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short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the category “Integrity”

“Being Human Better”

being-human-better

It’s not a scientific study or Barna research, it’s just my take…my personal observation over time. The little chart above is not about race, or religion, or creed. It’s not about who we cheer for on Saturday afternoons or vote for in November. It’s about how we see people and treat people and live in God’s world.  They are four basic world views, and they inform every thing we do:

#1 “My Life Matters”
It’s safe to say that I came out of the womb thinking about my own personal comfort. Instinctively, I will do or say anything to have my wants and needs met, even if it means someone else will not have theirs met.  Nothing personal, I just have to take care of old #1. MY LIFE MATTERS.

#2 “OUR Life Matters”
At some point, as we become aware of people around us, we naturally gravitate toward those who look like us—or think or talk or believe like us. We find security and acceptance in families and teams, office pools and peer groups and political parties. At this stage we do anything, say anything, in the name of taking care of our own. Why? Because OUR LIFE MATTERS!

#3 “ALL LIVES Matter”
Hopefully, one day, we venture outside of the family/friend compound. At this stage, we recognize the humanity in all of humanity. Why, that man in the supermarket has feelings too!…and the lady behind the checkout counter has a story,…and the Syrian refugees on the evening news—they must be terrified!  Newfound compassion and mercy compel us to stand up for the little guy. Maybe it’s a random act of kindness; maybe it’s a career in social work; but we do it because ALL LIVES MATTER.

#4 “ALL LIFE Matters”
The final perspective—and I would say, the highest—moves beyond mere human concerns. “All Lives Matter” is noble, but there is a greater good: “ALL LIFE MATTERS.”  Not just homo sapians, but every living thing. The coral reef, the polar ice caps, the itsie-bitsy spider, the earth and moon and stars. God made it all and called it “good.  No doubt, ALL LIFE MATTERS!

So, which is your life line?…your soul mantra?  Not sure?  Just ask anyone who has known you for a week or more. But be prepared—sometimes the truth hurts.

Keith
10/6/2016

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“Einstein’s Desk…Burns…and an Organizing Principle”

Einstein's face

My first job after college was that of “Youth Director” at Huffman United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. My supervisor was Director of Christian Education, Burns Nesbitt. Burns was a 50-something, retired Air Force chaplain with way too much life and knowledge to spend it golfing away the golden years, so, Burns took on the challenge of cultivating the educational ministries of a 1500-member congregation.

How to describe Burns?

Burns was a dreamer/planner/world-thinker/justice-seeker/teacher/trainer/ uproarious laugh-er/theologian/connoisseur of life’s simple gifts—not to mention, husband to Mary Alice (delightful, strong, and refreshingly honest), and father to Phil, Jaye, and Chris. All this said, Burns tried his best to bring it all together and live a life of integrity.

My first visit to Burns’ office was unsettling. How do I describe that 8’ x 12’ish space? Overstuffed bookshelves reaching floor-to-ceiling… institutional, gray-green metal desk…a couple of mismatched chairs—all upstaged by two-foot-high stacks of file folders, open reference books, periodicals, and do-dad keepsakes from people and places past. There were 2’ x 3’ sheets of white newsprint masking-taped around the walls with barely legible, color-coded, Magic Marker scribbles from recent meetings. There was a flip chart in the corner on a flimsey aluminum easel, and a fire hazard of a desktop strewn with loose papers, sticky notes and cheap pens. The words “tsunami” and “tetanus shot” come to mind. John Wesley, father of our Methodist OCD-ness would not have seen eye-to-eye with Burns—and not just because Burns was a foot taller. 

In time, I came to understand that Burns was perfectly comfortable in his little disaster area. The disorder was his order—and Burns could put his hand on anything he needed at a moment’s notice. He knew exactly where the red Magic Marker was, and the children’s Sunday School material, and the book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Question: Have you ever seen a photo of Einstein’s desk?…or Mark Twain’s?… or Steve Jobs? Take a look….

