Operative Key Words

Operative Key Words

At a KINEO Church planning session last night, repeatedly, key words rattled through my brain as we listened to the challenge for the day. Words I’ve heard and used before, but there was a difference. This time, a rhetorical question was asked of me along the lines of,

  • “What would you do if you knew you only had 1 year left to pastor? What would your focus be? What would you pursue? What would you find necessary to teach? Preach? How would you lead differently than you have done to date?”

Rhetorical, yes, but a deeply impactful question that woke me at 3am, unable to sleep any longer. Awake for an hour or so as I thought it through.

Last night my aunt passed away and I found out as I was leaving the meeting. My grandmother’s sister. Eloise. There was about 21 years separating her from Grandmother, who would have been 113 this next May 11… Aunt Eloise would have been 92 this September. Age, and all the other health issues that comes from a life long lived, and that seemingly dreaded “C” word that affects so many as we enter the last years of our life. We sat with her about an hour on the first of March, just last month, and enjoyed connecting, but all of us knew that time was probably short. Some time in prayer. And then on to our next stop.

What do you do when you know your time is short?

I’m sure we never get to the ending of our time and wish we had spent more time at work. But this was exactly the question I felt around 3am. My work is not my job, it’s my calling and I’m sure I will always have this burden to the call that can not be silenced by age, or retirement, or health.

The key words last night were familiar words. Words I have regularly used whether talking church, work, or life.

Mission. Vision. Objectives. Goals. Planning. Plan. Strategic. Intentional. Purposed. Targeted. Focus.

As we prepare for those retiring years, my bride and I have met with professionals who understand what those years look like and have helped us take financial steps to prepare for non-earning years. But how do you plan for an uncertain future?

My process is often simple. I write everything down. Document the present. Consider intermediate steps that position us for the future… Then plan like crazy for the options of the future! Plan. Document. Think. Pray. Talk. Consider. Key words to think about as you plan for a possible uncertain time 20+ years from now. This truly means you have to focus some brainpower, willpower, and prayer power to get you successfully from the present, and to the future. What will it look like in regards to insurance, health, finance, politics, family… You know. More key words that represent all those important things that can impact your choices.

A familiar scripture was quoted last night, and another popped into my mind instantaneously, and then the thread of thought went deep, wide, and far.

  • “Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.” ~Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV
  • “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” ~Proverbs 29:18 KJV

Last night, three truths were presented, and I hope I wrote them down correctly.

  1. If not written down, you do not have a plan.
  2. If not written down, you will not stick to it.
  3. All written plans will experience opposition.

How true this is. There is no plan that is not simply recorded in a place that you can read, and re-read it. Plainly written. No plan in the mind only will be accomplished. It’s like going to the grocery store without a list…you get everything but what you needed. But anything this is written will face immediate opposition by those who think of all the reasons why something cannot be done.

Resist the Resistor!
 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” ~James 4:7 NKJV

Why do we not plan? Lazy? Unsure? Uncertain on how to do it? Don’t find it important? Maybe. It could be we have no examples in our lives of others planning, or no mentors speaking into our choices, or we have simply lost our ability to focus on the future.

Abraham Lincoln said it like this: “The reason men fail is broken focus.”  A broken focus. Never seeing the ending from the beginning. Living life without a plan for getting from point A to point B.

It’s like teaching, or even preaching. You need to know where you are going with what you are presenting. A lesson plan without an objective or goal is probably a rambling experience for the hearers.

Here’s one last thought. Another key word. “Filter.” You will have no focus on your life if you have a broken filter. When you grant anything an audience to your attention, then you will become wildly unfocused.

Focus your intentional life through Filters
Filters that keep the Key Words blocking all attempts to water down you will.

Saturday Was Special

Saturday was a beautiful day…

…And the first rain free day at the ending of some particularly busy few months. My schedule has been packed with little down time factored in, and very little opportunity to fudge and rearrange all any schedule. During these past 6 months, we have been overly busy…and the calendar was cemented into place for about 8 months without any unexpected modifications…

Then, unplanned events, sickness, dentist, emergency trips… Well. We’ve all been there.

