Author Archives: Tim Sieges

About Tim Sieges

Hi. I'm Tim Sieges. Thanks for checking out my blog site. I work for an organization called Wycliffe Bible Translators. We're an international mission that does language development and Bible translation in minority languages. My little corner of the org involves staff care. I counsel missionaries and their families, teach workshops, supervise counselors and do consulting with mission administration. I have served in Dallas, TX; Papua New Guinea and most recently Waxhaw, NC. I am aware that some people think missionaries are kinda weird people. Maybe that's true. I've seen our people at their best and at their worst for over 30 years. And after all this time I am still blessed to work with some of the most courageous, devout, and sacrificial people in the world. Thanks for your grace and kindness to me and my people. We can all use as much of that as we can get.

Hallmark Christmas Movie Appreciation Starter Kit

mission fortnight nov 2019

I sure do love Hallmark Christmas movies.  They are easily my favorite movies ahead of all six Die Hard’s and Anne of Green Gables.  So, to enhance your seasonal enjoyment of this wonderful art form, Mission Fortnight is offering a Hallmark Movie Appreciation Starter Kit.  This time limited offer includes five must see Hallmark Christmas movies along with my viewer commentary on each one.  But wait, there’s more!  For first timers, we have a bonus list of viewing pointers on how to effectively watch a Hallmark Christmas movie.  You are welcome!

So, let’s get started with some guidelines for enjoyment, similar to the Zombieland Rules for Survival only for Hallmark Christmas movies.  Stay with me…

Rule #1  Don’t over think it.  At some point you might wonder, “Wait a minute, that kid is too old to believe in Santa” or “How can a town be so full of kind, virtuous and well-groomed people?” During those times, remind yourself this is not a documentary.  Let it snow on cue.  Let the character’s arc blur from surly and rude to kind and loving in one day.  It’s okay.  You can lean into your own messy life narrative after the final credits roll.

Rule #2  Respect the dead.  Hallmark characters usually struggle with dead parents, dead spouses, dead relationships or dead dreams.  Resist the urge to judge the characters’ over-played whining and self-pity.  They will get over it by the closing scene.  Promise.  It is all part of the magic.

Rule #3  If you’re just going to make fun of it, watch something else.  Really, nobody wants to hear your negative commentary about how the movie is dumb and corny.  If you need to be cynical and grumpy about a movie, rent The Expendables 1 or 3 (#2 was redeemed by Chuck Norris’ gripping performance as Booker).  Being a jerk about a Hallmark Christmas movie makes you just another cliched bah humbug character in your own sad Christmas story.

Rule #4  It’s okay to not know how the movie ends.  Denise sometimes walks through the living room during a Hallmark Christmas movie and asks, “You do know how this ends, don’t you?”  My answer is always, “No.  Have to wait till the end.  Right now it is looking very bleak for this couple’s future.”  Honestly, enjoy the story as if you have no clue what happens next.  Works for me and can also work for you.

And now your feature films in order of their viewing awesomeness…

A Royal Christmas (2014)

royal christmas

Yes, you know the formula:  Adorable American commoner wins the hearts of a fictitious European kingdom with charming innocence and aw shucks egalitarianism.  And nobody pulls it off like Lacey Chabert.  Dang, she is good.  Add to that, Jane Seymour playing the snooty queen mother, Isadora  even better than she played a really attractive frontier medicine woman.  And finally, my got-choked-up moment involved an orphan named Poppy selling Christmas trees in the market.  If you don’t choke up about Poppy, you don’t have a soul.

The Nine Lives of Christmas (2014)

nine lives of christmas

The Nine Lives of Christmas is loaded with can’t miss features like firefighters, kitties and opposites attracting.  Zach, played by Brandon Routh of Superman Returns fame, is a shy calendar-model-firefighter with a bland personality. How bland is Zach’s personality?  Oh my, this character makes crackers and skim milk seem like 100 year old kimchi. Enter the spunky free-spirited Merilee, a veterinary student and cat lover.  Can boring motor oil mix with flavored sparkling water?   You gotta hang in there till the final cathartic scene on the fire truck.  You will be saying, “Aw” for hours after this one.  Really.  You will.  I did.

