Humanity’s Greatest Achievement: The Car/Road/Highway System

Humanity’s Greatest Achievement: The Car/Road/Highway System

A rush-hour drive into Houston on the Southwest Freeway puts you smack in the middle of what I believe is collectively humanity’s greatest achievement. 2,000-pound deadly missiles traveling at 70 miles per hour, only feet from each other, are guided by perfect strangers (often wielding Starbucks cups or eye-liner) from every stratum of our social, economic, and education classes.

I challenge you to think of another accomplishment as ubiquitous (who does NOT have a car) or significant (matter of life and death every trip).

Find another accomplishment that puts the PhD economist lawyer beside or behind the high school dropout; the wealthy software mogul in their Tesla behind the near-homeless in an Escort; the religious with their rosary hanging on the mirror beside the atheist with their bumper stickers; the 80-year-old great-grandmother stopping to let the teenager go first.

Try to find an accomplishment at the root of freedom for so many. From that first drive alone with your new junior license, to all those work, hobby and vacation drives, to those drives to the grocery store in your 80’s.

What can compare? Our phones? Let’s face it, the phones and the networks at the center of our new social media world were invented by a few really smart people. And while it may seem life-and-death, that snapchat or lack thereof will not kill you (unless you are snapping WHILE DRIVING!)

The Internet? Certainly amazing, and daily actions taken by people globally contribute to this accomplishment, even if some of it is fake (yes, you cannot trust everything you read on the Internet even this article). But where is the life-and-death?!

Our democracy? Again, a few really smart people did most of the grunt work on that one, we are riding their coattails. And half of us want to scrap the whole thing for a different model. In many parts of the world the idea of people taking responsibility for themselves is frowned upon. Or worse just lip-service from authoritarian leaders. (But have those leaders try to take away people’s CARS! Then you would see democracy!)

Our medical sciences or any sciences in general? Amazing accomplishments, but..  a few really smart people! We are often passive at best in our use of these advances – certainly life and death significance, but our daily decisions have little impact.

Perhaps the closest rival is computer technology. Yes, you are right to point out that again it is a few smart people that made those computer advances, and that computer technology is at the heart of phones and the Internet, candidates already dismissed.

It is the promise (threat?) of computer technology – and how it affects driving – that moves it into my 2nd place. The elegance of the driving achievement is its decentralization: humans make so many of the important life-and-death decisions. One day computers will be making those decisions for us.

People will align into two camps (probably by age): You may want to drive MORE – since you aren’t actually ‘driving’ but being driven, I get that. I will drive LESS – I’ve seen too many Windows Updates, too many BSODs, too many phone updates and hang-ups!

Regardless of how you align, the accomplishment of humanity – of trusting people you do not know driving deadly missiles only yards from you – will diminish and never be the same: “I don’t know you Stranger-In-The-Car-Beside-Me, but I trust you with my life infinitely more than any car operating system those really smart people think up”!

Rethinking Faith Quotes, Jonathan Leeman

If you are a person of Faith who cannot ignore the political arena… Love this quote:

Imagine an airport security metal detector that doesn’t screen for metal but for religion standing at the entrance of the public square. The machine beeps anytime someone walks through it with a supernatural big-G God hiding inside one of their convictions, but it fails to pick up self-manufactured or socially constructed little-g gods. Into this public square the secularist, the materialist, the Darwinist, the consumerist, the elitist, the chauvinist, and, frankly, the fascist can all enter carrying their gods with them like whittled wooden figures in their pockets. Not so for the Christians or Jews or Muslims. Should they enter and make a claim on behalf of their big-G God, the siren will sound like a firetruck. What this means is that the public square is inevitably slanted toward the secularist and materialist. Public conversation is ideologically rigged. (35)

Filter the ‘Noise’

When I am officiating basketball, one of the hardest things for me to do is ‘filter the noise’ – coaches, fans/parents, players, self – everybody has constructive and often destructive advice for me.

With over 40 years of playing experience, 10 years of coaching, and almost 15 years of officiating, I know this game – better than most of the people generating that noise.

To be the best official, my constant challenge is to keep that noise in perspective. To listen to your officiating partners, to the knowledgeable coaches. To ignore the fans and coaches who only care about their team’s ‘W’.

As a follower of Christ the challenge is similar: the Enemy creates noise to distract me from what I love. Digital media has exploded the sources of ‘constructive’ but mostly destructive advice the world wants to give me, not that there was a shortage earlier in my life before the Internet.

