Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 April 2020

Fear Not

The Bible. Some call it just a book. Some call it a crutch. Its words work for some, not so much for others.

If you live on planet earth right now, you’re living in a pandemic. COVID-19 may barely effect the rich and famous, but will devastate the poor and hungry. Whether you’re a celebrity on YouTube or a parent standing in a food line, here’s something to ask yourself:

How will you begin tomorrow? Will it begin with greed or fear?

If you really want more than you need, I can’t help you much this time. But if you’re afraid, these old words may help:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

That’s some pretty good assurance from the Bible. Psalm 91. Try it. You might like it.

You may need it some morning.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 March 2020

Uncertainty

How many of today’s blogs have that title during this COVID-19 pandemic? So much for this being an original post.

Our current plague is not original. It’s just new to all of us right now. There are a few alive today who lived through the flu pandemic 100 years ago. (probably not the bookends they prefer for their lives)

Thucydides wrote of the great plague of Athens in 430 BC. My bible mentions “plague” 54 times. This is nothing new.

The uncertainty we now feel may be much less than that felt long, long ago. But it’s still uncertainty. It is nothing new.

Just because we have more, know more, and expect better results because of advancements in science and medical care does not necessarily mean we have less uncertainty. We may have more.

Uncertainty creates various levels of anxiety, aka fear. Do we have more of that? We certainly have more newscasters and pundits telling us what to fear today. The news is available to us all day, everyday, everywhere. It’s easy to saturate with fear.

Yet fear is not always bad. Bad fear can paralyze action or frustrate rest and recovery. But good fear can warn, protect, teach, motivate, and help us prepare. Some people – not all – are able to choose bad fear or good fear.

According to the bible, fear has been around a while. My bible mentions “fear not” 71 times. As a follower of Jesus, my worldview confirms that fear is something to be reckoned with historically and spiritually. It implies to me that I can choose bad fear or good fear based on a promise to fear not.

We live in uncertain times. That will never change. This current pandemic will end, but uncertainty will remain in some other form.

Our choices will also remain. We can choose a worldview. And we can choose fear (bad fear) or faith (good fear).

Psalm 30:5 reads “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

I don’t know how long this pandemic night will last, but I do know that morning is coming. Fear not.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 29 February 2020

The Planner

To-do lists are part of my DNA.  The root word, “plan,” has been a part of my job title since 2010.

Then there’s this from Paul David Tripp in New Morning Mercies on 13 February: 

It is the big delusion, the height of arrogance,

the seductive trap, the big, dark danger.

It leads nowhere good. It’s destiny is death.

It sat at the center of the disaster in the garden. 

It propelled the sad rebellion of Adam and Eve.

It tempts us all again and again in situation after situation,

location after location, relationship after relationship.

We fall into thinking what multitudes of our lost forefathers thought.

We buy into this one fateful thought, that perhaps we’re smarter than God,

that maybe our way is better than his way. 

Only grace can deliver the deluded

from the danger that they are to themselves.

 

“Tear up your list and throw it away—what God has planned for you is better than anything you’ve dreamed of for yourself.”

 

 

Tripp, Paul David. New Morning Mercies . Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 January 2020

Freedom!

Independence!       For centuries, both battle cries have echoed for relief from tyranny and slavery.

Funny thing – or sad thing depending upon your perspective – we’re all slaves. The question is, according to Paul David Tripp, to whom or to what?

In his book, New Morning Mercies, Tripp continues his provocative questions and ends with a contention that once stuck in my craw: 

“Everyone is willing to make sacrifices; the question is, to whom or for what?

We all follow sets of rules; the question is, whose and for what?

We all give our hearts to something; the question is, to whom or to what?

We were never hardwired to be free, if by “freedom” we mean an independent, self-sufficient life.”

I hate the idea of slavery, but never hardwired to be free?? For decades I’ve been proud of my independence and self sufficiency.

And therein lies the problem. Not just the unattractiveness of pride, but the idea that I can solve every problem; that I can selectively choose when, if, and for whom I’ll make sacrifices, follow rules, or give my heart – my all.

Peace and joy were elusive at best for most of my early years. Had Twitter been a thing back then, #fail would have lurked next to many personal successes. But I kept striving – my way.

