Thursday, September 26, 2019

I Use Blinkist and Evernote for Better Writing and Public Speaking and Recommend It to Everyone

My day is filled with appointments, funerals, counseling sessions, personal visits, and a host of other pastoral duties that s.t.r.e.t.c.h. m.e. t.h.i.n. - Many transformative moments occur in those private moments with people in crisis, but few people will know about them because they are by nature private. 

That's why more folks will know me through my public speaking or writing and not my private ministry. But therein is my dilemma. Finding the time to adequately prepare for excellent public speaking and writing is difficult.

My dilemma of time for reading is only heightened by my knowledge that a good speaker's mind is broadened by material that is being read outside of one's own expertise and that ultimately makes the speaker more captivating in public presentations.

Or, to put it another way: A one-note minister makes stale messages like a one-note musician makes stale music.

That's why I want to read more for personal pleasure. I want to be the better professional speaker and writer I can be. I just don't have the time to read books on subjects outside of my specialized field of history and theology.

Until now.

I recently purchased a digital application called Blinkist, The annual subscription was $99.00.

In the last two weeks, I've read or listened to two dozen condensed books - or Blinks - written about fields that I would have zero time to read or research during personal reading.

Through computer technology using word content and structural algorithms, Blinkist condenses books into a thorough, unified, and complete synopsis. Instead of taking 12 hours to read the book, it takes you 12 minutes to read the superb synopsis.

There's a host of professional articles that have been written about Blinkist, including articles from The Guardian, Forbes, and the New York Times.

I haven't been asked to share my assessment, nor am I receiving any compensation from Blinkist for this recommendation of their product.

All I know is it works.

I love Blinkist.

I've tied Evernote to my Blink account so that when I highlight stories, principles, or memorable anecdotes in Blink, Evernote transcribes what I've highlighted and sends the written information to my Evernote account for later use in my speaking or writing. 

For example, I would never have time to read a book on the practice of meditation by author Thich Nhat Hanh. I'd never buy it. I'd never read it.

But in 12 minutes, through Blink, I was able to read a synopsis of The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. A story in Hanh's book so captivated me, I highlighted it and Evernote sent the written transcription to my notes account. 

Here's the story I highlighted from reading the blink of The Miracle of Mindfulness.  
"In the 1940s, when Thích Nhất Hạnh was a novice monk at Tu Hieu Pagoda monastery in Hue, Vietnam, he was often handed the unenviable task of standing in the kitchen on a cold winter’s day, cleaning the dishes for around one hundred other monks. This was made even more laborious by the fact that he had no soap to use – only ashes, husks of rice and freezing water.Since then, the monastery’s kitchen has been equipped with hot running water, soap and scourers. The novice monks can do the dishes quickly, and relax with a cup of tea to reward themselves afterward. But surprisingly, instead of viewing these modern upgrades as an improvement, the author views them as a problem for today’s novice dishwashers. Why? Because he believes that doing dishes simply because you want them to be clean is the wrong way of approaching this task. The right way to wash up is to clean the dishes purely for the sake of cleaning the dishes.If we hurry through the dishes like a boring chore to be endured, with our minds already looking ahead to the cup of tea waiting for us when we’re finished, then we cannot possibly be cleaning the dishes for the sake of cleaning them. Moreover, we cannot be fully alive while undertaking this task. It’s impossible for us, as we stand in front of the sink wishing away the time, to appreciate the wonder that is life. That’s because we’re neither conscious nor mindful of our bodies, our movements, or the thoughts that we’re experiencing in those precious moments of doing the dishes. Instead, we’re already living in the future, sitting at the table with that cup of tea. In other words, you’re not really cleaning the dishes at all. In fact, once you get to that cup of tea, your mind will already be focused on still other matters, only dimly aware of the taste of the tea in your mouth. So, again, you will be ripped away from the present, into the future, unable really to live even a few moments of your life. But there is a better way. Whatever we find ourselves doing at any given moment, we must be fully conscious and mindful of it."
I'll be using Hanh's story in a future talk I give. His is not a book I would have read without the Blink app.

I highly recommend combining Blinkist and Evernote to become a better speaker and writer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

J. Paul Getty, Kisner Heights, and Enid, Oklahoma

J. Paul Getty (The Getty Museum)
The Cadillac V-8 Roadster bobbed up and down over the muddy section line roads in eastern Garfield County, Oklahoma, pitching its driver like a horse would a rider moving at a slow trot.

The spring of 1918 had been wet in Garfield County, Oklahoma, ending the driest 10-year period of the new century for the state.

Pavement had not yet reached western Oklahoma roads, so the Cadillac Roadster traversed more mud than dirt. The federal system of numbered and paved highways that would eventually crisscross America were still a decade away from being built.

