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Cruise Control (Life in the fast lane)

Cruise Control

I was driving on Hwy 40 East with my wife a couple of weeks ago. (Some time back I did a series on how our driving may be an indicator of how we live from day to day. Next week I will make one more installment on that theme.) As is the case on most stretches of highway between metropolitan areas, there are several miles between exits and great distances between the Emergency Vehicle turn arounds in the median. When you travel certain areas regularly, you tend to have a pretty good idea where the police set up. I knew, that day, that I was in a place where the police rarely sit. I also knew that if I passed a policeman on the other side, there was too great a distance for him to try to turn around to stop me.

I knew I had set my cruise control at 80 MPH. I also know the speed limit is 70 MPH. This was a very regular practice for me. What hit me that particular day is “I am cruising in sin!” I put my vehicle in autopilot knowing I was breaking the law. Wow, that’s deep.

Cruise control puts the car in charge of the driving. Yes, I can always hit the brakes, but cruse control while speeding says, “I have chosen to break the law and also yield my control to the vehicle I am breaking the law with.” Sort of like when we like to say we can’t control our anger or our lust or our cussing. The behavior is in control. When we learn that breaking the law is wrong – even when the police are not around – we will set our cruise control at the legal speed; we will be intentional about controlling our behavior.

There was a commercial some time ago where the tag line was. “Leave the driving to us.” Our lower self wants to convince us that we can trust it to do the driving. It got us where we wanted to go, didn’t it? Well, whether you get caught and have consequences or not, wrong is wrong.

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We Don’t Have To Forfeit

Don't Forfeit

There are more definitions and meanings of the word, forfeit, that I knew. I offer two definitions to best capture my intent here. Forfeit – something to which the right is lost or surrendered as a penalty, as for commission of a crime or misdeed, neglect of duty, or violation of a contract. I had only though of forfeiture as losing something that one should have been able to keep.

My wife and I had the privilege of going to see the Harlem Globetrotters a couple of weeks ago. We know them as a comical basketball team that puts on shows of magnificent ball handling while handily beating their opponents – every single game. A reading of their history revealed that initially they were an actual professional basketball team who competed in a league, winning and losing like all of the rest of the teams.

Anyway, as this comical show game progressed, after the half, the opposing team’s coach began calling fouls which caused several of the Globetrotter players to be ejected from the game. The referee kept warning the Globetrotters that they would forfeit the game if they got below five players – the number required to field any team.

I immediately thought, “Wow. They are at risk of losing a staged game!”

How many times have I forfeited a victory which was already given to me through some act or behavior that disqualified me from staying in the battle?

Part two next week…

Back to Normal

Back to Normal

After the Holidays

“Whew, back to normal,” we say.

What is normal? Is our “normal” good? Is our “normal” useful and life-giving? Does our “normal” reflect what we say we believe about ourselves being socially conscious and culturally aware? For those who are called children of God, what does our normal look like?

The basic definition of “normal” is: conforming to a standard; usual; typical, or; expected.

To whose or which “normal” does my life conform?

Most people live fairly close to the center of what is usual and typical of our community. Generally people “normally” find themselves fitting into society wherever they can. We emulate our perception of success. We strive to not be too different, so we just sort of go along to get along.

Growth and success continually challenges us to become uncomfortable with our “normal” so we will embrace change and seek a higher normal.

In society, “normal” has changed repeatedly since creation. In fact, we have adopted Heraclitus’ philosophy which says, “The only constant is change,” or, “There is nothing permanent except change.” He lived 475 years before Christ in Greece. He spoke what he observed.

In one sense, he is correct. We are ever changing, growing, living, dying, learning, etc. But this philosophy does not line up with the Word of God as it relates to our attitudes and behaviors towards God and one another.

George Benson sang, “Everything must change. Nothing stays the same. Everyone will change. Nothing and no one stays the same…” The chorus said, “There are not many things in life you can be sure of, except rain comes from the clouds, the sun lights up the sky, and hummingbirds do fly.”

Well, that may be normal for people and societies. But truth does not change. God does not change.

God expects us to change once – from unbeliever to believer – then remain constant in Him.

That is “normal” for a child of God; conforming to His standard.

For a child of God, there is no, “back to normal.” We should never depart from His normal.

An Extra Day in 2016

Extra Day

The 60th day in 2016 is technically an extra day. 2016 is Leap Year. There are 29 days in every fourth February instead of the 28 days in normal years. What will you do with your extra day?

Extra or additional…

The vast majority of the people in the world are going to do the same thing with February 29th as we do with February 28th; or May 5th, or August 17th. I just picked random days of the calendar year for that proposition. The point is that the average person doesn’t do anything different with something extra than we do with what regularly comes. This is why most of the people who win the millions of dollars in lotteries are broke shortly after.

What did you do with your Christmas bonus? What did you do with your tax  return? The same thing you did with every other income you receive.

