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Little Frau and I were watching one of our few favorite TV shows the other night: House Hunter’s International. As we were watching a couple tour exotic locals and ponder a different way of life, I asked what I thought was a simple question.

The question? I said “if you could choose to live anywhere, ignoring your backstory, where would it be?”.

After thinking for a moment, she responded “But, I like my backstory”. Wow. Pain, and all: those are the words of one dedicated and brave lady.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I love her for loving her backstory, and so much more. And, I look forward to many more stories yet to be told.

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1 Corinthians 9:23-25

I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

Yesterday was the perfect life example of the source of Paul’s analogy. Over 250 young men lined up to run on a hot Oklahoma Saturday, each knowing only one would “win”, and that few would medal. But the race is not about being first to finish, it is about accomplishment, endurance, and love for what you do.

Thanks to these guys for the reminder, and for the inspiration to keep running the great race before us.

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Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

John 21:3-6.

I have fished off and on, admittedly in
sporadic bits, since I was very young. Truth be told, I really caught my first fish just a few months ago. It was a good one, and the experience was surprisingly exciting. I am preparing to go again soon for the first time since then, and hope for more success.

But this time is different. Someone is going to lead us to where the fish should be. They will even provide the bait. I expect to catch something. Significant outside interferences aside, I really should catch some fish this go round.

It takes patience to be a fisherman. Just try going out to buy a one day out of state license in a remote locale, sometime. It is a lesson in slowness, indeed.

Much like the passage about Jesus telling his disciples to keep fishing that morning two millennia ago, I am expected to do the same as a fisher of men. Jesus has provided the bait, and He has told me where the fish will be. But, I have to want to catch the fish, and I am the one who has to cast the line into the waters surrounding the vessel that is my life. If I do as He asks, just like Peter and the rest of the crew, the catch will be a plentiful one, no doubt.

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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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I need to share a story with you this morning. No surprise there. The surprise is in the turns of the story.

In listening a second time, one year removed, to an audio version of Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles In a Thousand Years”, the following quote is an appropriate lead in for this post:

“People love to have a lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.” I often feel that I’m not willing to pay the cost for joy. It’s difficult to give up my comfort. It’s difficult to leave my comfort zone. Pain is not comfortable. But that’s the price.And so living your life deliberately – living your life on purpose – requires something extra of yourself. But giving the something extra is addictive.”

So, here is the story.

I made an early morning milk run last week to get some breakfast fixin’s for my hungry children. While in the store, I ran into a guy who is about to make a kidney donation to a mutual friend and
older mentor at church.

I asked the man “how did this come
together?”, and his answer was quite intriguing. It seems that about 10 years ago, this man woke up one day and told his wife “I want to donate my kidney. I don’t know why, necessarily, but it’s just something I think I should do”.

Time passed. 10 years, give or take, to be exact. Nothing was done to follow up on the desire to donate, but the desire remained. This man then happened to be at church on a Wednesday night (something he says he almost never does, BTW) and he runs into our mutual friend.

Unknowing of the friend’s medical condition and need, he asked how he was doing. Upon hearing of the friend’s need for a kidney transplant, he said “you can have mine”.

Disbelief followed, along with denial and “you need to think about this first”. The man’s response, naturally was “I already have: for 10 years, in fact”.

Weeks passed and they finally reached agreement, and wouldn’t you know it, but they are a match. The donation will be happening soon.

I know risk follows, and we need to pray for both of these men, but I could not leave with my milk that morning without being struck by how God moves in a mysterious way. A man even wrote a song about it over 200 years ago:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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The song was penned by a William
Cowper (1731 – 1800). His story is not so great. He was born into wealth and opportunity, but when love escaped him and challenges faced him, he slipped in and out of bouts of depression and insanity for the rest of his life. And yet, his name, his story, and more importantly, his music, are still influencing us today.

So, this morning, I’m moved in what is likely no longer such a mysterious way. Why did this man get to the point of needing a kidney? Why is there disease, war, poverty, abuse, and hatred in this world?

Good things happen, and bad things happen, but we are called upon in both counts to make a difference in our own unique, special, and even mysterious way, and in so doing, to live a better story.

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Leroy Jethro Gibbs has his numbered rules (never say you’re sorry, never involve a lawyer, etc). There are a bunch of them.

