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“Our little baby’s all grown up and savin’ China…”. I could not have expressed my sentiments any better than our mythical friend “Mushu”, and like him, I don’t do that “tongue thing”, at least I hope not.

Anyway, Baby Girl #1 (and one of the best two young ladies on the planet, may I add) leaves later this morning to see the world, starting with China. I’m so excited for her, and I’m gonna miss her.

But, I’m not worried about her forgetting her sword. On the “Digital Front Porch”, among other places, I have found Hank to be one of the most accomplished swordsmen around. If I could tell her anything this morning before she boards that plane, it would be not to forget her sword, and her shield.

Ephesians 6:16-18: In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

So, this morning, I bow to you Bruce. Bruce who? Bruce you. In the words of Fa Zhou “The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter”. Love you girl.

Now, lets get down to business, to meet, the Huns…

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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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Wordle: bing

What’s in a word, or a collection thereof? Word, Wordperfect, Wordle, WordPress; the list of programs and products devoted to sharing our words and thoughts could go on and on.

John 1:1-9:

In the beginning the Word already existed.
      The Word was with God,
      and the Word was God.
  He existed in the beginning with God.
  God created everything through him,
      and nothing was created except through him.
  The Word gave life to everything that was created,
      and his life brought light to everyone.
  The light shines in the darkness,
      and the darkness can never extinguish it.
  God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

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A John the Baptist, I am not, but like a stump preacher in a digital equivalent to Times Square, viewed by some as crazed, why would anyone want to share so much with so many, in such a public forum as WordPress?

In the words of Paul in I Corinthians 9:22, maybe it is to “Become All things to all men, that I might save some”.

I visited with a distinguished older gentleman in the hallway after worship this evening, and he expressed his respect for campus environments and the opportunity to influence so many for Jesus. Those were just the words
I needed to hear.

As of this moment, I have 464 Facebook friends. Some are friends, some coworkers, some college students, some friends of my teens, and some are people who likely just want to “creep on me”.

There have been 2,881 reads to date on this Blog. Many are likely from the group of 464, but some are complete strangers who “stumbled upon” the space. And, even if from the FB family, I can say things here that I likely can’t say in a conversation to the masses. Things will be read where listening might not occur.

If you are a reader, thanks and apologies are likely in order. In the meantime, this is my voice, and Jesus is my tune.

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Failure to move to non adjacent lane for an emergency vehicle: that was my crime.    The layman’s term for it is sometimes referred to as “failure to yield“.

In the immortal words of Hannah Montana, aka Miley Cyrus:

Everybody makes mistakes
Everybody has those days
Everybody knows what, what I’m talkin ’bout
Everybody gets that way

Sometimes I’m in a jam
I’ve gotta make a plan
It might be crazy
I do it anyway

Nobody’s perfect
I gotta work it…Nobody’s perfect
You live and you learn it
And if I mess it up sometimes
Nobody’s perfect

I was fortunate, but also prepared.     I had my proof of insurance card.     I had my lovely wife up front and two of our three beautiful children in the back seat.    What could have painted a better picture for one of Oklahoma’s finest?   I was respectful.    I said “sorry”.   I said “sir”.    I said “thank you”.    And, I had a squeaky clean driving record for him to pull up on the old’ DPS mobile computer…and yet, I still messed up.    It seems that my opinion about the short distance between where he was parked on the shoulder and where I was going to get off the toll road (which I had just paid to drive on, BTW) and his opinion were quite different.    But, he was right, and I was wrong.   The rules are there for a reason, namely, his safety, and mine.    No short distance to my goal excuse or hall pass is good enough.    But, he just issued me a warning, thankfully.

I slowly signaled, pulled away from his souped up Dodge Charger, and took extra time to stop and turn right at the next red light.   “Good, he’s not still following me”, I thought.   I pulled into a gas station to fill the wife’s Honda, and I gave some thought to what had just happened, and what I could learn from it.    I then paid for our gas (and the imbedded state and federal highway taxes, which helped pay for the souped up Dodge Charger, and probably also go to help pay for the toll road (which I had just paid to drive on, BTW).

I then was reminded of a timeless tune sung by The Back Street Boys:

I don’t care who you are
Where you’re from
What you did
As long as you love me

No, it wasn’t the highway patrolman singing to me in my mind.   I’m not that strange.    No, it wasn’t my wife, or even the kids in the back seat.

In all seriousness, I was thinking about Jesus, of all people.    You see, I did not intend to do anything wrong.   I did not intend to put anyone, or anything, at risk.    And yet I did, mostly by just going thru the motions, and getting in a hurry.   

But it doesn’t matter.    I’ve been pardoned, both by the powers that be, on the toll road (which I had just paid to drive on, BTW) or the road of life, which is governed, and protected, by a Higher Power.

John 14:15-17:  “If you love me, obey my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

It’s good to know that I can be forgiven, even for failure to yield.

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A good friend and newly minted father of an adorable daughter posted the following on Facebook Friday evening: “Left the kid at home tonight with her grandparents and went on a one hour date. It’s funny how it only took two weeks to make something we’ve been doing for over 12 years seem really strange.”
 
My baby girl went “off to college” this year. It’s funny how it only takes two miles of separation to make something we’ve been doing for over 12 years seem really strange, because we’re not doing it any longer.
 
Our younger two, twins, are off at a youth retreat for the weekend, which means 48 hours of kid free living, and it should seem really strange, but it doesn’t. We may be recalling how this couple thing is done.

It started slow; GF pizza and a trip to Sam’s Club. Boring, you say?. And with that question churning in my head as they locked the doors behind us leaving Sam’s, a lyric vault moment emerged:

And the Friday night blues they get in your shoes and they work to get you down
Oh and there ain’t a lady that I ever knew who didn’t need her a night on the town

Have we lost our edge? Is this all really strange?

