Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Through the Rearview

Good morning on this cold and very snowy day in Northeast Ohio.  Have had three of our grand kids overnight and they are playing quietly now so got to thinking about this year as it ends today.  With all the intrigue, mystery and worry about the "junk" still playing out in Washington, what a joke, my mind drilled into the events of our 2012 and I am left with a smile.
From my teaching perspective, it was another great year of taking hundreds of young minds out of Plato's Cave to a new reality.  I love watching the process of Jim, Inc, provide real life, real time work experience in getting the course work done in teams. I thrive on watching leadership blossom in these young team leaders having to utilize skills they did not realize they had to bring the team's productivity to a new water level and enjoying the journey.
The time working with jail inmates continues to be an amazing blessing that still, well, amazes me. Never in my life could I have imagined God would open up such a ministry to me and that after almost ten years and thousands of inmates, find great joy in the work. I have heard hundreds of sermons delivered in a myriad of ways and have learned so much about Scripture from the array of preachers that come to do their work with these men and women that have made really bad choices. I have seen the power of a song touch a hardened heart or a scared soul and watched big, strong, angry men melt into tears but all the time trying to muffle and shield their emotions from those around them. I have seen the Hand of God change lives. That is what I get to do!
The five grand kids have grown so much in so many ways.  Right now Noah and Gracie are enjoying taking timed math tests; amazing. Hoppie, Ms Africa, has displayed a love of "rapping" to the top of her lungs in her unique dance and glowing smile for Grammy and Poppy.  She is such a blessed addition to our family.
Our love for our church, The Canton Baptist Temple, has continued to grow exponentially during this year. Never have we been in a church where missions are so stressed and giving such an integral part of the worship experience. With each met financial goal, I still get excited knowing the fellowship will meet and surpass the goal established.  My appreciation and respect I hold for my pastor, Mike Frazier, has grown yet stronger as I have watched him manage a big, complex organization with love, humility and respect.  We love our church family!  My ABF teacher, Dave Sabaka, is simply amazing in his unique ability to teach God's Word in such a powerful way week after week. 
So on this last day of 2012, with all the craziness of a world seemingly teetering on disaster financially, politically, economically, societally, I am assured all over again the we serve a risen Savior, that He is in the world today for I know that He is living no matter what Man may say. See, I see His hand of mercy and I hear His voice of cheer and for sure, just the time I need Him, HE IS ALWAYS NEAR. How do I know this? He lives! He Lives! Christ Jesus lives today for He walks with me and He talks with me and that is all I need to know, all I need  to understand and all I need to really care about, right?
We wish you a very Happy 2013.  We will see loss. We will see new. We will see old. We will see things and people pass away for that is the cycle of life. Knowing that, then, it is for each of us to be spiritually ready.  As I will hit the big 65 in March, I do not dread that but embrace that benchmark as a gift God has granted me to remain on this earth for more service. Wow!
I wish you all the very best but as I tell my students, your best begins with a choice on your part to give your all and your best as an investment knowing that investment will be rewarded with dividends beyond measure.  Invest yourself!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cliffs, Whiffs and Sniffs ... and it is SNOWING!

As the snow wafts through the trees laying another coating of beautiful white fluff atop several inches of snow from two days ago, the gentleness of snow cleans my eyes with the sheer intrigue of snow.  It is a portrait of God's creation made prettier with the covering of white. I do love it!

As we enter this New Years weekend, much talk is about averting the Fiscal Cliff.  My only comment will be that I have no doubt the Cliff will be with us for several months if this Congress's performance the entire time they have been in session is any indication.  There might be some band- aid can to kick down the road but the reality is that the United States will enter a deep recession due to loss of confidence by global markets and investors in the fiscal viability of America. 

Never in my life have I been convinced that the 535 Members of Congress and the President of the United States should be summarily impeached or forced to resign with no pay, no pension, no benefits for they simply have not performed. They even admit it themselves as of this morning so why not hold them accountable as a business owner would do to an under performing employee?  We have been failed as an American People by these elected people!

But more, much more importantly, my family entered this weekend with a Family affair last evening with all eleven of the herd here at our house for pizza and then downstairs, all in our pajamas, to watch The Grinch That Stole Christmas on our 55 inch flat screen and all in pitch darkness but for the TV lighting.  The grandkids played and watched, laughed and played, snuggled and kissed; yes, a great night of Family. I realized in that time of watching the macro view of last evening, just how vital Family is to the human existence.  Families are built upon boundaries for boundaries define the rights and wrongs of direction. 

My wife and I have just finished our morning devotional and coincidentally, today's Our Daily Bread is about boundaries. Joe Stowell writes:

In all the years I’ve worked with people, I’ve yet to meet someone whose life was all messed up because he or she kept God’s commands. Yet, in a day when personal freedom is celebrated as an inalienable right, talk of conforming our lifestyle to God’s ways is often viewed as an infringement. And anyone who speaks out in favor of God’s boundaries is ruled out of bounds. But in this frenzy to be free, it should not go unnoticed that our society is increasingly marked with a haunting sense of meaninglessness and despair.

God’s people should have a distinctly different view of boundaries. Like the psalmist, we must realize that a blessed life comes from delighting in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2)—not in living like those who “walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take” (v.1 niv). A believer in Jesus will recognize that God’s boundaries are not meant to take the pizazz out of life. Instead, they are divine fences constructed with God’s wisdom to help us avoid the treachery and trouble of reckless living.

Next time you are tempted to break through God’s boundaries, remember His loving purpose in putting up fences. Choose to bless God for the boundaries and for the way they bless you.

