Tiny Things

I hopped out of the car, arguing with myself whether I get wetter by running or walking in rain, and settled on a fast walk.  Winter was not relinquishing her fingers on our weather.  This spring it has swung from cold to temperate or hotter four times.  I marked each occasion with four rounds of the same allergies.

I kept the rain off with my Yankees hat and a down vest and layers on the sleeves.  Jill was not along, so I quickly hunted the three things I needed for dinner and returned to the entrance to Walmart, groceries in two of those ephemeral bags that someone should figure how to build houses using.

And rain came down heavier making people pause before heading into the north wind delivering rain that soaked in the cold to the bone.  Then I was out and in it and laughing that I had not used a cart as I opened the door and flung groceries ahead of my hurrying hulk into the driver’s seat.  I turned on the car and heater.

And I had parked right in front of the cart return corral so I watched him shove his cart into the corral while shivering.  Then the young dad shoved his in behind him, and the shivering lady trying to shrink inside her T-shirt against the elements wheeled by and around the end to push her cart in.

In the cold and rain, they were returning carts and I marveled.  I have seen carts stranded in Walmarts….in other cities and neighborhoods.  It is a tiny thing for people to return carts in the cold and wet, but it is perched at the top of a slippery slope.

The nigh before I talked to a friend from Syria whose family was nowhere near the gas attacks.  Okay, alledged gas attacks.  Right.  I texted another friend in Nicaragua where unrest was spilling into the streets, and in our little country, people were taking another minute in the cold rain to stack carts to return to service.

In the same instant, putting carts away was as ephemeral as Walmart bags; more stolid against the chaos than I have reason to hope.  Someone has smiled on us, but we seemingly attack tiny things that have made us great; like a tower of Jenga blocks, we wonder how many we can pull out without crashing down the whole.

So I sat there warming up as the heater kicked in and a cold spring wind blew — grateful that in the cold, these people’s character had them pushing carts into corrals thinking no one saw, on a day when others do not.

Ideas and Ugly Babies

Ed Catmull in Creativity Inc. says Pixar’s culture follows a simple premise.  All ideas are born as ugly babies.  They take work.  They require input: iteratively.  Teams know they present repeatedly in front of all the creatives.

Two things.  One, people must give precise feedback in the scene where they lost you.  Two, they must offer a solution.

When you meet again in a month, you either must employ their proffered solution, or show why yours works better.

Great entrepreneurial feedback does that.  Someone puts her finger precisely on the blind spot and explains it.  Two, she offers a testable, clear solution.

My ugly baby is growing into a brilliant, awkward teen, but knows he ‘ll be challenged, tomorrow if not today.

Scary Answers

I teach a class called “Imagination” as part of the core curriculum for Entrepreneurship at OSU.  The OKSU OSU.  I teach and assign projects in an “Open Ended” manner, on purpose.  Even when I explain, “If I tell you how to do a journal entry, and what topics to cover, I would not have seen the 20+ formats I have seen work creatively for  so many students.”

Three students will drop the class immediately when we leave the room.

One bright eyed, intent student will ask, “How many words do you want in an entry?”

We have taught students in years of schooling that there is one correct answer, the teacher’s way of doing things, and no matter what the teacher says, she is absolutely looking for one answer in the discussion.  She will smile through all the other answers, but she ends the discussion when we arrive at the right answer.

In creativity, and in innovation, we can find hundreds of answers, and all might work. — with work.

Christianity seems similar.  Many people accept that we are a mess, in need of saving, and God did this elaborate, astonishing thing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we only have to accept.  One answer.  Does not demand too much to accept.

Craig Groeschel preached this morning in his Selfless series.  He described how to see God in the moment (even in the grind) and develop new answers, new growth, see the tough things through to the end.

Crickets.  Twenty people applaud, and the rest sit in super quiet mode, eyes a little glazed over.  Millions of correct answers — with work.  Too much for some people.