Who Ya Gonna Serve is a recurring theme on The Paceline. Put “serve” in the search window and you’ll get 10 hits. Those 10 are probably included in the 7.59B hits according to the Googleizer.

A lot of people want to serve. Everyone needs to serve. The question remains: to whom or to what?

Tripp asserts: “We were created by God to be connected to something vastly bigger than ourselves. We were designed to have our lives organized and directed by an agenda that is bigger than our truncated personal desires and goals.”

We say we hate slavery, but we push God away because we don’t want to follow his rules. But we absolutely follow other rules – or ignore rules that enslave others. Crazy! Right?

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out. Giving up my rules to follow God’s rules is incredibly freeing.

It doesn’t mean giving up what you really like for something that is really constraining. It means giving up what’s literally hopeless for a joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Freedom! Give it up to get it all.

Crazy! Right?

Posted by: Don Linnen | 12 January 2020

Streaks

So I didn’t post a blog last month. My streak is over. It’s kind of a big deal since I’ve been writing at least one a month since June, 2007. But is any streak really a big deal?

Streaks by athletes and other public figures are fodder for talk-show pundits. Winning streaks are interesting for fans, advertisers, and others who make money off the winning teams, but sometimes a loss is more valuable to the team than another win.

Soon I’ll move to a new season of employment. From one of full-time work to part time (or less). A few weeks ago I caught myself thinking “if I just work through February, I can say that I worked for 50 years.”

A 50-year work streak?? Why do I need to say that? I don’t need it for a resume.

I may need it for pride.

Yuck. I may be too prideful to admit how prideful I am.

And I just thought I could avoid all seven deadly sins.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 November 2019

Choose a Side

It’s rivalry Saturday. The last day of the regular season for college football. The day reserved for the big game between two arch rivals. The more animosity the better – at least for those who market the game. It is just a game – but one with big economic implications. Check the ratings.

Rancor, hostility, aversion, and bitterness seem to fill the hearts of everyone who chooses a side. Often those sides are declared by something other than where you went to college. 

Republican :: democrat.           Liberal :: conservative.           Good :: evil.           Socialist :: capitalist.           Black :: white.      The popular thing these days is to choose a side. Whatever happened to bipartisan agreements or just agreeable disagreement among friends?

Apparently it’s easier to choose a side than to choose a shade of gray. Maybe gray is just not cool. It doesn’t make for good ratings.

The term “bipartisan” is not in the Bible, but Tim Keller reminded me this month* of some proverbs that raise the idea. He contends the Bible’s view of wealth and economics does not fit “neatly into either socialism or capitalism or into the current liberal or conservative models.”

The lazy do not roast any game,
    but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.   – Proverbs 12:27

High net worth, whether real or relative, can result from willingness to work, to change, to risk, and to learn. But Keller suggests “we take far more credit for our prosperity than we should.” Is success attributable only to one’s determined free will and good fortune? The older I get, the less I believe in coincidence.

An unplowed field produces food for the poor,
    but injustice sweeps it away.   – Proverbs 13:23

Sometimes laziness leads to poverty. Sometimes unfairness by man or nature leads to economic ruin. What’s the right balance between accountability and mercy? The older I get, the grayer I get.  

The poor plead for mercy,
    but the rich answer harshly.  – Proverbs 18:23

Private property is important, but property rights are not absolute if we are the stewards, not the owners. Deuteronomy 23:24 says you can walk through your neighbor’s vineyard and eat all the grapes you want. But you may not put any grapes in your basket.

That does not fit into today’s standards of law and order or into any social-justice programs. That is gray.

The older I get, the less inclined I am to choose a side.

 

*God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life (November 7 & 29). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. – my daily devotional this year from the book of Proverbs

 

Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 October 2019

Saturated

Decision fatigue is a new term to me, but it perfectly describes how I feel. James Clear identified it for me not long ago. My reaction to his article then: “Oh yeah. I sometimes have that. But I know how to deal with it.”

That was before the literal tornado appeared last week to add a new pile of decisions onto the heap that had been steadily growing for months. Ironically the storm did not include rain (initially), but the effect of adding a new list of choices to my bulging file of action items left me feeling saturated. And exhausted every night. 

