Influence(r)

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.

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.

The Yankees Owe the Red Sox

The Yankees owe the Red Sox a lot.  Not just for the Babe, that is an obvious gift.  They owe the Red Sox on a much deeper level that we easily take for granted.

The Red Sox are the exceptional nemesis.  Not only that, they are the exceptional nemesis at the most inopportune times.  Take this year.

You can write reams about the Yankees farm system and player development paying off unbelievably.  You can write about the astonishing group that together is killing the home run total for a team…other teams have one or two bombers, the Yankees’ bat boy seems to be contributing to the total.  You can write about a struggling bullpen and starting rotation based on any one game, but not a season.

You can write about the best or near best record in baseball.  You can write about the pace for a gazillion wins.

And the Red Sox are right there with them — keeping up.  They breathe down the necks of the Yanks or the Yanks, if they slouch for a game, will chase the Red Sox.  No one else in the league has a nemesis breathing down their neck, staring them in the face, rejoicing every time they stumble because a half game is the season — facing that one game playoff.  Every time either team plays in the other’s house, it is a parachute drop into hell.  Not every park knows and already hates your name.

If the Yanks achieve greatness in the World Series, they will all need to sit down and write personal thank yous to — the Red Sox.  Or, they can sit and watch the Sox in the Series, and wait for THEIR thank yous.

They owe the Sox — a lot.

hearse thief

Medical schools starting two centuries ago faced a continuing need: corpses.  They needed recently healthy corpses.  They needed the pregnant, children, old or diseased and mostly: fresh corpses.

Dying as a pauper in London or New York made a fair wager — your corpse passed to a dissection class before a grave.  Medical schools harvested no corpses. Needing plausible deniability, there arose a trade providing corpses, and these men were bizarrely titled Resurrection Men, spitting on Christians’ hope of resurrection.

If caught, they faced grave robbing charges.  Or worse, if police suspected he hurried anyone from this life to help doctors-in-training learn surgery — he faced death — and of course, a final turn ‘through’ medical school.

Grave robbers.  Hearse thieves.  Everyone — murderers, thieves, prostitutes — looked down on them and feared, desperately feared passing through their hands.

Christians were offended at such a title for these men.  This ‘resurrection’ horrifically twisted hope in Christ.

But God has, if anything, a profound sense of humor, and a deep, deep sense of irony.

So Jesus hiked from the north country through valleys southward.  At evening, He climbed up from the road to tiny Nain.  Maybe Nain was built on Shunem’s ruins or nearby.  And in tiny Nain where birth and death were bookends for few surprises, everyone could recite a time when God let a town woman push the great Prophet Elisha to attempt, to ask the impossible.  All these centuries later, every child and agnostic knew the story.  Elisha promised her a son.  She bore him, and on a hot day in harvest he died.  She rode hellbent for leather straight to Mt. Carmel where prophets commune with God.

And she answered the Prophet’s servant pointedly asking, “Is all well with you?”

“Yes!”

“Is all well with your husband?”

“Yes.”

“Is all well with your child?”

And she lied, or she believed more than a cooling corpse waiting in the Prophet’s room she built for him.  “All is well!”

It shook him.  Such faith.  Such hope.  Elisha rushed from the mountain to spend an afternoon begging God to relent and resurrect the child.  God gave him back.

Centuries ago.  Where legends live.

So, Jesus walking into Shunem/Nain stopped a funeral for an only son: a widow’s final hope.  And disregarding all civility Jesus touched the hearse to talk to — the dead boy.

Who responded.  Jesus helped him from the hearse, gave him back to his mother, and everyone paraded back into town, leaving a bewildered hearse driver scratching his head.  The first victim of The Hearse Thief, doing a dress rehearsal for Himself soon enough, and all of us soon enough.

If Jesus wept at a later funeral, He surely smiled at this one, and God, as usual, had a laugh on any who call hearse thieves by such an exalted, holy title as Resurrection Man.

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.