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Archive for the ‘Drying up’ Category

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I went outside early this morning to tend Little Frau’s garden before heat and other responsibilities commandeered the day. (LF’s given name is Sherry Rae, for those of you keeping score at home).

I pulled a few weeds. (shocking, I know). I turned on some water. I went to pick some tomatoes. Then I saw it.

It was red. It was round. It was ripe. Like Mary Poppins, it was practically perfect in every way. There was only one problem: it was microscopic.

For those keeping score at home, we are having a summer of extended record setting heat, and very little rain. There is not even enough pressure in the water system get the in-ground sprinkler heads to pop up. It is dry, and almost anything in the sun
cooked.

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Almost everything, miraculously, except LF’s garden. Somehow, it is green and thick. But, in this time of stress, it is not producing.

Can the same be said of us? When times get tough, the heat is turned up, and it is dry all around, do we begin to shut down? I hope not. Like our little, microscopic, tomato, even the smallest fruit borne under such circumstances can be redeeming and a cause to enjoy, if not celebrate. The plant is surviving, and it is doing what is was
created to do in the best way possible under the circumstances.

The old saying “In every life, some
rain must fall” is usually offered in negative circumstances. But much
like the words to the following Mercy Me tune, maybe the irony in that is what we need to recognize:

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I’ve gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You
Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It’s never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there’ll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that’s what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

Drought 2011: All pain, no gain. OK, maybe just a little. And for even that, I am thankful.

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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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You smell eternal. You smell for eternity. Two similar phrases, but much different connotations. It’s all in the twist of the words.

Reaching the mid point, and quite possibly beyond, in life’s great timeline has come with a myriad of personal realizations. One of those realizations deals with aromas. I don’t necessarily always smell “the best”.

“That’s not saying much, oh Socrates of the social media realm”, you may say to me. And remember, they sentenced the big S to death for his teachings. “But Socrates, hemlock is poisonous…”, but I digress.

The scented reality comes down to this simple point: How do you come across to others? I had a co-worker begin a meeting in his office recently by asking me if I had just come from visiting the nearby retirement center. He was serious; he smelled “old” in the water. I, too, upon venturing into my closet in recent times have wondered where the octogenarian might be hiding out. It’s a far cry from, and much less acidic than, this space’s aforementioned “teen spirit” that is often present on number one son.

So, what to do? Two of the ladies in my life, Little Frau and Littler Frauline, recently addressed the issue on Fathers Day. They know how they want me to smell for the next few years of eternity. They want me to smell “Eternal”.

Eau de cologne is a delicate thing to put to use. Apply too little, and and it probably is only a nice gesture. Apply too much, and the eyes begin to water on your Facebook friends all the way out on the Left Coast. It is all in the wrist. I last had “cologne”, Polo, to be specific, as a college student. It, too, was a gift from a frauline, but I don’t think old age was the concern. My dad once “borrowed” some of it when he was about the age I am today, but he took the after shave approach to the application. He, his suit, and his car smelled like a “come on too strong” TV commercial for what seemed like a week.

“So where is the always forthcoming analogous application, oh scented Socrates?”, you might say at this point, and you would be spot on in your assessment of this verbal jaunt.

The unscented reality comes down to this simple point: How do you come across to others? And, I don’t mean the presence thru the nostrils. What kind of persona, experience, and “life aroma” do you and I give off when in the presence of others? What “life aroma” do we sense in ourselves in our “closet moments”? Is it old? Is it youthful and acidic? Is it treated, but too heavy and full of suggestion?

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 says: But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?

The NLT equivalent, vs the NIV, says “Christ like fragrance“, and “life giving perfume“. Sounds much nicer than “an aroma that brings death”. So, how do we get there?

To quote a Stamps Baxter song of old “Precious Jesus, hold my hand”. It’s all in the wrist.