 

A Very Merry Mix Up (2013)

a very merry mix up

A Christmas movie without a mix up is like an action movie without gratuitous violence.   This little cinematic gem begins and ends with an “oh honey don’t marry that emotionally constipated guy, he’s wrong for you” engagement mismatch.  A Very Merry Mix Up delivers unrelenting Christmas romance:  A shared car wreck followed by a starry-eyed concussion protocol, followed by that tender “you’ve got something on the corner of your mouth” awkward touch followed by a longing, slightly creepy stare at his brother’s sleeping fiancé.  Even though the mix up reveal happens at the movie’s mid-point, stay with this one to end.  The final scene in the snowy park will make you cry like Old Yeller just died…but in a good way.

Snow Bride (2013)

snow bride

Okay, try to wrap your head around this:  Sleazy celebrity gossip reporter out for a story, wearing her friend’s wedding dress, accidentally wrecks her car into a reclusive rich guy’s life and becomes his fake girlfriend for Christmas.   WHAT?  That’s over the top amazing.  Just when you were wondering if you can have sympathy for these two shameless liars, enter the sinister gold digging ex-girlfriend on the gullible brother’s arm.  Hello.  Plot whip lash.  Patricia Richardson, 90’s sitcom Home Improvement’s Jill Taylor, gives a delightfully sly performance as the wise and powerful family matriarch.  The deception discovery happens at the 1:05 mark leaving 20 minutes to figure out how this is gonna end.   You won’t even have to activate Rule #4 to be surprised at this ending.  Even Denise couldn’t guess this one.

Christmas Under Wraps (2014)

christmas under wraps

And the award for best Hallmark Christmas movie goes to Christmas Under Wraps.  Candace Cameron Bure pretty much just has to show up on the set to create Hallmark gold.  She totally owns this film.  Christmas Under Wraps captures every aspect of a successful Hallmark movie.  You’ve got an elitist big city doctor reluctantly going to a remote, but charming town in Alaska that is cloaked in Christmas mystery.  What’s a rich, cultured California doctor to think about a strangely jolly white bearded chubby guy with a pet reindeer named Rudy and a secretive factory?  Even the love interest son has kinda pointy ears.  But really, how do you adequately appreciate this work of art?  Well, just like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco or da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Chuck Norris as Lone Wolf McQuade, you just have to sit back and let the beauty wash over you.   And you’ll walk away muttering the movie’s cheeky catch phrase:  “That’s Garland for ya!”  Remember you heard it here first.

Okay kids.  I know it’s only the first week of November but the new Hallmark Christmas Movies are out right now.  Consider this my early Christmas gift to you.  And in the words of Clark Griswold, “Thanks Eddie.  I hope this enhances your holiday spirit…”

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Remembering The New Math

Most of you have never heard of it but those of us who lived it will never forget it.  The New Math.  The year was 1965, I was 11 years old.  I was not the brightest kid in my small country school but I wasn’t the dumbest either. Up to that point, I liked math.  Found math interesting.  But then The New Math hit like a numeric tsunami and it would be years before many of us came up for air.

What was The New Math?  Well, in the 1960’s American educators were afraid that the US had fallen behind the Soviet Union in the race to outer space.  American leadership was convinced that our Cold War enemies were way ahead of us in science and technology because we weren’t as smart at math.  So, in the interest of fixing what seemed broken, the powers-that-be implemented a new approach to teaching children math.  Enter The New Math.  This unorthodox method was designed to supercharge kids math skills and win the Space Race and save democracy.  Good plan, huh?  Nope. Total fail.

Turns out The New Math curriculum was practically impossible to understand.  Ten years after its implementation, test scores showed that American students had become less capable of doing math.  Famously, several top engineering educators, after they tried unsuccessfully to help their own kids with math homework, led the charge to rethink The New Math movement.  Gratefully, teachers were able to go back to the old approach to teaching math.

