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Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. (Luke 1:1-2)

Richard Wright pointed out to us this morning in a discussion of Luke’s account that inspiration does not necessarily require originality. Touché. Arigatou gozaimasu – thank you very much, in Japanese.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was written in the 1950’s by children’s book author and theologian C.S. Lewis, and was the third tale in his Chronicles of Narnia series. It details a young hero and heroine being drawn back across time and space to the land of Narnia, where good is at war with evil, not all is as it seems, and heroic voyages and responsibilities call forth to the characters present.

Sounds a little like the present day. However, in this era of modern narratives chronicled by digital photography, the world wide web, social media, blogging, and the like, we often see the story unfolding before our eyes, seemingly as if the final plot has not yet been written.

Our young heroine boarded a ship last evening, not of wooden sailing vintage, but of Cathay Pacific Airship caliber. And, much like the mythical Starship Enterprise, time and space are relative as she seeks out new frontiers.

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As she began her voyage at 1:00 AM PDT, family and friends had already lived those measured hours, restlessly sleeping at a time zone two hours removed. As the airship ventured out into the blackness over the Pacific, our Dawn Treader and her faithful companions were literally flying “toward the past”, over land and sea measuring points historical in time, until such point that they “warped into the future”, courtesy of the international dateline. One man’s Sunday afternoon is another woman’s Monday morning, but who can decipher which is which? Quite the “time/space continuum”, indeed.

Prince Caspian, as we will refer to him today, has remained behind on the distant shore with Little Frau, myself, and a cast of thousands. His swashbuckling exploits will await another day, as this narrative journey unfolds before us.

Returning to our original “source of inspiration” narrative for today, that being the book of Luke, we see it ending as follows: “So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.” (Luke 24:52-53)

Amen. Sail on, Dawn Treader. We will spend our time in the Temple, and await with great Joy your return and the forthcoming real time tales of life across the seas.

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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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Facebook: land of the parental creepers, or the digital front porch?    Maybe both.

In the south, there’s nothing like a good glass of sweet ice tea on a hot summer day.   I sometimes think it ought to be on the government’s list of controlled substances.   Back in the day, before there was air conditioning, people would share glasses and share time out on the front porch, enjoying a cool breeze and watching the world stroll by.

You see, before television, the internet, and Facebook, people shared their lives one moment at a time, person to person, face to face.     Here in 2011, things aren’t quite the same.    We work long hours, go to work out after work, run the kids to and fro to and fro, and then we come home, plop down in our recliners, and watch episodes of The Biggest Loser.

But we do something else, as well, here in the age of 2011; we stay connected – digitally connected.    In an era when we don’t see each other quite so often by the whites of our eyes (or the red, when times are just so), we keep up with one another in different ways.

The Facebook: that world-changing invention of the Harvard few.     What was not intended to be used by us 40 somethings has been embraced in unique and significant ways.      Sharing vacations, sharing pictures, sharing stories, jokes, and even digital vegetables (Farmville, anyone?), we trade time and information in ways that redefine the meaning of the word “connected”.

And I have to admit: I like it.     No real surprise there, for those who are my “digital friends”.

So before we close up this entry, let’s share a few suggested “rules of engagement” for our time together on the digital front porch (with a little country drawl thrown in, just for some 3D effect):

– Don’t just sit there; tell us a little ’bout yourself

– Honesty is still the best policy, even from behind a screen and a keyboard…

– Don’t hog the conversation; oftentimes, a good listener is a welcomed guest out here

– Don’t worry about the young-uns racin’ up and down the digital drive out front.     They’ll find the speed bumps, sooner or later, the easy way or the hard way, and payin’ em too much attention will just distract you from your guests in the other rockin’ chairs.    Besides, if you worry about what they’re doin’ too much, somebody might call you old and cranky, and that just wouldn’t do…

….not out here.    Pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass, and tell us what’s on your mind.

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Day dreaming heads in the sand

Day dreaming, gee, but its grand

I’m in love with an ostrich

All the neighbors complain, ya see

But she loves me

Can’t help it if you don’t understand it…

Yes, it’s that famous chase scene song from Scooby Doo featuring The Creeper.   Who can forget him?   He followed those blasted kids around, trying to scare them away from his territory.    But the kids always emerged victorious.

Which brings ua to our topic today.    Facebook; that glorious land of TMI: too much information.    Especially when its coming from those blasted kids…!      

What exactly is Facebook, anyway?     Is it the proverbial “Digital Front Porch” for my generation, sharing with friends of our own age what is going on in our lives: challenges, victories, and defeats?   (more on that topic in a later post)   

Or, is it like wandering into a party to which we were not invited: an electronic techno pop virtual equivalent of our kids playing Dance Dance Revolution until all hours of the night?

Admittedly, our kids found and embraced Facebook before the older generation did.   Setting up a Facebook page for me was simply an exercise suggested by my wife; an effort to get to know our kid’s friends and follow up on what was going on with their lives.   

 But, a funny thing happened on the way to becoming Creepers.     We, or at least I, found that I liked this thing they called “The Facebook”.     A digital front porch, indeed.        And yet, each of our generations is sharing and embracing the Facebook world in a different way.    And, we each are equally adept at embarrassing the other with our posting and viewing patterns.    Need I say more?

