shortbread

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

Archive for the tag “priorities”

“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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“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/

“THE World Religion…and Football”

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I like that.

“BUDDHA was not a BUDDHIST.  JESUS was not a CHRISTIAN.  MUHAMMAD was not a MUSLIM.  THEY were TEACHERS who taught LOVE.  LOVE was their RELIGION.”

Now, I realize that some folks will be offended to have Jesus lumped in with other world religious leaders and simply referred to as a teacher.  The Easter event did set him apart as being out (of the tomb) of the ordinary. However, whoever made the observation made a good one.  LOVE was the common prize in all three Cracker Jack boxes.  Love was the light at the end of their tunnels. Love was their “bottom line.”

Honestly, I haven’t studied Buddha or Muhammad (by the way, spell-check has three acceptable spellings for “M___”), but even if they didn’t claim to be God, I’m sure they meant well .  They were just trying, along with Jesus and John Lennon, to get people to understand that “All We Need is Love.”

Jesus tried to reboot the system of his hyper-religious forbearers who had gotten tangled up in six hundred and thirteen Old Testament laws and centuries of religio-politics.  We do that too, don’t we?  I mean, get tangled in what version of the Bible is best, and how much of the church budget should go to missions, and what kind of music to play in worship. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. …By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  (John—not to be confused with Lennon—13:34-ish)

A frustrated football coach walks into the locker room after yet another dismal performance, stands before his players and says, “Boys, I think it’s time we got back to the basics.” At this point, he holds up a brown leather oblong air-filled object with white stripes and seams. “This,” he says, “is a football.”  At which point, a big lineman, half-listening in the back of the room, raises his hand and says, “Hey, Coach, could you go a little slower?”

What’s your religion?  I’m thinking, “LOVE” would be a really good answer about now.

Keith

4-23-14

keithelder.com

“The Dalai Lama..The Super Bowl…and Much ado about Something”

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It’s been an interesting week in the news—or, at least, on my news feed. 

Birmingham and Atlanta, paralyzed by winter storms…The State of the Union Address…American Idol auditions…The Phoenix Open…Richard Sherman re-rants… Peyton Manning… a trip to Rome, GA, to see “the fam”…a new song or two…almost getting the caramel cake icing right.

I didn’t say it was MSNBC.  It was just some of the headline news on my screen.  What did your news feed look like?  What were the lead stories?  What stories bumped other stories or interrupted regularly scheduled programming?  In a week or so, which ones will you still remember?

Scripture would suggest that God—even with unlimited memory—just lets go of a lot of what happens over time. It’s just not worth saving. Unfortunately, so much of what we do and say and buy, and labor over, and worry about, and invest in—time-wise and money-wise—probably won’t make The Editor-in-Chief’s “Remotely Important” list.

A Shakespearean title comes to mind: “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Rescuing people trapped on gridlocked interstates; taking care of children who can’t leave school; hosting total strangers in churches and homes?  Something.

Spending tens of thousands of people-hours and, billions of dollars on food and tickets and travel and security and pre-game and halftime rehearsals—for yet another non-competitive Super Disappointment?  Nothing.

With all the amazingly important options out there—most of which cost little or nothing in monetary terms—we human beings keep going back to the same old “Nothing” bin and trying to make something out of nothing.

Late breaking news… “Actor/Oscar winner, Philip Seymore Hoffman, found in NYC apartment, dead of apparent drug overdose at age 47.”  Amazing talent.  Hyper-successful. Respected by his peers.  Loved by a beautiful life partner and mother of his three great kids.  And heroin.  It’s just a shame—all that “something” lost to a “nothing.”

The Dalai Lama wrote, “The planet does not need more successful people.  The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”

I would paraphrase that wisdom: “WE do not need to be more successful people.  We desperately need to be peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”  

Yes, desperately.   The Nothing’s are killing us.

Keith

2/3/2014

keithelder.com

“Acknowledgements… Hands Free Mama… and Making Someone’s Day”

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My wife, Jean, said, “Keith, you are in here.”