So, what does this failed educational fad teach us?  I’ll offer you a few insights as I look back on an ill-advised solution that was supposed to be really helpful.  You’ll notice that none of these great lessons involves numbers:

  • Sometimes when you think you’re making things better, you’re not.  The initial motivation of The New Math seemed reasonable.  Let’s get smarter than the Soviets at math.  Problem was: Our old math system wasn’t broken and the Soviets weren’t smarter than us.  Only four years after the introduction of The New Math, we put Americans on the Moon.  Ummm…The New Math didn’t help us accomplish that great feat.  Those of us trained in the first wave of The New Math were still in high school when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon’s surface.  The brains behind the moon landing were trained in old math.  Oops.  Not the first time someone made things worse while promising to make them better, huh?
  • Sometimes when you think you’re making people smarter, you’re actually making them dumber.  Years ago I counseled a computer guy who was sent for counseling because his boss didn’t know what else to do with him.  This smart techie guy with low emotional intelligence worked at the IT help desk. Unfortunately, his version of helping people with computer problems was to explain the history of information technology and how algorithms work in binary formats.  He scoffed at the idea that people asking for his assistance really only needed to know which keys to hit to solve their problems.  The end result of his making people smarter about computers actually helped them know less.  Oops.  Not the first time an expert made a simple process so complicated that we walked away knowing less after their explanation.
  • Sometimes you just gotta outlive the devastation of a bad idea.  For me, The New Math set in motion a series of educational setbacks that took me years to overcome.  Because my math grades fell in 6th grade, I was assigned to “dummy” math in middle school.  I was placed in a “not college material” track of study.  It took a while but I survived those obstacles and went onto a fairly successful academic career.  The negative impact of most seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time experiments usually don’t last forever.  If you just hang in there long enough, the law of “this too shall pass” grinds away the damage.  And realistically, having to work harder till that grinding runs its course actually makes us stronger, more resilient people.

I will offer you one notable exception to the above rules.  Check out 1 Corinthians Chapter 12’s promise of a “more excellent way.”  The Love Chapter describes the identifying trademark of all Christ followers: We will be known by our unusual and unqualified love. A fallen world is dominated by expressions of hate.  By contrast, the DNA of the Spirit is love. It has no fellowship with contempt and cruelty.  This obligation to love (Romans 13:8) has no exemptions and no caveats.  Loving well will not make you smarter but it will allow you to more accurately represent the One who bestowed it on us in Christ Jesus.

Something to consider on this fortnight.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Benefits of Getting Old

shinola

I thought going on Medicare last year was the official threshold to old age.  I was wrong.  The more defining old age moment came last week when the high school kid bagging my groceries asked if I needed help carrying them to my car.  After I thanked him and declined help with my two small bags, he looked genuinely concerned and said, “Are you sure?”  I chose to view his alarm as a tender gesture of care and not necessarily a put-down.  His compassion was touching even though I am still able to lift two pounds without breaking a hip.  This act of kindness gave me pause to reflect on other benefits of being an old guy.  I believe we focus too much on the sadness and loss of growing old.  Here are few thoughts on the upside of becoming an old guy in a youth valuing society.

  • Now that I’m an old guy, I find I don’t need to share everything I know every chance I get. Sometimes, when the conversation shifts onto a topic within my expertise, I just let it happen without a response.  When I was younger, I would find a way to judiciously insert some informed but self-promoting tidbit that displayed my expert status.  I don’t do that anymore.  Now I prefer to just listen and consider other’s thoughts on the subject.  I don’t know that I have gotten more humble with age or I just don’t want the responsibility that comes from being the expert.  Sometimes the follow up on being that guy seems like more work than just sitting there nodding.
  • Now that I’m an old guy, it has gotten really hard to just straight up lie to me. My dad often repeated a saying about knowing the difference between poop and a certain brand of brown shoe polish.  For those too young or too urban to be familiar with this saying, it would come out when Dad was referencing a dumb person. He would say, “That old boy don’t know poop from Shinola.”  I actually keep a can of Shinola on a shelf in my office to remind me that some things are not as they appear but I still need to know the difference.  Anyway, when I was young, I was often surprised when people would lie to me.  Now, not so much.  It surprises me more when people who should know better accept poop as though it were shoe polish.  Knowing the difference is still the starting place for living a wise and discerning life.
  • Now that I’m an old guy, I do not take for granted that I know the meaning of every verse in the Bible. I used to assume that if I studied hard enough I could absolutely understand God’s Word.  But now, as an old guy, even though I am still in awe of God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture, I am less sure of my ability to figure Him out.  As I’ve gotten to know Him better, He is bigger and deeper and more complex than I used to think.  I still study the Bible with passion and diligence but I just feel like I understand the Lord better now that I don’t understand Him as well.
  • Now that I’m an old guy, the lines have blurred between I have to and I get to.  I have always been a fairly duty bound person.  I obey the rules, do my job, keep my promises, and color within the lines.  I do what I do because it’s right to do right.  Still, I am also aware of what I prefer doing when I am not “on”.  This doesn’t mean I’m unregulated and lawless in my “off” time.  Far from it.  But I definitely know the difference between doing what I want to do and what I have to do.  Lately I notice that the two domains have run together.  With age, duty and desire somehow folded in on each other.  What changed?  I’m not sure.  I doubt I’m less selfish than I was thirty years ago.  Maybe old guys just don’t want to think about it that much.   We just do it.  Whatever it is.  And it is really okay.

