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She loves me, more than oregano. To what may I compare?

Yes, the lovely herbal companion we speak of is pictured here with my Little Frau. It looks like they enjoy a strong relationship. You know what they say: behind every good oregano plant is a great woman. Stated another way, behind every garden bare spot is a man with a runaway weedeater.

Frau has always had a mind for a green thumb, ever before the physical namesakes began to think twice about gripping a shovel. It times past, she would go to the nursery, lovingly pick a baby plant and place it in the garden with love, only to see a jealous husband lay waste to her little friend.

OK, maybe jealous is the wrong descriptor. Clueless may be the better term. Regardless (which, sadly, he was) the plant often found itself the victim of a premature end.

There is a scriptural reference that comes to mind here. Matthew 6:30-31: If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

Paraphrased, we might say: If that is how God clothes the oregano of the garden, which is here today and tomorrow is cut down by the husband, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

But, time has passed. My eye for gardening has improved. I am no longer the hatchet man. In this autoimmune era, I am now the shovel man. I gently bury the tender roots of new plants the way Kevin Durant buries three point shots. (yes, I can blog and watch the Thunder build a double digit 4th quarter lead at the same time!).

Fortunately for me, Little Frau’s patience for the yard man grew stronger with time. Now, her oregano plants can do just the same.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? She loves me, more than oregano, and that’s just the seasoning we needed.

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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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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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“That was like eating sand”. The statement from Little Frau could only make me laugh. We had been
sitting in a doctor’s office exam room, repeating and clarifying information on the handwritten multi page new patient form as the nurse aid awkwardly typed it into the computer. It seems that nursing skills need not necessarily include computer data entry acumen, and that’s OK, but why even have the computer if it can’t make your job easier, I wondered.

I’m no digital native. I like technology, and sometimes embrace it, but often
find that it challenges my digital immigrant status so much that I end up feeling like “the Accidental Tourist”. I still love the feel of a good “to do list” scratched out on a yellow legal pad.

There’s no substitute for a good clipboard. After our nurse data entry exchange, I made that suggestion. Then the doctor walked in. Slightly older than me, and maybe a tad bit geekier (if that is possible), he was
a master of the patient exam/inquiry and data query combo. He made
the keyboard sing like a bad Elvis impersonator. Oh, man.

He pulled information from history. He commented on potential interactions between LF’s prescription file. And there was not a piece of paper in sight.

So, the technology was worth it after all, in this case. Maybe, with a little more training, the nurse can even pull that menu of silica appetizers off her keyboard…

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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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