Friday, December 30, 2011

Wealth Redistribution

There is an interesting article in today's Washington Post about the wealth distribution in the US Congress.  I will select one, Jim Renacci, a local Canton US Congressman whose net worth is $48 million and he is about in the middle of the richest twenty five richest Congressmen.  There are those that will read that article, see the vast polar ice caps of wealth found in our Congressional members and draw all sorts of opinions both positive and negative.  But for me the article cast light on a far greater societal issue which is the apparent strategy by the ruling class in Washington to redistribute wealth. In other words, punish the rich to raise up the poor.  That mentality, so you can know, in my opinion, is counter intuitive to the America I have grown up in and long to remain.

Wealth is a cloud that is hard to measure, harder to compare and even harder to assess implication. But what wealth does do is give us an incentive to work hard, sacrifice, strive, drive to be better than the competition.  Yes there is luck that goes with it. Yes there is manipulation that is party to it. Yes, yes, yes but at the aggregate, for me at least, wealth is a good thing if truly earned.  When I watch the machinery and the rhetoric of wanting to additionally tax the wealthy to close the deficit hole, I find myself wondering why things have eroded so far to relatively quickly!  I have grown up believing and built a career and thus a life on the pretense that if I worked hard, did my best, gave my all, I would find reward in many forms with financial being one. I did not want nor wish someone to take it easy on me, give me an undeserved or unearned break; I only sought equal footing in whatever pathway my life would take and then allow me to do what I needed to do to be, well, a success.  I believe that life has therefore been pretty good in an array of measures.  I say that with all humbleness.

Many years ago I realized, for me at least, that the definition of "rich" as getting up one morning and deciding to not go to work and it would still be alright. You earn the right to have that belief and capability to live that way.  When, today, I see so much activity of seeking to remove that aura of incentive by adding more and more and more safety nets and then wanting those that have "made it" to "pay their fair share" knowing the great, great majority of them have paid their share thus they are being targeted as the enemy of the poor and must be constrained and punished; I have great issues with that mentality.

Go to the Washington Post today and look at the richest and poorest 25 Congress folks and you assess how you feel about that.  I think that is a microcosm of our society today, frankly.  I want wealthy people to be more wealthy. A great CPA friend once told me that paying taxes is a good thing for it means, after all, you are making money. Do not punish those that rightly and rightfully earned their wealth to cover those that choose daily to not do what they can to elevate themselves; that angers and sickens me greatly.  

Hard work pays dividend.  The Bible speaks eloquently about those lazy folks and I detest laziness in people and safety nets incentivize laziness. I HATE SAFETY NETS!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Year in Review

I always enjoy the many articles and programs that focus on that very topic about best athletes, companies, events, wealth, etc. So as I sit here not feeling too well and looking out at the Northeast Ohio winter with rain and snow, my mind began to build my own Year in Review so I thought I would put it words and share with you.

This has been a very good year for the Williams home.  I think my greatest joy of the whole year was in seeing my beautiful grand daughter, Hope, my son's family adopted from Ethiopia, enjoy her first real Christmas. So full of life, loves to pose for the camera, loves to kiss and hug her Poppy (that would be me) and to see the way children, little adults, develop their own means and processes to exist in this thing called life.  Watching Hope is a joy and always leaves me with this huge smile on my face for she is such a blessing to our whole family in so many ways.

My heroes of the year would be the dozens of students I got to be part of their lives for a semester or two in some cases.  Watching them grow, develop, grasp, articulate, plan, organize, communicate blocks of work in a team-based environment is a real joy for me.  Yes there are those that stumble but the great, great majority excel in the team environment when they learn to work together. That, for me, is where education begins!

As with every semester, there are the twenty percenters.  Those that choose not to carry their load, to invest in the work with the rest of the team and the result is always so predictable and yet for me, still so very disappointing for I realize I am watching behaviors that will go with these underachievers for a lifetime. They will be the ones that feel everybody owes them some and that every problem is someone else's fault; never theirs!  The older I get the more strongly I detest wasted talent and opportunity!  But as a new year looms in a couple of weeks, I am so excited to get all the work that has been invested in the blocks of work begin to be built and delivered as the teams form, storm, norm and then to perform. It is all about performance.

Another tremendously rewarding part of my life is my church, The Canton Baptist Temple, where it is always such a joy to get to know and be part of some of the greatest people I have ever known.  The music that I get to sing is a part of my life that still astounds me at how much singing has come to define me and for the record, I love being defined by that for I see so many times and ways how music will touch a hurting heart and soothe a burning soul. Singing is a joy and a blessing God has granted me and I realize as I sing at more and more funerals and other events, it has nothing to do with ego but more with the blessing of ministry with a gift God has granted me. What a joy!

I would be remiss in not mentioning getting to be a small part of the home going of one of my military heroes, General Donn Starry.  He was a man of great intellect, and drive and touched the lives of millions in his lifetime.  Pray for his wife Karen as she finds her footing in a world without her husband and friend.  

I will close with the joy of my family! It has been a good year from a health perspective for all of us which is a praise.  Seeing the five grand kids grow and mature is a joy. Seeing their unique talents develop and evolve is simply amazing to me.  They all love each other and really being with each other.  I love how my three grand daughters loves to style my hair, brush my back, work on my fingernails; what a blessing!  We are close!!  Those three words are, well POWERFUL.  When I see so much hurt and disappointment and anguish around me, I am always reminded how great it is to sigh the words, We Are Close and know that we all are.

Thank you for being part of my life and my family. My family grows exponentially with each passing semester and I am looking forward to this nearly one hundred more family members I will link up with Jan 9. It's going to be good!

Our world is in pretty serious, dire strait and it is easy to get angry or worse, ignore the whole thing.  We live in a great country and I know this for I have seen many others.  Pray for our leaders as this new year dawns for we are direly needing leaders that will lead and not campaign of the next money-driven, lobby-driven, election; THAT SICKENS ME!

In 2012, be a special blessing to someone! It is a choice!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Power of a Name ...

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace .... if you have ever walked by a church at Christmas time or listened to a Christmas cantata, no doubt that passage has passed your ear drums. His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Might God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace ... wow! Makes me wonder about the names people call me as it should each of you reading this, I believe! 

As this Christmas time is upon us this early Thursday morning, there is excitement in the air.  This morning I will be singing at the funeral of a lady, 89 years of age, I have never met but what an honor to be asked to be part of her celebration of her home going!  Her name is Mary.  My mother's name was Mary and had my mother lived, she would be 89 as well.  But the real common bond between these two ladies and me is that we share a common name in a fallen world and that name is Christian!  Every time I am asked to sing for a funeral, I find myself so humbled by that.  I always get to the funeral early so I can watch those that pay their respects and find ways to talk with the family but especially the eldest child if they are there. I love to ask the question, "what is the one word you would use to describe your mom / dad?"  That term becomes a beacon in a dark night of the loss of a person that made their life what it is today for that is what parents do; they give direction and light to a pathway, the pathway of life.

When I got the call yesterday about the funeral singing this morning, I had two of my grand kids with me for a second day in a row.  When I hung up the phone, I gathered them both into my arms to just hold them and tell them how much I loved them for what a blessing to have these young minds and bodies be such a part of my life.  As I approach sixty-four years old in a few weeks, the precious nature of life is made sweeter at the passing of another, at the words and expressions of my grand kids, at the excitement I still find in readying for a new semester, at watching my wife busy herself in making Christmas a time of near perfection for all of us.  A name above all names; that is my Jesus and it is that celebration of His birth that gives us this time to stop, reflect, celebrate and enjoy those we love, respect and admire.