What freedom lies with all who choose
To live for God each day!
But chains of bondage shackle those
Who choose some other way. —D. DeHaan
God’s fences keep you within the bounds of His blessings.
As the snow continues to gently fall but after the devotional, I am lifted by the words of Mr.Stowell.  Being politically correct is not a boundary marker. The very mess we are witnessing in Washington perfectly examples that. The issues of same sex marriage, abortion, escalating murders, sexual perversions on every had, ever increasing divorce rates, etc, etc; all example the antithesis of exactly what the Bible and Mr. Stowell addressed to each of us.  I believe one thing we can all agree on is the depth of the vileness of Man cannot be assessed for with each terrible example we can know we but need to wait a few more days and something else even worse will be ushered into our lives via the media.
I will close by a return to our founding as a nation and thus how far we continue to venture from those principles.  When you stop and realize via the writings of those men that risked everything including their lives to draft a Declaration on Independence, a Constitution and a Bill of Rights, all of those structural documents for the new Union were filled with references to an Almighty God and seeking His divine guidance and sovereignty. Today, more and more American thumb their nose and scoff at even a hint of God in anything such as our classrooms.
See, I cry when I hear the National Anthem, I salute when I see the flag, I shake hands and salute military veterans and feel tears one step later. I am a goof and I know it. I love my country. I love knowing men and women will commit their lives to protecting me from the evils of people that hate me because I live in America. I get very angry when I see Godless politicians, actors, talking heads dispute and demean the very existence of that same God upon which this nation was founded. I believe America is getting exactly what America has sought; distance from that same God and that is both scary and horrific. I believe God saved my soul and the souls of my family. I believe, therefore, my family will be joined again in Heaven so we can spend eternity together. I believe Jesus came to this earth, lived, died a horrible death for me.  I believe this "mess" is fixable if and only if this nation makes a dramatic return to that same God.
So it is far less about fiscal cliffs, school shootings, PTSD, abortions, etc, but more about tears of joy in knowing a person has brought Jesus into his or her heart which serves then as a prism for a life serving Jesus.   I realized all of this as my family through the noise of kids at play, listening to the kids talk to each other in their own unique communication systems, as we laughed, told stories, shared experiences around cheap pizza; I felt proud, humbled and honored. As I prayed the blessing on the meal last night , I almost could not finish it for tears welling up in me as Poppy prayed for my family and for thankfulness for one more time together.  Yes, the tears are back just reading this!
Find somebody you love this day and hug them, love them, show them you really, really care.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What a Difference a Week Makes

This nation, this People, this World have witnessed a week of major emotional shifts with the dividend yet to be determined.  Just one week ago the world was left shaken by the slaughter in Newtown.  That event seemed to unleash an array of seemingly disconnected events even up through late yesterday afternoon that has left many Americans angry, stunned and long for the sun to rise on a new and more defined horizon.  I am one of those Americans that has been bounced around emotionally with the unfolding of the horrific events but made more frustrated in reading threads to posts on FB that examples the frustration on both sides of an issue launched by the shootings.
Some of the events that have become eclectic in nature but seem to oddly co-join in some off key song or a movie that is blurred to the viewer, begins with the unfolding wrongs as reported just one week ago in that quiet little affluent town nobody in my world ever heard of as the media was driven to make rhyme from reason and blew it so badly but with millions of Americans strapped to the "Breaking News" of CNN and other networks. All we knew was carnage was yet again sprung on a weary Americana.  My second or third thought, when I realized generally what had happened, was about how the Charlton Hestons, (the NRA), would react.  The reaction, though later and muted, was pretty much what I thought. The "fix"for future Newtowns was, of course, more guns. LUDICROUS!
That Hillary is too sick to testify on her role, or lack thereof, on the Benghazi murders for we all know Mrs. Clinton is seeking now, with her departure from the State Department, to remain cleansed of any wrong as she begins her 2016 POTUS launch.  Then there is the John Kerry nomination to replace Hillary at State; Mr. Kerry has proven himself untrustworthy, a dove in military matters, a pure politician that defines the term "arrogant."  It it interesting how Susan Rice was, in essence, thrown under the Obama Bus so political injury and intrigue continues; thus the way of America in Washington.  It is interesting that in the last few years I have had several approach me about considering venturing into politics as an elected person.  So my question, why on earth would a sane, normal human wish to do that?  Even that sentence is an abomination for public service should be noble and sought for but not as a lifetime journey I believe.
Last evening as the world waited for POTUS to address a news conference on the Fiscal Cliff situation, I picked up a most interesting tidbit about Boehner's blown Plan B counter to the steamroller Plan A for the Fiscal Cliff due to Boehner's  inability to rally enough support within the Republican caucus to even bring Plan B to the floor. That tidbit was that most of his caucus had already departed Washington for Christmas.  From that moment I cared less about what Obama might say, which was in essence another political utterance, but was washed with anger on how these elected officials, rats from the sinking ship metaphor was clear, had the gall to simply go home. 
From my career experience with Goodyear and in the military, the thoughts of running somewhere to avoid accountability was never an option nor even a thought.  At that moment my blood rain cold on the entire Republican Party; a Party I have always aligned with philosophically.  The Republicans have shown the world, beginning with Romney, that they have lost their way and that the template since WWII is broken.  This is a leadership issue. The scary part for me is that there is a need for a two-party system but with one Party now publicly neutered under Boehner's poor leadership, the other Party, in essence, has free reign to continue to borrow more to spend more to push government into even more crevices of Americans lives.
All of this, and more, in the span of one week; Wow! And oh, by the way, the world did not end!  My hopes and beliefs about this world are more rooted in the words of my Bible than in Washington, Columbus, Mayans, Rush, POTUS or Bubba on the street.  It seems our world has lost its way which is because our world has lost its way. It is a very dangerous world with too many nukes and weapons of mass destruction and far too many religious nutcases roaming the streets of our world.  But I know a Man who can calm, can soothe, can sleep in the midst of any storm and make that storm evaporate with the power of a word.  There will be those that will scoff or even snarl at my words but here is where I will close. As we enter the Christmas season, let us all seek to remember the real reason for the season and no, Wal-Mart is not it.  The Holy birth of the Christ child that only through that child gave the world, Man, the means to secure a home in glory. My home and my family's home is secured so all this mangle of frustration is just noise at the airport before departure.
I do want to thank you for the many comments from so many of you to my blog. I still cannot believe I have entered into the blogosphere but even my wife reads it!  I want to wish you the best for this season. I know many that receive this are dealing with many, varied personal issues and within their families but please know, I appreciate each and every one of you more than you can begin to imagine.  God is Good!  Those are not three words but rather a statement of absoluteness. I can anchor to that for the world is screaming for an anchor that will hold in the midst of the storms of our world.   Be blessed!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Biden the new Gun Czar

This last week has been simply terrible for far too many Americans with the shock of the killings in Connecticut.  When things like this, this magnitude, happens, my mind will take me to a "stand off" mental location to watch the events to see how the pieces begin to come to together.  My high school basketball coach taught me to look "off the ball" meaning to watch the flow of the whole game. Nobody is better at that than LeBron James if you stay with the basketball analogy.