For years I’ve recognized the need to make daily decisions the night before. Selection of what I’ll wear the next day keeps me from mixing plaids and stripes and from taking everything but my cycling shoes when I drive away at oh dark thirty to meet friends for a long bike ride. (I write from experience.)

I learned as a kid to do the important things first. And a little later in life to put the big things in the car before you pack the small things. And always to plan your work and work your plan. (Thanks again, Dad, for teaching me well.)

As an adult I understood (but sometimes ignored) the need to do the hard stuff when I was rested and fed – not when I was “hangry” and tired. If I struggle to “git er done,” I can choose to rest, eat, or stop. You don’t always have those choices. You do have the choice to plan ahead.

“Plans are useless. Planning is everything.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man who arranged those six words, was spot on.

My plan to post an eloquent blog tonight is severely hampered by my decision fatigue. I’m saturated. I choose to stop and rest.

Planning resumes tomorrow.

 

Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 September 2019

Grumpy and Me

I first met Grumpy sometime in the late 50s. He was one of seven dwarfs hanging out with Snow White.

I met him again in the early 90s. He was an instructor pilot introducing me to aerial combat manuevers. Instructor pilots are notorious for being demanding, curt, and generally very unhappy people. My Grumpy, the IP, broke the stereotype. He was one of the nicest, coolest guys I’ve ever met.

My turn to be Grumpy came just a few weeks ago. I received my notice to renew my driver license in person. Which Grumpy would I choose to be? (That’s not a trick question.)

My default mode is set to “sour” at the thought of waiting in line for anything. For government services it regresses to “disagreeably grouchy.” Being the cheerful optimist that I am, at least in my dreams, I upgraded my attitude to “Grumpy.” I embraced my role for weeks – but I was neither nice nor cool.

After a half-dozen failed attempts over several somber weeks at all hours of the day and night to get in line via the online system, I accepted my dark fate to physically stand in line to renew my license. The weeks left before the deadline dropped to just a few. Work and travel reduced the days I could waste waiting in line to even fewer. A standing meeting on Monday morning shifted to Wednesday. It was time to embrace the suck and take my bitter pill to begin the week.

I wavered between going to the smaller office in Plano or the mega office in Garland. I decided to make a game-time decision at oh dark thirty Monday morn. I grumbled and griped all weekend, got 5 hours of sleep Sunday night, and lined up at 620a at the Garland Mega Center for the doors to open at 730a. My entire whipping lasted 4:18 by my stopwatch. I was building my case to continue griping to anyone unlucky enough to ask me how I’m doing.

HOWEVER, something happened that particular Monday morning in Garland.

Kathy, the lady who finally processed me, is a calm, poised, delightful professional who came from the corporate world. We visited while she did all the things necessary to get me into the “new” system. As I prepared to leave, I asked her if she had any specific prayer needs that I could lift for her. She paused, took a breath, then told me things that touched my heart.

She said that today was her granddaughter’s 10th birthday, that her daughter and granddaughter had just moved in with her, and that her daughter was suffering from deep depression over the tragic death of her fiancé 10 years ago. She explained more sad details and the deep concern she had for her family. I asked if it was okay to pray right then right there in the barely private confines of a state office. She didn’t hesitate to say yes. I prayed for her and her family.

It was a quiet time of peace on a Monday morning in the middle of busy government offices. God heard us. Kathy was grateful. I won’t know what happened until I see her again. That probably won’t be in this lifetime.

As I walked from the Garland Mega Center it struck me that despite every effort on my part to change the when, where, and how of going through “my ordeal,” apparently I was at the right place at the right time on the right day with the right person.

The older I get, the less I believe in coincidence.

I’m a slow learner. Maybe some day I’ll learn to not be Grumpy – especially when I’m part of the plan.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 August 2019

Good Times…

…And bad times. Grandma likes to read about good times. The general public likes to watch a train wreck.

Two guys, one named Keller, the other, Solomon, got me to thinking about this lately. They identify prosperity and adversity as two great tests. I never think much about the good times of prosperity as a test. Aren’t all rich people happy?