Most of us have seen the Griswold's CHRISTMAS VACATION movie a million times and each year I know my wife wishes I could be more like Clark in his bumbling exuberance but, well, I am not.  But what most do not realize is that I do get quietly excited, giddy and tearful at the blessing of this time of year.  Normally my life is filled with music and no more so than this year and I love that for music soothes me, elevates me, takes me to that place I could otherwise not get to.  But then, when I least expect it, the anger, frustration and angst of my many childhood Christmases creep into my mind and I have to do something to remove the feelings that are reflected in my memory bank.  I am not whining please know for I detest whining.

There is far too much commercialization of this special time yes and especially this year I have had this tugging in my heart that next year I want to take the money we expend on Christmas and provide a special Christmas for a family not so fortunate as we; never had that tugging before! Guess it is the age thing! Or maybe it is the real essence of what Christmas is and should be for those of us that proclaim Christ as our Lord and Savior! Yes, I like that option best.

I would challenge each of you to take a few moments and determine what Name best describes you as this holiday period begins its unfolding. I can tell you mine now; HUMBLED!  This is such a humbling time for me for I realize how truly unworthy I am to have so much in materials things, security, health and a family that is close, loves each other and we all love the Lord.  I will end this with the lyrics of a great song, not a Christmas song, but entitled TREASURES UNSEEN. I have included the link so you can watch Greater Vision sing this great song. Let the message of this song warm your heart as it does mine.


























Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I find that word very interesting.  Have you ever marveled at something or someone?  Marvel is defined as: Be filled with wonder or astonishment!  Hum, pretty powerful words, filled with wonder and astonished, right!  I have a very high threshold for finding the case of marveling my the world around me. I marvel at how a person can change their life if they choose. I marvel at how Man has an innate yearning for freedom that is evidenced by the terrible pain of childbirth for that new baby really wants to stay right where it has been so being forced out of that cocoon is tough for everyone but I marvel at the process of a child. I marvel to define love that I can sink my teeth into for, like the wind, you cannot see it but you know it is there!

So to the point of today's blog ... I found myself today watching the Senate vote on the debt reduction bill that was defeated; that did not marvel me but I tell you what did; the very public display of what I consider a very ineffective, inefficient, collegial atmosphere of how laws get made in our country; that is a marvel to me.  I watch these Congressmen on television and if I closed my eyes and just listened, they are all making the exact same case with great articulation, pretty poster boards, well dressed, educated men and women all focused on the reality of our national debt crisis.  But then this strange thing happens; they vote!  And in watching the vote I find myself reviled by the hand shaking, joking around, back slapping, joke telling, etc, junk by and with these same people that have bashed each other's ideas, approaches and fixes. That for me is a marvel of inefficiency and ineffectiveness and who loses? We the People!

It is my belief that the Founders were an amazing bunch of men, not overly educated, not overly political, not overly rich, not overly anything that were asked to come together to do a job for The People even though sent by their respective states but to find consensus for the greater good of the country.  These Framers built a written document called a Constitution that is the anchor in the storm of a new democracy. We can see the same process after an overthrown dictator and the anguish, blue-tipped voter fingers voting for the first time around the world.  ALL SEEKING FREEDOM!

But here we sit in America, the shining light on the hill of a democratic system designed for me for I am one of the WE THE PEOPLE and I have never felt less free and even worse, all I see, SEE, is entrenchment, rancour and strict party line votes.  Something has changed since the days of the Framers and I think it has come it starts and stops but glacially cutting its way into the real meaning and intent the Framer used in crafting that Constitution.  I do believe the tripartite system is a functional system but the piece of that system not spoken of enough, as bad as the Executive and Legislative processes are is the Judicial process for they are the real makers of the law when you realize their function.  Their function, simply, is to take a passed law that gets contested and then through hearings move to consensus on what the Framers really mean in the context of that case brought before them. That is called MAKING THE LAW thus nine unelected but politically appointed justices have the power and do make the real Law of the Land. Did you realize that?

Of late I wish at time the folks that Framed this document we have fought for many times could show up for a couple of weeks to view their handiwork three hundred years hence.  I would imagine they, like I, would be shocked back to the grave.  We have created a monster that is very likely untamable whether we wish to believe it or not.  It really angers me and sickens me at the same time of how such a systemic cancer can be allowed to metastasize in full public view and it just keeps getting repeated with each election cycle. That is a MARVEL to me. I plead guilt to my lack of injection into this failed system and yes, I believe the system is in a fail mode. But the guys and the girls are still patting backs, giving Fives, telling jokes, reading speeches written by staff shoe clerks. You know, I feel I deserve better than that. I feel we pay a great deal of money for a process to work; not to play the games of partisanism that irks me to no end.  And the lobbying system; don't get me started for that is the most prostitutional institution ever assembled so, for me, the entire K Street in downtown DC can be made a hand grenade range as far as I am concern as it relates to my freedom.

Bottom line, WE THE PEOPLE DESERVE BETTER! That is no marvel to me!!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Baton as Progenitor ... what a sacred trust!

A progenitor is a person or system the creates a beginning that continues forward or it is a person who originates an artistic, political, or intellectual movement.  Let that sink in for a moment!  In the presentation of a Christmas musical, SEARCHING FOR A KING, at my church this past weekend, I was honored to be part of the presentation.  The drama is a story of young soldier who witnessed the death of his childhood friend from an IED explosion that also killed a little girl he was bent over comforting.  The trauma of the surviving friend was amplified knowing he was faced with returning to civilian life to talk with the killed soldier's mom that had known them both since childhood. Touching? Extremely. As the conclusion of the performance, the mother of the dead soldier is talking with the surviving friend who cannot shake the horror of the realness of the death of his best friend.

The dead soldier's mom asked the surviving soldier if he remembered running the 440 yard relay with her son, which he did.  She asked if he remembered waiting for her son to finish his leg of the race  to hand the young soldier the baton to ignite his leg of the 440 which the soldier, Benji, remembered well. The mom asked the silver bullet question, "well Benji, was the race over then?  Certainly it was not for life goes on until the finish line is crossed. COMPELLING thought isn't it? 

I awoke this morning still affected by the poignancy of that brief few moments and the term progenitor come to my mind as I ready to administer a final examination for the semester this morning in thinking about these lives and the thousands of lives I have been given access to in so many ways through this journey of life.  I looked up the definition of a Progenitor: A person who originates an artistic, political, or intellectual movement.  So I asked myself the rhetorical question then, have I been able to originate an artistic, politic or intellectual movement in these minds and lives God has gathered around me adequately and rightly?  That really changes your sense of worth and value as you ponder the depth of that question doesn't it?

As I near sixty-four years of this journey called life, it is simply astounding at the lives one touches in a very unique manner for, like fingerprints or eyeballs, it is a very indivdual, unique chemistry that is unleashed in that "touch" in the passing of the baton of life from me, having run my leg of the race, and hand it to the generation just beginning their leg of the race!  Wow, that is truly an amazing metaphor but yet, a snapshot of a strong reality isn't it?  So I find myself this morning assessing just what values, learning, hope, tools, desire and belief has been and will continue to be embodied in that paton of life in each of the waiting hands to receive the paton received from me as they seek to win their own race of life?

It is in that context that I am yet again reminded of the potency of the touch of a caring teacher, leader, parent, friend on every life that is brought into the vortex of other's lives on their unique journey.  I guess this weekend with the hours of preparation for the delivery of the musical, having family around me and enjoying memories, the laughter, the warmth that can only come from family, has really taken me to a place I do not visit enough in my heart which is a deep appreciation of family. 