I looked up from my laptop, “In where?”

“In the ‘Acknowledgements’…of Rachel’s book!”

Just that afternoon we had received a delivery from Zondervon Books. To our delight it was our very own advance copy of Rachel Macy Stafford’s new bestseller, Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!  

Jean got the right of “first perusal”, and found the note (page 231, in case you’re interested ). Sure enough, there I was! “…Keith Elder….”  (After that, everything else sort of faded into “yada, yada, yada.” Sorry. Rachel!)  Why would I be mentioned in such a wonderful new work?  I just lucked out. I happened to be serving as pastor of Liberty Crossings UMC in Birmingham, Alabama, where Rachel and her beautiful family (Scott, Natalie and Avery) became very active and supportive members. I did very little.  They were just “wonderful” looking for a place to happen.

Rachel had so many gifts to bring to the table—creativity, passion, attention to detail, just to name a few—and having a “people pleaser” tendency, she could easily have been swallowed up by dozens of church and community commitments.  She almost was.  Fortunately for us, a comment by one of her young daughters brought her to the realization that “Mama” might just be missing out on the best part—that is, her daughters’ childhood!  In her effort to be all things to all people, she was missing a thousand little moments and looks and smiles and stories and hugs and conversations and adventures that truly are here today and gone tomorrow.  It was a wake-up call for Rachel, and, mercy! did she ever wake up!   Her “Hands Free Revolution” now touches literally millions of readers. *

Back to “the acknowledgement”.  It was just a few words…among several pages of acknowledgements…in the back of a 236-page book. (Did I mention…I’m at the bottom of page 231 )  Just a few words, but they meant so much!

With just a few words—spoken or written—we acknowledge someone’s existence…their sacrifice…their gift.

“My life’s better because you are in it.”  

“The way you stepped out and took a chance on your dream gave me the courage to step out and take a chance on mine.” 

It’s a “thank you” to an old school teacher.  It’s a “thank God for you” to that special relative or friend.  It’s a sincere “You made my day” to that coworker who complimented your work or made you laugh.

Acknowledgements.  They are a big deal.

By the way, whoever you are…reading this…I want you to know that you just made my day.

Keith

12/30/2013

* Please get to know the work and words of Rachel Macy Stafford at handsfreemama.com. Such a gift.

Modes and Mortals

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks.  Reason?  I’m working on a new CD project and my brain has been in a different room—literally and figuratively.  I write in one room and record in another.  Can’t be two places at once—physically, mentally or emotionally.  And that’s not a bad thing.

The recording process involves lots of numbers, meters, mixes and cables—and countless decisions, great and small.  Even the playing and singing are different in record mode.  It has to be just so, because once mastered and replicated, it is what it is.  The artist mode can generally be summed up in a phrase, “going with the flow.”

One day I asked acclaimed Alabama artist, Sarah Towery Carlisle, how she approached a new painting.  Wizened by experience and years, she said that her way was to sit down in front of the blank canvas with pallet and brushes–and  just begin painting.  Over time, she would paint and watch as the subject emerged.

Call them “modes”…capacities…rooms in our house of life.  We all have many. Role-wise, we are friend, spouse, parent, employee, teammate, student, etc.  Capacity-wise, we are thinker, feeler, judge, responder, reactor, talker, listener, etc.   I’m sure you could create your own lists.

Sometimes I feel guilty or inadequate because I can’t be all things to all people all the time.  Welcome to mortality. We have only so many minutes.  We can only be in one place at a time.  We can only listen—really listen—to one person at a time… read one book at a time… etc.

I love the words of Achilles (Brad Pitt) to Briseis, in the epic movie “Troy”.

“I’ll tell you a secret. Something they don’t teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

Friend, do what you are doing now.  Do it the best you can. Enjoy the ride.  Tomorrow, if you are lucky, you will be in another mode and get to do something else.

Keith   2/04/2012

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