Of course, there are times I thrive on busy, pushing tasks as late as possible and then scrambling to play catch-up. But with Spring nearly mid-way through, there are just some things I must handle. Now. Before it gets too hot, and the grass gets too deep!

What are your spring time chores? Mine. Gutters. Mowing. Firing up the tractor and getting rid of a new crop of rocks and boulders that pooch out of the ground fresh every year. Getting rid of some moss. Building that new fence. Several gates to mend and replace. Finding the money and time to build a workshop/barn. Cleaning out the garage from a winter of ad hoc storage. Too late, I missed pruning the apple trees and now their leaves are opening….

But Saturday was a beautiful day, and it was a day for us to enjoy the outside for the first time in 6 months. So. Those several dead trees still standing… Chainsaw! That dead tree the storm toppled a few months ago? Chainsawed down to a manageable pile… Burn Pile, that is! Along with some stacked wood for a late night fire enjoying the warming weather.

And that’s what we did Saturday afternoon.

Growing up I always remember cleaning up yard debris, raking and burning leaves, and enjoying siting around the fire. Sometimes there were multiple piles of leaves as big as a car. Watch out for the bugs, snakes, and other creepy crawlers. We learned that when the fire was bright and hot, smothering it with another pile of leaves would create crazy smoke! Then, playing through the smoke and hoping not to come out on the others side choking and gasping for breath. Tears streaming…

When Hurricane Carla came through Texas in 1961, there were over 60 trees down on the 140 acres we lived on. The water brought all kinds of debris near the house, and the stacks of debris was a fabulous adventure! Great heaping piles of fire and fun!

Saturday, my bride started the pile of branches while I used my trusty personal size chainsaw. The pile grew. The tree disappeared. Then it was time for the magical lightening of the fire…. Snap. Crackle. Pop. That cedar tree began to burn, and it was a blast feeding the fire! Smoke billowing into the sky and the fire whipping up a blaze that would swirl smoke across the ground and into our faces. The heat of the fire was worse than those hot beaches that people seem to enjoy baking their skin on. The cool breeze at our back made the heat tolerable.

So much fun.

Then, sitting back and enjoying the fruit of our labors until finally the fire settled down into ashes and a few left over tough logs. The dogs enjoyed the special attention and are forever spoiled, though one has no fear of fire, and the other cannot abide the fire or the chainsaw noise.

What’s the attraction to spending a Saturday afternoon doing this hard work? The joy of enjoying the day and time with my bride. If I were to do it by myself, true, it would still be fun, but there is something special about working together. Enjoying our chair time…together. Basking in the knowledge that we enjoy being together and enjoying some down time to ourselves.

Now… When’s the next Saturday?

Faint Memories of The Past

My mind is full of memories this morning…

Memories of days gone by. Long ago times , and I’m only 62. But it seems those “olden days” are recalled as the faint wispy smoke of a slow burning fire. Put a little effort into the fire and the memories are sharper, the smoke gets thicker and coalesces into stronger memories.

When I go back to visit Texas it’s almost a certainty that I will travel down roads and to paths of home, maybe reconnecting with neighborhoods, streets, towns, friends and family.

Passing through Liberty, Texas, last year, I dropped in to see my cousin, Jody. Out of the blue. Hadn’t seen her in a coon’s age. Her mom and dad had only recently passed away and I have excellent memories of hanging out with them. Bill. Kathy. Jody. Geraldine. Joe. I’ve connected with Bill just a few months ago and it was so great to see his bearded visage. One of these days I’ll get to hang around longer, stir the fire and share memories.

My dad’s sister passed away several weeks ago, and I have great memories of hanging out at their house in East Texas with my cousins. For the most part, they are all older than I, so, I’m sure their memories are different of the youngsters coming to visit. Diane. Carolyn. Dudley. Robert. John. Edna. RL. Not necessarily in this order, but I learned a lot about being around a larger family by hanging out with them.

