“Willie Weaver”

I was driving to work this morning, listening to a podcast from Alistair Begg, when a flash of white blew by me two lanes to my right, cut in front of the car just ahead of me in the center lane, and came to an abrupt stop at the red light just ahead. I pulled up just to his left and off his left rear fender. The car was a very nice Mercedes E-class sedan. The driver, a male appearing to be in his early to mid-40’s stared straight ahead with a firm grip on the steering wheel. When the light turned green, he was the first to clear the intersection. As we proceeded down the street, he swerved right, then left, allowing minimal clearance between his rear and the front end of the cars he was passing. Then, at the next red light, I pulled up alongside him again. For several miles we repeated the pattern, with the driver I dubbed “Willie Weaver” cutting in and out of traffic until the great equalizers in their bright red hue lined us up to start all over again. Finally, Willie Weaver turned right and we continued on our separate ways.

Willie got me to thinking about how we approach life these days. How much stress do we pile onto ourselves with no good reason for doing so? How often do we live at breakneck speed, only to have life slow us down while the rest of the world catches up? Are we running on adrenaline, or are we living life at a comfortable pace while still accomplishing our daily tasks and goals? I’m not knocking Willie, for at one point in my life I was a lot like him. I’m thankful that I’ve learned over the years to relax, take life a bit easier and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Friends, as another long holiday weekend is upon us, slow down. If you’re driving, don’t be Willie Weaver. Enjoy the time off work (if you get it), enjoy your family, enjoy your friends. Celebrate the anniversary of our great country’s independence and take time to be thankful that you are an American. I hope my friend Willie is able to do so as well.

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

~ Paul Simon, The 59th Street Bridge Song

On My Mind: A Car, A Meeting, and A Conversation

Here is what’s on my mind this evening. I hope it adds some value to your day, but even if it doesn’t I’m happy to get this off my chest.

A Car: Ode to a Prius

Taking delivery of my 2015 Toyota Prius V, Texas Toyota of Grapevine. 6.19.2015

Taking delivery of my 2015 Toyota Prius V, Texas Toyota of Grapevine. 6.19.2015

If you had told me three weeks ago that I would trade my nice, luxurious 2007 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer SUV for a Toyota Prius I would have told you that you don’t know me very well. I purchased my Expedition in December, 2013 and was instantly taken by it’s massive size, comfortable ride, and luxurious appointments. Even the meager average 15.4 miles per gallon fuel consumption did not mitigate my affection for that vehicle. It also didn’t hurt that the Expedition won me instant credibility among the Fort Worth elite as I parked it in the Justin lot at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo alongside the vehicles of other rodeo volunteers.

As I write this today, I am the proud owner of a 2015 Toyota Prius V and, yes, Texas Toyota of Grapevine gladly accepted my Expedition in trade. I drive a lot in my job, and in just over a week’s time I put almost 700 miles on my new Prius, averaging just over 40 miles per gallon. My Prius is stylish – and that’s not just my opinion. Every colleague and prospect I have driven thus far has offered that feedback. The car is smooth, quiet, and equipped with cool gadgetry that I am still learning to operate. Based on my simple math, I have saved 29 gallons of gas – about $75. The gas savings alone will cover over half of my monthly payment and I am pumping significantly fewer toxins into the air. I’d say that’s a win all around.

A Meeting: The Value of Face-to-Face

"These dogs are barkin'!" ~ Del Griffith in Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

“These dogs are barkin’!” ~ Del Griffith in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. June, 2014

I have been blessed to enjoy a wonderful career in corporate risk management. Topics that many would find dull, such as safety protocols, claims management, and insurance terms & conditions are quite interesting to me. In Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Neal Page said something along these lines in his rant against Del Griffith’s boring stories, “I could sit in an insurance seminar for days and listen to them drone on and on with a big smile on my face. People would ask me, ‘how do you do it?’ and I’d tell them, ‘because I’ve been with Del Griffith.’” On that point I disagree with Neal Page; I thoroughly enjoy those seminars!