We all watched with horror as this unfolded and listened to the media piecing together bits of information in trying to knit a picture which, with facts, proved to be mostly wrong.  I can assume we now have the story of what actually happened in this disaster of mega proportion.  The thing I have watched in my "looking off the ball" approach to understanding is how the population of our nation has split into camps on how to "fix" this awful thing.

The two camps, basically, are those that want to focus on the guns and the other camp is the need to focus on the mental health issues.  I know in an initial FB post which I posted to stick my toe in the water to test the push back from the then silent NRA to see how strong their conviction on taking no responsibility nor position on this debacle would be triggered, as expected, rather caustic responses by NRA members.  Images of Moses (Charlton Heston) and this grip on the rifle where his hands have to be pull off at his death floated through my head.

The capper for me was the POTUS comments Sunday evening at the Newtown meeting.  In watching our Leader articulate calmly, and I want to believe sincerely, the role of Chief Soother becomes yet another lightning rod was evidence of the state of poison that exists in our political nation.  As I stated, I did not nor would I vote for him but his role is crucial in times of disaster and I thought his words at the time were sincere and soothing to a nation hurting.  Then the media triggered, of course, much like the piecing together, wrongly, of the bigger story as the shootings unfolded, around POTUS real meeting in his comments Sunday night on doing something to make this go away. The NRA, at that time, is still in silence.  You know, perhaps silence might have been the right elixir but time will tell!

But the real capper for me was when I learned POTUS had placed Biden, as the leader of the changes to be made whatever they may be so from that moment, any modicum of credibility POTUS had established in me, which is not easy to do, were dashed on the rocks of politics.  Biden has less credibility than anyone in Washington. For me, if POTUS was really serious, he could have and perhaps should have selected the president of the NRA to take on this role.  Remember what we learned from the Godfather; "keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer?" 

I hate to even hint that the gun lobby is the "enemy" but I think it obvious just from my own personal toe testing of the water that gun owners feel it is fine to have high calibre, military-style weaponry to shoot squirrels and rabbits supposedly. Just don't understand that!  Then very quickly defense of the "right to bear arms" is tossed up as the real defense by the Second Amendment.  I will write more on that one later.

Then the camp of dealing with mental illness reared its head as the real culprit. I certainly cannot discount that for that is an area I know nothing about but see the affects of it in many ways in my work in jails and prisons. It is horrific and I fully agree more time and money must be invested. But the issue is the combining to the two camps meaning arming up of mentally deranged people; a true disaster looking to happen!  But one thing I know .. Biden is absolutely incapable of leading anything but then, what do presidents do in times of turmoil? They appoint a commission or issue a proclamation which usually leads to more staff, more paper destruction and more nothing in action which is very sad.

So I will close this for now with a sense of trying to "look off the ball" to understand what is really happening. I am not sure any of us know for the hurt is still so real and near.  Here is what I know ... this is an American matter and we have some very bright people in this nation.  I also know government does not fix anything well or quickly but patience and leadership is needed now and not kneejerk reaction to this terrible disaster. My greater concern, frankly, is a copycat nutjob will see the need to pull another one of these disasters before schools are out for Christmas.  So I will close now with that last sentence ... we need Christ in this nation more than ever before!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Collateral Shifting