The on”oanswer fits all” is a great way to build audiences, to increase church attendance.  The millions of possible answers, the kind we must work out not knowing if we are right, trusting through the falling on your face times, and trusting God is guiding — builds Christ followers.

Graduate from the answers Someone else constructed, so you only have to answer “I accept” or “I am afraid” to the answers that mutate, grow, stretch us, slap us into next week, and force us to depend on God to follow God.

It is scarier, more demanding, and full of pitfalls, like all good adventures.

Urgency

I learned urgency where I think a lot of us did: in first grade.  I did not learn it in Kindergarten, because everything was measured and it was less than a half day and if you you were half way clever, no one even suspected that you ever went to the bathroom or restroom.  Really?  People were taking naps in there?

I learned urgency when seated in my little chair either paying attention to Mrs. Criswell or watching Billy Wiebold and Jim Holder eat paste; and my body would remind me.  I had needs.  I could feel a slight pressure that served to reassure me this was not going away.  It was only going to get worse.

And adults seemed clueless that this was fraught with peril.  Even when you don’t have to raise your hand and ask (Mrs. Criswell was forward thinking there), even when all you had to do was get up and go there was peril.  You see, getting up to go meant that every one knew.  I mean, every one was getting pretty worldly, so we all knew each other went to the restroom, and maybe resting came after, but they did not know I was going right then.

It paralyzed Kay.  Sitting there in enough petticoats to be in a movie with that unmistakable trickle running off the wood and steel chair onto linoleum, and the tears forming.  We all knew, then for sure. Maybe she forgot about that before she died or got married.

Anyway, one could sit there feeling a growing sense of urgency, while at the same time exploring ways to ignore it and hope it went away.  Possiblilities abounded, lunch could come two hours early, recess could be declared completely at random, or nuclear war drill would put everyone else under their desks and you blithely slippped in and out — unnoticed.

It’s funny, is it not?  We learn both urgency and ways to make it go away simultaneously, like countries, like churches, like global warming.

I learned Adult urgency from John Edmund Haggai.  Like any evangelist he had a great Thursday night sermon on the urgency of reaching the world for Christ.  Unlike all the rest, he also built an institute in a Third World locale, staffed with brilliant Third World faculty and leaders, and ways to get them trained and back into leadership positions in countries Baptists had no hope of reaching.

And here is the other wild thing about true urgency: it is not, like in the first grade, dependent on how we feel about it. It simply is.  Urgency is not a factor of age – I must do something about this before I die – or feeling.  It simply is.

John built the Haggai Institute when he was young.  You heard he was passionate about it, but it went far, far beyond how he felt about it…and millions of lives have been changed.

In the same way, it does not matter how I feel about climate change.  The world is hurting, species and habitats are vanishing, Christians believe they have been given dominion over the thing, so they should be the first, the most devout ecologists.

Quit sitting in your chair, jiggling your leg trying to figure a way to make this go away.  Get up, act on your urgency.  People are dying.  The world is suffering.

Sic ‘em.  Gotta go now.

Holy Day: Black Friday

The holy day or holiday is upon us.  Say all you can about Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving and the rest; the heavy weight American holiday is Black Friday.

To attract worshippers on this holiest of shopping days everyone rolls out the trimmings.  Walmart rolls stock around (you noticed it’s all on rollers, right?) to make lanes where you stand in line longer than for a ride at Six Flags over Botswana to pay for their must-have treasure.

In fact, just as with Christmas where we push the celebration into the day before and name it Christmas Eve, Black Friday deals start at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.  Isn’t it great?  Otherwise those poor sales clerks would be stuck at home eating with family, being thankful, and watching this year’s football version of Everybody Hates Dallas!

And like other religious rites, Black Friday’s millions of devotees have a special designation conferred on them: consumers.  You know, like pigs and other species gobbling up everything without being sated.  “Consumers”.  Our economy would be kaput without them!  This holy day is for you!