I enjoyed some great meetings today; meetings in which we discussed strategies for safety and claims management and how sound practices in those areas can enhance the work experience of employees and the customer experience of guests. During a break this afternoon I was struck by the fact that we humans were created to be relational; to interact with one another, to shake hands, smile, agree and even disagree. Technology has led us to a fast-paced business tempo in which we often communicate via email, online chat, or conference call. Even our social relationships are moving more online as we interact with friends and family via the plethora of social media outlets available at the click of a mouse. Those things have their place, but after a day like today, I’m reminded of just how important it is that we engage our world without the barriers of pretense or technology. Nothing replaces sitting down and talking.

A Conversation: Why Don’t We Talk Anymore?

Speaking of sitting down and talking, I was once a Facebook Ninja. At least, that’s the best term I can come up with to describe a person who pages through his news feed and pounces on others’ comments on topics upon which I disagree. Often, those posts would launch a rather ugly exchange that served no purpose but to tick one another off. I’ve made a conscious effort to change my ways over the past year or so, and while I am still tempted to drop a vitriolic comment every now and then, I’m happy with my progress to this point.

8.9.2014 Enjoying a delicious home-cooked Brazilian feast with dear friends, courtesy of the Dunn's.

8.9.2014 Enjoying a delicious home-cooked Brazilian feast with dear friends, courtesy of the Dunn’s.

We are living in very historic times, and we are quickly losing the ability to talk to one another about things of extremely great importance. The media no longer reports news; it spins statements and circumstances in an effort to drive ratings. In my opinion, the so-called news channels and the national and local network news outlets offer very little of substance or value to the American people. We the People are no better, for we readily consume the kool-aid offered up by our favorite TV spin doctors, regurgitate bits and pieces of it on social media, and commence to attacking one another for being stupid and uninformed. As all of this plays out, I fear we are squandering the greatest nation that ever existed.

I have good friends from all political persuasions. We sometimes trade barbs on social media, but I haven’t talked personally with many of them for years. I’ve often toyed with the idea of hosting a “Friend Summit”. It would be a weekend to gather friends from various walks of life and political ideals and discuss the issues of the day – everything from taxation to immigration to gay marriage – not necessarily to try and change each other’s minds but to arrive at least at an understanding of where our perspectives are coming from. But most importantly, my aim would be to reinforce for each of us that we are all children of our Creator, we all want to live a good life, and we all need each other. I’m still kicking this idea around in my head; I wonder if anybody would come.

God’s Soda Pop

I’ve seen two memes on Facebook recently that gave me pause to think about a few of the food items I used to consume regularly. But it didn’t start there. I’ve thought a lot over the past few years about the chemicals and additives frequently found in food products that, although deemed fit for consumption by the United States Food & Drug Administration (USFDA), just don’t seem logically “OK” for me anymore.

Margarine vs. Butter

This meme, credited to preventdisease.com, describes the process for manufacturing margarine – a longstanding staple in many weight loss diets. People tout its lower fat, lower calories, and spreadability – but look at what’s in this stuff! I read similar information about a year ago, and based on that, I eliminated margarine from my diet. When I first returned to real butter, I about had to strap my taste buds down. The sweet, creamy flavor was amazing, and so far superior to the artificial processed flavor offered by its imitators. In our home, we cook with butter, we bake with butter, we spread it on our toast, we garnish our veggies with it – yum! Butter, consumed in moderation just like anything else should be, is now a staple in my diet and I couldn’t be happier.

Diet Soda vs. “Regular” Soda

My wife and I used to consume Diet Coke by the case. Looking back, it took me quite a while to adapt to the taste, but I was convinced that the lack of calories and sugar would be much better for me than the “regular” soda sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS55). To be honest, neither Aspartame, Saccharine, HFCS55 nor any other non-sugar sweetener is all that appealing to me these days; so I avoid all of them. This meme, although featuring a can of Diet Coke, addresses the dangers of any diet soda. Information on the dangers associated with other artificial sweeteners, including HFCS55 is succinctly provided at http://www.examiner.com/article/10-dangerous-sweeteners-coca-cola.

God’s Soda Pop

I visit this dispenser throughout my work day. Delicious H2O!

I visit this dispenser throughout my work day. Delicious H2O!