As I was winding up my last class last evening in a debrief of the semester experience, in my closing remarks after some rich discussion for over an hour, I chose to speak to the mandate of the 80/20 Rule Pareto postulated rightly many years ago.  This semester, the four classes, for an array of reasons, were each more challenging to get the teams organized and up and running than any previous semester.  It still puzzles me, frankly, for my concern is that the array of issues encountered are potentially reflective of the greater population and if so, then my concern for the future decision makers and leaders has increased.
In speaking about the lessons learned from the semester experience and how the 20%-ers that impede the progress and productivity of the teams, a dot connected at a very personal level that I chose to share to make my point.  The overarching point is that in business, the work must get done.  Getting it done is made smoother when all the oars are in the water and the rhythm is established but if one set of oars is out of the water or out of the time sequence, the whole team is slowed in its performance.  To sharpen this reality I shared the following very personal story as an analogy.
In April of 1990 while living in Luxembourg at aged 42 years old, I played a heavy duty basketball game of fathers against the American International School's varsity basketball team. I had longed for that annual event the whole season with mind working each Saturday morning watching games formulating how to beat this bunch of eighteen year olds.  Finally on a cold 7 April morning, that time for battle came and it came with a vengeance.  I was transposed to my college playing days but not my college playing physical conditioning.  We beat that team and I had a superb scoring and rebounding game, running backwards up and down the floor, blocking shots, intimidating those "children."  Yes, life was good for there is sweet savor in victory.
The game is over, the applause is sweet but I knew something was not right for I could not seem to cool off and was sweating profusely.  For some reason I felt this need to exit the gym while an awards ceremony was underway by excusing myself to go to the rest room.  My brain was processing that if I could physically lay on the cold tile of the rest room, my body would cool and cease the sweating.  Well, you can guess that my body did not cool but only worsened.  A student was in the restroom and saw me and all I could think of was to keep him calm, not to bolt and starting telling anybody for I knew this would go away.  He did remain very calm and collected.  That coolness on his part helped me to calm down.  As an aside, that young man is named Laurent Weber and we are on FB so as I did earlier this week, want to thank him via this blog for his cool calmness when others would have went goofy.
The very short story is that I was, in fact, experiencing what is called a myocardial infarction, a heart attack due to a clogged artery on the back side of my heart in the right coronary artery. After so many years of playing basketball, the military, work pressure, etc, I soon learned that the small crook in that artery was there at birth but the game expenditure of energy probably broke loose a small piece of plaque that clogged the artery thus the text book definition of an infarction.  Yes I was transported to a local Luxembourg city hospital and so you can know, all was and is well with me to this day. No surgery, no heavy meds; just the memories but each is crystal clear in my brain of that cold day, the thrill of victory, the fear of not knowing, the weight of concern for my family in a foreign land, the doctors none of which spoke my language but were all exceptional; yes very memorable.
That is my story but to the point of my blog today and the 80/20 conundrum. One thing you learn when a major organ is affected in your body, you get very interested in that organ and exhaust much in learning about it.  The heart has a most unusual process God built into the organ and that system is called "collateral shifting."  You see, the heart is surrounded or wrapped in a cardialc sac that is supplied oxygenated blood via large and small veins that course the cardiac muscle.  When anything happens to slow or stop the flow of the rich oxygenated blood flow, an infarction, the heart immediately begins a process of cutting a new pathway around the area of the infarction to ensure the blood flood is maintained. It is simply amazing when you stop and think of the amazing creation of the human organism and the safeguards God created.
See, a team, a family, an organization must establish a singular heartbeat as it crafts its very unique culture.  Once the culture is established, the fatigue factor of the culture in minimized as the productivity becomes the norm.  However, if a 20% er, the infarction, remains, the  organization, the heart, must work harder and harder to maintain blood flow to the muscle, the team.  When that happens, in teams, the members dedicated to the journey begin automatically to collaterally shift processes and system to ensure the team, the heart, returns to its normal run rate of productivity. I hope that analogy is as clear to you as it is to me.
As this semester is now wrapped up with submission of my fourth and final class grades earlier today, much as been learned by the students, the teams and especially the leaders. I have heard and read volumes of feedback in the debrief sessions this week and personal profile essays written to me by each student about themselves to support the reality of the above analogy. My challenge to each of my students past and present is to seek ways to ignite what we have learned and experienced together into an active mode in their personal and professional lives. Like a foreign language once learned, if you keep using it you will never lose it but stop using and the loss of that language comes very quickly.
This has been a blessed journey this semester. It has not all been good but it has all be a part of a great journey and what an honor to get to lead that journey for these dozens of great minds. What a blessing!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Like Sands Through the Hour Glass

Good morning on this still dark, rainy Saturday morning.  I awoke this morning with much on my mind and in my heart.  I guess the best analogy for me in seeking to understand what my brain is so jammed with is the hour glass in watching the gravity pulled sand drop ever downward signifying for me the reality of  time in its onward march.  This week has been a week of many highs and a few lows which is true for most of us. 

As my semester is now completed but for the final exams next week, I feel both release and sadness knowing I will not see many of these 160 students ever again. We have come a journey together and on that journey I have seen yet gain growth, maturity, learning and cohesion become an impregnable force in the learning process. I have seen teams learn to work together even when some of the members may or may not like each other but have seen yet again that team-based performance will always yield better, richer performance results.  I have also been reminded all over again that the 80/20 rule is real, tangible and always at play for in any population, you will have 80% that will not create issues, get the work done and excel while that remaining 20% will create the issues and more importantly, will cause the leader to have to devote 80% of his or her time that should be devoted to improving the 80% performance instead spending 80% of the leader's time dealing with the issues created by the 20%.  That is why determining, surfacing and eliminating the 20% of an organization is the greatest opportunity for an effective leader. I believe this in my heart as to my students as they have worked through  a semester journey.

I must admit that the decision to take a semester off from teaching in the Spring has a bitter sweetness for me. I am really mentally very tired and know I need to time away to recharge and decompress; I know that. But the reality of not touching dozens of lives via my Jim, Inc teaching process that I know produces phenomenal results for the lives and minds of my students leaves me feeling like a hole is in my belly.  I also, and most importantly, realize this is God's work I do and thus if my teaching should close permanently, He will find new doors of ministry for me to focus on. So it is all in God's Hands, of course.  It is actually exciting to wait and see what God will open for me to do and it could be a broadened role in jail ministry or perhaps music or perhaps a trapeze artist or, wait, I am losing my mind! Smile.

Here is what I know: I love my life even when the disappointments come; and they do. I know when the evil hand of sin touches my family or my extended family in my students, I know my  heart aches to pray that person through the dire straits and just this week this has been tested powerfully in my student family. To be an instrument that is fueled by my God is simply humbling and exhilarating when the effects of the evil are brought to submission before a Loving God.

This will be a busy weekend of preparation for the Christmas musical and drama production next weekend at my church. I highly recommend you trying to attend one of these for you will be blessed. Basketball games with my grand kids, a full day of events at church, etc, etc; God is so good.

I cannot close without mentioning an affirmation of God's presence and place in our lives.  This week has been a set of unusual issues for Alicia and I both that have triggered a degree of stress and emotion.  I detest those times.  On Thursday the mail brought a very nice card from our church, the Canton Baptist Temple, and that card was telling us that the staff, which signed the card, had prayed for us on Tuesday during their staff meeting.  The staff could in no way have known what we were having to work through but that expression of love meant so very much to us both.  Lesson Learned: each of us can find ways to lift and encourage others with almost no effort.  Everyone of us need that touch of encouragement. I am challenging each of you to commit in this coming week to deciding  five people for you to reach out to to be an encouragement. Guess who will be most encouraged? That would be you!