So the question, how would you describe your baton in terms of its worth, its value and capability to alter a wrong path of the waiting runner?  When the level of importance of that touch of the baton on another's life or lives is realized, then the sensitivity and perfection of the hand-off is made more acute thus making me work harder to be, not better, but to seek to be the best I can be for those awaiting that hand-off.  True, I am only one professor in an array of teachers and professors in a student's life but still I am one that is put there for a most unique time in each student's life.  Nothing happens by accident I believe so it is made very real to me that each student that chooses to take the journey of learning with me also shares a common purpose with me. There are no accidents!  That knowledge is simply phenomenal in its gravity for the tomorrows I believe!

By the way, you do not have to carry a title of teacher or professor to pass your baton of learning to others for the world is populated with people yearning to know, to understand, to want a better life.  So my challenge this morning as progenitors, do you realize the sacred nature of running this race of life embodied in the perfect touch and timing of the hand-off of our baton to the generations before us.  When I look at my students, I look at their children and grandchildren for I realized long ago that things that are learned in our own unique way of teaching reaches far beyond that person sitting in that chair for this is a generational hand-off!

THAT is called a phenomental trust to me and I seek God's Will and Blessing with each student and the baton I am challenged to hand-off in hope and belief that each student will finish his or her race well as they prepare that baton for their hand-off that comes all too quickly.

Train well!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Work ethic!

I was watching a clip of Newt addressing some group and what he was talking about and how he addressed it really caught my attention.  He asked the rhetorical question, "how do you teach children how to work?"  He went on to talk about at age five his grandfather paid him a dime for each errand he ran for him which taught him to earn, work ethic and how to save.

Ever since I saw that clip, I have found myself thinking about work ethic in myself, my family, and most importantly, my students and grandchildren; you know, our future!  Work ethic is one of those American traditions that supposedly made us great, once, but seems to have waned in the last generation or so.  At least that is what the media would have use believe but hey, we'll get back to that maybe! 

I guess a right first question is, how do you measure or assess work ethic in a person?  I would answer that, rightly or wrongly, on how strongly does the person really focus on the job to get done and then how efficiently and effectively the fruit of the labor turns out to be. I think that is a good avenue for this thesis; FOCUS ON THE WORK TO BE DONE!

As I look at my family which is my wife and our two children, I see very real, positive work ethic in how we approach work. Whether teaching, counseling, singing, preaching, cooking, cleaning house, etc. each of us in my family devote tremendous time, effort, energy and yes, FOCUS, to the work at hand.  As the patriarch, that makes me quite proud and I believe the DNA from my mother streams through her legacy as does my wife's father into her and to our children.  During my Goodyear nearly four decades, in reflection, hours or time of day or time zone were never a real thought for it was the work that drove me and for the most part, I loved it.  Goodyear, as a Company, breeds a heavy work ethic captured in the simple slogan, "Protect Our Good Name."  I believe that same slogan applies to my family for we seek to always "Protect Our Good Name" in all we seek to accomplish.  Yes, as the father, I am very proud of the work ethic I see in my children and their spouses.

But let me now spend a few lines on general observations of the vast array of students I have experienced now for approaching ten years of university teaching.  I speak a great deal about Pareto's 80/20 for that is an absolute reality.  Eighty percent will never create issues for they will get the work done as it should be.  Yet, the ever present twenty percent will create eighty percent of the issues and require eighty percent of leadership's time in trying to right the ship in moving the twenty percent to the eighty percent group.   In the twenty percent, normally very predictable at the launch, you find bad work ethic, poor study habits, difficulty in meshing into a team of peers, see no real reason to have to come to class, be on time and ready to go to work.  It is that same twenty percent that I now wonder, where did they or why did they not learn how to work?

Here is my point; work is learned behavior. I do think it is not a natural bent for Man but it is learned first by watching those around us as they work and some magical dust rubs off on you or not.  I saw my mother as an extremely hard working woman that sought to provide and to protect her children at all cost. I watched that. I emulated that. I programmed that into my hardware and at nearly six-four, I see the result of the magic dust still in me and my family  Further, when I look at the twenty percenters that come before me and watch the struggle within their assigned teams and in them as they feel the rough side of me due to their not being part of the team performance calculus, I more and more realize most if not all of them have not had a model or a template to watch and try to fit in to for this thing called work.

Do I think the world or Man needs a few twenty percenters tossed in for salt? Absolutely not.  What I realize more and more is that we, as a nation generally speaking, has lost the enjoyment of work and worse than that, we have lost a generation that have not seen role models and thus a pattern for them to seek to fit into as the years roll by. I see it every day and so do you if you think about it. So think about it!

My classes are not easy for they, all of them, are founded on a set of hard principles with the first one being, THE WORK WILL GET DONE WITH YOU OR WITHOUT YOU.  From that point on, the models, the work ethic, the desire to drive for the finish line, to constantly improve, to have no finish line and if it isn't broken; then break it mentality begin to fall into place. 

Work ethic is learned behavior!  Never forget that, please. There will no doubt be those that will disagree with my belief about poor performance but hey, it is my blog and that is my belief and my heart. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Life of Goodbyes ..

A young lady headed to Central America as a medical missionary used that term tonight at church in an interview with our Pastor when asked about the hardest thing about leaving.  She said her life had been "a life of goodbyes .."  That term really hit a deep point inside me and I realized that that very reality is what I would take a few minutes to write about as we move into the Christmas season. 

When you think about life, all of it, you realize life really boils down to relationships. It begins with parents, siblings, extended family then to teachers, schoolmates, pastors, bosses, leaders, etc, etc.  With the ebb and flow of life, the order of magnitude of "goodbyes" exponentially increases but as a natural, not without pain at times, course of events for you move on to the next band of friends. If your life encompasses a career of station movement, then the trajectory and velocity of the goodbyes escalates even more quickly.  Natural, normal but at times unsettling.

Then there is the great separator; death.  Part of this I realize is the aging process as you look back and parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, school friends, church friends all begin to populate a list that seems to increase with every increasing velocity.  Being in a great church with a large segment of older friends and singing a good deal at the church, I am asked to sing at funerals of these sweet people.  Singing for my mother's funeral was one of those really significant moments in my life to be singing songs she loved standing next to her coffin but able to smile knowing she would have been pleased.  Death is no respecter for we will all face that in one way or the other so it is about not avoiding the reality but believing there is truly an even better life after this one.

A "life of goodbyes" is a wonderful sentiment when you think about it.  I will always remember Traci Warner for  using that great term for when I think of the hundreds of thousands of people I have been blessed to experience in my life and so many ways, it simply amazes.  Facebook is a great example to let you realize the essence of the importance of friends. How you can reach out to encourage, to educate, to teach, to laugh, to cry; the whole spectrum of life is about friends when you really stop and think about it.  But the most cherished band of all is the family!

I watched a mother's tears tonight as her daughter Traci, spoke and you could feel the pain of knowing her sweet girl was about to be gone for years to a far land.  I honestly had not stopped to think about what my parents must have felt when I began my life journey with moving all over the world.  I now even more realize how blessed we are to have our two children and their families so close to us and what a joy that is but so easily taken for granted.

So I will close with asking you to take a few minutes and think and reflect on the many lives that come into and then out of your life journey and how you left that touch.  Tomorrow as a new week begins, look around you at the lives you are touching and how you are being touched.  I love to tell the story of the graduation speaker at Kent State when my son graduated. I was jet lagged and did not want to go but did. I saw the speaker was from India with a name that was fifty letters long and that many letters of Phd's next to that.  He came quietly to the platform and said, "I am a part of every person I have ever met ..."  BAM, he had me for that is so very true.  My students, the people I sing to, work with, meet, pass on the street; all are part of the journey so enjoy the journey. I will for I realize more richly, life is a set of goodbyes!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Funny thing about right .. it is always right!