25-year-old Jean Paul Getty didn't mind the drive from Tulsa to northwestern Oklahoma. Dressed in his custom suit with pants tucked into riding boots, Getty drove for oil. He drove for money. Every mile brought him closer to his goal.

Harry Ford Sinclair, a Getty family friend and President of Tulsa's First National Bank, had told the Getty family about an oil pool near Covington, Oklahoma that he'd been drilling since September 1916. There were still more leases to obtain, enough for the Getty Oil Company to take part in the Covington oil play. However, the Garbers and the Champlin families of Garfield County, oilies themselves, would not take kindly to another oil family encroaching on their territory.

J. Paul had done his research quietly.

George Getty, J. Paul Getty's father, lived in Los Angeles and ran the Getty oil operations from California. J. Paul had just begun working (again) for his father's company after spending a couple of years traveling the world while also periodically attending Oxford. J. Paul's job that summer of 1918 was to find available farm leases for oil production in the well-known Bartlesville, Cushing, and Glenpool Oklahoma oil fields.

But this new Covington oil pool would be a fresh entry point for Getty Oil. J. Paul was the only Getty son with an aptitude and appetite to eventually replace George as President of Getty Oil. By 1973, J. Paul Getty would be called The Richest Man in America, worth over $2 billion dollars, equivalent to $12 billion today. But on that hot, wet, and sticky early summer day of  1918, J. Paul Getty wasn't the richest man in America. He was just a man on a mission, sent by his father to obtain the best oil lease in Garfield County, Oklahoma. The Getty's needed in on this hot new oil play in Oklahoma.

J. Paul Getty's Cadillac of choice in 1918
Oklahoma wasn't a strange place to J. Paul Getty.  He first came to the Sooner state as an 11-year-old boy in January 1904. He'd accompanied his father (George Getty) from Minneapolis to the oil boom town of Bartles-ville. At that time, Oklahoma wasn't yet a state, and people still called it "Indian Territory."  The young J. Paul Getty wrote in his diary how he looked forward to the trip to Indian Territory to see "real Cowboys fight'en real Injuns." 

50-year-old attorney George Getty had first come to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) just two months earlier, in November 1903, to settle a life insurance policy on behalf of Northwest Life. After arriving in Bartlesville, he'd listened in the hotel restaurant to the locals talk about how much money could be made with oil leases. After conversing with one man interested in selling some leases, and on a whim, George purchased his first oil lease for 1100 acres in the Osage Indian Nation (Oklahoma). George Getty filled out the paperwork to form an oil company while he was in Tulsa on the insurance matter. One month later (December 1903), George Getty's contracted oil drillers hit a gusher on his lease in Osage Nation (now Osage County, Oklahoma).

He'd struck black gold on his first try.

George went back to Minneapolis by train, and returned to Indian Territory with his eleven-year-old son J. Paul in late January 1904. George came to observe the second well being drilled on the Getty lease in Osage County  The first well had been such an unexpected surprise, turning George a quick and handsome profit and launching his career in oil production. That December 1903 Getty gusher in the Osage Nation also became the impetus for many white businessmen wishing to make their fortune in oil coming to Osage to marry the Osage Indian women. In one of the darkest chapters in American history, some of those men surreptitiously killed their Indian brides and families to obtain their oil rights. This stomach-churning decade (1920s) of white domination and crime is documented in the 2018 bestseller Killers of the Flower Moon.  The Osage murders became the first field case for a young government agent named J. Edgar Hoover

The oil bug bit eleven-year-old J. Paul Getty on his first trip to Oklahoma in January 1904. J. Paul didn't see any "cowboys fight'en injuns," but he did see men working for his daddy on a job that captivated his imagination. George Getty was well on his way to becoming a millionaire through oil. Later that year (1904), George moved his family from Minneapolis to Tulsa to oversee his new oil business.

But the Gettys didn't stay long in Tulsa. J. Paul's mother wanted to live in California to be near her family, so George once again packed up the his family and moved to Los Angeles. But J. Paul Getty would travel back to Oklahoma every summer as a teenager to work as a roustabout, a tool pusher, and then eventually a lease man for his father's oil company.

J. Paul never wished to disappoint his father, even now that he was a young man of twenty-five. As he drove those dirt roads in Garfield County in the late spring/early summer of 1918, J. Paul Getty was determined to find a good oil lease for Getty Oil.

The Robert R. Kisner Farm in Eastern Garfield County

Location of the Kisner Farm, Garfield County
Enid, Oklahoma is the county seat for Garfield County. 17 miles east of Enid and about 4 miles south, Robert and Minnie Riley owned a small farm in 1918. It sat in Olive Township, Section 14 (see map to the left).

Robert and his wife watched as the Cadillac pulled up their long dirt driveway. They looked on as a strange man pulled a shovel from the back seat and walked up to their porch. Robert and Minnie came out to greet him.

