We allow others to hijack the concept of influence.  It is killing us.

As a kid growing up in church, school and community, I had influencers.  Many intentionally and many without knowing it poured into my life.

I then noticed untrue, unreal trends. They did not reflect what I observed.  People in churches gave testimonies, and they were mostly in first person, and over and over it was “God showed me” and “I realized” and — I knew they were omitting older folks, family, friends and strangers who shared zest, hope, light, strength, insights with that person testifying.

It was not honest.

I also noticed  “influencers” lived in Washington DC, New York and London and held sway in decisions affecting thousands, millions of people.

But my life’s deep influencers were like Mary Nixon who graduated herself so she could teach us AP English in 7th, 9th, and 11th grades.  She showed me we can love literature, think deeply while wrestling with life issues and still believe, in fact, believe more deeply.  My grandfather and namesake showed me courage got him through a World War, built his values and beliefs, and when I was older I found, his courageous love moved him to adopt my mom and better to me than many bloodline grandfathers.

And I DO have mini influencers.

A student who is first in her family to graduate college.

An abused boy striving to be a great dad to three girls.

The crossing guard lady for my son’s school: twenty years and counting.

The two ladies who open the doors to worship for the last several years.

None of them have a website, blog, Facebook business page, or more than a hundred followers.

I remember a cartoon from, I think, the New Yorker.  Two undertakers stand outside an empty room with someone in repose in a casket.  One whispers to the other, “I thought a big room because he had 2,000 Facebook friends.”

Every time someone hijacks an important word like “influence” or “friend” we are closer to being like Neo before Trinity or Morpheus.

So says a guy writing to influence you rather than invest a lunch or anything expensive to actually touch your life.

Jasper, Run Home

I look up from my desk, out the window to see the horse stable, front yard, and Jasper.  He runs, sniffing everything, checking to see if the horses got hooves trimmed for a snack.

Jasper belongs to Dan and Rona, neighbors across the street (up the hill) and has a spacious home, teens and their friends, a huge back yard and the attention span of a house fly.  He is restless, inquisitive, easily bored, and has the searching nature of a poodle and the retrieving nature of a Labrador.

The first time it happened I ran out with treats, a leash cleverly concealed behind my back and suckered him in with the treats, clipped him into the leash (he waited as I held him), and walked him back up to his house.

Today, I watch and ask Jill if she wants to put our dog, Myska, in the dog yard with Jasper or let him in, or take him home.

We don’t run to capture him, because we know.  Son home from college, or daughter running out to go play volleyball — someone — left the door or yard gate ajar and Jasper ran away from home.

He ran away to his other home, to Myska, to lazy days in the huge dog yard, helping to herd the horses to the pasture or back in for the night through the stable, to our grandkids who bury their hands in his curly coat.

We even know that if we do nothing, he will sniff everything, go to the front door and wait…and then trot back up to his house, back through the open gate, or wait after barking at the front door.

It lies deep in us, especially teens, that we desire a place to run away from home to languish in, to enjoy an escape, to be elsewhere and then return home — safe.

Unlike Jasper, many making poor choices run away to scary, scarring places.  For some it is the maw of the grave.

So nurture your child’s need for a third place, neither home nor school.  Help to choose wise places by choosing wise places for first sleep overs, your choices for homes away from home, and teach them that wanderlust, informed, wise places for wanderlust are part of life’s adventure.

And call Dan and Rona in case they have not missed Jasper, do not take it for granted that they know.

And take the compliment, the calling to be that place others run to as a sacred trust.  Inviable.

Interdependence Day

Independence Day was fun.  I loved a mind-blowing encounter when Will Smith claws out of his jettisoned fighter jet seat in the desert to stomp, smash talk over to an alien craft to reach the craft and hit the alien in the “face?”, light up his cigar and unload the swag.

All by himself.  Alone, out in the desert.