I think there are probably other benefits to getting old but those are the ones that come to mind.  Funny how other less virtuous parts of my disposition haven’t changed.  I still get annoyed when people linger at green traffic lights, or when my sports teams lose with maddening regularity, or when I have to attend a meeting.  Any meeting.  Hopefully a kinder and gentler me is emerging in my old age.  Maybe…just maybe…I am truly growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…to Him be glory both now and forever…Amen.”  (2 Peter 3:18).  Either that or I just don’t have as much energy to be a jerk.  I’m hoping it is the former. 

But hey…it’s fortnight. Enjoy it like an old guy with nothing left to prove.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

May 2019 Official Sieges Newsletter: Still Showing Up

Related image

For everybody else, there are Wycliffe linguist/translators putting God’s Word into unwritten languages.  True thing.

Below is the latest Official Sieges Newsletter written in a language you understand.  I’ll attach a PDF of the letter just in case you can’t read the downloaded version.  Blessings very much as you keep showing up…

April 2019 Keep Showing Up Newsletter

April 2019 Keep Showing Up NewsletterApril 2019 Keep Showing Up Newsletter 2

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Size 11 Boot Reality Check

Size 11 Reality Check

I wear size 11 boots.  Shoes too.  True thing.  Now you know what I only came to know in the past 25 years.  Shoe size shouldn’t be so hard to nail down, right?  Well, my shoe size confusion started when I was a wee lad growing up with feet.  As far back as I can remember my Dad had a thing about shoe size.  I recall him frequently mentioning that he wore size 9 in Justin boots.  He proclaimed the message with a sense of solemn pride like an award recipient’s acceptance speech.  I would think, “Someday I’ll wear size 9 Justin boots too.  Then Dad and I can share the honor.”  However, by the time I reached middle school I noticed that size 9 footwear were noticeably uncomfortable.  As a matter of fact, as I moved into high school, size 9 became downright painful…until I got them “broke in” properly.  To compound my shoe size confusion, my twin brother clearly nestled into a size 9 with no apparent side effects.  Over the years, even though shoe sales people would measure my feet at size 11, I would assure them that I wore size 9, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities thereunto appertaining.

So what broke the size 9 spell?  Oh, just like a lot of fallacious beliefs, the truth eventually eroded the falsehood into a funny inside joke.  By the time I reached my 40th birthday I had embraced my correct shoe size and I continue to rest in its comfort.

My shoe sizing adventure serves as an example of a dynamic I often see in counseling.   People develop beliefs about themselves and the world in childhood that become increasingly unworkable in adulthood.  For example, years ago I counseled a young man who described himself as “not that bright.”  He had come to me for vocational counseling because he was frustrated in his present work.  All of the career inventories pointed him to jobs requiring educational levels he didn’t possess.  He told me he hadn’t attended college because he was the dumb one in his family.  After a few sessions, I apologetically admitted that I was not convinced about his self-defined dumbness.  In response to my request he obligingly agreed to take an IQ test to verify his claim and disprove my skepticism.  His Stanford-Binet profile yielded a standard score of 145,  placing him in the upper 99th percentile of humankind.  His puzzled response was, “Yeah but my older brother’s IQ is 175.  He is in Mensa.  I knew I was not even close to that.”  I assured him that an IQ of 145 was well within the genius range and he also easily qualified for membership in Mensa.  He and his bro could definitely ride to meetings together.  Still, he didn’t immediately reject the old belief (“I’m not that bright”) in favor of a more accurate belief (“I’m one of the world’s smart people”).  But eventually he accepted the truth about his intellect and went to college.  Last I heard from him, he had completed an advanced degree in Semitic languages.