Please know that as the sands of the hourglass continue to measure off the march of time, the joy of knowing that my life is being used for God's purpose on my life is the most amazing experience of this life journey. I still fail. I still falter. I still get frustrated and disappointed.  But being in God's Will is, well, powerful and pays such rich dividend for my family, my friends and my life.  This week, please, be a blessing for there are so many people hurting in so many ways many of which you have no idea about. This week has shown me that if five different cases.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Greatest Gift

Please read the web link before reading further!  It continues to amaze me at the seeming escalation of young people choosing to steal the greatest gift God can give Man, the give of life by even considering taking their own life. This is a horrific story that will be yet another footnote by this time Sunday for it is far too common and frankly, I realize, more acceptable in the culture of today.  Suicide is a sin and punishable by the Giver of Life, I believe.

This semester, as I have written about recently, has been another semester with several episodes of planned or considered suicide in previous students. Just this week I was made aware of another person I know, an adult, that has contemplated such action and I find myself simply astonished at even the thought of the thought of such a crime against humanity for that is exactly what it is.

This journey of life is not always roses for with each thorn we are granted the opportunity and the challenge to learn and thus apply to the next steps of life. That is how I define Wisdom. Knowledge provides the means and the will and Knowledge applied and misapplied or misused provide the challenge to not repeat the application; that is Wisdom I believe.  Somehow this aligns with a general apathy I see in my students semester after semester.  A general sense of not caring, not fully investing into the work, seeking the easy way out are all indications of a much greater concern I have for the generation now in high schools and colleges facing a globalizing job market.  Instead of digging in and fighting for the victory, the tendency is to quit, duck one's head and acquiesce.  This is called "gutless" or "chicken" in the vernacular of my youth.

Competition, I believe, is the greatest motivator for Man. I believe competition drives and fuels the best from Man.  I have just returned from watching my nine year old grandson play another excellent basketball game. It was excellent not because he did not score all the points but because I watch his learning to watch the defenses, set up the plays, drive the lane taking hits to open up shots for his team mates; that is what competition provides which is opportunities to make yourself better but also to elevate those around you.

My concern for the generation in school in the early part of this very fragile twenty-first century is the tendency to cut and run instead of stand and fight.  Yes, if you stand and fight, you get bloodied, hurt or maybe even killed but you stood for something and fought the battle for the right to get to win. That is a powerful statement when applied to life.  I relish in seeing the stand and fight spirit in my two children and that is a blessing to see your DNA come to life.

I grew up in a time and a place and in a family where you had to fight to win. It used to anger me even at a young age when I realized I was not a sgifted in basketball as others so it was for me to find a way to overcome obstacles.  That came through hours upon hours of practice, seeking games with men older and better than me, taking the hard knocks, the verbal chiding but with each, it made me better and more prepared.  That is what competition will do for you for it creates kinetic energy to succeed.  life is built upon people being more advantaged that you thus providing the incentive to fight to get equal and fight harder to surpass. That is a powerful force meaning to play or perform at a higher level than you yourself thinks you can do. I believe every person can be and perform at a level greater than they themselves believe they can .. that is a CHOICE!

Suicide and Success cannot abide in the same house I do not believe. My heart aches when I see things like the web link or begin to increase my heart rate when I read words from students with the sense of who cares, life is not worth it any more, I hate my life, continuum that is devastating and defeating.  We never know what tomorrow may bring. My daughter and her family has had to face two funerals this week of a close friend and a relative. It has tired her and worn her but I know she will rise above the disappointment, hurt and anxiety to make life better for her family and for herself.  I use that as example of the power of Choice. 

I will close with what I have closed with before; life is a gift and life is a choice; make the right choice. I do not care how bad things may seem, there is a new day coming thus in the tough times, and we all have those times, look for the new horizon; that horizon God only can bring to a life shaded and shadowed with fear and doubt. WE ALL FACE FEAR AND DOUBT.

So when the pain comes, and it will, when the fears abound, and they will, when the disappointments come, and they will, remember others need you, depend on you and want the best for you!  Enjoy this gift of life but the greater gift is in knowing that when his life is complete, your soul has a secured home for eternity.  I have my deed and ready for the trip! That is my challenge to each of you. I would love to have that conversation with you.