My friend Michael has adopted what he terms N.U.T.: Non-negotiable Unalterable Terms. He currently has identified 1 through 5.

While I’m in the “initialization” mood (BNFMK, anyone?), I think I will create my own alphanumerical sequence. How about I.W.W.D.?

I’m not sure, however, that I want to begin with my first identified item
as number one. To do so might come at the expense of a subsequently defined item gaining higher numerical standing.

So, let’s begin with lucky number 7.

IWWD #7: When the Bings are on vacation, they don’t “bypass” finding a place to worship on Sunday morning.

So, greetings will be extended at the Bypass Church of Christ in Vicksburg, Mississippi this fine humid morning.

IWWD: It’s What We Do.

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It’s graduation weekend in Edmond, America, and you know what that means: hitting the reception circuit. So many kids, so many cake/punch/hors doerves opportunities, so little time/so little stomach space. And memories: so many memories. How could they have all grown up so fast? It seems like just yesterday that Baby H graduated; I think it always will. Babies A and B start HS soon, and you can only wonder where the years are going.

After completing our Saturday reception circuit (there are more to come on Sunday), we stopped at one family’s house to drop off a little graduation gift. As the young lady turned to go back into the house, it hit me: I had coached this girl as a 6th grader on H’s basketball team, way back when. It could only have been yesterday, it seems.

A basketball coach, I am not, and yet this time afforded me the first of several opportunities to coach each of my kids in the fine sport of round ball.

This was a small church based league, with only about 4 or 5 teams total, 6 girls on each team. Accordingly, we played each team at least twice in a simple 8 game season. As those teams go, we were OK. We had a couple of decent players, and then just a few girls who wanted to have fun. We won a game or two, and we lost a couple of games. One of the losses was quite one sided, as that team had set up an elaborate (for this league) half court line screen offense. This was a “color wrist band” man defense only league, so the screen effectively freed up the point guard to go shoot a layup almost every time down the court. “Help Defense”, as it is referred to, was a foreign concept to these girls as they chased their matching color around the court, and I was not sure the rules would even allow it.

In a “let’s have fun and grow in mind, body, and spirit” league, this loss still hurt. It felt like the other team took unfair advantage. So, I did what any red blooded American male would do in that situation: I appealed to the league office! My question was simple: can we “switch” defenders when running up against that type of offense? After some discussion, the answer was yes. It was game on: time to begin preparing for the upcoming rematch.

This league only allowed one practice for an hour a week, and you only got a half court for that. But, the girls seemed to understand the concept of our new defensive strategy. At it’s heart was one word: “SWITCH!”. Simply put, the girl whose color match set the screen would pick up the ball handler and stick with them until the other girl could get free and they could switch back.

The date for the rematch arrived, and my girls were practiced and ready. As the game began, the other team complained “they can’t do that”. But, the ref/commissioner explained to them that, with the type of offense they ran, we could. “Do that”, we did. It worked beautifully. As they game wore on, we were behind, but began a comeback in the last few minutes of the second half.

With only seconds remaining and the game tied, we picked up a turnover and began to run back down the court. The gym was packed, as many had arrived for the game that was to follow. Every person was on their feet cheering, and the roar felt almost deafening, relatively speaking. My heart still races today when I think about the moment, 6 or 7 years later. As the clock fell below 10 seconds, we passed it to the girl on the right hand lower block (her name was Morgan, I think), she shot and scored, and time expired. We won, and had beaten the only undefeated team in the league. That team finished the year with only one loss: the one orchestrated by us.

We finished the season at 4-4, but that moment was our championship. Parents rushed the court and hugged their girls, and there were huge smiles all around. But the look on the opposing coach’s face as we shook hands was my “Lombardi” moment. We had changed our ways, we had adjusted, and we had overcome in a “that’s not fair” scenario.

So, back to graduation weekend. If I had any advice for Alex, that all grown up girl who just graduated, or anyone else, it would be that one thing: “SWITCH!”. Take what life throws at you, but don’t give up and accept it. Respond. Get advice (and buy in) from important friends. Adjust. Change. Quit the things that are holding you back. Develop new habits. SWITCH.

As you have those late game moments in life, your heart racing, may this simple philosophy serve well. Make it a great life. The “cloud” crowd is cheering for you.

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