Sunday, October 30, 2011

American Boom or American Bust

"The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved."  ~ Jeremiah 8: 20  

The common economic wisdom is that this century will be the Century of China and India just like the last century was the Century of America.

An October 24, 2011 article in the United Kingdom paper, The Telegraph, written by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard entitled “World Power Swings Back to America” states in part…”The American Phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labor gap with China in a clutch of key industries.”

America has become the Number One producer of natural gas, passing by the former #1, Russia. The “shale gas revolution” is occurring. North Dakota is considered the “new North Sea.” Today U.S. supplies a net 395,000 barrels of oil per day; that number will rise by mid-decade to 5.5 million barrels a day; a ten-fold rise since 2009.

I find few articles that are positive about America’s economic future. It was refreshing. The article contained many more factoids that simply I found impressive. We may possess the tools to continue to be an economic power house, but what if we continue to be morally bankrupt?

Our company is in the process of relocating thirty-three commercial tenants from a building so the building can be redeveloped into apartments. Many of the tenants do not want to leave; they love the building but they do not own it. Change is hard for all of us but our experience relocating these long-term tenants has been mostly disheartening.

In this process, which is totally legal and handled in a sensitive manner, has been met with anger and skepticism. People have tried to steal the building conference room chairs; each one is worth $65. Why would a woman in her 60’s do this? She is angry and vindictive towards “the rich men doing this.”

The “Occupy Wall Street” stuff may seem distant to Western Minnesota, but its affect is being felt. The attitude to “take from the rich man” has set in at an amazing speed. We may disagree with what’s being done (re:development of the building) but it does not give any of us a license to steal.

The question I ask is this: “What good is all this economic potential if we as a nation are morally bankrupt? Wake up church (Christians), we haven’t done our appointed task—share Christ with our culture and display His sacrificial love. No, we’ve sat on our hind ends, “gotten into the world big-time,” we may be economically successful but morally bankrupt. If that is the case, we have nothing.

Jeremiah 9:7-9"Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: "See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?  Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit. With his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him.  Should I not punish them for this?" declares the LORD. "Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?""

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Last Ride – The Life and Times of Jim Seehusen

The October day was gloomy after a long run of above normal temperatures and clear autumn days. Monday was blustery with light rain. It was a day where you hunched your shoulders from the cold and pulled your coat tighter around your neck. I guess it was a good day for a funeral in Olivia, Minnesota. Blustery, growing colder with a sense of sadness in the air, it was my brother Jim’s funeral.

As we pulled away from the church for the one mile ride to the cemetery west of town, people watched along the street. The big shiny Cadillac hearse led the way; it was Jim’s last ride. The route passed in front of his house. Behind the hearse was a horse and buggy. The horse was “Pops”, Jim’s horse and the buggy was one of many my brother made. In the buggy was Jim’s slicker, cowboy hat and boots along with a wreath adorned with, among other things, feathers and a horse shoe—all representing Jim’s life.

The horse and buggy were driven by Doug and Steve, my brother’s “horse and buggy buddies”. It looked like they came from cowboy central casting. They rode stoically on the buggy. Doug wore his cowboy hat, boots and an oil soaked slicker to ward off the cold October rain, Steve in his cowboy hat, boots, Levies and wind breaker. It was hard to tell if it was rain or tears on their faces.

Pops the horse walked slowly with his head down facing the wind and rain. Pops knew something was up; the day before Jim died, Pops separated himself from the herd. He is boarded at Doug and Mary’s farm. They noticed Pops was standing alone, not usual for him; they knew something was up. Twenty-four hours later, Jim passed away.

As my older brother, we didn’t always get along as children. Seven years older than me, he, like my late older sister Mary Ann, took glee in bossing me around. I wasn’t really angry with them I just did my best to make their “supervisory role” miserable.

Jim and I visited a lot over the last year. It was never sad. Brain cancer can be a cruel master; he would have moments, yet he went gently and that was our only prayer. We never ordered God around; we asked for Jim to go gently.  He did.

What did I learn from him? What was his greatest accomplishment? I’m sure those close to him would differ if asked the question. Here is what I think.

Jim and I grew up in a physically and verbally abusive home. As young boys, we pledged to one another to never do that to our wife and family. We never physically abused but fought dishing out our cutting verbal remarks for much of our life. As we have gotten older, we prayed more earnestly for that to go completely away. Jim had a great wife, Carol, of 50 years; they had 5 children and 10 grandchildren--all an accomplishment in and of itself. Jim never cheated on his wife. Why? Because he made a promise before God and he loved his wife. He was good looking and successful; I am sure he had opportunities but he said no. I told him if he ever cheated on his wife “I would beat the hell out of him”. I know some people might think this is unimportant or inappropriate to mention; Jim thought it was important.

Jim was an overachiever. He was a lumberyard worker turned trucker then a salesman. Jim was an accomplished business man. He hated sales training; we both hated sales training and were terrible at it. At one sales training session, Jim was presented with the booby prize, a flashlight to find his way out of the dark; a stinging insult. The joke was on the sales trainer as Jim was the number one salesman three years running and he didn’t learn very much from the snooty sales trainer. Sales were simple to Jim; it wasn’t magic words and techniques as the sales trainer taught, it was problem solving. We all like to help people; Jim helped people by solving their problems. His customers made money and so did Jim and the whole process flowed naturally. If you are a business person or sales person reading this, stop selling, start solving problems and enjoy the ride.

There is much to be said and Jim knew the Lord. He is with Christ—can’t be anything better than that--a God ordained and Jesus driven accomplishment.

Yes, his last ride was slow and sad. I am sure all of us will remember it. Over seventy years earlier on the east side of Olivia Jim was born in his Great Grandmother Schanil’s house; he was brought home to the farm in a 1936 Ford. Jim owned a 1936 Ford for awhile; he said, “It was too much bother.” He bought Pops and made buggies; he liked horses better than cars.

Always grateful, Jim got his wish; he went home gently to be with Christ. His last ride spoke to it all—a life imperfect (like all of us) but well lived—but now he is perfect with Christ. What a life; what a ride; what a Savior!