When I think of the word "right" I always think of the word "light."  When I was a little boy about six years old, my father would load my sister and mother and me in the car, drive sixty miles to a "wet" county and leave us in the car outside a "honky tonk" for hours while he would drink beer and then make the long trip home.  He would throw us a barbecue sandwich and I still detest the smell of barbecue for that Pavlov Dog time in my life.  I remember laying in the backseat looking up at the stars as the car sped back home never feeling really safe with the drive. While there was much I did not understand about any of it, and hate to this day, I remember wondering why places like that were always dark from the outside with no windows to let in the light .... think about that for a minute. How many "beer joints" have you ever seen with bright, shiny windows for the world to view into it? Not many, right?

Yesterday a young person God has brought into my path over the last year learned some rather painful, frustrating realities about this thing called light I believe.  For the learning, simply, is that right is always right and wrong is always wrong.  One can rationalize wrong to right but the wrong is still wrong.   That may sound confusing but it is so blatantly simple that it is frightening at the implication.  This is all a tremendous spiritual matter for I have learned that when one's life is spiritually right and aligned with God's Will, great things happen. Conversely, when they are not, no good things will happen over time.  In some rather stern dialog yesterday I indicated one cannot dance with Satan and Jesus at the same time for in that dance, everybody loses.!

In this life as failed humans, and we are due to Adam's fall, we have a natural sin nature so keeping it in check and righted is a choice but with that choice means to constantly seek God's Will for each individual life and journey.  I know I am preaching to a large choir but the reality of working with a spiritually immature person causes you to step back and try to grasp just how deeply the other person is or can fathom the depth of poor choices spiritually.  The Bible speaks strongly of Christians moving beyond the milk of spirituality which is good for babies in the faith to more meat of doctrine as a mature believer.  If you feed a baby meat, it chokes and that is what I witnessed firsthand yesterday but from the journey of yesterday, right decisions were made and initiated ... a Praise!

Living the Christian life is, well, not easy at times. The benefits are great but the wages can be hard earned and fraught with anger, pain and frustration.  I am so very proud of this young man with the decisions he chose to make by days end and that he realizes that I as the older mentor only wanted the best for him spiritually. I went to bed feeling lifted and so happy for his step toward the "meat" of spiritualness.  The journey is far from complete for both of us, and you, but the journey is moving in a right direction so there is light that abounds.  Seek the Right and you will see the Light!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

As the World turns ...

Been another interesting day. Let's see, American Airlines declares bankruptcy and nobody seemed to care.  Mr. Cain is probably pretty much head shot, they call it "reassessing" but head shot still the same and, well, nobody really seemed to care for there has been way too much smoke thus one can assume there is at least an ember of fire somewhere in all of the smoke; now being "reassessed."  Riots in Iran and, well, nobody seemed to care.  The political rancour continues to escalate and the Newtser is rising in the polls so no doubt he will be "reassessing" soon in his defense and the President, is off, well, campaigning and well, for one, me, I really don't care, really!

I had an interesting question posed to me yesterday by a former university dean in a doctor's waiting room. He was eighty-six years old, very distinguished, quiet as was his wife that engaged the conversation.  When the connection was made of my teaching and his tenure, he asked me this question, "you are still a very vibrant, energy filled young man (thank you sir, I thought) and you have seen and experienced much in your (young --- thanks again) life so as you look at the students in your classes today, what do you think about our future.?"  The really interesting context to that question is that the same basic question was posed to me the day before that at my church so both questioners got the same response.

My response was clear, unequivocal and well targeted .... I retorted quickly that I have never been more encouraged about our future if I adjudge it by the calibre of students I get to work with semester after semester.  I further stated that the almost absence of the "nuclear family" model of post WWII is blatant with the great majority of my students coming from single parent, blended, multi-partner relationships, etc.  I went on to say that now with three grand daughters, I realize in my own daughter that daugthers look to their fathers to be the model by which they will select a life partner and thus I realize how badly fathers are failing wives and family.  I went on to talk about the unbelievable addiction to student loan debt to pay for a lifestyle beyond their real means but that they have watched their home economy operated exactly the same way thus the model is set.  My new friend was pleased with my comments about the future and told me to "teach every day you can until you can't for the world needs teachers that so deeply care about their students and their future as you so obviously do .."  I felt a tear well up as he walked through the door with his bride of fifty-six years.

All day today those words have stimulated my mind.  A student this semester, she knows who she is, received a text from me today thanking her for her maturity, her always be prepared and contributivness to the discussiona in class.  She promptly texted me back a thank you with the caveat, "what prompted me to think of her in that light .."  now, with this blog, she knows for I believe she is a microcosm of our tomorrow, I hope. 

These students bring much good and not good into the class room.  What they "drag" around is very much different than what I dragged around.  Family deterioration, societal values shredded, corruption on every hand ... where are the role models or the supposed templates for tomorrow's leaders? That, my friends, is a HUGE question for each of us to ponder heavily for we the adults generally are failing in our role to provide those models and incentives.

One thing this almost eight years of university teaching at seven different campuses at three different universities, in now 110 classes to nearly 7,000 students has given me is a qualified and quantified position on students as a societal component much as the "Baby Boomers" were, I am one, when I began my collegiate endeavor in the late 1960s.  This generation is the 21st century "Baby Boomers" that will make or break the century and it is my bet that they will make it better than we have made it. I see frustration, a common drug culture, an "entitlement" mentality abounding in the macro environment and the recessed economy as the backdrop to mountains of debt. Who wouldn't be depressed and dismal, right?  But what I see are students in every class and in every semester rising above all of that to be better and I applaud and praise each one for that drive.

The relatively short time I have with these "makers of tomorrow" is the most fascinating contact point of my life.  There is a great metaphor about this man walking the seashore picking up star fish that are littering the beach and individually tossing them back into the sea.  A man walks up and asked the tosser why is he doing that for there are so many to which the tosser replies, yes, but for each one I toss back into the sea, it makes a difference. 

I consider the joy of my life in getting to be that tosser of my students / starfish into the waters of competitiveness with a future they will have fight every step of the way to achieve... but they will. They better for they have my touch on their lives and that touch is God-inspired I believe.  So why do I spend inordinate amounts of time in developing courses that stretch and challenge? Because as the "tall tosser," each of my starfish are worth it so how could I not do the best I can for them for it is them that are future.

Think about the starfish on your beach once in a while and see about leaning over, picking one or two or seven thousand up and tossing them, with your blessing, into the waters of the future.  Trust me, it will make you feel pretty good about life in general and yourself specifically.  And already have nearly fifty new starfish signed up for Spring semester, I can hardly wait!  In the "tossing" that means to me not destroying the connection with the professor / student but quite the contrary, to establish a lasting partnership that both parties commit to for the duration. It is a capital investment and both partners should seek for  and strive for a positive return on that investment.

And yes, I really, really care!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Photos as a reflection

This morning my wife is out doing what she loves to do which is shop and I decided to clear many old presentations out of my computer files.  In searching the files I came across some older family photos that had been kept in a picture folder in my computer.  As I opened the folder with dozens of digital photos staring at me, I became mesmerized with how quickly time does slide by, how vital family is to one's existence and how crucial it is to find every opportunity to make a memory in those gifts' lives. 

The Monopoly games with Logan, now nine years old, attending the Canton Charge basketball game last night with Logan and Noah, age eight and their parents, letting Isabella, age seven, apply shave cream, her "marshmallow," to my face as I nervously lay on my back as she so gently took my razor and shaved me, see the glee in Ms Hope, now two years old, when she came into the house yesterday and was immediately the center of our world and last but not least, see how truly beautiful God has made Ms Gracie, now five years old and her animation ways; simply amazing.

