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Archive for the ‘Compass’ Category

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I may have written about this before.  At my age, I sometimes forget.   What I don’t forget is which way is up.

North is north, east is to the left of north, etc, etc.   Years ago, while on a family trip similar to today’s version, I called the local Amarillo Sam’s club to get directions to the cheap gas.

“Are you north or south of I-40?”, I asked.   “No, we are east of I-40” was the answer in return.   Come again?

As you can see from our trusty map, that seems quite impossible, and yet the respondent was quite insistent, despite my protest and inquiry.   EAST.   With a bit of trial and error, I ultimately found it on my own.

Fast forward 12 years.   Yesterday, gas was not the objective, but gluten free dining that would not cause the same, and more, for my travelling companions.   As Little Frau scanned Urban Spoon and the map, she settled in on our destination.  “Which way do I turn off I-40?”, I asked her.   “EAST”, was her reply.   A sly grin followed, the kind you can’t convey over a phone line.

So, what is the correct directional base when travelling thru the home of the 72 ounce steak, this Bermuda Triangle of the Texas Panhandle, you may ask?   Truth be told, I never found out, but if you get to the Cadillac Ranch, you have gone too far.

I never got a straight answer 12 years ago.   And this time?   I did what any good husband would do when faced with the same spousal conundrum: I went someplace entirely different; someplace I could find without having to ask directions.

We got dinner, and successfully escaped to New Mexico.   Now that we are here, I can’t help but feel that we are being watched.   The lady from Sams must have called to warn them about me…

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Actually, I do. Maybe I go to extremes to avoid going to extremes. Once upon a time, in a land not so far far away, I might have said that in reverse. Comprende?

So, as I thought on this earlier today, the words of a Billy Joel tune rattled in my head:

Call me a joker, call me a fool
Right at this moment I’m totally cool
Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife
I feel like I’m in the prime of my life
Sometimes it feels like I’m going too fast
I don’t know how long this feeling will last
Maybe it’s only tonight

Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m shot
Sometimes I don’t know how much more I’ve got
Maybe I’m headed over the hill
Maybe I’ve set myself up for the kill
Tell me how much do you think you can take
Until the heart in you is starting to break?
Sometimes it feels like it will

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
You can be sure when I’m gone
I won’t be out there too long
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Out of the darkness, into the light
Leaving the scene of the crime
Either I’m wrong or I’m perfectly right every time
Sometimes I lie awake, night after night
Coming apart at the seams
Eager to please, ready to fight
Why do I go to extremes?

And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes

I can relate, and not. I think I will keep going, especially for today. As the words to a Mandesa song related to me as I turned the key to the Jeep a few moments ago this morning Why am I waiting for tomorrow…?”“. I don’t think I am.

Darling, I think you know why.

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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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When you look in the mirror, what do you see? I wonder what he saw? Did he look below the surface? Did he ever think he might be wrong? More on that in a moment.

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Touring a museum has only given me goose bumps twice. Once was in Europe in 2008, while viewing relics of history from an event that changed the world. The other time was today when I accompanied my kids to the 45th Infantry Division museum here in OKC.

I’ve always wanted to visit this museum, thinking it to be a nice collection of old tanks and airplanes. Little did I know how much more was there to be seen. As I was looking in a mirror hanging in the Germany exhibit room, a museum docent approached and said the chilling words: “That is the mirror that Hitler groomed himself in on the day that he killed himself in the Berlin bunker”.

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What did I see in the mirror today? A guy wearing an OCA t-shirt, an EMHS hat, and an OC jacket. Each piece reflected something about me, but were largely just a uniform of externals. What is going on inside the man? What is he about? What does he say? What does he do? If history remembers him, will it be for good or for bad?

How about the mirror’s previous owner? What did he see? What did he think, delusional though he may have been? While it was chilling to look at myself in his mirror, a mirror simply reflects what is currently before it.

What about the lessons of history? I love studying and examining history, and I love the veterans that remain with us and were recently honored during their day a week or so ago. As I have visited other lands and met the generations of citizens who call their home something other than the USA, I wonder what they are thinking. What do they see in us today? What do they think? If we look in the same mirror, do we see entirely different views? Who is right, and who is wrong? Absent an obvious moral issue, do people really see that clearly?

The following pairings of pictures reflect images of the time, the mid 20th Century war to end all wars. The second of each pair is an image from today in the museum in middle America, a reflection as we see it in the mirror of history. The first of each pair of images is from the museum in Europe, albeit not from Germany itself.

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When you look in the mirror, what do you see? I wonder what others see? Do we look below the surface? Did we ever think we might be wrong?

Touring a museum has only given me goose bumps twice, and today was one of those days.

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“How dare you?”, meet “Dare I not?”.

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People complain. That is a fact of life. People make mistakes. That is another fact of life. Sometimes, mistakes take on the form of fatal errors, and that is a hard reality.

Without getting into the details, we all likely know of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and his living legend status, and most of us have likely heard of the recent sad allegations toward his program and his presumed knowledge and complicit failure to act in doing the right thing, albeit the hard thing.

“No one person is bigger than the institution”. I have heard that repeated many times, and I believe it. But, when you feel like you are above reproach or questioning, then you may have a problem. People change. Life changes. Environments generate stresses, and stresses generate responses. The only constant in that, I might suggest, is character, and character dictates/mandates proper responses and openness even when the exercise is difficult or painful.

People complain. My job requires that I listen. How you do that, both well and appropriately, is a constant challenge. Some complaints are silly. Some complaints are vindictive. Others have merit, and merit response. How you sift through those is cumbersome, and at times unpleasant. But sift, you must. If you ever believe you have risen above that, you are in danger of falling. I think that’s what humility is all about.

People have complained about me before, and at times it has really made me angry, but it should not define me or change me in ways that are not for the best.

Joe P has been criticized in recent years for staying in the job too long, and having his effectiveness level pass him by. That may be true, or it may not. That assertion is likely subject to interpretation. What is not is that “something bad was happening in Oz; under the surface, behind the scenes”, and that Joe P turned a blind eye.

I have two mentors, legendary icons of an institution’s history, who were not afraid to take on hard things, but were also not afraid to change their roles over time and “surrender the high ground” to those better able to scale rocky heights and have the stamina to do hard things. I appreciate their legacy and example, and hope and plan to have the courage and fortitude to do the same when the time is right. In the mean time, I wish to continue to climb the rocks, and should be accepting of the bruises that come with it.

“The wise man built his house upon the rock”…”the foolish man built his house upon the sand”…”and the rains came falling down”. Sometimes, we have to be willing to step off the field of play and climb up on the Rock, even when it hurts.

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East meets West: Better versus the best? Such are the musings of the morning, for today we are Living On Tulsa Time.

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. The same could be said of Broken Arrow. Some artists are purists, others are hard core. Some are true to the discipline, others let it all hang out, so to speak.

It is indeed a tale of two cities, OKC and Tulsa metro areas, respectively. Some bands reflect a cross section of their less than ginormous schools; others are the carefully selected few of the masses. Some march to the beat; others move about the staging on the field.

We are proud of our Bulldogs, and our neighbors from the West. Yes, what happens in Broken Arrow stays in Broken Arrow. Sadly, so do the trophies. 😦

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