"Mr. and Mrs. Kisner. My name is J. Paul Getty. I would like to pay you $50.00 to dig a hole in your back yard."

The name Getty was not yet known around the world, and the Risners didn't know that the Getty family owned an oil company. $50.00 was a lot of money in 1919.

"Don't worry Mr. and Mrs. Kisner. I'll fill the hole back in after I dig it."

Assuming the man in the suit and riding boots was someone hired by an oil company to look for farms to lease, the Kisners agreed. They watched as J. Paul Getty began digging his hole.

 "Getty Road" intersection at US 412, 17 miles east of Enid 
Before professional geology degrees, early oil men would often say they could "sense" where oil could be found. The more scientific of the first generation of oil men would dig in the soil near known producing wells to find the composition of soil that most closely matched known wells.

After digging for an hour, J. Paul Getty paused. Leaning on his shovel for a few minutes, it seemed to the Kisners as if he was contemplating something. Then, as quickly as he dug the hole, he filled it back up.

"Mr. and Mrs. Kisner," J. Paul said as he brushed dirt off his suit pants, "I'd like to lease your farm. I'll give you $2,000 for the lease, and if you like, I'll even buy your farm from you for a higher price. I believe there's oil underneath the soil on your farm, and if we drill for it and strike it, we'll give you a royalty as well."

Robert Riley Kisner  accepted J. Paul Getty's money that day, and the Kisner family would never be the same.

Neither would nearby Enid, Oklahoma.

Kisner Heights Historic District, Enid, Oklahoma

Kisner Heights being developed in Enid (early 1930's)

Robert Riley Kisner had participated in the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run and the 1893 Cherokee Strip Land Run. Not able to stake a claim in either Land Run, he worked at various odd jobs until 1896 when he married a German immigrant named Minnie Laging. The young couple moved to Missouri to be near family, only to return to Oklahoma by 1910, buying a cheap 160 acre farm in eastern Garfield County, near the small community of Covington, with the money he'd saved.

The money given Robert Kisner by J. Paul Getty was more money than he'd ever dreamed of having.

The original Kisner home at 812 S. Van Buren
Deciding not to stay on the farm during the noisy and messy process of drilling, Robert Riley and Minnie thought it best to move to nearby Enid and buy another small farm west of the the city. Just south of the modern intersection of Van Buren and Owen K. Garriott, on the west side of Van Burn, the Kisners purchased a 160 acre farm and built two houses facing east.

According to the 1996 survey of what would become Kisner Heights, the earliest houses built on Kisner’s tract of  farm land were the “original Robert R. Kisner house" at 812 S. Van Buren and a house for their son, the William H. Kisner house, next door at 822 S. Van Buren. The Kisners then built an Olympic-size swimming pool in the back yards, between both houses (see it in the photo above)

By the mid-1920s, Enid development had essentially reached the Kisner property. At the urging of the Enid Chamber of Commerce, Robert Kisner decided to subdivide his farm and create a new housing addition. Kisner Heights is what he and Minnie called it.

Kisner asked an architect from Kansas City to plat his farm. Robert F. Gornall, was one of Kansas City's important architects during the 1920s. Gornall is credited with having designed several significant buildings in the Kansas City area. He was proficient in a wide range of building types and styles, including Tudor Revival, Beaux-Arts, and Classical Revival.

The Kisner Mansion, 1111 Wynona, Enid, Oklahoma
The Kisner Historic District in Enid, Oklahoma strongly resembles midtown and uptown Kansas City neighborhoods because Robert Gornall designed them all.
Kisner Heights lots in Enid could be purchased with an agreement that home construction would be
restricted to three styles: English Type homes, American Colonial Type Homes, or Spanish Type Homes. For the first time in Enid's history (est. 1893), neighborhood roads would be platted with larger home lots, winding streets, and parks (even mini-parks built in the middle of intersections). Streets were named "York," "Wabash," "Wynona," and other English names. The Kisners decided to build their home in the center of Kisner Heights. The Kisner Mansion at 1111 Wynona is the most outstanding example of the Neoclassical style within the Kisner Heights addition.

Soon, several other homes were being built in the Kisner Residential area, including the historic Champlin Mansion (pictured left), located on the western edge of Kisner's farm.

As Enid continued to develop westward, the residential planning commission established a new residential district west of Kisner Heights that they named Indian Hills .
Many Enid residents confuse Kisner Heights with Indian Hills, but Kisner Heights predates Indian Hills by two decades.

Though many of the original homes in the Kisner Heights Historic District of Enid are eligible for entry into the National Register of Historic Places, so far only the Kisner Mansion and the Champlin Mansion have been placed on the register.

Very few people, even those living in Enid, realize that a trip to Garfield County by J. Paul Getty in 1918 led to the establishment of one of Enid's most beautiful and historic neighborhoods.