Probably one of our most important developmental challenges in adulthood involves examining goofy childhood logic and replacing it with sober mature thinking.  Everybody has archived obsolete mental artifacts from bygone days.  Adulthood is a good time to take inventory and test those beliefs against reality.  I’m not talking about blaming your parents or being mad at somebody for steering you wrong.  Adults embrace truth and reject falsehood and then act on it.  Jesus made it clear that truth sets us free (John 8:31-32).  He also declared that He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) followed by the truth about the Truth that “no one comes to the Father except through Me.”  The basis of spiritual reality testing runs through Him.  Stay close to the truth and the Truth as you audit the distortions of life.  Living free from the pain and restriction of lies really is worth it.

But hey…it’s fortnight.  Pull on your best boots and celebrate.  Me?  Oh I’ll be wearing size 11 Tony Lamas to step out tonight.  They are real comfy.  Cool looking too.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rolling with Johnny Lingo

eight cow wife

Typically, people say and do weird stuff because they think weird stuff.  And I’ve heard and seen some seriously weird stuff over my years working with humans.  One of those disturbing cases of tortured logic involved a guy who cited The Eight Cow Wife as the basis for his marital expectations and subsequent disappointments.  Stay with me, this one takes some interesting turns.  The story begins with my question to a sullen husband in marital counseling.  After several vague complaints against his wife for not keeping up her end of the marriage, I asked,  “What exactly is this unspoken marital obligation she has failed to uphold?”  He seemed happy for the opportunity to make his case and divulged that as a teenager he had read a Reader’s Digest article about a Pacific islander named Johnny Lingo.  It seems this young man with an awesome name had paid an unusually high bride price to purchase a wife.  The story goes that Johnny Lingo offered an unheard of eight cows for the hand of the unremarkable Sarita when he could have made the deal for a single cow.  Everyone thought Sarita’s dad had gotten the best of young Johnny but the clever up-and-coming businessman had voluntarily offered the excessive amount.  His unprecedented act  instantly made him a regional icon. Years after our hero took his plain, downtrodden bride home, a journalist heard the tale of the eight cow bride and went to investigate.  The writer found Johnny living happily with the now beautiful and confident Sarita.  Johnny explained that he loved Sarita but knew she felt worthless and unloved in her home village.  Turns out the wacky high bride price became the foundation for her transformation into a magnificent and accomplished wife.  In the end, Johnny explained his magnanimous gesture on behalf of Sarita was based in his devotion to her but also in his desire for an amazing eight cow wife.  The unhappy husband in my office explained that the eight cow payment was an ongoing reminder of her value in Johnny’s eyes and it was also a measure she gratefully lived up to.   He had applied Johnny’s story to his situation and was chagrined with his wife’s response to him redeeming her from a sad and abusive family situation.  He believed she had defrauded him by failing to majestically blossom out of gratitude for taking her away from her misery.  Ultimately, in his assessment, she still owed him a proper eight cow wife.  My response?  “I hope you are joking.  Please, tell me you’re just kidding.”  Sadly, he wasn’t.

In all fairness, I don’t blame Johnny’s story for seducing people with an appealing yet unrealistic message of human transformation. The fault with any misapplication of parables from Reader’s Digest or God’s Word lies with our own self-serving predispositions. Consider the following goofy thinking that can lead us down the road to equally goofy conclusions of eight cow entitlement:

  • The first fractured meaning in Johnny’s story is the idea that our acts of kindness or generosity or cows will transform someone…anyone.  I’m not saying our good deeds don’t have impact.  They can and do.  I am saying that our virtuous actions will not radically reinvent another human being.  Sorry.  Sometimes in premarital counseling I have to point out this fallacy.  “I believe I can change him/her” has a long history of failure.  For every exquisite Sarita in the world, there are a bazillion cases of what-you-see-is-what-you-get-and-will-continue-to-get.   Sadly, humans don’t do personality makeovers very well.  And certainly not as the result of a one-time splurge of bovine extravagance.
  • Getting an eight cow response is not why we treat people with humility, respect and lovingkindness.  We treat people with eight cow deference because it is right to do so.  Philippians 2:5-8 says:  “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Though He was God,He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  When he appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”  None of our efforts come close to that standard, so please don’t expect fawning appreciation for simply being thoughtful.
  • Realistically, our own behavior is the most controllable aspect of any storyline.  In the real world, nobody can bend someone else’s life narrative like a party clown making a balloon dog.  Fortunately, we have the ability to shape who we are in the story.  If Sarita had remained depressed and withdrawn, would Johnny have continued his epic benevolence?  Maybe.  He had the power to be someone who cherished and revered his wife even if she never morphed into a magnificent Polynesian goddess.  Too often we lament or rage against how people in our lives aren’t acting right rather than intentionally deciding how and who we want to be within the situation.   By faith and by the Spirit, exhibiting a biblical Christ-likeness is absolutely within our grasp.  Go ahead and take the grasp rather than trying to manipulate someone else to.