Yet, God created me in His image. After 50 years of living both in and out of His grace, I know this game. I’d like to say better than most but the more you know the Enemy’s gameplan, the more humble you become. You know how easy you fail. You know the vast arsenal of tricks and traps the Enemy sets to separate you from the One who loves you, from the One you were designed to love!

To be the best follower of Christ, my constant challenge is to keep THAT noise in perspective. To listen to my brothers. To study and to recognize the voice of the One who loves me. To ignore the fans and coaches of this world who with endless yammer try to wrap my head around an axle. To ignore the world, who in the end only care about my eternal ‘Loss’, the biggest of ‘Ls’.

I would read this book to my kids when they were young. It captures this challenge better than anything I’ve heard or read. I find myself rereading this book in my head often!

“I need you to listen with your eyes”

A friend recently shared this comment his teenage daughter made to him. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “An eye… by beams of kindness.. can make the heart dance with joy.”

The reality of modern FB/Snap/Insta media is that the eyes are no longer involved. I believe this girl’s innocent statement captures the plight of our new norms of conversation, the plight of a new generation of kids trying to navigate their new social patterns without eyes.

Everyone agrees there are benefits to these new media. But let us not ignore the perils. I am making a commitment to establishing eyeball-contact with as many people as possible in my social circle of influence, to “listen with my eyes” (I may use social media for logistics!)

“The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes.”  Matthew 6:22

Old Brain, New Tricks: Romans 8:1-2

Many consider Romans 8 the greatest chapter in the Bible. I am not qualified to opine, but I cannot think of any better.

I’ve been challenged several times in my life to memorize Romans 8 (what?! an entire chapter!) In the past I’ve failed miserably, blaming my old brain. I’ve been challenged again recently and will take up the flag again.

Romans 8:1-2:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8

Life in the Spirit

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Heirs with Christ

12 So then, brothers,[e] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[f] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Future Glory

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God’s Everlasting Love

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i]against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The 7 Secret Habits of Baby Seals

During a discussion recently I misheard someone talking about the 7 secret habits of ‘baby seals’: He really said ‘7 Secret Habits of Navy SEALs‘, a must-read article.  Below is my adaptation for baby seals.  While everyone agrees on their extreme cuteness factor, failure to practice these 7-habits can often lead to baby seals only fulfilling their extreme tastiness factor.

  1. Be loyal. Navy SEAL loyalty to the team starts at the top. SEAL loyalty is about leading by example, with unconditional support for team members.  But loyalty also starts with some idea of what you stand for. Baby seals don’t get the idea of loyalty, often swimming off on their own, making them more likely to be a tasty snack for a Great White.  When they discover loyalty it often has them blindly following other baby seals, which also lead to becoming a tasty snack.
  2. Put others before yourself. Navy SEALs get up every day asking what they can do to add value to their team.  As cute as they are, the only time baby seals put others before themselves is when the pod of Killer Whales is chasing them: “Don’t need to swim fast; just faster than the NEXT seal”!
  3. Be reflective. A Navy SEAL reflects on mistakes to make sure they don’t repeat them.  Baby seals’ shiny coats are reflective but beyond that they make mistakes over and over again without any reflection, a fact polar bears rely on.
  4. Be obsessively organized. Navy SEALs know that organization is critical, and they need to fanatically find a system and make it work for them!  Anyone that has watched baby seals know that beyond swimming in a line – a veritable automated sushi line for Leopard seals – baby seals like many other young animals are clueless about organization, nor the perseverance required to maintain it.
  5. Assume you don’t know enough. A Navy SEAL understands that training is never complete, that those who assume they know everything should be eliminated, and that those who spend time inside and outside of the workplace developing their knowledge and skills provide the momentum for their team’s forward progress.  Baby seals exhibit this behavior when they are young and stick closely to their parents.  But too quickly the baby seals take off swimming on their own and stop learning from those more experienced.
  6. Be detail-oriented. Navy SEALs pride themselves on their attention to detail, asking all team members to be obsessed with detail in their execution, to ask not ‘what’ you are going to do, but also ‘how’ you are going to do it.  Baby seals rarely get to the ‘what’ question, instead choosing to live each moment chasing that little squirrel fish on their way to becoming a large marine mammal play toy.
  7. Never get comfortable. Navy SEALs always push themselves outside of their comfort zone, maximizing their potential for a positive impact in their team, their mission and their community.  Baby seals too quickly snuggle up to their parents where safety and comfort are plentiful.

So where on the Navy SEAL / baby seal spectrum do you find yourself?  Are you relying too much on your ‘cute’ factor?  Or are you becoming a finely-tuned, precision instrument that can be used to benefit your circle of influence?!