Desk-Einstein

Desk-Mark Twain

Desk-Steve Jobs

My point?   Different people have different ways of making sense of their world—that is, different organizing principles.  Maybe it’s do-lists, PDA’s, calendars, personal assistants, executive secretaries.  For some, it’s mentors, managers, coaches, or trainers.  Maybe it’s a favorite philosopher or theologian.

What’s important is that you find something that works for you—a simple truth or system that helps you figure out the specifics of your life…that helps you make sense of a discombobulated world, and make a little hay while your mortal sun shines.

Now, Burns was no Einstein—though he had his occasional bursts of brilliance—but Burns had found a system that worked for him….

Amazing that he could find it in that office!

Keith Elder

2-3-2015

http://keithelder.com/

Derek Jeter vs. Keith Olbermann…by the numbers

Derek Jeter

Though I’m not a true baseball fan, the Yankees-Orioles game was on my calendar last Thursday.  The game had no bearing on the playoff picture—New York was already out, Baltimore was already in. But Thursday night wasn’t so much about baseball.

Thursday night was about #2…The Captain…Mr. November. On this long-anticipated evening, after 20 years in pinstripes, Derek Jeter would play his last game at Yankee Stadium.

“Rainout” was on Al Roker’s radar, but there would be no raining on this parade. The capacity crowd was on its feet every time #2 was announced, and early on, he gave them something to cheer about—a first inning hit…an RBI in the middle innings.

The Yankees were leading 5-2 as they took the field for the top of the ninth. New York manager, Joe Girardi, was probably trying to decide when to take Jeter out for one last ovation.  Apparently, Baltimore didn’t get the memo about the fat lady singing, and they proceeded to hit a home run, then a base hit, then another home run. Result?… TIE GAME.

For once, Yankees fans didn’t mind. Why?…because this meant they’d get to see Jeter one more time.  The Captain was slated to bat third.

I can play it all back in my head: the lead-off man gets a single. The next batter lays down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner into scoring position.

All eyes–from the owners’ and celebrities’, to the Little Leaguers’ and their dads’, to the hot dog venders’–are trained on #2 as he walks to the plate.  He stands in the box… one pitch… one swing…. one crack of the bat.  The ball drops into shallow right field for a base hit.  It’s fielded as the runner rounds third… the throw…the play at home…….

”SAFE!” Yankees win! Yankees win!

…on Jeter’s final swing…and his first walk-off hit in seven years.

Of course, the haters will hate and the naysayers will nay.

After one player’s comment that Jeter was the greatest, Keith Olbermann, of ESPN, takes it upon himself to detail all the statistical reasons #2 is NOT #1.  (You will understand if I don’t share the link.)  I’m sure it was just oversight that K.O. failed to highlight post-season stats Jeter does lead.  I’m afraid that all he proves in his rant is that it’s possible to make A point while entirely missing THE point.

Thursday night wasn’t about stats–it was one last tip of the cap to Jeter’s integrity and dedication and leadership, and humility.  Sure, it was about hundreds of great plays and proud moments over time–but, more, it was about a great human being who also happened to be a great ballplayer.

“Who is the greatest” can never be determined by stats alone.

But five World Series rings, millions of forever fans, and one class act, should keep Derek Jeter in the conversation for years to come.

Keith Elder
9-27-2014

http://keithelder.com/

“An Open Letter to Jameis, Ray, Roger, etc.”

Dear Jameis, Ray, Roger, etc., etc.”

All we wanted was a nice, evening with friends and family. A little food and drink. A little friendly banter. A great game. But that’s not what we got. Our night was intercepted by play-by-play and commentary on the latest episode of “Athletes Behaving Badly.” Suspensions, arrests, abuse charges—then, of course, spin by publicists and coaches and league officials trying to save their… Butkus awards.

Now, I don’t know you guys personally. And no head coaches or commissioners have called to ask for my take on the matter—but here it comes.

You guys are ruining it for everybody. Taking away from a game that has given you everything. Where would you be today without this game? And, yet, you are ruining it—siphoning off the magic and the excitement of great rivalries and cool autumn afternoons and tailgate reunions.

