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Archive for the ‘The World is Flat’ Category

Where to start? That’s a tough one. His name is Bernhard. I’ll start there, and we’ll see where it finishes.

Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

We’ve established earlier on FB (when I was too tired to put any of this down) that myself and two co-workers are out of the country for business, working on facilities issues for one of our student programs. The plan was to fly out from OKC at noon on Friday, and to arrive at our destination city of Vienna, Austria at around 8:30 local time Saturday morning. That was the plan.

Upon arriving in the OKC airport and getting our passports scanned and our luggage checked, we were informed that the plane out of OKC had a mechanical delay and we were likely to miss our connecting flight from another city in The States to Vienna. After much wrangling over the phone with airline customer service and turning down options that would have us going everywhere from Chicago to London on our way here and take an extra 12 to 24 hours, we finally settled on a re-route thru Switzerland that would get us to Vienna about 3 hours later than originally planned, but it would mean a very tight connection time, and our luggage might not get correctly retagged and moved between planes to make it to Vienna with us. Oh well, they at least promised us good seats in exchange for our trouble, maybe even beds in Business Class. A good sleeping environment over the ocean would be well worth a 3 hour delay and maybe one night without luggage, we thought.

We barely made the connection, and they almost did not let us on the plane due to “confusion with the reservation”, but we did make it onto the flight. And as for the seats? Back two rows of the airplane, which also happened to be completely full, and my seat was middle of the row and away from my two co-workers. As Little Frau texted me to see how good the seats were, I had an unfortunate but to be expected answer for the moment. “Terrible”.

The seat next to me remained open for the last few minutes, along with two across the aisle by a window. Then a family of three came in, all speaking very rapid German, and claimed the seats with no eye contact or acknowledgment between us. I settled in for a very long and seemingly uncomfortable flight.

As we jetted down the runway and into the air, I saw the man reach across the aisle to take his wife’s hand. Hoping for a possible switch to the aisle, I motioned his way. While he did not understand or respond to my intended communication, we did begin to talk. His English was quite good, and he engaged very quickly.

As mentioned before, his name is Bernhard, and he said he is a “Joiner”. I understand that means a carpenter, in his land. Hold that thought.

He talked about his home. He talked about his daughter, a triathelete, and her strong performance in a recent race out west. We talked about his two sets of twins, and my twins, all three being boy/girl combinations.  Quite a coincidence?  We talked about my oldest child currently being in China, and he admirred what he referred to as “my amulet” bracelet that she got me on a mission trip to Mexico.   He talked about his work.   He is 3rd generation in a business begun in 1914 by his grandfather, then continued by his father, and now by him. While he has two sons, neither plan to work in the business, but one of his apprentices from a few years ago took his youngest daughter’s hand in marriage, and the business will likely continue with him. But the name? She took her husband’s  surname, which is not a given in Switzerland, but an option, even moreso than in the US.   The business bears Bernhard’s surname.    How will that work, he wonders?

But another thing is troubling to Bernhard. His new son in law is not a Catholic, as Bernhard has been all his life. He, and now the daughter, are both baptized members of the Free Church in Switzerland. This is different for him, and it became our primary point of conversation.

The hour or so that followed included discussions of Heaven, Hell, what they are, what they are not, and Purgatory (which Bernhard does not believe exists, if Heaven and Hell even do in substance) and all points in between, whether real or perceived, or maintained in the memories of those we all leave behind when we die. We held open a large fold out map of the world from the in-flight magazine, and he showed me all the places he had travelled to as a young man. He wondered aloud about how God should make a way for all people of all nations to get to Heaven, how it was hard for him to think there could be a place such as Hell, but how people like the Nazis and Americans who killed the “Indians”/native Americans could not deserve Heaven. And we talked about how it is easy/easier to be “Good Men” when times are good, but how it is hard not to be “not so good men” when times are hard.

Each of these points was initiated by Bernhard, and at one point, his wife called across the aisle to tell him that he “should let me eat my dinner”. After dinner, we actually made formal name and handshake introductions of ourselves to each other, now four hours into the flight. We had reached a point of non-agreement, but mutual appreciation for the discussion, and after a review of some Bible verses on my iPhone in English and German (thank you, You Version), we agreed it had been a good discussion and was time for sleep.