I’m conflicted here.    Can you tell?    TMI is just that: stuff I’d probably rather not know.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’d venture to guess my kids would say the same.    Touche’?  

Maybe I am in love with an ostrich.    Day dreamin; heads in the sand.   Pretty earthy, huh?    But that’s what ostrich’s do best when they get scared: they hide.

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What hath God wrought is a phrase from the Book of Numbers (Numbers 23:23). 

“What hath God wrought” was a message in American Morse code sent by Samuel F. B. Morse to officially open the Baltimore-Washington telegraph line on May 24, 1844, launching the true birth of long distance communication.

We spent part of the holidays in the west Texas panhandle with Sherry’s family.   These trips always remind me of just how addicted to “The Social Network” we have become.    Internet access, especially wireless internet access, is almost non existent in the farming country.    But this trip was different.    Upon driving the 10 miles from my inlaws farm to the small town of Hedley to sleep at my wife’s grandmother’s house, I saw that little box in my iPhone that had been missing from all previous trips: “Wireless Networks Detected”.     Not only a wireless network, but an unsecured one.    Wow.   What a find.     Suddenly, friends, facts, and sports scores were only a few clicks away.    No more waiting for the Sunday delivery of The Amarillo Globe News to find out who had won the games from the previous night.

Not to overstate the experience here, but it pointed out to me just how much “wireless” has become a part of our everyday lives.     The birth of the internet in the early 1990’s and the birth of Facebook in the early 2000 are arguably just as large a development in history as the development of the telegraph back in the early 1800’s.     The number of people with accounts on Facebook in 2011 would amount to the third largest nation in the world, following behind only China and India.

It reminded me of a song from the Broadway musical “Titanic”, The Night was Alive:

Every day from G-M-O-M
‘Good morning, old man’
To G-N-O-M
‘Good night, old man’
My telegraph sends its messages to ships at sea

Sending out its
Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit…
Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit
Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit…

I was young and shy, detached and sad
Spent my days indoors, a home-bound lad
Hardly spoke, few friends
I kept myself to myself
Quite alone

Then I found Marconi’s Telegraph
It could span the planet’s width by half
Fifty yards, two thousand miles
The same!
Touch the spark…sound the tone

And the night was alive
With a thousand voices
Fighting to be heard
And each and every one of them
Connected to me…

And my life came alive
With a thousand voices
Tapping out each word
Like a thousand people
Joined with a single heartbeat

Tapping out our Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit
Dit dit-dah-dit dah-dit
Dit dit-dah-dit dah
Everywhere…

So what’s the point here?    How will this change the world?    How can I use this to help make the world a better place?    Social media is a powerful thing.   What better way to share the love of God and the good news of Jesus?    The night is alive, with a thousand voices…and each and every one of them, connected to me.

Touch the spark…sound the tone!

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Our daughters, “all three of them”, moved back into their college dormitory today.    Hannah, Natsumi, and Rina packed their bags and headed out for the long one mile drive in the blowing snow back to the Oklahoma Christian University campus.   

Hannah has been a part of our lives for almost 19 years now.   Natsumi and Rina, not so long.   It seems that these nice young ladies from Japan have been claimed by the Binghams, and vice versa, for about 3 weeks now.    Last night’s Facebook newsfeed status entry by one of them said it all: “I love my new American family; I don’t want to leave!”.     There could be no greater compliment.   We shared food, fun, our faith, and the fellowship of the Christmas holiday season.    As the girls all loaded up in the car today to drive away, these two new daughters both hugged me and said “goodbye, Daddy”.

As the girls drove away today, I wondered “how could a short three weeks mean so much to us, or to them?”.

It reminded me of another day and time, a not so long 22 years ago, when I completed a three week stay with a lovely family, and as the father hastily helped me put my bags on a West German train, he quickly hugged me and said “Good-bye”.   As we speed away that day, I wondered if I would ever see them again, Manfred, Ingrid, grossmuder Heidi, daughter Iris, and their young son, Christian.    Thankfully, I got to do just that a year or so ago while travelling for work.    But as the years have passed, I never forgot that time or that family, almost every day of it holding some detail or fine nuance memory of my time with a German family.     The food, the fun, the faith, and knowing we were all children of a loving God.    I felt just as at home and comfortable 22 years later, seeing them again for the first time in a long time.    

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When you are inserted into a family setting, everything changes, especially when you are made to feel at home and a part of the family when the culture is so foreign to you.    I guess that’s what happened with our girls, as well.     They were a joy to have with us in the home.   We shared some of our culture, and they shared some of theirs, cooking us dinner one night – Niku jaga ga (meat and potatoes): cho oishii (so yummy!).

These new friends are special, but that is true of the blessing of friendship and family for us all.    God’s blessings are amazing.     While we hope and believe 22 years will not separate the Binghams from our new friends and family, I’m quite confident that even if it did, an amazing reunion would await, whether here, or on the other side of the world.     “Whether foreign land, or neighbors, everyone’s the same.    Searching for the answers that lie within Your name”.

 I Thessalonians 2:19-20:  For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

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