FYI, Average Joe and Jane Public don’t to want hear another “athlete beats up anybody story.” (Add to that, doping, bird-flipping, shoplifting, racial slurs from penthouses, or disgusting language from atop cafeteria tables). There’s not a person out there who works a real job, who is not repulsed by your behavior. We commoners look to sports as a little break from realities of a tough economy and terrorist threats and killer viruses—and here you come, just turning it into more bad news. We are tired of having to explain you to our kids, “Oh, he’s not a bad person, he just did a bad thing.”

Or are you a bad person?  Lord knows, there are evil people out there in the world. Jesus said, “You’ll know a tree by its fruits.” Right now, Friends, your fruits don’t speak very highly of you. They’re saying you don’t respect the game…or the fans…or your family…or yourself.

As far as we are concerned you can go away and stay away, until you begin to get your orchard in order. But that won’t happen, really, without a change of heart…and that’s something you’ll need to discuss with God. Only God can change a heart.

Sincerely hoping your tree gets better soon.  Mine too.

Keith Elder

9-22-2014

http://keithelder.com/

“Smokey the Bear and Catherine of Sienna?”

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Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

Wait for it…  Hold that thought…  I’ll tell you in a sec….

It was just another facebook poster:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – Saint Catherine of Sienna  (shared on meetville.com).

The irony—and I didn’t know this till I did a little research—Saint Catherine was/is the Catholic Church’s Patron Saint of Fire Prevention.

I’ve known a few “saints of fire-prevention” along the way.  Self-designated dowsers throwing water on anything vaguely resembling innovation. If it was not in the rule book…if it meant going off the beaten path or over the beaten budget…if it threatened to crack the glass ceiling of “the way we’ve always done it”—the saints of fire prevention just said, “No.”  In church. In business. In society.

Unfortunately, the only way we find the new-and-wonderful is to let go of at least some of the old-and-not-as-wonderful-as-it-once-was.  Nicodemus did it in John 3.  It’s the story where Jesus said, “you must be born again.” It’s a new wineskins for new wine thing.

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Though Catherine received no formal education, and though she only lived to the age of 33, she was recognized as one of the most intelligent theological and philosophical minds in the Catholic world.  Don’t you know the old cardinals loved having this young, female voice swaying the Pope’s decisions?  But she didn’t care. True truth-tellers aren’t bent by winds of popular opinion. She was a mover and a shaker. And despite her later designation as Patron Saint of Fire Prevention, she was anything but in her life on earth.  She was a fire starter, bringing light and hope and joy and new life to a struggling Church.

Her secret?…

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  She was, and she did.

Oh… I almost forgot….

Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

…………..same middle name.

It’s a dumb joke, I know.  But becoming who God meant you to be and, setting the world on fire is not.

Keith

5-21-14

http://keithelder.com/

https://twitter.com/keitheldermusic

“Facebook, Betty White, and The Debul!”

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I try to limit my facebook time. On break from other projects, I will open facebook, glance at the clock, and promise myself, “OK, you get fifteen minutes, then it’s back to work.”

An hour later, I will have checked messages, opened and scanned various articles and links to those articles, opened one person’s posted photo and been drawn into their other photos which, in turn, open other tagged people’s photos. Being a songwriter, I will have listened to numerous posted songs and been drawn into the Youtube related video column.

While I am browsing, someone will inevitably pop-in via the online chat feature, and I will have to at least acknowledge their e-presence. Depending upon the chat-er, the chatter can go on for a while.

By the intervening grace of God, I never got started playing the games.

Remember the scene from the Batman movie where The Riddler (Jim Carrey) created an insidious machine that sucked the intelligence out of people via their TV screen? Welcome to facebook.

Friends, if time is our greatest of all mortal resources, facebook can be—to quote “the Waterboy (Adam Sandler) and his swamp Momma (Kathy Bates)—THE DEBUL! (i.e., the Devil).

Asked if she was on facebook, 92 year-old Betty White replied, “No. I don’t really even know what it is—but it seems like a terrible waste of time!”

When you get to the age when you don’t even buy green bananas, time gets precious. But then, time has always been, precious.