At the game last night with 5,000 people there screaming wildly for their new team, I found myself watching families and how they interact with each other and again realized how precious my family is. To have my beautiful daughter sitting next to me with that smile that will light up a stadium warmed me all over.  Paul, her husband, blatantly loves her and she him and I was just enjoying warming by the fire of their love last night. Um um um!  Bless your heart my Southern friends like to say but you know, my heart was blessed!

Now that the Bird Day is behind and Santa time is on every one's mind, including the credit card companies especially, it is my hope that this Christmas will be a landmark for our family as each one is as I reflect.  Our home is all decorated which Alicia loves to do and, don't tell her, I love to watch the magic happen with the million tiny touches and adjustments to make it all just right.  Christmas is, after all, about the birth of our Lord and from that Gift we should celebrate the gift of love that can only come from within a family and especially if it is a family that all truly loves the Lord and seeks to do His Will.

See what old photos do to me; make me a big, babbling tear machine as I look at the smiles, the changes, the joy each have brought to our family culture; simply amazing!  Only a God that loves us could create something that keeps adding value for the short life we have on this earth but then when you realize what lies ahead just past life's horizon and knowing that is even better, we have it pretty good don't we? Yes we do!

Today, when you read this, regardless of what is going on in your world, look at your children, hold them, tell them you love them, let them beat you in Monopoly, show them you care!  I guess the more amazing phase of my life is that with each passing semester I do feel my family continues to grow as my students move down the road of their lives.  When I hear of a student that got their first job or a promotion, I am like a father that just gets overjoyed by that. I pray I never lose that joy!

Be blessed!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It is well, It is well, It is well with my soul ...

I awoke this morning from crazy dreams, which is normal it seems, fueled I believe with the chaos that seems to surround our world on every side.  The failed Super Committee made itself a microcosm of Man's inability to bring harmony to Man I realized as I went to bed. So with all the stock market ebbs and flows, mostly ebbs in the next few weeks, interest rates will no doubt head north, our nation's creditworthiness will be downgraded, the political rancor has poisoned any wellspring to calm and compromise, this song was on my lips so thank you God for words of songs that so soothe a tired, restless mind.

I advise leaders often when in the midst of the gunfire, they must develop the fortitude to lift their minds from the tracer and cordite to lift in a helicopter and hover about the field of battle to assess what is really happening to provide guidance for the combatants. I think that is why God gave me this old classic, wonderful song as a calming mechanism to this chaos in our world that will only increase in the near term. 

I personally, so you can know, think if our President and Pelosi, Boehner and the twelve Super Committee members truly loved our country, they would corporately stand before the cameras today, admit ineptitude and formally resign from their positions; seriously I do. I think the credit agencies and the markets and the MORAL FIBER of this nation would be strengthened with such a bold statement. But I will not hold my breath awaiting the lights to come up for that announcement but come 2012 there will be many lights come up in ballot boxes across this great land!  Me wishes it was 2012 now for this whole morass has cut deep and shown all the warts.  Wait, I am getting all angry again so am going to sing this great song once more this morning; you can as well for I believe we can all feel the strength and potency of the great lyrics as a warm shower flowing over us in that great assurance that, It is very well, with my soul! 









Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving Thanks

Have awakened early this Sunday morning for some reason.  It could very well be because I watched two hours back to back of VIETNAM IN HD before going to bed. I knew I should not have but, well, I did.  Earlier this week, for some reason, I recorded and later watched SAVING PRIVATE RYAN which I said I would never do again when I first saw in several years ago.  Alicia, my bride, went to bed early with the comment, "you know you should not be filling your mind with that junk for if you fill your mind with it you always dream about it!"  Well, as usual, she was right.

The entire night my mind was ablaze on Hill 937 in the A Shau Valley in 1969. No, I was not there but had many friends that some of which did not return. I vaguely remember Hamburger Hill but it was a distant noise to my 1969 mind so who cares, right?  The night after watching SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, I awoke about 0230 with my mind bursting with gratitude for people that were my age when I was a little boy like my father, uncles, a great friend Clarence Blasier who fought at the Battle of the Bulge, Kerwin Burgess who limped his entire life with a bullet wound at Normandy in his knee and on and on.  Why all this and especially this morning?  I have no clue other than that is how God has wired me.

There is this nagging, deeply rooted question or actually wish that has been inside me most of my adult life and simply stated, I wanted to and should have gone to Vietnam.  Yes, I served my country and was proud of that uniform, still am, but the training was never put to the ultimate test and as the years have flowed too swiftly that recurring reality still haunts me at times.  Alicia, my bride, has told me many times, not too nicely at times, that that is crazy, that knowing me, I would have been killed because I would have been the first one attacking a position, trying to help others, etc, but the fact remains that I will go to my grave feeling I did not do my part in not having been an operational element of my generation's war.

Having served seventeen years in the Army National Guard and served proudly, I was honored to command two tank companies and an armored cavalry troop.  In each command I had Vietnam veterans and oft I would feel this strange sense of emptiness inside as they would render me the hand salute, crisply refer to me as Yes Sir and No Sir and work harder than the others to learn the lessons and fully execute their training in action when called upon.  My admiration for each soared with each encounter trying to grasp and absorb how proud I was of each one.

As more and more of my student population are returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, many scarred in an array of ways physically and emotionally, those same feelings of having missed my war lurk just under the surface all the time.  When they refer to me as Yes Sir and No Sir,  I am simply humbled by what they have experienced and I have not but to this moment yearn to have experienced and yes, led, in Vietnam.

I guess for some of you reading this it sound sick and twisted by I feel, at times, almost tortured by the void in my life.  I did not have to go so why am I concerned about it now?  The short answer is, I have no answer to that but with each movie based on facts, with each interface with a true combat seasoned veteran, with each Fourth of July, with each hand salute when I see an American flag with each time I teach my grand kids how to come to attention and render the hand salute and cut it away sharply, there is this shadow that comes over me.

Those that know me would never have a clue of any of this but I guess, in this early morning and early awakening, I felt putting my thoughts to words was, perhaps, therapeutic.  I lost so many friends in Vietnam and some that came back are no doubt living with the demons to this day.  When I lock into the combat scenes in movies and documentaries, my mind is transcends to the smell of cordite, the zing of bullets, the glistening of tracer rounds in the night, the unmistakable sound of a Claymore doing its damage, the thud of incoming mortar, that eight second delay of a grenade before explosion, the smells, the sounds .... yes, at nearly sixty-four years old I wish I had experienced it live fire but it is highly likely I would not be sitting here in my home putting these deep thoughts to a computer screen but still real, deep and yearning. Crazy?  Probably!

My brother-in-law and my sister and their daughter will be visiting us from Alabama in a few days. He and I have never really discussed his valorous experience in Vietnam that made its way to the pages of LIFE magazine. Perhaps this will be the time in our history to have that open discussion finally!  So to your soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen serving today,  please know how much and how deeply I love you for what you have given this country can never repay.  I guess that is why when I see the videos of the Occupy Whatevers, being nice here, I get so emotionally angered for they do not represent me or the fabric of this great nation but, for the most part, Occupy the 20% of society that feel the world owes them something!  The world owes them nothing.  If they want a job, contact your local recruiter; they can help you!

I will close by being glad I have put these words from my heart to  this screen. Most of my students' fathers served in Vietnam and I can tell many of them are, well, scarred in so many ways in listening to their off spring tell of a war they never knew and could really care less about. It was my war. I lost friends there. I should have gone. I did not shirk my responsiblity to serve and served well I believe.