In one way or another, we all wish for more time. How many times have you heard someone say, “There are just not enough hours in the day…” Well, on February 29th, you will have an extra entire day. Plan to do something special with it. It is a Monday, so it is somewhat scheduled for those of us who must go to work or school. But, still, we can make it a special day.

Thursday Is The New Friday

These came to me advertising Wednesday & Thursday sale dates!!

For those who have been following the series you may wonder the relationship to “What Will Be Legal Next?”
The relationship to that question is how our acceptance of things change. When does Black Friday begin? Now, it begins Thursday night. Thursday is the new Friday as it relates to the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.
Wait, though. I have been inundated with emails advertising “Black Friday all week.” And “…all month,” for at least one consumer hustling establishment.
In 1983 I moved to Birmingham, Alabama. No grocery stores or department stores were open on Sunday. States and municipalities called that the Blue Laws. I watched the transition from no shopping outlets on Sunday except gas stations. The grocery stores petitioned to open, but only after 1:00, so they would not encourage shopping during church service times. The department stores and malls soon followed. Not long after that, they opened as early as 10 AM, then 9 and 8. I moved from Birmingham in 1990. You would be hard pressed to find a grocery store chain that was not 24 hours.
Who remembers when no stores were open on New Years Day, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas?
First, a nationwide chain pharmacy / drug store opened for part of the day. More “convenience” style stores began opening. Now, instead of being closed, just about every kind of store has big sales in honor of those holidays, beginning ON those holidays, and lasting for several days.
What else has changed? Dry counties going wet. Sunday liquor selling. Truck stops replacing restaurants with fast food places. Foul language on regular TV. Christmas displays going up in stores right after Halloween instead of after Thanksgiving.
Let me iterate, again, that I am all for progress and change. But every change costs something. How much and in what ways are we paying for some of the changes being made? In many cases, we have no idea until the bill arrives.

Partners

Tandem bicycle

Do you have a prayer partner? …A workout or jogging partner? …Business partner?
Back in 1988, I had the occasion to meet Dr. Logan Hampton, who was elected president of Lane College in June of this year. We were both attending the CME Church’s General Conference in Atlanta. I was an avid fitness buff at the time. Based on Dr. Hampton’s lean appearance today, he probably still is.
Two guys, looking like pastors, ran into each other while in the health club at the hotel. Realizing we were likely in town for the same conference, we introduced ourselves. I mentioned that I alternate lifting weights one day and jogging the next. I told him I had jogged twice down to the University stadium and back. He said he’d like to jog with me, so we agreed to meet in the morning. I forewarned Dr. Hampton that the distance was just over three miles and I would need to slow to a walk a couple of times as I had done the days before. He said he would need to slow down too, as he knew he couldn’t jog that distance, either.
We met as planned, stretched a little, and struck out jogging. I don’t remember exactly when, but I am certain that several times I was thinking, “I thought he said he would need to stop.” I discovered as we arrived back at the hotel, he was thinking the very same thing. We both said in unison, “I thought you said you couldn’t make it all the way without stopping.” I have honestly thought about that day hundreds of times.
Neither of us thought we could make it, but neither of us wanted to be the one to slow the other down. It may have been the distraction of our fellowshipping while we jogged. Perhaps a more honest reflection would be I was too proud to let him know I needed to slow down. It matters not for my point, though. What matters is that both he and I went further than either of us thought we could go. …And farther than either of us would have gone had we been jogging alone.
The right partner will urge you beyond your imagined (self-imposed?) limitations. The right partner will prod you to keep up with them and push themselves so as to not slow you down.
Dr. Hampton and I have been in each others’ company many times over the last several years. As I had the opportunity to greet him shortly after his installation as the President of Lane, I whispered to him, “Run with someone who doesn’t know your limitations.”
That is a real partner.

Right Turn On Red

IMAG0469

I had an inner conflict of sorts just the other day. In reality it is pretty common, but that day sitting behind a car with it’s right turn signal light flashing while he waited for the green light, really got my attention. My mind was screaming, “Why won’t he go on and turn?”

The answer: Because it is not required and it is his prerogative to turn or not on red. Yet I felt like that guy was supposed to make the right turn on red. Making my thinking worse, I was not in a hurry: just impatient for no good reason.

The dilemma: How often do we attempt to push our choice between two equally correct options onto someone who has the right to choose otherwise? We go as far as to believe they are wrong, and even get angry.

The fact that something is right or acceptable does not make it a requirement. That something is legal does not make it mandatory. The Apostle Paul went further to say, in effect, “Just because something is legal does not necessarily mean it is best or right to do.” To think this all the way through, what is right for me may not be right for you. And we both can be right.

Some folks that I hang out with have a saying. “Live and let live.” The great truth is, within the boundaries of wholesome living there is a multitude of acceptable choices. I do not have the right to expect you to make the same decisions I would make.

To be sure, we should not watch anyone do wrong or make bad decisions and not express some concern for their well being. At the same time, mature adults have the right to make well-informed bad decisions if they choose. The day that the gentleman in front of me chose not to make a right turn on red, his decision was better than my decision – to be offended at his decision.