If you want to read the original version of The Eight Cow Wife by Patricia McGerr, just click on the link below.  It’s still an entertaining read but not necessarily a prophecy ensuring similar results.  I will close this Fortnight by saying that if I ever seek a career in professional wrestling, I will definitely choose the name Johnny Lingo as my alias.  Either that or Nubber Barrakus.  Both are good.

http://www.ultimatehusband.com/8cow_wife.htm

Hey…make this an eight cow fortnight, okay?  In as much as it depends on you…

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April 2018 Official Sieges Newsletter: Yes-No-Wait…WHAT?

February 2018 Yes-No-Wait Newsletterprayer cartoon

Yes, Eugene.  You have only two choices here.  Pick one.  Having said that, I’ve got good news for the rest of us.  God knows more than three words.  Really.  He does.  Give the Bible a try.  You’ll be surprised at how articulate He is.

Okay, my faithful homies.  You can see the new edition of The Official Sieges Newsletter in two different formats.  If the images below are too dinky to read, have no fear.  You can just click on the link to the PDF file and voila…it’s right there.   Almost like magic only it’s technology.   Nice.  And as always…thanks for reading our newsletters.

siegesdotorg.files.wordpress.com/…/february-2018-yes-no-wait-newsletter.pdfApril 2018 Yes-No-Wait Newsletter 2 April 2018 Yes-No-Wait Newsletter 1

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Expecting A Miracle

In 1820 Thomas Jefferson completed his famous cut-and-paste version of the New Testament entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus Christ.  In an effort to legitimize the gospel message, Jefferson meticulously removed all mentions of the Lord’s miracles and resurrection.  Jefferson sought to create a record of Christ’s life devoid of “superstitions, fanaticisms, and fabrications” devised by the “ignorant, unlettered” gospel writers.  Ahem.  Jefferson vigorously rejected miracles as irrational inventions that flew in the face of his enlightened sensibility.  Even as I am appalled and indignant at Jefferson’s treatment of God’s Word, I see a wee bit of his logic within myself.  Just as Jefferson questioned historic miracles, I have to admit a leeriness of present day miracles.  Sorry.  This is a confession.  Sometimes when people outline their solution to a problem in terms of “expecting a miracle.” I often respond, “Well, let’s talk about how you can actively participate in the miracle process.”  Don’t get me wrong.  I believe miracles happen. But I don’t believe they can be summoned like “Okay Google” on my phone.  Having said that, my caution was nudged recently by a reminder of my own experience of the miraculous. And it all started with cleaning out some old files in my office….

One afternoon, as I purged dated counseling notes from a file drawer, I found an old study Bible from the early years of my Christian walk.  Leafing through the dog-eared pages, I read various passages I had underlined and highlighted.  The pages flipped easily to well-worn sections I frequently visited.  Psalm 34 opened up as the binding gaped slightly in the middle.  At the end of that psalm was a notation:  March 23, 1977 and December 7, 1977.  I knew immediately the meaning of those two dates.

In the spring of 1977 I was an aspiring twenty-something cattle rancher.  In spite of several years of hard work and austere living, my prospects of making a living as a cattleman were not exactly rosy.  I loved the lifestyle but the livestock markets and inflated interest rates of that era didn’t return the love to young guys like me.  Even though I had accumulated a nice little herd of cows, I knew that it was only a matter of time till I would have to sell them.  I simply couldn’t make enough money at several part time jobs to afford their feed and pasture rent.  So, in March 1977 I began praying for direction about what to do with my cattle ambitions.