We love this American Ideal in the first pathfinders, mountain men, cowboys, and single moms making a go against overwhelming odds.

Happy Fourth of July.  Independence Day!

Except, the original Independence Day was a frightening set of promises given by men to each other.  They amazingly displayed interdependence by charting the course of a not-yet-birthed country with ideals binding us together even now.  Some died.  Many lost everything.  They made themselves targets.

What would become These United States declared its independence from England and a tyrannical king.  That is the independence, and some of that swag belongs to each and every American.

But the “swag” that keeps us winning, growing, failing and learning together is that interdependence.  We do so together.

Shivering men sneaked up on Hessian Mercenaries on a freezing Christmas Night, some barefooted, almost none with sufficient clothing depended on each other crossing the Delaware.

Each fought for the man next to him.

No other American said it better than Martin Luther King, We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Alabama 1963.  

Will Smith ejected from a fighter built by tens of thousands, bankrolled by hundreds of millions, after he was trained for more than a million dollars by thousands, and backed by thousands of people helping him track the alien.  Interdependence is still how we do it.

Do not miss this.  We stand independent, not under any king’s or tyrant’s thumb.  Independence.

But we will continue, we hand this dream to our children, we flourish as we admit and hold up our interdependence, our faith that together we overcome.  I would add, with a profound dependence on God and His enduring Providence.

When Will pulled out the cigar and lit up, we all together, celebrated that silly moment because we learned to celebrate together, Yorktown, Appomattox, The Battle of Midway impossible without the courageous sacrifice of torpedo bombers, and 130,000 others resting deep beneath white crosses and stars of David in ten countries … who all died not knowing the outcome of the battles where they gave their lives, for the man or woman next to them.  Then for you.  For me.

Interdependence fuels our Independence, or we vanish from the face of this earth as lesser civilizations did.

It is raining, hailing, storming

We have a pond in wet years, and a deep depression in dry years.  On three occasions in fifteen years, we went from mud hole or dry depression to full to overflowing in a few days.  This time, unlike the other two, we have had three feet of water flowing over the dam off and on for five days.

It has some unexpected benefits.  The pond below us was covered in duckweed a week ago, and now every bit of green has been washed over that dam by turbid brown water.

I only mention that because we have been glued to storm watch channels with a bag packed to go down into the basement for three of the last seven nights.  I only mention that because, to this moment, we have gotten off terribly fortunate.  We have watched on the news as houses slid into roaring rivers, tornadoes have ripped apart homes and lives, hail has destroyed cars and roofs, and — we breathed sighs of relief.  It was not us.

There is something terribly, amazingly human there.

In WW2, the Germans bombed London.  They rained down water line busting bombs, and then rained down incendiary bombs.  They calculated to the millions how London would be a demoralized wasteland for years.  Malcolm Gladwell chronicled the profoundly different effect that they reaped.  Many, many more people “survived” the bombings, lived through “near misses”, and were so surprised at their resilience, that they fought fires, volunteered to rebuild and defend in countless ways.

The bombings enraged London, but did not defeat them.  The bombings stiffened their resolve.

Countless people face terrible flooding and worse tonight, and I have a small prayer.  That those who survive, that those who come through, that those who are terribly close to near misses are surprised by their resilience.  There may be no one to be angry at, except God, but there will be many who wake up bone weary tomorrow — yet, undefeated.  A strange, unasked for gift.

The “B” Team

I am a Yankees fan.  Since age four.  My mom’s mother was terribly concerned about my eternal salvation and about my allegiances on this side of the Jordan River, before I “crossed over” at the end of this life.

She fell in love with Marris and DiMaggio and company.  She passed that love on to me.  Cheering for the Yankees has unexpected benefits.  People who cheer for a plethora of other teams automatically hate you.  Those same people seek you out to remind you when the Yankees are adrift, sinking, battered and washing up on shore.  It is a little like breaking a leg and people rejoicing for you.