I should have gone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Are you mad yet?

I found the article pasted below of special interest to me this morning.  Have you realized, yet, that  the natives our global village are angry?  From Johannesburg to Copehagen, from Beijing to Boston people are mad. The Occupy Thing (cannot find a better descriptor) is the tip of a festering sore for it is indicative of an angry people.  Too much government, too much debt, too much intrusiveness of regulations, too much everything ...!  So what is resulting in the "too much" litany is the crowding out of that which has made this country so great which is will, entrepreneurship and a WILL NOT BE BEATEN approach to everything as pioneers.

When I see my country sink into the same mire as countries I saw first hand in Europe with far too much entitlment programs meaning, for the most part, the government insuring that a person will be cared for from cradle to grave regardless of their real contribution to the economy and to society, it irks me greatly. For example, I was watching a TV commercial yesterday of this stupid little cartoon character telling us that even if you have $20,000 in back taxes due, they can magically get that figure down to $1,600.  My mind processed that as that is $18,400 of more taxes or borrowing to pay for some idiot that chose to not pay his or her taxes. We whine and moan about the tax structure, and each is worthy of each whine and moan no doubt, but I have this nagging sense that if people would do what they know they are supposed to do, the current tax code would probably still produce the revenues needed to fund government. The issue, then, I believe, is TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT. 

I watch the commercials about the poor Postal workers paid for by the poor Postal workers Union, telling us the problem is not theirs but the government so the government is challenged to entitle them to pay unearned and jobs protected that do not need protected.  When now over 80% of mail is junk mail, why should it be delivered on Saturday? Explain that to me, please!  The fact is that the mail system which has been around for two hundred years is refusing to accept that the internet has changed their playing field.  The game changed .... so find a new game! It really is that simple.

I have a great friend that is actively involved in the teacher union in my home state of Alabama so I have been tapping that fervor to get the union perspective of how to fix the issue. The basic response has been, well, more money is needed from the State / taxpayers.  Not a process to assess what is really needed for our future to be learning, not a systemic approach to teacher effectiveness and thus teacher removal if deemed a poor performer but more money is the fix, man!  No, it is not for like the tax issue, I am more convinced than ever that, even flawed, if enforcement of what we have in place now was reestablished, the right things would happen.  Instead, we are beckoned to throw it all out, throw more money at the problem and wish for the best. The best cannot be wished for for the best must be earned and thus deserved. 

So am I mad? I must admit Yes, I am!  Hope you are also for the train is acceleratng down the track of destruction fueled by more and more mountains of other people's money. Whomever owns your debt OWN YOU AND YOUR FUTURE. NEVER forget that! 

Technocrats and democracy

Have PhD, will govern

Nov 16th 2011, 11:20 by J.L.P. and S.C.

THE markets first welcomed, then worried about the appointment of academic economists as prime ministers of Greece and Italy. Much political commentary traced the same trajectory. But the technocratic response to the euro’s problems is only part of a wider reaction to the financial and economic crisis: in many countries, the crisis has paralysed significant parts of the political system, leading to innovations and improvisations that try to short-circuit or patch up the normal working of democracy.

Perhaps the best example of this is the so-called “super committee” in the United States. Normally, all fiscal decisions are made by Congress, with the approval of the president. But by November 23rd, a special committee made up of three Democrats and three Republicans from each house of Congress, has to slice a mammoth $1.5 trillion off the budget deficit over ten years. Congress must then vote on whatever the super committee proposes—but may only accept or reject the plan as a whole. It may not amend the plan or vote on individual items, as is usual. And if Congress rejects the package, or the super-committee fails to come up with one, then the $1.5 trillion of cuts will be imposed automatically. American politicians, despairing of their inability to reduce the deficit in normal ways, have put a gun to their own heads. There have been partial precedents in American history but nothing quite like this.

In Europe, meanwhile, technocratic prime ministers are only the highest-ranking experts being recruited to help balance budgets and reform economies. Italy not only has an economics professor as prime minister (Mario Monti), it has also agreed that the IMF should scrutinise its reform programme. Greece has accepted that a troika of the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission (the European Union’s glorified civil service) should supervise its austerity measures. So have Ireland and Portugal. Spain is an especially revealing case. On the face of it, its democracy is working as usual.

The country is due to hold an election on November 20th and, if the polls are correct, the conservative Popular Party will unseat the ruling Socialists. Yet at the same time, the current government has agreed upon a series of economic targets with the European Commission, and in practice the PP’s leader, Mariano Rajoy, will have to take these targets as a guide to policy, even if he dislikes them (which, admittedly, he doesn’t).

Ordinarily, democracies seek public support for the policies they pursue and have various ways of mobilising that support, of which elections are the most important. But there are special reasons why the ordinary processes of mobilising the public should be strained at the moment. In euro-zone countries, the currency itself is unpopular. According to a recent poll by the German Marshall Fund, a think tank, 53% of people in countries that use the euro think the single currency has been bad for their national economy, against only 40% who think it has been a net plus. It is hard to rally the public behind austerity programmes at the best of times; even harder to solicit their support for measures to bolster a currency they do not like.

Unsurprisingly, politicians have sent for outsiders to stiffen their resolve—and now have someone else to blame for the austerity measures they are imposing.

The special factor in America is the dysfunctionality of the political system. The past decade or so has seen a growing use of delaying tactics in Congress—such as the filibuster and so-called “hold” on appointments, so that decisions that were once largely formal or administrative have become mired in politicised controversy. This is the opposite of the problem in Europe, where the emergence of technocrats is supposed to make decision-making less partisan. But it is still a problem, as was seen in the disastrous wrangle over raising the national debt ceiling—an argument which ended in the downgrade of American sovereign debt. House Republicans have said they will not compromise with the president. But since the American political system requires a measure of compromise to work (and since the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives), parts of the legislative processes have almost seized up. This is likely to get worse during election year.

America and Europe share a common problem: the economic and financial crisis has discredited mainstream politicians. The right is popularly seen as the party of the rich, too close to unpopular bankers, and responsible for the financial deregulation of the 1980s which, on some accounts, was the source of all the trouble. But the left, which might have expected to have benefited from a capitalist meltdown, is no better off. Centre-left governments, at least in Britain and America, are also compromised by their earlier friendliness to finance and the left is seen as having been profligate, running up the debts that austerity is now needed to rein in. The result is that whereas in the early years of the crisis, the left was doing better in America and the right better in Europe (an echo of the 1930s), now there seems no pattern, except growing opposition to incumbents.

The Democrats won in America in 2008, while conservatives won in Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands in 2010. But America’s forthcoming elections are anyone’s guess. By most opinion polls, the favourability ratings for both big American parties, as well as for Congress, have reached record lows while opposition to congressional incumbents are at all-time highs (and rising). In Europe this year, the left won the Danish election and the French Socialists are ahead of the incumbent president, but the Spanish right is ahead of the ruling Socialists.

Exhaustion with the normal process of party politics explains why technocrats are being brought in. Usually, democracies are better at dealing with financial crises than autocracies because they are seen as fair. Elected politicians can distribute the pain of austerity without losing legitimacy because people (it is hoped) will accept tough reforms that are seen as legitimate. But if all the main parties are complicit in causing a crisis, the public may not accept solutions from any of them. Then, the system needs to find alternatives unblemished by the disastrous decisions of the past-and technocrats fit the bill.