It was a blessing to get to see Aunt Edna last February. She would have been 96 this year!

My mom’s aunt is getting closer to death. Eloise, my grandmother’s sister. My memories of her are more distant, but my mom calls her one of her most “favorite aunts”… Partly, I suspect, because they were so much closer in age than most of us think about with all our aunts and uncles. Loved getting to visit with Aunt Eloise and meeting a cousin, Dana…probably for the first time that either of us remembers! My grandmother has one remaining sister, Lunell, We tried to meet up but, alas, it did not happen.  One of these days…!

It was a blessing to get to see Aunt Eloise, last February…the same day I say Aunt Edna. They live fairly close to each other. She’s about 93… I think. I just connected with her granddaughter here in Washington State… I’m not sure I’ve ever met my cousins! Guess there may be some connection and reunion time in the near future!

I say this often, but it’s a special thing to connect with your family. And my family grouping is large. I have distant family living close, and close family living far. Regardless, they are family and I love getting to connect with them whenever and wherever possible.

This got me thinking about Abraham. You know, the patriarch of Bible fame. God called him to leave his family and to travel to a promised land. (Genesis 12:1) Back then, connecting with family from afar was so much different than today. When you left, it was probably for ever, and you would never get to share memories over a campfire again.

What you take with you is all you will ever have… So get your memories while the fire is hot!

Imagine all those intrepid explorers of hundreds of years ago. They traversed into the unknown, never knowing if they would make it back. How do you leave everything behind? I’m not sure. But again, you better take your memories with you… We moved between Texas and Alaska. Twice. And now we are in Washington. I’m blessed my kids are within a 2 hour drive either direction!

In our present world it is easy to connect, but it is difficult to take the ownership of connection. For some of us it feels like we are always the ones taking the first step and keeping the lines open so we can continue our family relationship. I have cousins I never talk to, and then I have cousins who contact me as often as I contact them. It’s like my siblings, we seldom ever get to talk, or visit face to face…but when we connect up, it’s almost as if no time has passed by. This is probably due to our parents who are the communicators between us. They know about me, and I know about them, because of my mom.

But when mom and dad are gone, will these wispy smoke tendrils simply fade away?

That’s the real question for all of us. Someone in our family tree takes the ownership of sharing family news. Who will pick up the reins when that person is gone? More than likely…me… It seems I’m the one who remembers birthdays, anniversaries, and other annual events. I may not always connect up by voice, but text, voice mail, email and social media help to keep the connections going.

Are you the one in your family that keeps the lines going? Praying for you…

Precious memories how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness, of the midnight.
Precious sacred scenes unfold.

Change Takes Time

Any significant change takes time to occur.

We’ve heard the adage, “It takes 21 days to make a habit”, and understand it to mean that it takes 21 days of consistently doing something to effect a habit. Why 21 days?

Supposedly that’s a scientific answer to how long it takes us to do what we may not want to do, so that it become a habit of something we simply do. Without thought or question, it’s just the way we effect change in our lives.

But in reality, we know it’s not always this simple. And, we see in real life that attempting to force change overnight never produces positive results.

“Change is a process. Not an event.” ~Unknown

It’s not like flipping a toggle switch and “Presto!”, it’s changed!

Lonely Acorn

How well we know this, but how little we understand it. Another older saying: “When is the best time to plant a tree so you may enjoy the shade? 20 years ago… It takes time for the tree to grow enough to provide for your shaded comfort!” Okay! Who gets the joy of providing the shade for me to enjoy today? Why, the previous generation!

“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” ~Anonymous Greek Proverb

This acorn will take a long time before it produces the shade we desire!

But we are viewing change differently in these modern times. No longer are we willing to wait for it to transform over a period of time. We want it NOW. Today. It’s like we’ve become the society that abhors the time honored concept of taking our time for things to happen.