Read the words of the next sentence slowly and carefully. Solomon said “The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death… (Proverbs 10:16).  

Keller parsed that sentence well in his book, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life (p. 241, Kindle Edition). To paraphrase that much better author: If proud people get wild success, if the greedy get stinking rich, and the lusty ones get anything they want anytime they want, it only confirms their illusions about their ability to achieve their own happiness. THAT will inevitably lead to total despair in the end when all these supposed paradises decay, and life leaves them in a box canyon. No where to go. Nothing to drink.

Keep on drinking your expensive drink of choice. It will never satisfy your thirst. You might give living water a try. It won’t let you down.

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Jesus really did live. He really did say that. His living water really can make a difference before – or after – a train wreck.

Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 July 2019

25K Mornings

As much as I’d like to ruminate about long, early-morning runs around White Rock Lake, this isn’t about that.

James Clear recently provoked my mind with his excellent post: “You Get 25,000 Mornings as an Adult: Here are 8 Ways to Not Waste Them.”

Most folks in this country now live to be about 80 years old – give or take a few years dependent upon habits, genes, gender, privilege, and a few other variables. If we grow up by age 18 (talk about a variable) and decent healthcare stretches us out to 86, we have 68 years or nearly 25,000 days as an adult.

That’s 25,000 days of choices. A blog post on that many decisions over a lifetime could turn into an epic (or not-so epic) tome. This is just about beginning each morning.

How you start the day is critical. My suggestions are different than Mr. Clear’s. He’s spent more time on research and writing than I. I’ve lived longer than he. And because my remaining mornings are statistically fewer, they have significantly grown in value.

Loosely modifying and significantly reprioritizing his list of 8 strategies, here are a few that I’ve found important to make the most of my mornings:

  1. I have to prepare the night before (Clear’s #2) since I usually I don’t wake up till I’m backing out of the driveway. Plans made the night before are actually recognized by my brain while my body is still waking up. Knowing what to wear and eat while I’m half asleep at zero dark thirty or even seven thirty in the morning, saves some brain energy for real decisions later in the day. [Pro Tip: if your backpack feels lighter when you walk to the car – it really is. Packing your laptop the night before ensures you don’t get that second feeling of a light backpack when you’re fully awake and walking into work 30 minutes later.]
  2. A “pre-game routine” (Clear’s #8) is critical to me. Not exactly like before every at bat, free throw, or penalty kick, but if I prepare for what’s next with thoughtful habits, I’m a lot more ready for what’s ahead. Some routines I occasionally skip to check my flexibility. But if I miss a few minutes of early morning quiet time spent in prayer and study, things just seem a little off the rest of the day. [Pro Tip: if you do choose to ponder on something you worship (everyone does), be careful not to choose something that will let you down.]
  3. Eating as a reward (Clear’s #7) is where Mr. Clear and I clearly diverge. Breakfast is not to be missed for any reason – even before a hard, early morning workout (just get up earlier). The most important meal of the day, it is a reward for any morning – preferably to be followed by a second breakfast at 9am and, for those of us who relate to Hobbits, Elevenses before a late lunch. [Pro Tip: French Toast Neat at Snooze is INCREDIBLE – but not that good before an early run.]
  4. Premeditated focus is my last strategy. It’s a combo of Clear’s remaining five strategies. I cannot just focus. I need help. I can ignore the phone for 45 minutes. It’s less intrusive for me than email. I can avoid looking at email for a few hours – as long as I don’t open it when I first sit down. (They’ll call or text if it’s that important.) I must plan my focus. Similar but different than Mr. Clear’s #1, I use time to manage my energy. A timer on my laptop helps me focus on a single, important task and reminds me when to get up and move. I have to move on a regular basis or my focus gets really unfocused. [Pro Tip: Be Focused on a Mac set for 35 minute work sessions and 4 minute short breaks may be worth a try.]

This post is mostly for those of us who have 25,000 or fewer mornings left in our lives. But what about someone under 18 years old who does this? Will it give them an unfair advantage over their peers?

What about someone over 80 years old? Are they playing with house money?

Imagine the very young teamed up with the very old to make the most of every morning. If you’re an “adult” between those age groups – GET  OUT  OF  THE  WAY.

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