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Hedley, Texas: Donley County

Population in July 2009: 354. Population change since 2000: -6.6%

Median resident age:   42.3 years
Texas median age:   32.3 years

Estimated median household income in 2008:

Hedley:   $37,831
Texas:   $50,043

Estimated median house or condo value in 2008:

Hedley:   $35,142
Texas:   $126,800
County population in July 2009: 3,664 (all rural)
Land area: 930 sq. mi.
Water area: 3.3 sq. mi.
Population density: 4 people per square mile     (very low).

Dec. 2009 cost of living index in Donley County: 74.6 (low, U.S. average is 100)

Hedley, Texas was largely populated by early generation Irish American immigrants, farmers, in the mid to late 1,800’s.    Land was abundant, and the price was right (free) to those who were willing to make the long, arduous, and likely dangerous journey from the eastern United States to this new land known as Texas.    Farming has long been the primary economic driver for Donley County, the locale for Hedley, and it remains so to this day.    At its prime, Hedley served as the hub of economic and support activity for Donley County.     A bank, a barber, a dry goods store, a gas station or two, a grocer, a butcher shop, several cafes, a feed store for livestock (run by my wife’s grandfather), a Masonic lodge, a school, and even a movie theater were present on the main street of Hedley “back in the day”.     It was a booming little community.

My wife and several generations of her family hail from Hedley.    We travel there a few times each year to see family, and even in the 22 or so years that I’ve been visiting, I have seen the town shrink all the more.     Not much remains today besides the consolidated school district (a central support service for the surrounding county, today, and a source of pride for the town), a gas station that is occasionally opened, a Justice of the Peace, a Senior Citizens Center, and a handful of random businesses that are supported by remaining residents.

So what happened?    Simply put, things began to dry up.    The town was the support for the county, and was likewise supported by the residents of the county.    A family used to live and farm on every square mile of the county, and they shopped and looked to the town for providing the goods and services they required.   

 Then things changed.    Farming methods improved, things became more efficient, and crop yields (mostly cotton) began to increase dramatically, and in a paradox to the newfound prosperity of every acre farmed, the number of farm families needed began to decline, and so did the population.

The booming businesses listed above were all prospering in and serving Hedley as late as the early 1970’s.     As my wife and her parents and sisters left the town in those years for better work in the neighboring county, so did many of the other residents.    And the businesses slowly continued to close.    The town has continued to dry up, year by year, decade by decade, and the money and populace with it.     Unintended consequences, things getting better for farming, made things grow worse for the town and surrounding county.

Time has passed, the family has worked in and owned several different businesses over the years in the neighboring county, and today find themselves in the large scale farm irrigation system business.    As the economy and technology improved, the ability for farmers to afford and obtain highly technical and efficient irrigation systems has improved dramatically.    The capital needed to acquire these systems has flowed as freely in recent years as the water that is pumped from deep in the acquirer below.

My in-laws live on a small farm several miles south of Hedley.    On the back of the acreage they own, a spring fed creek has run for generations.    But in recent years, this creek has progressively begun to dry up as well.    It seems that the generous supply of water emitted by the underground aquifers is being pumped dry.      There are over 600 pivots running in the county just south of Hedley, and each pumps hundreds of gallons of water per hour.    Pivot by pivot, hour by hour, day by day, month by month, year by year; the water is drying up.    The prosperity and increased farming yield that has come from improvements in irrigation for those remaining in the county is now likely to begin causing just the opposite of the intended effect.    Things may begin drying up, literally and figuratively.

The same thing seems to be happening in today’s global economy.    After years of exploiting the system, the flow of currencies seems to be turning dry.   Things are changing.    What did we do to cause it?   What can we do to stop it?

The Law of Unintended Consequences is alive and well.    Everything we do has a result, if not for our generation, for those that come after us.   It’s an uncomfortable reality, and one most don’t want to address.     Families, business, the U.S. Congress: none want to make the hard decisions that cause an expense today that will benefit many in the years yet to come.    Lessons learned, or lessons yet to be learned, the hard way?    It may get pretty dry in the future; drink up, while you may, but think about how to save some for yourself and others as well.

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