Facebook can be a great connector. I wrote a blog entitled, “Zuckerberg for the Nobel Peace Prize” pointing to facebook’s value as a means of bringing people together. But fb can also be a terrible waste of time–time that would be better spent writing that book or painting that picture…or giving your employer an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

If you’d like to read my blog posts without going on facebook, just subscribe and new posts will go directly to your e-mail.

Wow… I just noticed that I haven’t posted since February….

Must have been on facebook.

Keith

4-3-14

keithelder.com

“The Naturals… you and me and Roy Hobbs”

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If you had to list your ten all-time favorite movies, what might they be?  The elves of your subconscious are probably already running to the stacks and bringing titles up to the checkout counter of your mind.  Given time, you might come up with dozens, but there’s a good chance the first eight or ten were first for a reason. They bump into your story.

One film that jumps out for me is, “The Natural,” a baseball story starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close.  Close has one immortal line, addressing Roy in his maternity ward bed (long story).  “I believe we have two lives,” she says, “the one we learn from, and the one we live with after that.”

It’s another scene, though, that came to mind today, It’s a dugout scene where Roy (Redford) and Pops (Wilford Brimley) have a life-altering confrontation.

Roy was “The Natural”–a phenomenal young baseball talent destined to be “the best there ever was.”  Unfortunately, as is often the case, Roy’s dream got sidetracked by life.  He reappears as a late 30-something who still has the swing and the passion, but the clock’s ticking—loudly. The Knights, are a losing major league ball club managed by Pops. To say that he was frustrated with his players is an understatement. But he was further frustrated when one of his scouts sends him a middle-aged rookie—Roy Hobbs.  Pops refuses to play Roy or even let him practice.  Roy literally and figuratively rolls his eyes as he watches the team lose again and again. Tension between the rookie and the manager finally comes to a head.

“Hobbs,…I’m sending you down—to Triple-A ball,” Pops says. “I set the rules and you haven’t been playing by them.”

“I came here to play ball,” Roy shoots back, “…not to listen to some two-bit carnie (a joke of a sports psychologist).  I won’t do it, Pops…. I can’t.  It’s taken me too long to get here.”  Roy walks away—but Pops follows.

“Hobbs! Come here!… Batting practice…tomorrow… Be there!”

“I have been,” Roy says without a smile, “…every day.”

From then on, it’s a story of Roy knocking the cover off the ball and inspiring a team on to win the pennant.

As a fifty-something who knows he’s never touched his true potential—that unique something I know I coulda/woulda/shoulda done—”The Natural” stirs my hope-er. Maybe it stirs yours too.

Fellow Baby Boomers…now hear this: you aren’t dead and you aren’t done.

“Batting practice… tomorrow…be there.”

Keith

1/11/2014

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“Alex Trebek… NFL Stats… and Careful with the Coffee!”

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Alex: “The Final Jeopardy category is ‘NFL Stats’. The answer is ‘13.873.’ Good luck.”  Music starts, “Dum, dum, dum, dum….dum, dum dum….”  Maybe you’d feel smarter if they’d turn off that dumb-dumb music!  But as time runs down, it hits you.  That’s it!…as time runs down 

“What percentage of points is scored in the final two minutes!”

Wiki Answers reports that 13.873 percent of all NFL points are scored in the final two minutes of the game.  Two out of sixty.  Three percent of the game yields almost fourteen percent of the points!  What makes those two minutes so special? Do the players put on their magic shoes?  Does the coach sprinkle the quarterback’s arm with pixie dust? (Yeah, right—“pixie dust”.)  Do the defenders just run out of energy after 58 minutes?

No. They realize, “Hey, we’re about out of time…and if we don’t want to get traded to the Alaskan Malamutes, we’d better score!” And so they do.

Call it “The Coffee Ground Syndrome.”  When you first get that fresh can of coffee, you pop it open (pssshhhh!) and even as you do so, you spill a few grounds on the kitchen counter. You sweep them into your hand and toss them in the disposal.  No problem; you’ve got plenty!  This happens on numerous occasions. No worries!  But one day, you pick up the can and it feels lighter. Looking inside, you see the coffee is well below the halfway mark—as a matter of fact, you can see the shiny bottom of the can peeking through.  Yikes!  Immediately, your perspective changes and you become very careful. Why?… because you realize your coffee grounds are numbered!