As the flight crew began to stir us a short time later with lights and breakfast, I looked at my watch. It was 11:30 PM Friday in Oklahoma, but the sun was coming up on Saturday as we moved across France and further into Europe. I adjusted my watch, “Dialing Up” for the new day that we were already experiencing. And, I was “dialing in” with Bernhard, or as my coworkers called him, “my new friend”. He reached across the aisle just before we landed and took a pad of paper and a pencil from his wife, and he began to write. He then handed me the a slip of paper. (I’ve not included it all in the picture above, for hopefully obvious reasons).

Bernhard invited me, and my family, if we ever come to Switzerland, to spend several days and nights with his family in their small village near the Swiss/German border. He carefully explained every character of his handwritting, from the name, to the address, to the phone number, to the email address. I gave him a business card and told him the same if he is “ever in Oklahoma”. I should be prepared, as his daughter may very well find a triathalon near our home before we fly anywhere near theirs.

Now, back to the beginning.   Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Our flight was delayed, and our plans were changed, but I can’t help but think about how God wanted someone to be there to listen to and engage with Bernhard, for clearly he was ready to talk.

As we worshipped this morning with our OC students and the students from Lipscomb University, one of them shared how this verse meant so much to them and their experience here in another land and another culture, and it further fed my thinking about this “chance” encounter in row 38, seat E. It was a better seat than I ever expected, and I’m humbled by the experience. I’m also challenged, as I feel Bernhard’s invitation to visit can’t be left to collect dust when things like email and the web are right at our fingertips.

Another person was talking to me later tonight, totally out of context, about how he “sees how God is working right now” in a small local church that we visited tonight. I think God was working on the plane Friday night. How many other times is he working and expecting me to pick up the task, but I fail to see or respond because the environment is different or I’m somehow inconvenienced?

I know another carpenter. He too is a “Joiner”. And, I think he wants me to not drop the ball with “my new friend”.

And, by the way, our luggage was right there for us when we got to Vienna. It’s hard to believe, but it should’nt be. After all, I’m not the one doing the planning here.

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As a few acquaintances of mine already know, I am leaving on a business trip soon, and it takes me across some water, and a border or two. Accordingly, those with
loved ones across the same borders have asked me to deliver a package. Make that, two packages. Actually, it is now three packages, and counting.

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So go ahead. I can take it. You know you want to. Just say it. Just call me “the mule”. It likely won’t be the worst thing I’ve ever been called. 🙂

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“Mail; It was called mail” said the elder Fox. “Envelopes; stamps; you know, I think I’ve heard of it…” replied the younger Fox.

That’s Fox, Joe Fox, for those of you boning up on your movie trivia.

In the real world, once upon a time, “The Post”, aka mail, was the only way to communicate. Not just letters, but telegraph, telegram, and even telephone revolved around the “Post Dispatch” for generations.

As a college kid, I experienced the world for the first time on a mission trip to West Germany. Yes, there were two Germany’s once upon a time, but I digress. “The Post” (office) was the only way to communicate. Letters were sporadic ways to let the folks back home know how you were, but phone calls were expensive and hard to make. You went to the Post, paid up front for a 10 minute call, and waited your turn for a booth. The operator connected you, and when your 10 minutes were done, the line went dead.

Talk about discipline…

Fast forward to 2011…

Our family devices were all abuzz during the night. Everyone got a text. It seems that China Girl had found a “Post” in the heart of Beijing, circa 2011. In these days, it is spelled WIFI. Accordingly, the texts were followed by something called “Skype”. What language is that, and can it help explain why I’m so tired this A.M.?

So, we will eagerly await her next post, literally and figuratively, via the WWW.

In the interim, thanks for reading mine.

🙂

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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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“Our little baby’s all grown up and savin’ China…”. I could not have expressed my sentiments any better than our mythical friend “Mushu”, and like him, I don’t do that “tongue thing”, at least I hope not.