Spring blurred into autumn with feed prices soaring and cattle prices sagging.  November brought early snow and I knew I was out of options.  I chose the first week of December to take my cattle to auction.  My prayers about this inevitability had been refined to a handful of specific requests:  First, I asked the Lord to provide a rancher to buy my cattle.  Even though that petition seems fairly obvious,  it was actually recklessly explicit and a profound long-shot.  In a down livestock market, cowmen cull their herds to save on feed costs going into winter.  They certainly do not buy more breeding stock, which was exactly the type of cattle I owned.  My cows were all young and pregnant: the least desirable livestock demographic in a sliding market.  The only buyers for stock cows in final month of 1977 were meat packers and cattle traders.  And that brings me to my next request:  I prayed that neither of those two customers would buy my cattle.

In the 1970’s, meat packers were making a good living selling tons of hamburger to a newly booming fast food industry and cheap adult cows were their preferred burger source.  Cattle traders, on the other hand, buy and sell livestock in the same way financiers trade paper stocks.  The main difference is that livestock is transported long distances to various markets.  Trader cattle are generally stressed and often sick and mistreated from being shipped from stock yards to stock yards.  Probably one of my failings as a cattleman involved my caring about who bought my cattle.  Most ranchers didn’t care who paid for their livestock .  They were understandably more interested in how much money their cattle brought.  I told the Lord I sincerely didn’t care how much money my cows brought, I only wanted them to return to the country and not to a butcher’s kill floor or a cattle trader’s traveling road show.

And finally, I asked that the Lord to show up in an incredible way.  I reasoned that anybody can take their chances in the livestock market but since I was His son and I cared enough to ask, why wouldn’t He want to demonstrate His powerful goodness even in this obscure corner of His kingdom?  I simply asked that whatever happened on December 7th, I would walk away saying, “I can’t believe it, Lord.”

On sale day morning, I checked the opening livestock markets out of Omaha, Nebraska.  Predictably, cattle prices were down that day.  That meant I was selling my herd on a bad day in the middle of a bad market.  With that news in mind, the auctioneer advised that I sell my cows by the pound.  This would ensure their sale to the only buyers willing to spend money for this type of animal:  cattle traders or meat packers.  I told him to try to sell them first by the head as replacement cattle but if they couldn’t bring $200 each, then he could sell them as butcher cows.  He nodded and added, “You know, we could just save a step and sell them in the butcher pen to begin with.  But it’s your hanging, son.”

My cattle were among the first sold that day.  They were fat and shiny with my family’s brand proudly displayed on each left hip.  The auctioneer started them at $200 per head but quickly dropped down to $150 before he got his first bid.  Then, strangely, almost magically, the bidding took off. The numbers bounced rhythmically past $200 then past $300 then to $400 before the gavel fell.  $400 per head?  I was stunned.  I turned to Dad and asked him what my cows sold for.  He verified the unthinkable.  $400 per head.  The auctioneer seemed to also need a  moment to take in what had just happened.  He whispered something to the stock yards’ accountant, who immediately slipped away from the auctioneer’s booth.  The sale resumed when the accountant returned and conveyed a message to the auctioneer.  The next cattle failed to bring $175 per head and were quickly shifted to the butcher pen.  The remaining livestock sold for woefully low prices that mirrored the morning’s opening markets.  Entire herds began selling on a single bid.

After I shook off my disbelief, I went to the auction offices to confirm the sale of my cattle.  With the market back to normal, I feared my sale had been a cruel mistake and my cows would be resold later in the day.  Instead, the cashier issued me a check and explained that my cattle were bought by a local rancher.  He hadn’t been to the auction all year but showed up that day to buy replacement cattle for his herd.  Mine were just what he needed:  young, healthy pregnant stock cows.  She volunteered that an out-of-state cow trader was the only other bidder.  But after my cattle sold, the auction contacted the trader’s family to see if he should be buying cattle that day.  They emphatically told the auction to not take his bids. He was in serious financial trouble and couldn’t pay for any purchases.  With my rancher buyer finished for the day and the broke trader unable to bid, the markets slid back to their predicted wretched level.

As I walked out of the auction, I caught myself muttering over and over, “I can’t believe it, Lord.  I can’t believe it.”

So, do miracles happen?  Oh yes, they do.  And when I absolutely need a miracle to bolster my sagging faith I remember that day 40 years ago.  But I know my miracle was not strictly relegated to five minutes of bidding on that winter afternoon.  The miracle actually started well before March 23,1977.  It was precipitated by thousands of less visible long-shots that culminated in a moment in time.  In the same way, the Christmas miracle of Christ’s virgin birth started in eternity past and beat the odds through thousands of years of cliff hanging experiences.  Ultimately, the miracle points to the Miracle Maker.  Mine is no different.  Take a look at your own and you’ll see it’s true.