Next time you're in Los Angeles at the J. Paul Getty Museum, or in the Uptown District of Kansas City, or at Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, or next time you read the tragic story about J. Paul Getty and his family or watch the movie All the Money in the World, remember that day in the summer of 1918 when J. Paul Getty pulled a contract out of his Cadillac and gave the Kisners the resources to buy a farm in 1919 on the outskirts of Enid, now the beautiful neighborhood called Kisner Heights.

100 years have passed, but the connection between Getty and Enid remains evident in Kisner Heights Historic District.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Odell's Watch and a Repeat of the Great Depression

Odell Beckham, Jr.'s watch (Photo: Business Insider)
Odell Beckham, star wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, played his first football game for Cleveland this past Sunday wearing what Business Insider calls a $350,000.00 watch.

That's right. Odell wore on his left wrist  a watch that costs almost double the average price of an American home.


Those of us who know almost as much about the 1910's and 20's as we do today's current events understand the significance of Odell Beckham's watch.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby to expose the opulence of the 1920's, a time historians now call The Era of Excess.

Welcome, America, to 2020.

In an era of excess, money seems limitless and people believe the economic boom will never end.

But the laws of physics and economics are inviolable. Any object or economy that expands to its limit will eventually collapse upon itself.

In economics, its called an economic depression.

Economic depressions always follow eras of excess.

Most young Americans have no clue about the hardships my grandparents endured during the Great Depression which began after the Era of Excess that followed World War I.

The Great Depression (1929-1939)
So the best way to describe a Great Depression is to compare Beckham's opulence in wearing a $350,000.00 watch while playing professional football to my grandfather wearing a $1 Timex watch during the Great Depression.

Odell Beckham doesn't care if his watch is shattered in a violent collision on the football field.

My grandfather would lock his $1 watch in a safe at night lest it be stolen.

When the American rich flaunt their money with minimal concern for its loss, then we are but a short time away from a depression when the rich will wonder where their money has gone and the poor will guard the little money they have with their life.

What goes up must come down.


Odell is only 26. He plays football. Obviously, he doesn't read history or economics.

Mr. Beckham, I would encourage you and those of your generation to also watch...the...economy...carefully.

And don't say you were not warned.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Problem of Finger Pointing and Finding Fault

Years ago Rachelle and I toured a wine factory in Morocco. The wine master walked us through the very tedious and precise manner in which Moroccans make their fine wine.

There is a formula to making good wine. Those who don't know the formula--or refuse to follow the formula--cannot produce fine wine. 

Likewise, there is a formula for healthy friendships. 

"You are neither the source nor the solution for the trouble or pain within me."

That's the formula.

No human being is ever the source for any problem within me. Neither is someone else the solution for the pain I feel within.

Oh sure, there are occasions when another person is a problem in terms of crossing boundaries physically or sexually, and those kinds of problems need intervention from outside source, including the police. 

But when it comes to who is responsible for the way I feel, only I am in control.

The actions of another human being can be hurtful and painful, but the Apostle Paul said, "I have learned to be content (i.e. "self-sufficient") in who I am" (Philippians 4:11). 

Many English translations wrongly translate Philippians 4:11 as "I have learned to be content in whatever state (or circumstances) I am" but the words "state" or "circumstances" are not in the original. 

We are to learn to be "self-satisfied" (happy) in who we are.

So, who am I?

Many men receive their identity from work; but that's not who we are, it's what we do. Many women receive their identity from those to whom they are related. "I'm Mary, the mother of..." or "I'm Suzy, the wife of ..." But that's not who you are; that's to whom you are related.

I tell women all the time they better not get their identity from their husbands or kids because for eternity they'll neither be married (according to Jesus) and their kids will be the same age as they are.

Likewise, for both men and women, until we get our identity from some place other than work or our careers, we'll never understand what it means to be content in who we are.

So, again, who am I?

The Apostle Paul said, "I am who I am by the grace of God" (I Corinthians 15:10).

My identity is to come from the incredible grace of my Creator

Who am I by the grace of God?

I can only begin to answer that question by saying, "I am...."

I am loved by God's grace. I am adopted by God's grace. I am guided by God's grace. I am forgiven by God's grace. I am justified by God's grace. And on, and on, and on. That's who you are by God's grace.

When I understand who I am by the grace of God, then I am "self-sufficient" regardless of my circumstances.

I may have a friend whose actions cause all kinds of trouble; but my friend is never the source of or solution for the trouble or pain within me.

God is both the source and solution for what troubles me on the inside.

The problem of pointing a finger and finding fault with others, believing that they are the reasons for the anxiety, fear, depression, hurt, or pain within me, is that I'll never get to a real solution for what ails me. 

The finger pointing is leading me down the wrong path.

My internal happiness is dependent on my comprehension of who I am by the grace of God and not whether others succeed or fail in their behaviors, attitudes, or relationships.