Anyway, Baby Girl #1 (and one of the best two young ladies on the planet, may I add) leaves later this morning to see the world, starting with China. I’m so excited for her, and I’m gonna miss her.

But, I’m not worried about her forgetting her sword. On the “Digital Front Porch”, among other places, I have found Hank to be one of the most accomplished swordsmen around. If I could tell her anything this morning before she boards that plane, it would be not to forget her sword, and her shield.

Ephesians 6:16-18: In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

So, this morning, I bow to you Bruce. Bruce who? Bruce you. In the words of Fa Zhou “The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter”. Love you girl.

Now, lets get down to business, to meet, the Huns…

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“I’ve learned there are some things worth having, but they come at a price, and I want to be one of them.” The quote is from a woman named Karen, the subject of the 1937 novel and subsequent movie “Out of Africa”.

As I get older, I confess to conjuring up a bit of a “bucket list”, but admittedly, traveling to Africa was not tops in that department. Not, that is until a colleague and I were discussing potential for the establishment of a business line in Kigali, Rwanda. Then we began to discuss the need to go establish banking and other relationships, and I began to get a bit more interested. Seeing the “Gorillas in the Mist”? Hmm.

Then, we began to discuss necessary vaccinations, and he said the fateful words: “You won’t be able to give blood anymore”.

Ouch. Small stick, then a burn, followed by several small squeezes…

There is a blood drive coming up soon at our church, and even before hearing a passionate plea this past Sunday morning regarding the value of blood donations from the father of a cancer patient, the friendly vampires from The Oklahoma Blood Institute had called to inform me that I was again “eligible”.

As evidenced by the stack of T-Shirts pictured above, and this is only a fraction of those collected over the years, I’ve donated a few gallons in my time.

You see, Bing (Jeffrey Bing) really is an agent 007, and I even have that logo on an OBI shirt to prove it. I possess O Negative blood, the universal donor type, as does .7% (.007) of our society. To top it all off, I am CMV negative as well, meaning I’ve never had a common flu like virus where antibodies would be harmful to preemie babies and others who are ill.

I must admit, I don’t love the exercise of giving, but I cherish being gifted to perform said act. Very few (.007, anyone?) can give their blood and know that a small baby or a very sick loved one might see new days because of my slight inconvenience and minor pain. I don’t know that I’m ready to give that up, just yet. I’m just not sure if my calling is over in that department.

At my last donation, I was feeling good about clearing over 4 gallons when an older gentlemen nearby told me that he’d surpassed 13. Wow. I was humbled. Maybe I needed to hear that as a challenge and motivation to prioritize “the list”.

Maybe the gorillas will have to be seen on Discovery Channel. Maybe the banking can be done via phone, internet, and FedEx. Maybe a yet to be born child needs “a little bit o’ Bing” to brighten their day?

Here’s where you come in: are you giving the gift of life? Some can’t for various reasons, but many can but have never tried. You could save a life. You could save many!

“I’ve learned there are some things worth having, but they come at a price, and I want to be one of them.” I think I’m not done being an OBI special agent just yet, even if it keeps me “Out of Africa”.

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I’m Confused

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“What else is new? Tell me
something that I don’t already know, Sherlock”.

Allow me explain. There’s an old slogan that says “life comes at you fast”. That has been especially true, of late.

One daughter is in band. Late practices; early practices. Twin brother runs cross country. Practices; meets; and lots of calories consumed, and grocery runs to supply the calories.

And, the twin thing aside, they go to different high schools. Whew. Little Frau has been meeting herself coming and going, and I’m the first line backup.

To top it all off, oldest daughter is enrolled for another term of college, but she’s not moving into the dorms. She is boarding a plane to Asia. So what did we do today? We picked up a girl at the airport who flew in today from Asia, and then we loaded her stuff stored at our house and moved her into the dorms.

In the interim, girls from Texas to Tennessee are bunking at Hacienda Bing on their way to Europe in a week.

I can’t keep up. “What else is new? Tell me something that I don’t already know, Sherlock”.

At least, for this week, I have a good excuse. 🙂

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