Archive for the ‘Falling apart’ Category

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.


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:


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.


*pictures, quotes, and salary data courtesy of the Daily Oklahoman Sports”.

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“How dare you?”, meet “Dare I not?”.


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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Baby we could talk all night
But that ain’t gettin us nowhere
I told you everything I possibly can
There’s nothing left inside of here
And maybe you can cry all night
But that’ll never change the way I feel
The snow is really piling up outside
I wish you wouldn’t make me leave here
I poured it on and I poured it out
I tried to show you just how much I care
I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout
But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m crying icicles instead of tears
And all I can do
Is keep on telling you
I want you (I want you)
I need you (I need you)
But-there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad (Don’t be sad)
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad

I acknowledge the danger in opening a post with the lyrical musings of a guy who calls himself “Meatloaf”, but the symbolism in the words and the title seemed to match up all too well with the reason for writing today.

We had a lecture last evening with author David Kinnaman from Barna Group Research about his new book “You Lost Me”, and why so many of the generation labeled as “Mosaics” (basically, young people circa 2011) are leaving their faith. It’s a challenging issue. Are we living a life, as mentors, in such a way that those who follow see, sense, and feel genuine faith and love in our lives, or do we just seem to be “going thru the motions”?

“2 out of 3 ain’t bad”, as a thesis statement for today, was inspired by a chart Kinnaman shared that said 64% of Mosaics believe the Bible is sacred literature. That seems pretty good, until you match it against other demographic data about life choices and societal problems. Even though a much higher percentage of “older folks” (Busters, Boomers, and those tagged as Elders) have supposed higher faith percentages, the life challenges remain. Are we in, or are we out, in terms of living the life?

Now, let’s flip the math around. As reported by the same research, 7 out of 10 Mosaics today are abandoning their faith. 70%. More than 2 out of 3…

That sounds bad, but it hurts even worse when you look at a group like this and ask yourself the question, “which ones?”.

Baby we could talk all night
But that ain’t gettin us nowhere….


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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


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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The Binghams are not electronics kind of folks. When I get new technology, it is usually handed to me at work. In almost 22 years of marriage, we have purchased 3 televisions. The first, a necessity after the hand-me-down brought to the first home caught fire during a movie. The second, a “birthday/father’s day” gift after it’s predecessor began to develop funny lines across the screen. The third? A small “close out sale” set for the bedroom to serve as the official “second viewing option” for the family.

Fast forward to last night. As a result of a Christmas gift from my in-laws, a Best Buy gift card with an attached note saying “go buy yourself a flat panel TV”, we took the plunge and did just that. After we got it all hooked up last night, we began cleaning out the entertainment center cabinet to purge some old stuff, and my daughter found a copy of “Rudy”. “Hey, that’s what we were watching the night the first TV caught fire”, I told her. As I continued cleaning up, the girls went in to the bedroom to watch “TV purchase number 3”, and then the screams and laughter followed. It seems this TV, upon being turned on, caught fire and gave up the ghost. What are the odds?

Accordingly, I have two items on my to do list for today:

1) Give the church treasurer our pledge card for the year,
2) Go to the electronics department at Wal-Mart.

True Grit, indeed….

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