Have you seen “The Waterboy” movie starring Adam Sandler? One of my favorite quotes, and I use it often today, is Bobby Boucher’s acclamation, “now that’s some high quality H2O.” Water is my favorite beverage. I have a glass of water on my desk at work all day and refill it several times. This machine in our office break room puts out some of the finest tasting H2O I’ve ever tasted. My refrigerator at home, with its built in water filtration system, also yields a fine glass of cold refreshment. I call water “God’s Soda Pop.” It is an essential component of life. And I find it absolutely wonderful. This slideshow from webMD offers 7 benefits to our bodies of water consumption http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-water-9/slideshow-water-health.

One Small Caveat

Please, take all of this with a grain of salt. It is a conglomeration of information I’ve read and absorbed over the years. I’m not a nutritionist; each of us should consult with our personal physicians about our diets and the foods or additives that he or she feels are best for us.

Hmmm, salt. Perhaps I’ll research that next.

 Happy eating!

20/20 Hindsight ~ John 2:18-25

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Clarity sometimes comes long after events have unfolded. In the heat of the moment, we’re in the moment and, thus, God’s purpose for the moment can be somewhat elusive to us at the time. Once we are removed from the situation and take the opportunity to look back and ponder it, we begin to understand the gravity of the events we witnessed. We may even feel a bit foolish for having missed the real meaning until later, stating that the clarity offered by hindsight makes the gravity of the moment obvious. “How did I miss that?” we ask. Such is the limitation of the human mind, limited in scope and bound by the passage of time.

Jesus had just cleared the vendors and money changers from the temple courts, and with that, potential temple revenue had been thrown out with them. The Jews in charge asked Him to show a sign proving that He had the authority to take such action. Jesus replied, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (2:19) Standing in the temple court and looking at the temple structure, it’s easy for me to understand why these men, and presumably Jesus’ disciples, took him literally, chiding Him that it took 46 years to build this structure; no way could Jesus destroy it and rebuild it in three days.

But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:21-22)

Fast-forward a few years. Jesus had been crucified and resurrected from the dead. The victory had been won. I can almost picture His disciples sitting around a table reminiscing about all of the things Jesus said and did. And I can almost see the disciples collectively slap their foreheads as the Holy Spirit revealed the gravity of this moment to them. “He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (verse 21). “Aha!” They didn’t get it at the time, but it makes so much sense now! The Jews destroyed this Temple, and on the third day He made His point abundantly clear as He rose from the dead and appeared in triumph to His disciples and to many others. Sin and death were defeated once and for all. It was time to spread the word.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Friends, we weren’t there to witness the words and deeds of Jesus when He came to earth. But God has given us an amazing gift in His Holy Word. By reading and studying the Bible, we in essence are tapping into hindsight. We can sit in the comfort of our homes and in the pews of our churches and read the words inspired by God and recorded by the likes of Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James – every section and every book of the Bible is about one Man. It is about God’s relationship with us and the redemptive gift He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, Scripture in its entirety points straight to our Savior! The more we read and the more we study, we too will slap our foreheads and yell, “Aha!” as the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to bring us closer to Him.

I’ll share a secret. I’m glad people read my blog, and I am overjoyed when they glean some nugget of wisdom or inspiration from something I’ve written. But the real reason I write my blog is completely selfish: it is the tool by which I read, ponder, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word. God’s Word is an amazing gift. When is the last time you picked it up?

Ponder this: Is any section of the Bible more relevant today than other sections of the Bible? Some would answer, “yes.” I answer with a resounding “No!” Read it. Read all of it. Read it in an attitude of prayer and longing. And be prepared to slap your forehead.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Your Son, and thank you for revealing Yourself through Scripture. Bless my study and grant me the wisdom to discern and understand Your eternal, unchanging, and universally true message to Your creation through Your Holy Word. Help me to take what I learn and become salt and light to this dark world. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Over/Under…At Church?? ~ John 2:13-17

IMG_1644About 25 years ago, I agreed to volunteer at a coworker’s church bazaar. I helped work the “over/under” booth, the most popular booth at the bazaar, I was told. Over/Under was a dice game in which patrons would guess whether the roll of two dice would be over, under, or equal to 7. They made their choice by placing $1 or $2 in one of three spots on the table: “over”, “under” or “seven”. Two dice were rolled. Players who selected “over” or “under” with a corresponding roll over or under 7 received their original money back plus an equal amount. If they selected “seven” with a seven rolled they received their money back plus a double amount. Money placed in the incorrect spot was donated to the church. It sure looked like gambling to me, but I was told the money placed on the table was not a bet; it was a “contribution”. As we worked the booth into the nighttime hours, patrons were three and four deep around the booth, drinking beer (as we were, too – it was free for volunteers), and pushing their way to the tables to offer their contributions.