But therein lies a danger. Almost by definition, technocrats command respect rather than popularity: they tend especially to drive the far left and right further to the extremes. And at the moment, the only politicians who are unquestionably thriving are those outside the mainstream already. Gerd Wilders’s populist Freedom party leapt to third in the Dutch election in 2010 and is now running second in the polls. Its Austrian equivalent, also called the Freedom party, is running neck and neck with the ruling party, while France’s National Front stands to do well in next year’s elections. As always, America is different. But the rise of the Tea Party Movement and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations suggests that frustration with established parties is a growing force there, too. The rise of the “occupy” crowd, evicted from their Zucotti park site in New York in the early hours of November 15th, is especially important because its members are motivated by concern about social and income inequalities.

Technocrats may be good at saying how much pain a country must endure, how to make its debt level sustainable or how to solve a financial crisis. But they are not so good at working out how pain is to be distributed, whether to raise taxes or cut spending on this or that group, and what the income-distribution effects of their policies are. Those are political questions, not technocratic ones. And they will not go away just because a technocrat has been made prime minister.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dreams ...

The whole concept of dreams has always left me in awe. When I read of how many times God would speak to people through dreams, I cannot escape wondering if that is still not the case today for us at times.  It is just after 0400 on a Sunday morning and so very bright outside with the full moon.  I awoke from a most interesting dream that has so affected me but not in a bad way.

In this mental movie, I am in a cramped airplane seat next to the window and the ride is very bumpy with lights dimming and then back to bright with this sense of doom on the filled flight.  However, my mind is not at all caught up in that worry for there is this man and his wife, older than I, sitting near me.  She is wearing a bright red dress and both are smiling longingly at each other. It is, well, sweet and poignant in the midst of the impending doom the others while I and the couple are allowed on this island of joy for a few fleeting moments.  I did not know them but knew they were the parents of a student I had had recently or perhaps the parents of a dear friend killed in Vietnam that I have often wondered how life has gone for them since their son, my best friend, was taken from us all at eighteen years old.

Cramped in my seat and clutched in my hands due to the shaking aircraft, I am taking plastic collar stays out of a small hard plastic container they usually are sold in.  These strips are white but with statements or sayings laser printed on them.  One of sayings I am looking at reads, "the best two things that ever happened to me was you (the wife) and my Chevrolet.  I look up and see the man and realize he is dead yet sort of like a mist with the brightest smile.  I am taken with the warmth and sincerity of his smile for he is speaking to his wife through his words on the plastic strips and through me as the reader of these strips to his wife. 

I can tell they are so in love and she is so sad, now, but with this glowing smile as the departed husband has returned to tell her special little things he had failed to express while he was alive and together.  Their smile at each other was breathtaking, so warm and so intent for I knew that was the only remnant of a long time together; the smile! Then I realized I was crying one of those very hard, deep cries yet constrained to be the best I could be for this couple as the plane apparently angles toward destruction in this storm.  There are dozens of the white strips in the plastic case. My tears woke me!

Now Freud would probably have a field day with that scenario and that dream could well be ash heaped like the thousands of dreams I have had in my life.  I dream a great deal and always have but this one was, well, unique in some many ways. The fact I remember so vividly is what is most significant.  Just now as I write this, a train is passing close by, fitting I guess, and the lonesome sound of the quieted whistle seems appropriate to my mood right now.

Why the plane, the plastic strips, the detachment from the rest of the passengers were feeling in their panic while I and these two people I did not even really know were somehow extracted from that chaos to have a few shared last moments with each other via me reading sayings from the departed husband to his long time bride?  Guess that will be unanswerable but what is has done is pushed me into the mental nature and assessment of my own life that departed man was feeling as his time with his bride was apparently fleeting. 

I saw only warmth, joy, love and fulfillment with two people in the midst of a crashing world. Wow! And I was allowed to be part of it, Double Wow!  And the tears that were flowing were tears of joy that they were given those last few moments together for him to share, through me in those strips, words he wanted to have expressed to her during their life together.

The application ... I have no clue professionally what it might mean and perhaps nothing is one answer.  Yet as my wife and I race toward forty-one years together and we are both busy with our lives, our work, our church, our family, the dream has alerted me that none of that qualifies as a valid excuse for hours and days of busied silence between two people God joined four decades ago.   There are, I realize sitting here this morning, a million things (strips) of dialog that have grown dusty or rusty from non-use or buried in the recesses of the, I Should Have Told Her This bin before it is too late.  I sit here realizing that to most people in my world, I am pretty open about my thoughts and opinions and ideas but within my own family and with my wife I am not as open and free flowing in my expressions (the strips) so the question, what are you doing with your strips or are you writing them onto a piece of plastic, storing them for "one day" before that plane does crash and somebody like me in the dream is taking out each strip to read to Alicia for me?

This weekend, and it is only early  Sunday morning,  I have learned of a divorce of two dear friends my wife and I went through our early lives together with in junior high and high school.  This week we have learned of a young man that has come forth to openly explain a life of sexual abuse by a "friend" that has scarred him for life.  This week I have found myself dealing with a problem student in striving to give this young man one possibly last chance to learn to work with others and to enhance his own self image all of this in an environment of anger and frustration with those around him. I had to try once more before his "plane" crashed. This morning at church will be three students of mine attend from discussions God has provided that has opened up a gateway to the importance of having good people around you in a spiritual environment; I could not be more happy about this this morning in a few hours. I got to spend a full day with two of my grandchildren Friday going to a really stupid movie, eating way too much popcorn but loving every moment with these nine year old and six year old precious gifts God has presented me. So my life is rich and so taken for granted I realized with my dream.

So you are probably thinking I have finally lost my mind or he is just tired or whatever your diagnosis of the dream, the fact is that I have been convicted by the strips of how much I do not say to the person I have been with since we were twelve years old.  Never did I deserve her, never was I good enough for her, so many times I have taken her for granted, disappointed her and not been as transparent with my life with her as I should have been been.   I have far too many "strips" in my plastic case that need to be said earnestly and tenderly before we are that airborne husband, now departed I realize, and his bride swelled with love and glowing with the words he always wanted to tell her but could now through me as I read the strips.

So I guess my blog today qualifies as a love letter to my Bride.  So her Groom via this message to my friends is a commitment or a recommitment to throw the strips away and just say to her what I want to say and realize she longs to hear from me as she is blissfully sleeping now that it is almost 0500.  So many people in my life and I realize each of them has brush stroked their unique color on my painting, my life.  Combat veterans scarred physically and emotionally, abused men and women by spouses and boy friends / girl friends,  students from dysfunctional families that feel nobody cares for or about them that flow into my life and roll around like sand in the ocean of my life. With each of those grains of sand I realize I give more time and energy to others in seeking to help, to ease, to lift than I do the woman of my youth! 

I need to end this but what is the essence of my thoughts still so vivid this morning from that dream?  I suppose the real nugget is to assess what is really important in your life through the lens of those placed around you that truly love you and care for you and want the very best for you. And then  go about finding ways to express your love, your appreciation in colors or hues of realness and not assumptions or smoke signals.  Commit when you read this to finding three people in your life that mean more to your life, that real you, than any other and in words, not strips, why they qualify as one of those three, please! 

Change begins with that first step so make that first step in your own aircraft banging through life on a crash trajectory worthy of the people most impacting on your life.  Today that will be my wife, my daughter and my son.  Tomorrow will be three more and then the next tomorrow.  In other words, throw the strips away and use the words with the person before your plane takes its death rattle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sex! Do I have your attention? Yup, believe I do

I have been dazzled, overwhelmed, sickened and amazed about that always controversial topic that has been splashed on every TV screen around the world, has chewed up mountains of blogosphere missives but in the midst of it all, it has caused me to take pause to, yet again, reflect.  Berlusconi, Cain,  Sandusky, Paterno, Lohan, Moe, Larry and Curly (those are the Three Stooges for my younger readers) are part of the recipe of a world seemingly gone sexually and scandalously mad.  So you must but ask yourself about how can something given by a loving God as a gift to His creation be made so cheap and sickening?