Be blessed!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

So Close Yet So Far Away

Good morning on this cold Thanksgiving Day morning and I trust all is well in your world.  When you really think about those last few words, "all is well in your world,"  it takes on a much deeper mental tallying of what is truly important in one's life, doesn't it?  At my church last evening we had our traditional Thanksgiving Eve service and it was a wonderful, warm experience.  One of the testimonial videos that was played was of an elderly lady in my church that is in hospice and knows her days on this earth are fewer from brain cancer.  Listening to her and watching her on the video touched me deeply about the phenomenal wonder of this thing called life and how precious it surely is but even more was I reminded how just how quickly these days tick off in one's life.
One of the things I love about teaching is getting to be around young people as they scratch and posture for a better starting point for a life yet unfolded to them. They know not what lies ahead. Already so many have made bad choices with their lives, their bodies, their decisions but they are there, in school for whatever the motivation, seeking to "better" themselves.  The association with these young people lifts me, challenges me, makes me want to be the best I can be for them for they deserve to have exposures and role models they can choose to seek to be. 
I think I have realized in the last three or four years that the blessing of teaching is less about the teaching and more about the opportunity to let these folks see someone the respects, challenges, pushes, seeks to be a very positive, Christian role model that they, in some way and in their own timing, might decide to seek to want to understand that role model better.  I realize that process is the most effective means I have to be able to be something more, much more, to my students than just lecturing.  That, for me, is powerful and so rewarding. It takes more energy, more effort, more acceptance but each increment of "more" is so rewarding in so many ways.
Just yesterday another tragic example of the world in which these young folks reside in our new century was revealed to me when a student told me of addictions, failed relationships, no family role models he could be proud of and this sense of desperation about what to do. Far too many times have I been exposed to students carrying so much baggage.  As I write this I have former students in Federal prison for wrong choices. That, the many, tears at my heart so painfully.  But then I realize that all of that is part of this thing called life and we all have to learn to live it in our own unique, individual way.  We all have baggage. We all have issues. We all can choose to blame or we all can choose to rise above our lot in life and seek a brighter ray of sun on our future.  I see far too many examples of young students at age eighteen or twenty that have already just given up and have accepted that the bad is just their life and there is nothing they can do.  That mentality is so wrong and so destructive and demeaning.
Life is a gift; a GIFT! When I see or hear evidence that the gift is abused or taken for granted and washed into blaming others or the situation, instead of facing the horizon of opportunity and driving hard for that opportunity, choose to turn to drugs, alcohol and expecting the government to carry them for they see it so rampantly, I am pained at the heart.  When my students hurt, and many are hurting, I hurt.  The problem I have is that in most cases I am relegated to the sidelines to pray for them and their choices and decisions or, worst case, recovery.  Too many times I have been involved in suicide issues during my teaching tenure.  That still completely causes me to retort in shock for that is something, an act of such robbery of God's gift to Man, that I cannot rationalize nor understand.  I would venture in my classes, the great majority of my students know directly people in their lives that have or have contemplated suicide. That staggers my mind!
Our world is afloat with Satan's handiwork.  Our world is a cauldron of hate and hurt. Our world has always been that way I believe for that is precisely why God chose to destroy his Creation with the flood due to the level of godlessness and corruption and immorality.  When I see or read daily of the mass killing of unborn children via abortion, the issue of same-sex marriages which is counter to what God gave us as a principle of what marriage is,  the escalation of horrific crimes, our national "heroes" fallen, our political leaders inept; is it any wonder that our younger generation views their world ahead of helpless and hopeless?
I will close my Thanksgiving Blog with this reality from my heart! Our world and our life are gifts from a God that loves and wants the best for us. People are our greatest resource and friendships and relationships are crucial to right mental and emotional development.  Aberrant lifestyles skew that process negatively. Children need parents, a father and a mother. Children need role models. Children are more and more the victims of a corrupt and fallen generation fueled by drug use, ill fated relationships and anger and frustration.  Please, please, please know that on this Thanksgiving Day my greatest prayer and hope is that the members of our global village will seek a loving and living God and His principles about life and marriage and family.  
I wish each of you reading this my very best but the greatest gift of this Thanksgiving time, I believe, is to seek a way to encourage someone in your world that is struggling for the light of day and life.  Thank you for your many comments I receive and thank you for being such an integral component of my life. I am blessed and I know it! You are such a part of that blessed.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Churned Up World

Good morning on this very early Saturday morning. It is now almost 0400 but my mind went live about 0245 so instead of trying to just lay and pretend to sleep, I chose to get up for some quiet time with the Lord, ponder our world around us and take a few minutes to do my now weekly blog.  I knew when I laid down it would be a short night for there seems to be an inordinate number of tectonic plates shifting and changing our world's landscape and thus the global village in which we all reside.  Putting it all in context, I guess, is having watched two movies this week about Baby Boomers aging starring great Baby Boomer actors in Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones and realizing in watching the thing of aging is very real.  Mind you, this blog will not be pining about getting older but in realizing that there is a huge difference in "getting old" and in understanding the potency of "wisdom."
As the rockets rain down in Gaza and Israel, as Israel gears up a ground force of supposedly 75,000 troops and their machines of war, the world is concerned but with so much other stuff just in the last seven days, it almost sets this conflict as a sideshow.  The cacophony of and eclectic sounds from throughout our troubled world is, I believe, creating much more of a sense of disconnect by the villagers of our global population.  Change of leadership is China is not heralded with pomp but with fear and concern about this now looming giant of a powerhouse will now do as what seems the rest of the world is in some state of collapse from internal forces. America appears to be the premier play that is being acted out on the world's stage with the Petraeus issue still at the centerfold.
Markets, the indicators of the world's confidence, are now being in major shift from high-to-low, oil prices, naturally, are escalating and will reflect more and more at the pump as the holiday period comes quickly.  The POTUS election is over but the campaigning is still fever pitch as the "Cliff" looms, as new leaders now begin the baccalaureate process of fitting in in Washington, the old talking heads are basically saying what they have been saying and doing and will continue thus the poisonous air in Washington will no doubt continue to burn your eyes and nose.
I learned two things that week that, for me, are only more indicators of the decaying of our national culture.  Eighty percent of the world's pain killer presciption drugs are made and sold and consumed in the United States.  Think about that.  Another indicator is the pornography industry is supplies to the world in an inordinate portion in the making, producing and selling of this terrible product accounting for nearly eighty percent of the almost $100 billion annual global industry sales.  I just find those two statistics to stand out as indicators of a culture moving backwards in lockstep here in America.
The Niagara of global issues grows, seemingly, in power with each passing day. But let me go back to the first paragraph about getting up early to spend time with the Lord for in that time I realized all over again that in and of ourselves, this cascade of awful and disappointment in men and nations and culture is quite normal and predictable.  The Bible speaks quite eloquently and quite often of events in both the Old and the New Testaments of leader deceit, national collapse and calamity so why should we be surprised by the spigot at full open of poison, deceit and disappointments on such a grand scale?
So many songs come to my mind through my heart that speak to how this all affects me. Songs like, "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,"  "Just a Little Talk with Jesus," I Love You Lord," "Celebrate Me Home," "Amazing Grace," "Satisfied, "No One Ever Cared So Much for Me," etc, etc.  As my mind replays those phenomenal lyrics I find myself lifted from the mire of the day. I find myself encouraged for my children and grandchildren and my students which comprise my extended family. 
I will close by summing up my heart as 0500 quickly comes as the launch of a very busy day and weekend.  Yes, I will turn sixty-five in March. Feel free to FedEx, UPS, walk them over, all the No Bakes one can find for my eating and fattening enjoyment but I do not see that milestone in the aging process as a bad thing. I see it as time to reflect on the job of the wisdom God is granting me with and for the ever widening band of friends and relationships in my life.  I love my life and realize with each passing day how blessed I am.. I think Facebook adds to that realization in reading so much about hurt and pain and concerns.  So let me count my blessings this early morning if I may in closing:
  • I get to enjoy a marriage of forty-two years soon that is beyond measure for me
  • I get to sing God's Praises to many and glean such joy from that talent and opportunity
  • I get to attend a church that preaches, lives and breaths the powerful Gospel I believe totally
  • I get to watch our children love each other and mature spiritually and successfully
  • I get to be part of our five grand children's lives and get to watch them grow in love
  • I get to touch so many lives via my teaching that extends far beyond the traditional classroom
  • I get to feel no pain and no worries; a true blessing
  • I get to enjoy a good mind and good health which so many cannot claim this morning
  • I get to be part of so much good
  • I get to teach
  • I get to not worry nor fret about finances when I know so many are desperate about that
  • I get to enjoy the things I enjoy and able to detach from things I do not enjoy
  • I get to worship in freedom
  • I get to be me; that me that so many have crafted into that me in so many, diverse ways
  • I get to reflect of those that touched my life early named Avery, Epley, Morton, Berry, Cowan, Holt, Stone, Williams, Johnson, and the list is endless.
The blessing of "getting to" resounds in my heart this morning.  So as the media has fertile fields to churn up discontent and fear for that is what they exist to do, I know there is a much Greater Power that has it is all "Under Control." and in knowing that I can proclaim for me this moment, "We Are So Blessed" in a world seemingly gone mad but hey, it is the same world that has been here since God created it in six days and then He rested; it really is just that simple. I love simple understandings for they are transparent and irrefutable.  So as we ponder the changing social institutional frameworks around marriage, relationships, politics, fallen heroes, a violent world; all we that claim the name above all names, the name of Jesus, need to be concerned about is ... I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today. I know that He is living, No matter what men may say. I see Hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him, HE'S ALWAYS NEAR.
Can I get a witness!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Across the Horizon