Then you must grimace as the big Red machine to the north wins a zillion games in the season, and the pennant, and the Big One.  It only hurts.

This year started out like many others.  A huge set of salaries bought by evil genius/dumbest man in baseball Cashman, are injured.  Thirteen on IL is half of a roster of 26.  Half.  Tie your hitting/fielding arm behind your back and play.  And that is where the biggest funny in a long time is playing out for us all to watch.  No, it is not September, and no, there is no pennant anywhere close, but all the “B” team guys brought up from within the organization are, uh, winning.  They are beating up on other AL East contenders.  They lead the AL East, the toughest playground in the MLB.

So now Boone and Cashman have the sort of dilemma others only dream about.  Do you let the upstarts continue to win, and insure the millionaires are healthy and only have to play, say, three-quarters of the season?  Do you start bringing back the millionaires?

Only Yankees fans get to savor such craziness.

I am in a hotel

And last night I was in another hotel.

No, I was teaching until 9:30.  Wait, that was the other two nights.  Oh, all three.

Was I in a hotel last night?  No, that was two weeks ago.  St. Petersburg.  No, Austin.

Spring break was last week, right?  Oh, yes, grandkids, allergies arriving to tell me my allergy shots are not working quite that well.

Did I remove that fallen tree in the front of the cabin?  I think so, yes.  The unfinished one is on the back of our property.  Yes, I got the one in front.

I talked to my brother Buck and his  beloved Carole, into the night, tore myself away in the morning to go to SXSW.  Three weeks, no, two Fridays ago.

Beau has a solid idea, the financing for Tokata seems almost doable, Brandon might get this job he wants, Kourtney has overcome her last huge setback, Fred and Frieda may get past his infidelity, Pat may close this round of funding, Jill’s artwork is getting helps from unexpected places, and yes, I still enjoy teaching.

Maybe, just maybe I do not shirk from hotels, because if I turn off the phone…..

The swirls diminish just a tiny bit, leaving the possibility of silence, just the possibility.

On Bowing Down

We got to keep Duke (“6 almost 7″) and Veda (4, “Shouldn’t you already know that?”) for two weekends.  Jill charted two endurance courses: meals, swimming, shopping, splash pad #1, playground, Monsters Inc. twice since they transformed Life.Church for At The Movies on that theme, maybe sleeping, church, coffee shops, splash pad #2, naps and home.

I think I love having them until I compare myself to Mimi, who is juiced beyond belief.  I make funny games, listen to them gossip, pontificate on arcane minutiae, and become self-aware.   Twice Duke replayed the “You are not allowed to touch my privates” speech.  Then, maybe ten minutes later, he called me to the restroom to wipe his bottom after going #2.

Tempted to replay that I should not touch him, Mimi’s look-of-death froze the thought in inaction.  True self-awareness awaits further work.

Somewhere in a blur of making blueberry pancakes (thirteen grain); Duke asked, “When did you bow down to Mimi?”

He caught my blank face.

Duke, “You DID bow down to Mimi, right?”

I now looked at Mimi, my wife and girlfriend, and she realized Duke had seen photos in our little digital photo frame over by the toys, and in those photos, a somewhat grainy Colt knelt before Claire one night at the Botanical Gardens.  He was asking her to marry him.

She said “Yes”, ergo Duke, Nova and Veda.

So I told him I bowed down to Mimi at the North Pole on the map of the world in the old Dallas Love Terminal, and she said “Yes”.  Yes.  I bowed down to her.

I thought later I should add, “And when she met my family and still kept me, and when your dad was born, and when her first horse died and we lost a baby between the boys, and when I served in ministry and we always had more month than money.”

Then I thought to add, “And this morning because she loves you, worked two days to prepare this weekend, enriches my life, keeps up with a zillion people, paints beautifully, cares for animals, and is funny, witty and reads.”

Now I have to wait until he returns with his mom and dad, and I should bow down more often, and say so.