t afford.

We watched a lot of football yesterday, and accordingly a lot of TV commercials promoting BF deals and “savings”. One of my favorite lines is “more saving, more doing; that’s the power...”. It doesn’t get much more ironic than that.

There have been several social media comments about this topic in the past 24 hours, but more from people who are expressing why they are thankful. I wish to do the same, so here goes:

I’m thankful for family and good times.

I’m thankful for the wonders of the web that allowed us to Skype with a loved one on the far side of the planet(“AG”), and to share thoughts and memories throughout the day with Little Frau (aka Aussie Girl Mommy) as she recup’ed to our north.

I’m thankful for our Faith.

I’m thankful for football, a two interception limit by Tony Chokomo, and a kicker who can see straight with the clock running out.

I’m thankful for turkey, and cornbread dressing.

I’m thankful for the game of “Balderdash”, and a Thanksgiving family tradition of laughing till we cry. The china cabinet references were living large, for those of you who understand what that means.

I’m thankful for the green tinted picture of Ulysses S. Grant that Santa brought to us all a bit early, and for the great “pre-Black Friday” online only deal on these duck boots at Academy.com.

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Fraught with irony, indeed.

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It starts. And then, it was gone.

Anti – A person who is opposed to something, such as a group, policy, proposal, or practice.

Trust – Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing; Custody; care.

Both words are nouns. And when you put them together? Antitrust? It has to do with preventing unfair competition, monopolies, and the like.

If you have been keeping up, the NBA is in a lockout, which is a funny way of saying a strike. Players won’t play, I mean, work, and owners won’t pay. Neither, apparently, will they quirk.

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The fans, however, are a different story, and yours truly is moving that direction too. Consider the following words from a couple of OKC Thunder fans:

It makes me question my decision to be a fan of the players by using my discretionary income to purchase season tickets. Instead, that money could easily pay for a nice family vacation each year going forward. I think the union and its players are out of touch with the people who support them the most…the fan base!”

“I just hope both sides know that as a whole, they are essentially burning $4 billion in revenue for themselves and hurting the communities these teams are in. OKC loses prestige, morale, community and money. It kills me to know that we won’t be able to come together as a city anymore and celebrate something great we have here.”

There is a saying is sports that “Mo changes jerseys fast”. Momentum, that is. The same is true of the fans. When you take away the energy, excitement, and euphoria of the game itself, and all you have left is the infighting and finger pointing among multi millionaires, working class fans get disenfranchised pretty fast. Just consider for a moment what the Thunder players lost in one payday:

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So, here we are. Fans are getting tired of the drama, and are figuring out what to do with the money they used to spend on tickets, jerseys, little Rumble dolls, and the like, and, more importantly are re-discovering good ways to use the time. If and when play resumes, the fans may be slow to return. If decertification of the Players Union results in complete free agency and the dismantling of fan adored teams, the mystique may be gone for a long, long time.

The point of this rant? I’m disenfranchised, that much is true. I feel sorry for the regular Joes who are out of work due to this issue, and I feel sorry for OKC.

The momentum is gone. So too, is the trust, at least for now. Call me the anti-fan. It is going to take some work to draw us back.

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*pictures, quotes, and salary data courtesy of the Daily Oklahoman Sports”.

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“God is subtle, but He is not malicious. I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world.” – Albert Einstein.

I’ve long thought that to be true, but now wonder if He is not often times speaking to us more directly. Take a random walk with me, and see if you agree.

Many of us recall the “Rocky” movie franchise. He started his saga in the slums of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The movie details him out running past a group of likely unemployed young men standing on a street corner singing “Take it Back”. Four movies later, some good, some less than good, and Rocky is back in the same neighborhood, a rags to riches to rags scenario, but he is still “Rocky Balboa” at the core, albeit changed by time, experience, and the impact of money.

I have experienced in the past 24 hours what I’ll dub “the day of diatribes”, polite though they may have been. This may or may not be considered just one more of the same by the time you finish this reading.

The first diatribe was by a Facebook friend protesting the use of the American flag as a form of forced advertising by a local realtor who placed them in every yard as far as the eye can see.

The second diatribe hit a little closer to home. It was written by a youth minister in Texas about the problem of increasing costs in higher education, specifically private faith based education, and the amount of debt it takes for many to get an undergraduate degree. The university for which I work’s mission statement is “Transforming Lives for faith, scholarship, and service.” Trust me when I say we do not intend for that to be “debt service”, and are listening and seeking solutions to the broad based problem of the higher education industry making our experience affordable and relevant. Pardon my digression from the topic at hand.

The third diatribe dealt with the problem of sensationalism and desensitizing in our mass media, all to get attention and “viewership”. It is a well written piece about things that are good and true, and you can read it at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/rdc-editorial-whatever-is-good-true-beautiful/

The fourth piece, more a reflection than a diatribe, was a personal look at living a purposeful life, and not a life of “Shadow Purposes” as we are so prone to do in this rich society. It can be read at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/chasing-my-shadow-purpose/

The final referenced piece in the “24 hours of diatribes” was my own, preceding this one, mind you. I read an article this morning about the NBA lockout and some of the quotes in a war of mega millionaires fighting mega millionaires over who gets the bigger share of the billions being offered by the masses at the alter of modern day entertainment. I love the NBA, but this article made me mad, and I suspect it will do the same for many fans as what promises to be a protracted labor negotiation fight plays out.

To paraphrase author Donald Miller, I think we all have forgotten that we are just trees in a story about a forest. The forest may be on fire all around us, but we are too focused on the near surroundings and our own concerns to notice.

