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Archive for the ‘Upside down’ Category

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The grim reaper: He (or she, in this equal opportunity world) is the mythical creature of fear and death. As my hopes of returning home last night were being taken out by the great sickle of mechanical failure on a jetliner, I began to ponder the origins of this ominous character.

In searching the internet, I found the following:

Scholars trace the origin of the Grim Reaper to ancient times where he was known as Cronus to the Greeks and Saturn to the Romans, but the Grim Reaper as he is depicted today comes directly to us from the Middle Ages and the Black Death.

“Strange men in black, demons, and other terrifying figures were observed in other European communities carrying ‘brooms’ or ‘scythes’ or ‘swords’ that were used to sweep or knock at people’s doors. The inhabitants of these houses fell ill with plague afterwards. It is from these reports that people created the popular image of death as a skeleton, a demon, a man in a black robe carrying a scythe.”

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This same Reaper has been sung about in modern culture, and said song from the early 80’s has been spoofed a time or two. The crooners we will simply refer to as BOC in this pre dawn New England hour, but their lyrical message was likely decidedly different from my own. They said “don’t fear the Reaper”, and I concur.

But much like our equally creepy friend Christopher Walken, I would add “we need more cowbell”.

“The point, before you drift off any further”, you may say? Keep it fun. Be willing to be a little unpredictable, flexible, and open to “whimsy” from time to time, especially when things are not always going your way.

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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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A friend and colleague was coming home from the airport with me recently and was perusing content on his iPhone. He said “how did we ever get anything done before email?”. We had just gotten off a cross country “red eye”, so I will give him credit for a potential momentary lapse in discernment.

I thought for a moment about what he said, and the 2011 me agreed wholeheartedly, but the base model me took exception. Allow me to explain.

You see, I began my career circa 1988. They issued me a large leather bag and a gigantic “10 key” calculator, complete with a paper tape. They also showed me the supply cabinet, with it’s wealth of multicolumn spreadsheet form paper and other goodies made from wood pulp, but no computer. And we got a lot of work done. Boy, did we ever.

18 months or so later, we were all issued start of the art laptop computers, first generation MacBooks, no less. The processors were slow, the software was cumbersome, but we were expected to use them and become “paperless”. Instead, hours worked increased, pounds lugged to the client site doubled, we printed everything, and productivity trudged along for the ride.

Fast forward 23 years later, and we still have not gone paperless just yet, but I’ll admit it’s getting better. But, has productivity really improved, or do we just work more? After all, as my friend made his statement, we were riding home in a car after a 32+ hour day, and he was reading email while our greater conscious selves were napping.

A digital native, I am not. But i consider myself a wise gray haired immigrant who knows his way around the digital continent. Email. Cell-phones. Websites. Texting. Cloud computing. We are more accessible than ever.

While writing this, I took a Saturday morning phone call from a colleague in another department a few moments ago, and he was looking for the cell phone number of a colleague in mine. And he apologized for the “interruption”. Does that word even apply, anymore?

Points of contact are up, no doubt. More things have our attention. But does more get done, or do more things go on our to do list as “undone”?

Don’t get me wrong; I love the new digital world order. I would not go back, I don’t think. I have fully embraced my new nationality. But, it might be nice to visit the fatherland. I guess that is what books are for.

So, I guess my point here is that we can get work done, maybe even more without our “devices” to keep up with and upgrade/follow/maintain.

I’m going to log off now and go out to mow the yard. My friend has already done the same with his.

If you need to reach me, I’ll have my cell phone, just looking for the next interconnected unproductive opportunity to visit. ūüôā

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I love a good analogy.

Any surprise in me making that confession?¬†¬† Some might even call me the master of bad analogies. I also like to think of the practical origin, or application, that best goes with the analogy: “Dead end Job” = a job that is going nowhere; ¬†“Upside down on your mortgage” means things are inverted from how they should be, ie, you owe more than the house is worth.¬† You get the idea.

As I have “matured in life” (gotten older), I find myself spontaneously doing things that I used to avoid like the plague. I like to think of it as “hitting my stride”.¬†¬† Washing a sink full of dirty dishes, and pulling weeds that I see cropping up in the yard, are examples of what I’m referring to here.

So, as I was leaving the house the other morning, I saw the first batch of careless weeds of the season growing together on the fringe of the yard. And it got me to thinking:¬† “there’s an another often used analogy here – getting to the root of the problem”.

A few facts or observations about weeds are in order here:

Weeds seem to mysteriously appear and grow up overnight.   They have a great system of early camouflage, and they sneak in quickly and grow just so.

Weeds try to look pretty: they sometimes bear a flower, but it is not enough to mask their ugly, out-of-place, persona in your yard.   Truth be told, the flower is simply a device to generate more of their kind.

Weeds use up a lot of nutrients. Left untouched, they can conquer a lawn in no time.

The root system of the weed is much longer than the body of the plant above the ground. There is much more to the problem than the eye can see.

Weeds are hard to eradicate from your landscape. You can mow them down, but they grow back, even faster than the grass.   And you can pull them, but you better make sure and get the entire root system out, lest that same pesky, diligent weed you just pulled will grow right back.

And there, my friends, is the source for this long uttered analogy: “Getting to the root of the problem”.¬† And extracting the weed, roots and all, is a delicate, deliberate task.¬† If you hurry,¬† you will only break it off the surface, ensuring the sudden return of the weed, in the dark of night, with its trouble spreading seed.

A bit of advice here: I have found that it helps to pull the root system out when the ground is well watered.¬† Dry hard ground gives a weed a solid footing that is almost impossible to extract.¬†¬† There’s an analogy in that, as well.

So what is the application?   We all suffer from some type of weeds that litter our emotional and spiritual lawns.  Trying to mow them down, keep them hidden, or ignoring them will do no good. They will only continue to fester in your otherwise pristine lawn. You have to pull them out, roots and all,  and do so while continually watering your spiritual and emotional lawn sufficiently to facilitate successful extraction.

What are some of these “spiritual and emotional weeds”? Maybe anger, fear, jealously, inattention, lust, distraction. The list could go on for a while.

Matthew 18:8-10:

 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

Amen. I need to be diligent in my weeding.

I like to think of it as “hitting my stride”.

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