I have, as many of you, watched the two accusers of Mr. Cain and then watched his lawyer-led defense and found myself at first angry, then accepting his premise of non-guilt but then rationalizing that the numbers of those adding kindling to this fire, the four, at least, have to surely be the source of a real fire somewhere in this man's past!  I felt he did an admirable job before the cameras but then the pundits were already disassembling what he really said and did not say before the camera lights cooled so a whole new set of thoughts were unleashed. 

As I sit here still in the morning yet unlit with the sun, true or not true, how true or not true the matter is, there has to be some shred of truth to it, the sexual whatever you wish to call it for there has some root structure of truth.  So I guess the question is begged, do we expect too much of our politicians when it comes to morality, perseverance, honor?  My very quick answer is absolutely not! I do not think we hold them to a high enough standard.

Every man, if normal, has found himself doing self examination of his own life when these TV lights splash on the shores of questioning a man's integrity and I think that a good thing, really!  Sex, like technology, is both a gift and a burden much like pushing that rock of the hill.  You learn early that three things sell; sex, kids, and animals.  Think about that in your commercial review of your favorites and realize that most commercial marketing use one or more of those three to get the message of creating the perception of need planted into your brains, right?

Never will I forget being in Europe during most of the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky debacle the impeachment hearings I watched on black and white, small screen TV in a hotel room in Slovenia and being both intrigued by the process but sickened by my national image being demeaned.  But was further amazed to realize the nationals I was dealing with were actually more angry at Congress for going after the US President for that behavior is so normal in their cultures. Was amazed and baffled at the same time; still am!

So my mind, this morning, has come to rest on the banks of the river of boundaries.  Life without boundaries is life in chaos.  A prima dona I claim not to be nor should any of us. As a professor working with men and women every day,  I am still awed by the vital nature of establishing boundaries in behaviors, expectations and demands for performance.  There will always be someone that will seek to infringe across a boundary that once crossed can never been returned to its original standing. Can I get a witness?  So establishing boundary markers in life and then holding to them regardless of motivation, perceived need, etc are vital to the order of life in a society.

So the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, while a commodity in today's hyper-connected, sex-driven, celebrity-inspired world is now more "normal", the fact is that we are bound by a common code and DNA and that is the Adamic sin nature from Eden.  We know it, it is there, it must be controlled at all cost for the collateral damage to friends, family, reputations and lives is immeasurable when that boundary marker is forsaken.  Please know that I am certainly not preaching down to anyone for we all wrestle and struggle with this matter daily but in the struggle, strength is gained or lost with the choice isn't it?

I will close by stating from the depths of my heart that I have felt and feel daily the gravity of respect that is so vital as a professor, a singer, a follower of Christ,  a husband, a father, a grandfather to know the boundaries, live within those boundaries and guard against encroachment across those boundaries by outside forces.  Mind you this is easy to write about but not always easy to maintain. 

As stated above, sex, like technology, has a good purpose and utilization as does technology.  So when we are bombarded by the media hype of accusers, defenders, lawyers, etc, integrate and assess your own principles and boundary markers that keep your own personal life moving forward. So today when that big Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil jumps up in front of you, admire its beauty, marvel at its creation but step beyond it for many are watching.  Who would have thought the sparkle of Joe Paterno would be tarnished in his mid-eighties but tarnished it is.

Seek daily to live a life before God and before Man that is blameless, clean and holy.  Writes easy but not always lived out as easily is it?  But, as has been said many times, life is a choice so choose well! Why, because those that are of most importance to your life and to your testimony are vigilant in their observance of your actions much more than mere words.   I am reminded of an old Christianism

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sabre rattling!

Friday morning my daughter calls with this pained tone to her voice asking, "Pops, is it true that Israel is going to bomb Iran? ..."  To say that that statement was a bit rattling to me coming from my daughter would be an understatement.  However, if you have been around me much in the last three years, you have probably heard me speak to this very subject for it has cataclysmic implication.

As the Arab Spring turned into Arab Summer and now into Arab Autumn, I thought that has never been too far from my mind is a simple question ... why has Israel remained so low profile and seemingly disassociated with the Arab whatevers?  It certainly is out of the norm for Israel to remain "dormant" militarily on any opportunity as we have witnessed even in Biblical days but as recently as the three Arab wars of 1967, 1970 and 1973.  In this context,  I have made the further assertion that I would bet my teeth America has "mortgaged the farm" in a host of ways to keep Israel in the low profile, non aggressive mode with so much opportunity abounding around her.  I still think that to be the case!

Iran is, well, the force in the region with huge oil reserves, nuclear power with belief that that power is being turned into bomb grade plutonium (I agree) but with a faltering economy, a firebrand president and dominated by a theocratic cleric that seems to serve as the saucer of coolness to keep the Iranian president somewhat at bay. Somewhat! But it is that same president that has publicly touted the strategy to have Israel removed from the map so that makes him and thus Iran a powerful ignition cap to a regional and probably a multi-regional military intervention.  The potential of such an aggressive posture is immeasurable.  Iran must, at some point, be dealt with either, and hopefully through, diplomatic channels or or and / or military force.

So here is my concern at this juncture .... the US military is stretched, exhausted and costing too much to maintain for the economic engines to feed that need are running on very few cylinders which is our GDP growth; tepid is an understatement.  So should military intervention be the hammer for the Iranian nail, we would end up borrowing billions additional of dollars from China to fight in a regional war. Hum, really makes you sick, doesn't it?

Now then there is NATO that has fought a valiant (tongue in cheek) air campaign in Libya which is much like the 82nd Airborne taking on Dover, OH and now that the NATO stand down, declaration of victory, has begun, NATO has now formed a circular firing squad and are firing away at each other for glory, spoils, etc. NATO --- for me is the post WWII joke of the 21st century. So I doubt, therefore, NATO a viable intervention force should hostilities unleash on / in Iran.

So, America is a weak sister, NATO is sick ugly cousin, so what does that leave the world to calm this intervention with global implication?  Also, as I have spoken about many times because of my many times in Turkey and feel a sense of knowing the Turkish culture to some degree, I believe Turkey can become an Islamic force. But wait, let us not forget they ONLY major economy on earth now with actual cash assets which is China as a major economic, political and, I believe, military player on the world's map boards!  China is showing projection, force forward, tremendous naval buildup with air assets so one cannot ignore China as a player in our new century. So from my chair as the sun hides on the horizon of a beautiful day, I have this sense that we will see Turkey and China work more energetically in the entire Arab region.  Why? They both have money and political capital and large military force structures. 

So to my daughter, I told her I did not see anything in the near term with Israel having to fly over much territory and unfriendly airspace to lash out at Iran even though there is no doubt that there are many scenarios on the walls of Israel's war machine to accomplish just that.  Think about this.  Go get a map of the Middle Eastern region and see what Israel would have to do, geographically, to assault with air asset Iran meaning an eastern thrust.  First, there is no friendly air space for Israel to use for refueling, Command & Control, etc.  BUT, if you look North, you see Eastern Turkey up there with Incirlik air base with already existing US military infrastructure that could possibly be the C&C point for a southward assault into Iran from the North. Just sayin!

So Turkey is a player, major player with a free market economy, a democratic government, strong alliances in the Middle East and Europe and with the US. Turkey is a player. China, cash rich, colonial minded is, well a player.  Turkey and China have very good relations. So Turkey and China are players; players now with the clout to create kinetic force forward or calming. They are players as America and the EU are, well,  lesser players in our new century.

Interesting world isn't it?