The global economy appears to be badly broken. We have “stored up treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19) and need to be prepared for a different day and age, even within the lifespan of some current generations. The economic storm is raging as we speak in benefit rich European society, and the tsunami is racing toward us across the Atlantic even now. Societies are in debt up to their eyeballs; we are soft; we are spoiled. And fundamental societal things are changing. We are aging. The balance of trade and who makes and who buys is evolving. Health care is a concern. The U.S. Government won’t be able to pay for it all or fix all that ailes us. All the while, I fear we are standing on the beach arguing over who gets the bigger share of sandbags while we should be moving to higher ground to stay safely out of the coming wake.

Our societies often have found themselves in these moments in history, and it seems they are often ultimately resolved by fighting a war. The U.S. War for Independence; the French Revolution; the U.S. Civil War; WWI; WWII; the Middle East conflicts. Its about a groundswell of the masses when they can’t get what they want and need, and when the establishment is out of touch. We may be entering another “let them eat cake” moment, I fear. Get the picture?

I think the establishment may be catching on. One of the more telling advertisements running on TV today is “More Saving: More Doing; That’s the power of the Home Depot”. We need to realize that David Stanley (OKC auto dealer) does not really lead the way. The Mathes Brothers may have “our style at our price”, but they will never know us by name.

As I began to pour these random reflections down and try to tie them together cohesively, I looked through the “categories and tags” section of my blog site, and a huge percentage of those previously used seemed strikingly relevent. Take a look at all those listed at the end of this and see if you agree.

After an early morning of pondering these thoughts, I got into the car to come to the office and was immediately presented with “Awakening” by Switchfoot playing on my car radio. God is subtle, indeed, and He was speaking right to me.

Face down with the L.A. curbside endings
In ones and zeros
Downtown was the perfect place to hide

The first star that I saw last night
Was a headlight of a man-made sky
But man-made never made our dreams collide, collide

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

Last week saw me living for nothing but deadlines
With my dead beat sky
But this town doesn’t look the same tonight

These dreams started singing to me out of nowhere
And all my life I don’t know
That I’ve ever felt so alive, alive

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, I’m bleeding

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna live like I know what I’m leaving
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, it’s beating, it’s beating, I’m bleeding

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
But you’ve been talk, talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening
Dream, we’re awakening

So, where do we go from here, in this digital community, and in each of our own “cities of brotherly love”? Maybe we are a little like that prizefighter who has gone one or two rounds too far, and needs to reset. What is our task? More saving, more doing? Maybe. Less spending, more doing? Likely. More sharing, more caring? Absolutely. Heightened attention spans are in order. We’re awakening. The bar is raised. A groundswell is happening all around us, and a tsunami may (or may not) be headed are way. Let’s move to higher ground and be ready.

Take me back.

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It is a good thing that “Bing…” is a non commercial blog, because I’m probably violating numerous copyright laws by sharing the following piece in its entirety, but I want this blog to bless my kids and others, and the thoughts are too important to not share. Thank you, Mr. Boxx.

CONFRONTING THE CRISIS OF COMMITMENT
By: Rick Boxx

The days of unwavering commitment – to one company or to one spouse – seem to be all but gone. Today, people change jobs frequently, for good reason or very little reason at all. Maybe they are looking for a change of responsibilities, or a few dollars more in their paycheck, or the grass just seems greener somewhere else. For whatever reason, loyalty to employers apparently has gone the way of the dinosaur and the dodo bird. The same is true, sadly, for many marriages. Long-term, stable marriages are a testimony to a couple’s devotion and dedication to one another, but today it seems the wedding vows should read, “until divorce do us part.”

This, however, was not the case for my father. After completing a stint in the military, he started a career with General Motors when he was 23 years old.  He was still there the day GM decided to close the plant 29 years later. Even after that, he has faithfully continued to support and promote General Motors products.

As for his wife, he married my mother when he was 19. This year we celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, an amazing feat by today’s standards. When my brother-in-law asked him about the secret to success in his marriage, my father’s reply was simple yet profound: “Just hang in there.”

Commitment in any pursuit is a noble quality rarely found in our culture. Divorce rates, bankruptcy, parental failures and job turnover are all symptoms of the real problem: lack of personal commitment. Of course, at least at the business level, we also see a lack of commitment on the part of companies toward their employees. So in that respect, reduced commitment by employees is sometimes a response to corporate disloyalty.

The fact remains: Today when times get rocky in one’s marriage, the prevailing attitude is that “no-fault divorce” wipes the slate clean. If we manage our money poorly, bankruptcy relieves the pressure and pain. If we make a mistake and get pregnant, we can opt for an abortion that allows us to eliminate any sign of the problem. In the workplace, if times get tough, we quit; conversely, if the company faces adversity, one solution is to get rid of us. 

In reality, these and similar actions may relieve the pain temporarily, but they come at great cost – to the community and to ourselves personally. We have built a culture largely devoid of character, because of our desire to eliminate the problem, rather than exerting the effort to remain committed and persevering to overcome trials. 

Most leaders are desperate for people with commitment. To become a strong, effective leader, commitment is essential. In our workplaces, those of us in leadership roles have an obligation to model integrity by rewarding commitment and perseverance. If we find ourselves in jobs that sometimes become dull or tiresome, we need to persevere, showing that we have the commitment to fulfill our duties, even if they become unpleasant. 

By cultivating and demonstrating more commitment, loyalty and perseverance, we build on the noble foundation that men like my father modeled, and become a true business community again, people who truly care for each other and their companies, rather than wage-earners eager to abandon their posts at the first enticing opportunity. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away” (John 10:11-12). In other words, only a good leader stays true to his mission, regardless of cost or opposition.

(Copyright 2006, Integrity Resource Center, Inc.) Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective.

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