Please enjoy places for you to commune with manufactured things in the aisles and end caps!  These cardboard worship spots spring up to enable our most sacred transaction: impulse buying!  Staying home?  Our online, private worship version begs your attention in the page margins you’re viewing, but wait!  Google puts what you looked at online in the past weeks in the margin: that last nudge you need to click “Put in Cart”!

It does not matter your creed, ethnicity, or gender!  We can all fight over that last toy, apparel item equally, all hoping to consume that most wonderful possibility: something new to me!

But wait there is more!  If your consuming can wait a few days, then you can be overcome with the chills of “Winter Clearance” that runs through the twelve days of Christmas!

Enough cynicism.  I have to go put what I want on Amazon for my family to get it right this year.

Incomprehensible thanks

My heart is full.  So thank you.

Those of you who serve our country, thank you.

If you have served and gone to school on the G. I. Bill, then you join generations building an incomprehensibly astonishing country, complete with shortcomings the whole world can see.  Please continue building.

If you returned broken, marred, missing parts of body or soul, then you join a long line bleeding in blues, khaki, and camo: striving to rebuild bodies, minds and lives in countless re-enactments of America’s miracle.  Please don’t give up rebuilding.

If you’re eating turkey, or an MRE, or you’re quietly hungry again tonight, then fall in.  Queues of hungry men and women reach back to Valley Forge’s freezer, doing the impossible in Inchon or sweltering in malarial silence.  Please don’t shirk attempting the impossible with your wearied best.

And if you’re quiet in flag-draped box, ferried home by those who cannot flinch at your final high cost paid.  Come take a place with the mighty and abased, heroes with names on small white crosses and stars in quiet, landscaped hills.  Hallowed by you ransoming my dream.

No less so, Christ lovers, who were not surprised when those fearing your faith ushered you horrifically into eternity.  You, did John certainly see in his Revelation, crying to God at justice delayed to the last chance for those martyring you to come to His grace.

Incomprehensible. Price.  Possibility.

If you served my country or Lord, thank you.  May my courage in these dearly bought days, address my debt to you at a Banquet to which we’ve been invited on death’s other shore.

Words to Live By

I was listening to Craig Groeschel and he shared his exercise to write out his words to live by.  He shared his.  I have done this as a first draft for me.

What are yours?

 

Words to live by

I am a sinner, saved by the astonishing, unrelenting mercies of God extended to me in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: my Lord.

I am Jill’s husband, sharing all I have, all I dream, all of my shortcomings, and my resolute hope that Christ has entwined Himself in our vows and hopes to the end of this life as helpmate, and friend in the next. All I know about oneness with her is God’s kindness to introduce Himself to me and help me understand how astonishing is koinonia in this world and even more so – the next.

I am family: son, grandson, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, great uncle, brother in Christ to the few I know, and the millions I have yet to meet. They are the basis of my understanding that a three stranded chord is not easily broken.

I am entrepreneurial in business, teaching, and ministry. Before I knew the term, I admired those who resonated with this, who embodied it.

I am a failer. I attempt much, succeed at some, hopefully more of what I am striving to bring into existence and impact others with.

I have a profound sense of otherness, thin places, friends across the centuries, sennsucht, and piercing beauty that moves me to tears. I have never met someone with a story God was not still writing.

I have not spent as much time thinking about me as others, ideas, Truth, notions, stories. But about me, I have Someone into whose hands I place my guilt, my frustrations with me, my mute horror at me.

I am succeeding, sometimes one crushing failure at a time..

I am immortal, and that takes faith, but at the same time it fuels my faith.

I am grateful to those who taught me to love learning and in that learning continually be reshaped and stretched. I give to my students in those teachers’ names, on their accounts.

I am an amalgam of all of this, all of these. Whether I am original or not is not as intriguing to me as whether I am building His uniqueness in those He puts in my way.