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Archive for the ‘coming of age’ Category

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I was “away from home” ever so briefly a week or so back. The colleagues I was due to meet and work with my first full morning abroad had yet to arrive, and given the beauty of the spring morning, I went out for a brief walk.

As I often do when traveling, I was looking with great interest at all that surrounded me, and I was snapping pictures. “Toto was not in Kansas anymore”, so to speak, and I wanted to remember what was all around me. It was then that I noticed the odd looks, if not stares, from those who quickly passed by on the street all around me.

Touristen” was likely their thought. “I must look silly” was mine. Seeing the above captured “headless” reflection, I could not help recall that book from generations gone by “The Ugly American”.

As I looked up some summary info on the book, the following synopsis reminded me that lessons to learn, and awareness to maintain, is the same today as 30 or more years ago….and I’m glad I have the picture to prove it.

This is a book that is certain to deepen students’ understanding of the complexity of international affairs. Its terse, episodic style and its many portraits of individuals engaged in the process of diplomacy give readers an important sense of the dimensions of the problems which receive such cursory treatment on the nightly news. The Ugly American is mandatory reading for the citizens of a participatory democracy, in terms of understanding the mistake of the past and in order to prevent their repetition in the future.
“(chs.d211.org)

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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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“He’s like the brother I never had”. (AB)

An interesting thing happened after we moved into this neighborhood a few years back.   We met J, and now he is practically a part of the family.

J not only met us, he has come to meet the other J, that being Jesus, and we now experience the walk of faith together.

Philemon 1:7 says: Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

And the pic?   Well, these two guys  are so much alike, they could be brothers.   Come to think of it, they are.

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Your dad’s car smells like my grandmother’s…”

Such were the words uttered by my daughter’s friend as we prepared to leave the driveway on a recent morning.

Almost as quickly as I could begin to ponder what about my wheels exactly reminded this young lady’s sniffer of her grandmother, she concluded the thought: “…but it’s a good smell…”.

What is that supposed to mean? I suspect I will never know, especially since I won’t likely ever ask.

My grandmother had a car, a 73 Monte Carlo, that she took me everywhere in, and it had a unique smell all it’s own. One day, 10 years after she bought it new, she gave it to me as my first set of college wheels. For most of the four years that I called it mine, it bore that same smell. Unique. Different. Memorable.

Many years later, probably twenty or more, a boss asked me to drive his car home from the airport due to his extended time away. As I climbed into the leather clad sedan, the same smell from my past overcame me. I closed my eyes, and I was transported back to Grandmother’s Monte Carlo.

The way we live creates a smell. Not a physical scent, mind you, but an aroma, nonetheless.

Unique? Different? Memorable? A good aroma, or a bad one?

2 Corinthians 2:14-16: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

The way we live is noticed by others. I only hope my scent is as kind to others as that of my Grandmother.

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No, that is not the new name of my blog, but maybe I should consider it. Anyway, I digress.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”. James 4:14-15

We have now lived in Hacienda Bing for almost 5 years. In many ways it feels like 5 days. Life in the previous Hacienda lasted about 9 years, but it seemed to last so much longer than the time today.

Much has changed. Truth be told, we moved to this house to begin with because of a chronic autoimmune disease that Little Frau had been diagnosed with a year earlier. 8 years in Edmond town pre diagnosis, 6 years post diagnosis: it sometimes is hard to define reality, or what normal is. “New Normal”, anyone, anyone?

Which brings us back to the morning fog. We did several things to the house when we moved 5 years ago to make it our own. One of the things we did not “get around to” was fixing the bathroom. While the issue was mostly decor preference related, there were functional issues with a leak around the shower and some burned out light sconces. Finally, a failed shower pan pushed us off high center this year, which brings me back to my point.

Project now complete, I was looking for a “before” picture, and the one above was all I could find. What happened to little Alejandro? When did he grow so tall, and how that little boy face disappear? Is his childhood like the morning fog, here, and then gone? I fear that may be the case, although a bit of the mist of his youth hangs in the air, still.

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So, I have my reminder. Fog burns away. Time passes. Children grow up. Our bodies age. Goals, priorities more like it, change over time. So does decor.

Now I just hope this decor, and the shower pan that goes with it, lasts longer than the years that my children will remain here to enjoy it.

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The 46 Defense

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The 46 defense is an American football defensive formation. The formation comprises four down linemen, three linebackers, and four defensive backs. The 46 defense was originally developed and popularized by Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who later became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. Today the scheme is currently used on a regular basis by the New York Jets head coach and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, son of Buddy Ryan.

The name “46” originally came from the jersey number of Doug Plank, who was a starting safety for the Bears when Ryan developed the defense, and typically played in that formation as a surrogate linebacker. (definition “courtesy” of Wikipedia)

Yours truly turned 46 today, and I find myself of late feeling more connected to the Chicago Bears of old, and other last century phenomenon.

I’ve always considered myself a kid at heart. I remember having a talk with boss/mentor “Coach Steph” half a lifetime ago when she was not that much older than me, and asking her when she stopped feeling like a kid. Her answer? “You don’t, really”. Good answer/good mantra for life, in some respects.

But, you see, you can’t only play the game on offense, because to do so at this age would indeed offend. Even the great ones step away from the game and move on to “grown up careers”.

So, while I wish to and plan to remain a kid at heart, with all of the bad jokes, puns, and analogies thereto appertaining, I have to learn to play a little defense, and the schematics that go with it. You see, if I don’t, I will find myself “getting offended” as old men often do, and I need to provide myself the structure to stay in the game and come out a winner. One can only score so many points in a career.

Enough for the stretched analogies and ramblings for today. Today is my birthday, and I feel like dancing. Let’s celebrate. How about joining me for a little “Super Bowl Shuffle”, courtesy of “da Bears”…?

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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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