Flagrant Foul

penalty flag referee

A flagrant foul is called when a player makes contact with an opponent that is deemed intentional, excessive,  and unnecessary. It is an unsportsmanlike act and the offending player is ejected immediately. While this is most commonly during the game and course of play, it can occur off of the court or field. The penalties vary to the degree of the foul.

By now almost every person in America is aware of the NFL player, Ray Rice, who knocked his then fiance unconscious while arguing in an elevator. They were vacationing in Las Vegas. The first video showed him dragging her, unconscious, off of the elevator in February of this year. The most recent video last week shows the punch which knocked her out.

Domestic violence in any form is unconscionable. It is intentional, excessive, and unnecessary. Domestic violence is at least a flagrant foul. Rising to the degree of injury, domestic violence is far worse.

Friendly fire is an armed forces term for when one soldier shoots his or her fellow soldier in the course of battle. In the team context, I will equate domestic violence with friendly fire injury or death. Why so much worse? Because the harmed person is not an opponent. Ray Rice’s fiance – and any partner in a relationship – is supposed to be on the same team. They are fellow soldiers.

Considering most professional sports teams’ take on domestic violence they are just as guilty of the flagrant foul because of their continued overlooking the incidents. This overlooking has a lot to do with the team wanting their players to keep the fight alive. No team can win if the players are not pumped and hyped with the killer instinct.

There is much needed change in the domestic abuse situations we see too much of from professional athletes. The offending players need to keep their aggression on the field during the game.

Mistakes of Passion

We are all familiar with the moniker, “crimes of passion.” I submit two facts. First, most crimes are mistakes, ultimately. And second, regardless of whether it is a mistake or a crime, the penalizing effect of one act of passion can become a life sentence.
I will begin by saying I am not a huge sports enthusiast. I will also admit this may seem like old news. But the principle of one mistake ruining opportunities for future victories is too often overlooked today, and cannot be overemphasized.
I am thinking of playoff game six between OKC and the Memphis Grizzlies. (I may not have the specifics exactly right, so forgive any errors.) Passions were high, as they always are in playoff series for an opportunity to play in the national championship game. The Grizzlies were losing what could have been the final game sending them to the next round, if they could pull off a win. If they lose, the series was going to be tied with one game left to determine the team to move forward.
One of the best players on the Grizzlies punched an OKC player during the last few minutes of the game. It was called a flagrant foul. Technical shot for OKC and the Grizzlies player was penalized one game, (the tie-breaking game), as well. OKC won and one final game was needed.
Seventh game in a race to four wins. Grizzlies top player sitting this one out in the penalty box. Needless to say, OKC beat the Grizzlies and moved forward. The Grizzlies went home.
It may be that the Grizzlies would have lost the final game, anyway. We will never know. What we do know, though, is that the Grizzlies were at a serious disadvantage because of that one punch – that mistake of passion.
Perhaps the player felt like the Grizzlies had already lost that game, so he might as well get a good lick in. He may not have planned it. He may have just lost control of his emotions.
Whatever the case, I’m fairly certain he didn’t think he’d get penalized with ejection from the next game. And that ejection may have been the life sentence of no victory, ever, for the ’13-’14 season.
Using the mistake of – crime of – passion as a justification does not diminish the fact that too often we are more passionate about the act we will perform than the supposed motivating feelings.
What was your “mistake of passion?” If it is still in progress, it may not be too late to reduce the penalty. Plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court of life’s consequences.

Clutch-starting My Car

Once again my thoughts are moving towards misuse. Last week’s column, Overextended, could be seen in the same light. This theme resonates so much with me because many of the difficulties people face are direct results of some misuse or overuse of a beneficial trait, gift, talent, or skill. How often do we implement emergency mechanisms into everyday use?
“Emergency Exit Only: Alarm will sound” is one example. The door is not to be used for regular entry and exit. But clutch -starting my car is a real life instance where I caused a several hundred dollar repair by not doing a $60 correction.
I had a 1976 Dodge Champ when I was in college. A gasket leak allowed oil to get into the starter. I changed the starter, but didn’t fix the leak. I probably didn’t feel like delaying the starter replacement job by going to get the gasket. So off I drove.
Yes, a couple of months later, the starter went out again. I had this bright idea. “I will just clutch -start the car. There are enough hills in Birmingham so I won’t have to push it very often.”
One day, it started and cut off after a couple of seconds. Again and again I did this. The jig was up.
I had to pay for a tow to the mechanic. He discovered I had ripped all of the teeth off of the timing belt. Now I had to pay for a starter, gasket, and timing belt job.
The moral of this story is, it is normally less costly to fix the initial problem than to find a way to avoid dealing with it.
Whatever isn’t functioning properly in your individual life or in your relationships, get it repaired, soon. Say, “I’m sorry” today, if you know you need to. Start working on the project today, rather than wait until its almost due. And by all means, don’t use clutch-starting in place of the designed method.

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