How did this come to pass? I believe it is simply a symptom of the technological age we enjoy. It used to be you would watch the evening news and read about the history of the past 24 hours, but now you can immediately see what’s happening around the world in less than 24 seconds.

We’ve morphed into that instantaneous society that wants to effect change now.

Take United Airlines for example. We’ve forgotten that they owned two of the planes that were used in the 9/11 attacks. Along with American Airlines, their corporate image will always be connected to the horrible tragedy of just 16 years ago.

But with some glaring public relation missteps, we want to change the corporate culture of United Airlines today because of what just happened (overbooking, dress code). We want to punish and force change when someone makes a mistake and we are not willing to wait for all the facts to show up, take time to contemplate the nuances, and make a rational decision on what we think. No. We determine how best to challenge said company into compliance with our own view of what should be done… Now. Not tomorrow. Not next month. Now.

It’s almost like we’ve become that petulant child we all detest being around. The shrieking, temper tantrum, bang on the floor, wailer, who protests verbally and visibly that they are not getting their way. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but it seems that’s who we are as a nation. We want to make people change, and we want it now!

We protest. March. Make ugly speeches. Incite the crowd with rhetoric. Destroy property. Riot. And keep doing it until we think someone will listen and agree to our demands. The news media keeps egging it on by extracting only a portion of the story and blowing it out of proportion, painting the story that matches their corporate view and policies.

Why? Again. It’s that instantaneous technological world that gives us sound bites to a story. We are not willing to listen to the entire exchange, read the rules and laws that govern all the parties, and then work to effect the change that needs to occur in an orderly fashion.

Is this new? Perhaps not. After all, every country through the centuries have had problems that often result in political struggles before change occurs. It’s just that it took a while to marshal all the pieces together. Communications were much slower… (Think Paul Revere, “The British are coming!”) Technology breaks the back of time. And it is a polarizing force. Regardless of your leanings (conservative or liberal), you have the opportunity to listen to the talking news heads thread the story in such a way to elicit your emotional reaction.

Once again. Technology. We’ve become a nation that enjoys the “reality shows” of loving one, hating the other, and then voting our emotions. Or, is that “venting” our emotions. It’s difficult to take a stand on anything and not have others emotionally vent on your stance. This makes me think we are the opposite to that intemperate child I mentioned above…we’re wimps.

Somewhere between the extremes we need cooler heads to prevail!

I appreciated the responses of Neil Gorsuch, the most recently sworn in Supreme Court Justice. He had a cool headed and even keel response to the 20 hours of “grilling” by the Senators who were responsible for testing his viability for the highest judicial honor in our land. Why can we all not be like this? Perhaps it comes from him having an internal view of who he was as a person, a judge,  and learning how to respond to life’s grill.

Keeping your head in the sand does not excuse you from the game of life.

In 2016, only 54.2 percent of voters participated in the national elections. How can we be content with this? It’s like half the nation simply did not care enough to voice their selection into office. Why? I wonder… It’s only been since 1932 that statistics have been documented of all the potential voters vs those that showed up to vote. [Source] If the full populace would weigh in, what would we be like today?

So. Vent your frustrations. Pop off at the opposing side. Keep giving a “piece of your mind” until you have nothing left to give. I don’t care.

But as for me… I want to weigh in with facts, and not emotions. I want to understand that change is a process and it takes time to adjust to a different result. I need to comprehend how you might be driven by your emotions more than analysis, and I need to adjust how I relate to you. You are maddening to my calm, just like my calm probably drives you bonkers. But somewhere between the poles of our processes…we need to find the middle ground that will allow for change to occur. In due time. It’s a process…

Keep On Thimking!

It’s been a long time…

img_9555Many years ago I was a mainframe computer operator for a company that produced oil wellheads. Massive valves that helped control the flow of oil at the openings of oil wells. Some went deep underwater, others simply sat above ground. We were located near the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. Back in 1977. Gray Tool Company.