I think not: a follow up late night to Barnes and Noble was in store, and discussion of days gone by. As we discussed the aforementioned “preoccupied man” lyrics of old, we turned to Pandora, that queen of Internet musical memories, for a fuller walk down memory lane.

Quiet, kid free, coffee and Rice Chex: we could get used to this, in time. We love our junior duo, but like big sis, their transition continues.

As the Box opened wider thru the morning, the cheesy country tunes continued. As we close this random weekend moment, my newly minted father friend and I could take something from the last Pandora poetry enjoyed today, courtesy of Alan Jackson…:

Born the middle son of a farmer
And a small town Southern man

Like his daddy’s daddy before him
Brought up workin’ on the land
Fell in love with a small town woman
And they married up and settled down
Natural way of life if you’re lucky
For a small town Southern man

First there came four pretty daughters
For this small town Southern man
Then a few years later came another
A boy, he wasn’t planned
Seven people livin’ all together
In a house built with his own hands
Little words with love and understandin’
From a small town Southern man

[Chorus:] HIS GREATEST CONRIBUTION IS THE ONES HE’LL LEAVE BEHIND….
And he bowed his head to Jesus
And he stood for Uncle Sam
And he only loved one woman
(He) was always proud of what he had
He said his greatest contribution
Is the ones HE’LL leave behind
Raised on the ways and gentle kindness
Of a small town Southern man
(Raised on the ways and gentle kindness)
(Of a small town Southern man)

Callous hands told the story
For this small town Southern man
He gave it all to keep it all together
And keep his family on his land
Like his daddy, years wore out his body
Made it hard just to walk and stand
You can break the back
But you can’t break the spirit
Of a small town Southern man

Finally death came callin’
For this small town Southern man
He said it’s alright ’cause I see angels
And they got me by the hand
Don’t you cry, and don’t you worry
I’m blessed, and I know I am
‘Cause God has a place in Heaven
For a small town Southern man
 
When our time on this Earth is through, may my younger friend and I, City Slickers though we may be, take a few cues from Mr. Jackson’s lyrics… 
 
Bowing our heads to Jesus, loving our girls ( and sons), workin’ the land, and making a difference for those we leave behind.

Doesn’t seem so strange, after all.   Neither is a Date Night.   
🙂

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Good article from my morning email inbox today; “stuff” we should think about: 🙂

DISTINGUISHING ‘NEEDS’ FROM ‘WANTS’
By: Randal Walti
 
We often hear that life is summed up by the things in your life: The more things you have, the happier you will be. I never realized how many things I had in my life until my wife and I moved from a large home to a much smaller residence. Suddenly, many of our things no longer seemed important. If anything, they became an inconvenient burden. In pursuing a simpler life, we recognized a big difference between “need” and “want.” 

 Discerning between need and want. One way to test this difference is “the consequences game.” What are the consequences of not buying a better TV, item of furniture, or some new technological device? Can you live without the item? We also can ask, “If I applied my money toward another cause, would it return a better investment?” Some couples spend all their money on the present, failing to invest for the future. It may be difficult, but once you identify investment alternatives, you might ask yourself, “What would give God more glory?”

 Weighing lifestyle decisions. When a few small reductions in lifestyle would allow a mother to be happy at home or a father to spend more time with his children, this helps to identify whether decisions are about need – or about preferences and wants. If you feel you must buy a new car when a used one would suffice for much less money, you are probably more concerned with lifestyle than good stewardship. Be honest and ask, “Do I need a new car or do I merely want one?” I no longer purchase new cars. I buy cars that are two years old, pay substantially less than new car prices, and still get quality vehicles. If your “want” overrides your values, the object of your desire has probably become an idol.     

 Understanding God’s perspective on things. I like and enjoy nice things in my home, and periodically buy things that will help us enjoy life more. I don’t think God wants to keep us from having nice things. However, materialism, like money, is a huge enemy of God, His good news, and godliness (the process of becoming more like Him). This is why God states it is impossible to serve both God and money. Material things can negatively affect our lives if we start to worship the creation more than the Creator. We see, touch, hear, taste, and smell things. We cannot visibly see, physically touch, audibly hear, or experience God with our senses. With things all around us stimulating our senses, it is easier to seek entertainment rather than the God of the universe.  Attractive, but unnecessary things can deceive well-intentioned people into living more for their own glory and gratification instead of living for God. When in doubt, ask, “How will this purchase help me love God better?”

 Consider what God says about money and material possessions in the Bible:

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

 “Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s money, why should you be trusted with money of your own?” (Luke 16:10-12)

 “The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear, nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them” (Psalm 135:15-18).

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Invisible chronic illness reminds me of how it all started, and what is now missing: wholeness; being one with God, our creator and sustainer.

So, taking a lyric vault moment today, the words of Jeremy Camp’s My Desire resonate on this idea…
Beyond all I have hoped, and there’s more left unseen

You want to be real, you want to be empty inside
You want to be someone laying down your pride
You want to be someone someday
Then lay it all down before the king

You want to be whole, you want to have purpose inside
You want to have virtue and purify your mind

You want to be set free today
Then lay it all down before the king

This is my desire, this is my return
This is my desire to be used by you

You want to be real, you want to be empty inside
And I know my heart is to feel you near
And I know my life
It’s to do your will
It’s to do your will

All my life I have seen
Where you’ve take me
Beyond all I have hoped
And there’s more left unseen

There’s not much I can do to repay all you’ve done
So I give my hands to use….

…hands that will not always bear the pain of toil, hurt, and disease.

LORD, our desire is to be used by you,
And that you come quickly. Hallelujah.

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