Good morning on this Saturday morning. This has been yet another most interesting week not the least of which resides with the painful, exhausting election.  I have chosen to do my blog today on the future and not the past. I have decided that this is all in God's Plan and His Divine Purpose so there is a logical, rational reason and conclusion to being where we are in this Land and in this Life.  While the candidates fought hard and untold, inexcusable amounts of money were blown on this election, we have what we have.  As I have told countless people in my recent years when asked my thoughts or advice on a topic or issue, my response is usually to look across the horizon toward that next hill top for the answer!
As our nation and we as a People now move forward in this global village that is cutting new paths like molten lava flowing down a volcanic hill side, we are a People gripped with consternation, concern and disarray.  There is a fundamental misalignment unfolding in our nation as we saw played out in the elections with several states ratifying same-sex marriage, marijuana legalized in others and other events that turn upside down the very principles given us in the Scriptures.  We saw just yesterday perhaps the greatest military leader in the history of our nation resign as CIA Director over an admitted wrong against his wife but against those same Scriptural principles.  But the commentators within moments of the announcement were coloring the admitted wrong as "acceptable" in Washington for many have and will do the same but did not see the need to resign as a result.  See the lava flow?
Today as Americans, we see a landscape that is quite unsettling.  We have lost faith in our political and economic system and worst of all, our leaders.  The gridlock was portraited perfectly on national TV in a 60 Minutes TV interview with Mitch McConnell and Harry Reed, the Republican and Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate. There they sat dressed almost exactly the same, both about the same age and both absolutely resolute that there will be no change in the philosophies of either thus their Parties as this next POTUS sets in for four more years of increased borrowing, increased spending on safety nets, disincentives for business, increased rulebooks, enhanced union membership drives, etc. etc.  The landscape before us is rocky and scary for there is so much fog across the landscape that it creates a poison and derisive environment that resembles a moonscape instead of a landscape. But my point: we have what we have so it is for us to look Across that Horizon toward that next hilltop and not keep pining about the view through the rear view mirror of our nation or our own personal lives.
So you can know on this Veterans' Day weekend, having worn that warrior cloth, have the privilege of having veterans in my classes, see the devastating impact of combat crafted into this young people that will likely manifest throughout their lifetimes, I BELIEVE IN THIS NATION AND ITS GREAT PEOPLE! I can say that for I believe in a God that loves HIS PEOPLE if we, HIS PEOPLE, will cling to His teachings and principles. So while I do not like the election results, I do love my country and believe all of this has Purpose in God's Divine Plan for our nation.  As the Children of Israel would attest in the pages of the Old Testament, that journey is no always fun and filled with frolic thus I believe that describes the days ahead for our nation.
The great Gospel song captures all of this for me and my family:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the Light of His Glory and and Grace
See, I believe what resides out there across that Horizon is a life of bounty and good. I believe the pendulum of Man's vileness has swung too far to one side but that pendulum will reverse its painful and wrongful course only through the gravitational pull of a God that does love His Creation and its inhabitants. This hate, division, polarization and angst will either pull us together or it will tear the very heart of mankind out of the chest of hope for a brighter tomorrow.  We are a much better nation than what we see for I get to see the fruits of our nation in my classrooms and I know these young minds to be excellent and energized. I see it in my grandchildren as they grow and mature in homes with Christian parents and in Christ-centered churches.  The root structure is there and it is sound and solid so that gives me great hope for the tomorrows but we have some tough times today to fight through. 
Are you ready for the fight or are you wanting to keep your hooks of hate in the disdain of the election results, the mountain of debt and the destructive force of the lava flows of deceit?  That is a very personal yet very vital question as we, as a People, look out Across our Horizon!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Finishing Well