This was one of the best times of my career that came as a result of other good experiences, and led on to even greater opportunites. Though I had several good jobs before and after, these few years gave me the foundation for a future in technology.

IBM 370-135 PanelOn the top of the mainframe (IBM 370/135 DOS VS/Power) was a sign that came from IBM (I think). I’ve searched for a while and cannot find a particular IBM reference, but it was attached to the mainframe near a huge red emergency power off button in the top right corner. That emergency button? If there is any environmental or electrical malfunction, you were supposed to pull the button to disconnect the mainframe from potential harm.

Think about it… I was making about $8 buck an hour and I had the power to disconnect the living brain of our company by pulling the button.

But there was a warning sign right above the button…

The sign used a peculiar font that make the word stand out, and at first glance you would think that it said “THINK”. For several weeks I would glance at it and think that it was telling me to think about my next action while at the console. After awhile I begin to look at the word closely and it actually said “THIMK”. Unless you observe closely, and think about it correctly, you would never think that it was really telling you to thimk….

Those years of seeing this sign were important. If there was something I could share with you out of this is that it is “muy importante” to spend time thimking things through. You can practice, train and rehearse so much better when you’re mind is focused. But there comes a time when you have to take all that thimking and put it to use.

Photo permited by Alexcia Shepard
Photo by Alexcia Shepard

Here’s a Key to being successful in life….

Put all your thimking to work or it does you little good.

It’s from one of my favorite books in the Bible that the Apostle Paul teaches us the same thing. Only, his words are different and better than mine.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV)

His word for “think” in the New King James version is translated as “mediate” – and I’m okay with the new word. Because I think that a lot of my “thimking” is really meditating. And meditating is simply “to engage in thought or contemplation; reflect.” One definition says to “…think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time…”.

This is something I’m generally good at. But here’s the rub: You cannot put food on the table or a roof over your head by simply thinking. My logic for “doing” becomes defined by my action of “thimking”.

Notice what Paul says in that last sentence of scripture above. The things you’ve learned, received, heard, and seen… in me… DO. Immediately after you have spent time meditating on the good things of life, DO! Thimking and Doing go hand in hand. You do not “do” without thimking it through. Make your “doing” a positive action and not simply a reaction because you’ve not spent time figuring it out.

If you have been around me very long then you’ve heard me preach and teach about this. A simple message. But it is very, very important.

Idiomatic Slang

Idiomatic slang….

Nonsensical? Perhaps. Senseless. Not if you understand the code. Where did it come from? No telling. Why use them? Quién sabe?

But for some reasons, we know exactly what they mean, or at least, we get the gist.

“I’ve Got Your Back!” “For Pete’s sake!”  “For the love of Mike!” “When pigs fly!” “Kick the Bucket!” “Spill the beans!”

Whatever else may be going on, I think I dreamed in idiomatic slang last night. Weird dreams!

Every language has them. Slang. Idioms. Maybe figurative, maybe literal. Phrases difficult to understand from another language group, but we use them all day long and are comfortable with them. Even when we don’t understand them completely. Source? A Greek word (idios) that essentially means, “one’s own”. Translated into Latin, idiom is often translated as “special property”. In other words, and to my interpretation, you can make up your own idiom and it belongs to you, and probably better interpreted by you. The author.

It is thought there are over 25,000 idioms in the English language alone. No wonder it’s a hard language to learn, and it’s constantly changing as words cross from one definition to another. What’s bad is that “bad” has at one time meant “good”!

For some reason, it caught my ear many years ago when I first heard it. “For the love of Mike!” Some say it is a euphemistic replacement for referencing God, especially in light of the Fourth Commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain. Another says it is a reference to the archangel, “Michael” – mostly referenced in Daniel, Jude and Revelations.

Similarly, “For the love of Pete” may be related to Saint Peter. Again, attempting to soften the word usage of the Lord’s name and replacing it with another biblical reference.