Admittedly, I enjoyed working Over/Under. It was fast-paced and we got all the food and beer we wanted. But with all of that, I felt that something wasn’t quite right about this game at the church bazaar.

And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” (John 2:14-16)

According to my Bible’s study notes, the money changers and vendors selling doves and other livestock were there to serve foreigners that came on pilgrimage to offer sacrifices to God. They arrived with foreign currency that needed to be exchanged, and rather than haul sacrificial animals with them on their journey, these were offered for sale as a convenience. Apparently, human greed had taken over, and the money changers and other vendors were making a handsome profit by charging exorbitant prices for their goods and services. The purpose for visiting the temple was overshadowed by the hustle and bustle of the temple marketplace. God had been shoved into the background in favor of money and profits. Jesus, rightfully angered, literally turned their tables and ran them off.

I’m quite certain that Jesus would have had the same reaction had He visited that church bazaar. Aside from being on church property, I recall nothing at that bazaar that pointed to Christ. The Gospel was not shared. Worship was not discussed. This was not a community outreach; it was a church fundraiser. Many of the activities going on at the bazaar were activities that could happen at any club fundraiser. We looked just like the world. We were conducting business, nothing more. As I ponder this many years later, having matured somewhat in my faith, I feel bad for having participated and I have asked God to forgive me. Thank God for His mercy and grace!

The cross at First Baptist Church of Keller

The cross at First Baptist Church of Keller

Today, many churches are blurring the lines between things of the world and things of God. Many feel it is important that the church “fit in” to society to attract and retain members. Make people comfortable. Use décor that says anything but “church”. Offer a booming sound system and a gourmet coffee bar. Surrender to societal norms and values. Preach about prosperity and self worth with a big smile while never mentioning the eternal consequences of sin and the forgiveness offered only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m certain that Jesus would disagree. Interestingly, the other three Gospels record these words of Jesus as He drove the vendors from the temple, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer; but you have made it a robbers’ den.’” (Luke 19:46) We must all lift our church leaders in prayer as we work with them, not to blend with the world to suit our own fancies, but to be salt and light unto a world that so desperately needs to hear the Gospel.

Ponder this: What would Jesus think if He walked into my church? What would He see? What would He hear? Would He be pleased, or would He clear the place out?

My Prayer for Today: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for leading me to First Baptist Church of Keller. Be with all who preach and teach there, that Your Word would always be our focus. I lift up Your church around the country and around the world. Open our eyes and ears that we might see any points of diversion from Your Word and compel us to be faithful stewards of the Gospel. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

2015 Photo-Some-Days 4.18.2015

I am excited to sing “Brahms Requiem” with fellow members of the First Baptist Keller Chorale joining singers from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Howard Payne University, and Gambrell Street Baptist Church. To top it off, we are singing with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra! As we rehearsed last night, I was simultaneously humbled, somewhat intimidated, and very thrilled. The opportunity to sing with such talented musicians is a privilege, indeed. Brahms Requiem is a beautiful piece of music; come hear us on April 28 in the Truett Auditorium at the Seminary. I’ll be the guy in the tux. ;)

I will give thanks to the LORD for his righteousness. I will make music to praise the name of the LORD Most High. ~ Psalm 7:17 via crosswalk.com

Brahms Requiem rehearsal, 4.17.2015

Brahms Requiem rehearsal, 4.17.2015

2015 Photo-Some-Days 4.13.2015

Building a sales pipeline is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done.  It requires diligence, perseverance, patience, research, preparation, and sometimes a thick skin. I find that I perform best in an initial meeting with a new prospect if I drive to the location of the meeting well ahead of time, then locate a local coffee shop in which to decompress and collect my thoughts. Thirty to forty five minutes sitting in a Starbucks may sound like time wasted to some; for me it is time well spent as I put the stress of metropolitan traffic behind me and focus on the task at hand.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell via BrainyQuote.com

Decompression and prep time before a new business meeting

Decompression and prep time before a new business meeting

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