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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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It is Fall Break time in Oklahoma. The quiet house this morning has me thinking about a lot of things: faith, family, football, etc, but not much about words such as “Thunder Up”, and that’s oddly absent with it being October.

The silence was broken briefly earlier by RB stopping by the reading room to say hi, as well as an unexpected litany of very nice things. Then, she was back to bed to get some much needed rest in the absence of an early morning band workout. I love that girl, and her entourage. As I chose later to peruse a set of her pics, I found this one, and it got me to thinking…

Where did the time go? I’m not thinking of her growing up, as that is obviously an issue. I’m thinking more short term. I’m wondering about Thunder storms past. As we face a year of possibly no NBA, I’m challenged to think of what I did with those precious few hours each year in the time before the NBA called OKC home. What did I do? What do I miss now that it is here? Less TV time, and that is good. But, how will I spend the time this year without them to cheer and follow, and the related conversations throughout the day? “How about that Thunder?” will likely be supplanted by “How’s the weather?”, but I hope for so much more.

You see, There is, beyond the Azure Blue, a God concealed from human sight. He tinted skies with heavenly hue, and framed the worlds with His great might. There is a God. He is alive. In Him we live, and we survive. From dust our God created man. He is our God; the great I Am.

Don’t get me wrong: when the boys dressed in Azure Blue return to the court, I will likely be cheering them on, but I hope to be cognizant of my choices, and where the time will go…

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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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“Where do you trade?”   That was always my Grandmother’s question to her friends and acquaintances.     “Monnings?   Striplings?  Leonard Brothers?”     The woman loved to shop, and she was good at it.    Another one of her favorites was the S&H Green Stamp reward redemption shop.    We must have clipped, licked, and stuck thousands of green stamps into the reward collection books back in the day.

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Trading is an interesting concept. We were all exposed to it at an early age, most likely. Trading sports cards, Hot Wheels cars, or even clothes, trading between kids was, and still is, en vogue. And even as youngsters, buyer’s remorse was a very real concept.

In the modern era, the concept of trading is even more present. Trading investments, trading cars, trading houses, trading jobs, and even trading relationships is a reality in this day and age. In OKC, the local NBA team recently traded two of it’s best players in an effort to upgrade the total profile and potential of the team. It was willing to risk surrendering the known for the potential of the unknown, and at least so far it seems to be working.

Trading can be more than risky: it can also be uncomfortable and sentimental. Newness requires adjustment, and it comes with costs, both tangible and intangible. I recently traded cars, and while the new ride is an upgrade, it is different. After only two drives to the office this week in the newer wheels, I can tell I need to be more careful and alert behind the wheel until I have adjusted to the renewed environment, lest heartache and deductibles should follow.

So ask yourself, is the trade/upgrade worth the cost? Is losing what you surrendered going to be worth the benefit(s) received?

Jesus made a trade. He traded Heaven and being in The Father’s presence for 33 years of sweat, toil, heartache, and pain. And I’d say it was worth it. I think he has indicated the same.

So ask yourself, is it worth sacrificing the comfort and familiarity of today for the potential of what could be tomorrow? Whether trading you old life/self/ways for the promise of the new life offered in Christ, or trading the safety and comfort of a status quo relationship to the risk of sharing Jesus with a friend, are we willing to make the trade? The benefits are well worth it.   But, I’m not confident about whether Christianity offers any Green Stamps.  If it does, then my Grandmother is even happier at Home than we could possibly imagine…

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