Idioms are generally accepted speech, true, but the next time you are tempted to use one, consider this. Do you really know what you are saying? Can the hearer understand the idiom, especially if they are from another culture or language group? Can you translate it into normal English terms so there is no misunderstanding? Do you know what it the idiom means?

Okay? Go ahead. Don’t pull my leg. Instead lay your cards on the table, just don’t spill the beans! Else you may be required to kick the bucket. Or I’ll take you to the cleaners!

Final Notice

“Final Notice” notices…

“Last Warning”, “Urgent”, “Past Due”, “Last Opportunity”, “Response Required”, “Last Warning”, “Last Chance”, “Legal Action will be taken …”

We all get them, and from time to time they are legit. Normally, they are bills that need to be paid before some negative action takes place.

But from time to time, and perhaps way too often at that, they are simply people swarming our mailbox, inbox and voicemail with a final opportunity for us to participate in helping to make them richer. Hurry or you’ll miss the grand opportunity of paying a fairly decent sum to someone who will teach you how to be richer than you are!

The pressure tactics of sales people are everywhere. From the vendor showing a grand product in your local store, or that door to door sales person who has just a “few opportunities” left for the right person. We face them often and unless you know how to avoid the pitfall, you will soon find yourself the proud new owner of ___________ (you fill in the blank).

I suspect too many are gullible, and I know there have been times that I have succumbed to the same pressure I’m talking about. It’s like a vortex, a whirlpool of convincing speech, drawing you closer to the “Yes” moment.

My bride is good at saying “no” and she’s probably the toughest person I know to convince that the opportunity is a good one. We all need people in our lives like this, but you cannot have mine!

But there are warnings we get that we ignore to our peril.

Valid opportunities to improve our lot in life, our health, or to avoid a calamitous event. We would do well to learn when to take notice of the right event to heed a final warning. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Earthquake. Snow and Ice. Avalanche. Landslides. Riots. Marches. Crimes. Bombs.

We live in strained political times. The left, the right, the middle, the undecided. We all fit in a category that worries all the others. Like reading tea leaves, we attempt to discern the times and hope we make good choices in preparing for the future. A local “channeler” (I know of no better word) who has hooks in many minds, declares that the current administration will save our country and the world. [Source] The radios waves are full of rhetoric, crying out to an audience to choose sides. News talkers are waving the red flag of warning….

News is all about who can shout their view louder than others. Eventually they drown out the opposition and declare victory.” ~Michael Gurley #DoNotTurtle   March 20, 2017

What to do? Who to believe? When will it all quiet down?

“In times like these it’s good to remember there have always been times like these!” ~Paul Harvey

There have always been times like these! Excellent thought. The dire notices have always been shouted from roof tops and menacingly shared around dining tables. Wherever there is an audience, people have nearly always been convinced of the finality of it all.

There must be a voice we listen to, and a voice we will follow. A long time ago, I chose the voice of Jesus…

He spoke of a future time that we are to be aware of. Tumultuous times that will separate families from each others. He also gave many warnings on how to properly acknowledge the seasonal times so as to be prepared for calamity.

Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? (Luke 12:54-56 NKJV)

Discerning the times. We can predict the weather, sometimes, but we cannot even tell the lateness of the hour we are living in. His constant warning was the verb “watch”, a word that describes the sleeplessness we all feel when we are very concerned about something. That constant awareness of what’s happening that keeps us from resting our eyes.

But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.(Luke 21:34-36 NKJV)

Many are keeping watch. Waiting. Praying. And studying the signs and the seasons. Are we close? Perhaps. But we will not have any “final notice” warning that I’ve been speaking of. It will comes as a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43), and in an hour when you think not (Luke 12:40). We will not know of the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36), nor the times or the seasons (Acts 1:7).

Simply put, it does us well to be ready for that moment. Whenever it may be. No true warning. It will simply happen.

Where do you stand? Are you ready?