Satan’s #1 strategy: “Tell ’em there’s no hurry.”

Folks, I don’t want to be an alarmist or create some false sense of urgency, but your coffee grounds are numbered…the clock’s ticking…and we don’t have the advantage of a two-minute warning.  Talk about “final jeopardy”.

Let’s just assume it’s the final two minutes…and live today accordingly.

Keith

12/12/13

JFK…Maya Angelou…Gerry Hearin…and Great Trees

jfk-painting

On this fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I am reminded of an amazing poem by Maya Angelou.  I heard it at the memorial service of Rev. Gerry Hearin, one of the greatest pastor-preachers I have been privileged to know.  You could not read this at just anyone’s memorial service.  It wouldn’t ring true.  But it was perfect for Gerry’s.  It’s a shame it came too late to be read at President Kennedy’s service

“When Great Trees Fall”

–by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder,

lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety.

When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence,

their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile.

We breathe briefly.

Our eyes briefly see with a hurtful clarity.

Our memory suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid,

promised walks never taken.

Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us.

Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened.

Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away.

We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance

of dark, cold caves.

And when great souls die, after a period,

peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly.

Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us,

They existed.  They existed.

We can be. Be and be better.

For they existed.

Here’s to JFK…and Gerry…and all the great trees of our lives.  And while we are at it, here’s to becoming the trees we were meant to be for others.  Thanks, Ms. Angelou for putting our feelings into words for us.

Keith

p.s., Go to any online or brick and mortar bookstore to find more of Maya Angelou’s word and wisdom.  I believe you will find, “When Great Trees Fall” in Mom and Me, and other collections of her poetry.

11/22/13

“Malala… Born on Third Base…and Degree of Difficulty”

malala

“I am Malala!”

It is now the battle cry of millions of young women across the globe. A cry for freedom and justice. A call for the right to education and opportunity for girls in the face of the Taliban and oppressive forces everywhere.

When Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan, women commiserated with her mother.  Men gave no congratulatory words to her father.  Why?…because she was a girl.  But, her schoolteacher father says that, from the beginning, Malala was bright and inquisitive—particularly questioning why girls did not get to go to school like boys. In October of 2012, she was singled-out on a school bus full of young girls and shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. Why?  Because this “girl”, at the age of fifteen, had become a threat.  A voice for change and justice.

Now, just twelve months after her shooting–after what doctors agree was a miraculous recovery—Malala has spoken before the UN General Assembly, been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, gone viral on youtube…and her story, “I Am Mahala”, released just this week, is already on the bestseller lists.

As I saw Malala interviewed by Diane Sawyer, my mind skipped to a comment made by Ann Richards during a run for governor of Texas.  Of course, she had no specific opponent in mind when she said, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”

The struggle of fighting its way out of the cocoon is necessary for a butterfly to become a butterfly.  There are moral muscles, muscles of conviction and compassion, which are developed only through adversity.  The privileged are rarely privy to them.  We remember the Malala stories.  The rich—with rare exception—are forgotten, because their stories are forgettable, unremarkable. Their one hope of glory is to stand with the Malalas of the world. (e.g., Bill and Melinda Gates.)

In competitive diving, scoring is based on two factors: 1) a judges score of 1-10 for how well the dive is executed; and 2) the dive’s “degree of difficulty”. A simple forward dive has a degree of difficulty much less than, say, a back two-and-a-half somersault. Degrees range from 1.4 to 4.0.  So, even if both dives are perfect 10’s, the more difficult dive wins.

I’m giving Malala a perfect 10.0 after she started with a 4.0 degree of difficulty.  Way to go Malala! Your story comes in such stark contrast to what’s been going on in our nations capital.  Of course, 99% of those folks are at a disadvantage…

…they were born on third base.

–Keith   10-12-13

*  Want to read more about Malala?… http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/book-review-i-am-malala-by-malala-yousafzai/2013/10/11/530ba90a-329a-11e3-9c68-1cf643210300_story.html

website: http://keithelder.com/

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