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You can tell a lot about a hotel by how it is “equipped”. How was my lodging on this trip? Pretty nice, to be honest. The place my colleagues and I stayed was a small Inn located in a quaint Silicon Valley hamlet not far from our “secret” meeting locale. Aside from there being no coffee in the room, I can’t complain.

I found it interesting, however, to find the restroom equipped with an
ultra modern push button phone right next to the toilet. Ultra modern, maybe, when it was installed in 1985, that is. I wonder when the last time was that this phone set was used.

And it got me to thinking. (sorry to spoil the fun)

This visit to sunny CA was all about educational delivery systems, transformation versus substitution, pedagogy, and such. Our university has long prided itself on being a leader and innovator in putting technology to use in promoting student learning.

In the 60’s, we had a nationally recognized reel to reel tape dial up system where every student had a private assigned study carrell to use for accessing recordings of professors’ lectures. It was still in use during my freshmen year, and it seemed cool even then, although dated and old. That same year, we put the first computer lab on campus. They were Apple IIe computers, and my life was changed forever once I discovered the back room where they were set up.

Fast forward 26 years. My same university, where I am now a bleary eyed administrator instead of a wide eyed freshman, is using the latest Apple technology. But, much like the “Bat. Phone”, is it misplaced and unnecessary? iTunesU, anyone?

A laptop for every student; a chicken in every pot. Is that what the masses really need; is that what they are clamoring for? Is that what we need in order to transform?

They say the only things guaranteed in life are death, taxes, and change, and for many Republicans, only a partial subset of that list is necessary. (you choose)

To quote the past philosophers of Jefferson Starship/Airplane fame, “winds of change are blowing by”. We need to get on board that bird.

No matter the format, I have faith my colleagues and I will navigate the changing climate and find a way to step it up a notch.

If you have some thoughts on that, feel free to give me a call to discuss. During our call, please ignore if you hear water running in the background. In this modern era, there’s no telling where I might be when you call…

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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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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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Circa 2007: “All is well; buy our stuff”.

Circa 2008: “Dumb question: that won’t happen”. (new BearS chairman speaking to yours truly, 2 months before their doom).

It’s Friday the 13th. The CNBC prognosticators are talking about the Fed, inflation, the SEC, and “the reason it’s different”. And, of course, Goldman is always in the background: the circa 2011 version of Bear, I would contend.

I’m beginning to think the whole lot of them is corrupt with self interest.

Cynicism expressed, I’m cheering for my retirement account. Go baby, go….

:/

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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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