Have an awesome Christmas season remembering the abiding miracle that continues to reveal the heart of the One who made it happen.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Arguing for Influence

winning friends

Dale Carnegie’s communication classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, published in 1936, is still a relevant plea for respect and humility in interpersonal relationships.  At the top of his list entitled “Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking” is the admonition to steer clear of arguing as a method of persuasion.  For Carnegie, arguing simply doesn’t help anyone achieve their communication goals.  With each impassioned exchange, people only entrench more deeply in their opinions until even the most compelling and rational evidence will not change anyone’s mind.  A recent Cornell University (2016) study on social media influence patterns seems to support Carnegie’s point.  The researchers found that if the arguers’ minds are not changed after the fourth exchange, further attempts at persuasion are futile.  Beyond the fourth exchange, it’s less about the either person’s edification and more about the arguer’s need to be and feel right.  I’m sure you can think of exceptions to the rule but for the most part the fourth exchange guideline is intuitively and now empirically pretty accurate.

 

In counseling, I tend to use a more subjective measure for encouraging people to know when to “just let it go” and when to press forward in a discussion.  The following are some thoughts for knowing when to stop the debate and start talking about something else.  I’ll use the four exchange concept as a structure for my version.

 

·         Before the First Exchange:  Don’t even start your discourse if you are in anyway trying to teach another adult a lesson.  This is especially important when engaging your spouse, grown children, colleagues, pastor, professor or boss.  Teaching other adults a lesson patently does not work.  It is annoying and condescending.  If you have a point to make, just make the point.  People don’t learn lessons by being humiliated, manipulated or tricked.  Really.  Let the “I was just trying to teach you a lesson” concept go.  It only creates alienation and hard feelings.

 

·         After the Second or Third Exchange:  Let’s say you are a few point-counter-points into a conflict.  The give and take should continue if you can honestly look at the other person and imagine hearing him/her exclaim, “You’re right!  No one has ever explained this like that before.  Thank you so much for this insight.”  Truly, if you can’t imagine any version of that response coming from the other person, stop.  This is especially important in sequels to former arguments on the same topic.  If those words of gratitude and enlightenment are never gonna happen, it’s time to let it go and walk away.

 

·         After the Fourth Exchange: Aside from ego gratification, why would anyone want to continue after the fourth unsuccessful exchange?  I believe either of two conditions could hold you in the debate.  First, if you legitimately wonder if the other person is confused about your position then stay on board.  Generally, people who know you, know what you stand for on most topics will not miss your point.  If you’re like me, you have never been coy or ambiguous about topics near and dear to your heart.  People just don’t have to read between the lines with me.  But, if there is a remote chance the other person misunderstands your position, then by all means, persevere in the debate.  This isn’t so much about being right as it is about being understood.  But after you’re assured the other person gets it and agreement is not forthcoming, you can move on with a clear conscience.

 

The second condition to keep you in fray after the fourth exchange is the realization that you’re actually wrong and the other person is right.  Gulp.  It happens.  During those times your best response might be the one I mention in my After the Second or Third Exchange heading.  Just admit,  “You’re right!  No one has ever explained it like that before.  Thank you so much for this insight.”  That really hurts coming out but will definitely win that person as a friend.  And really, isn’t that the point?

 

I think we all agree that fortnight is just straight up awesome.  Certainly no argument there.  Enjoy it with someone who still loves you beyond the fourth exchange.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 2017 Official Sieges Newsletter: Gotta Love Millennials

Generation Gap

Are any of you old enough to remember when the term Generation Gap was first used?  I am. The designation was coined in the 1960’s to describe the unprecedented social, religious, and political differences between the Baby Boomer generation and their parents.   Now it is broadly applied to disparate values between parents, grandparents and children of any generation.   The following are few thoughts on Boomers, Millennials and global missions.  Emoji up, kids.

To read the Official Sieges Newsletter, just click on the image below.  Then in the lower right corner, you’ll click on View Full Size.  And finally click on the image again and it will get real big.  Three steps and it will be so big that even an aging Baby Boomer can read it.  You may have to back track a bit to view page two, but it is sooooo worth it.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.