That has always been a captivating comment, to Finish well!  This morning I have awakened to that concept and felt it what I should write about this on this Saturday morning. Moments ago I wrote an email to all my students this semester encouraging each of them as the finish line of our semester journey is nearing that they do not allow themselves to shirk or back away from the process we have used this whole semester as the final blocks of work remain to be completed for I impressed upon them to seek to "finish well."
Finishing well is, like most things I have learned, a choice. This was brought back to me yesterday as I met with my financial advisor and drilling into assessing the Williams' economy as the sixty-fifth birthday comes quickly and the next step of life begins. You know, that time you think will never come when you have to decide on stuff like Plans in Medicare, supplementals, being sure the planned income is a bit greater than the planned outgo; that stuff you must do for the next phase of life. It can be depressing or it can be lifting and I chose for it to be lifting. Just all part of the journey in seeking to "Finish Well." It was a good meeting and I feel really good about the blessings God has placed on my life, my family and our place secured there in Heaven; king's gold that value reflects!
When I think of this semester, the four classes, I realize this has been a somewhat unique experience in many ways, not all good, versus the dozens of previous semesters.  Dealing with the twenty percenters has taken far too long and there are some still among us.  But for some reason, I seem to glean the greatest joy of my teaching approach in dealing with these issues for I realize in dealing with them, the twenty percenter will either improve or run and the eighty-percenters will strive even more diligently so it is a win - win for these young people that will face similar challenges in their years ahead. That will be my greatest legacy I hope and believe is illustrating in real time that you cannot simply ignore the twenty percenters; you must ferret them out and deal with them; each and ever one and each and every one is unique thus that is the enjoyable part for me in determining the right course of action. I do enjoy that process!
I have thought and prayed much about this phase of my life as a teacher. God has blessed this work so richly and in so many ways that it is truly breathtaking even in the frustrations and mental exhaustion at times.  Having taught 134 university courses at four universities on eight campuses and approaching 7,000 students since retiring from Goodyear just over nine years ago, I have come to realize that I am rather tired mentally. My students deserve the 150% Professor Williams they deserve so when I realize myself this is wearing on me, then it is for their benefit, my family and for me to take some time away to decompress and recharge.  So I will be taking off from teaching in the Spring semester and there are a couple of other areas of activity I am pulling back from as well. I want to concentrate on some other areas of my life, such as my music and jail ministry, and knowing even now God will open up other opportunities of service in some capacity. I look forward to see what those doors will be.
Finishing well is a blessing that comes from making right decisions, investing yourself properly and giving your best through the good times and the not so good times.  Remaining in close contact with multiple hundreds of current and former students is part of the joy of my life and part of the essence of Finishing Well. I may or may not return to teaching for God will provide that clarity and opportunity so it is not for me to worry about that. I realize as well I have never actually "retired" since leaving Goodyear and doubt I ever will, frankly, for since I was fourteen I have never not be involved and invested in something vocationally; DNA from my mother no doubt.
I am so very blessed with health, wealth and joy of serving and I have found that in serving, leading takes blossom. I am blessed and I know it!  Have a great week and headed to a Christmas cantata practice; it is going to be great. So, Finish Well!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy and Other Things

As normally, it is still dark outside, the wind has huffed and puffed all night, flooding is abundant and cannot imagine the number of trees and limbs in roads knowing this day has only begun and Sandy is moving West toward us with more rain and wind.  One of the early morning joys I look forward to is scanning my global news media to get a pulse of what is happening in our world. Alas, my first scan this morning was the New York Times where Sandy has been especially violent so assumed would find good stories of heroism, first responders, etc but no, first editorial was about the need for Big Government.  Without even reading it was felt anger rile up in my belly. 
As the storm unfolded moment by moment on the networks yesterday, it was most reminiscent of me watching Katrina unfold and listening to the lady from Louisiana that anchored CNN during that fateful day get so emotionally involved in the events that she left her role as reporting to that of scolder and attacker; it was not pretty in light of all the real life tragedy we were watching. 
Yesterday and into the night I found myself being more angered by the constant insinuated little news comments about linking the Sandy tragedy to the POTUS campaign, how Mr. Obama is acting Presidential which should give him a stronger case with the electorate, how Romney was "forced" to cease campaigning, etc, etc.  Yesterday was NOT a day to thread the campaign through the fabric of a major disaster but that is where we have come in this nation of 24/7 news cycles.  I watched Anderson Cooper later in the evening trying to create a crevice over a comment by Gov. Christie of New Jersey apparently unhappy with the evacuation actions by the Atlantic City Mayor. The Mayor, rightly, diffused Mr. Cooper's attempt to trigger division in the midst of chaos for the sole purpose of ratings. I was very proud of the Atlantic City mayor's professionalism and coolness under fire.
Our world is incendiary and it is made that way I realize more and more by the insatiable hunger for sound bites to fill the airways. People are killed emasse by this power. Governments are overturned by this magnet of discontent and derision.  Mind you, I love news as long as it is objective assuming that is really possible today.  I read once that the news is the first blush of history ... wow, so what will our grandchildren be thinking as that blush turns to print which turns to history for them to seek to understand who we really were?  I find the European media outlets reporting on US events to be what I consider more centrist thus less politically biased.  Der Speigel from Germany, the Economist from the UK, etc are good sources of more objective reporting I have found through the years.  I mean, on the day after Sandy to see an NYT front page editorial on the case for Big Government is really astounding to me but alas, that is where we have come.
Here is what I know! I know that I want Nov 6 to come and go for the noise has turned to dull thumps in my brain.  I know I want the people still being affected in the says ahead to be covered by God's Precious Hand of love. I know my family is safe and happy. I know both of our children are in great marriages with five wonderful grand kids and a grand dog we all love. I know I love to get to sing praises to the God that surpasses all understanding. I know I am happy with my life, my family, my work, my friends.  I know I get to touch peoples' lives in so many ways and in ways I could never have conceived. I know God is good! That is about all I need to know isn't it?
I know what pains me deeply is seeing the mores and values of our nation slandered, demeaned and stomped on. I know that the Scriptures are very blatant and clear on what marriage is and to see the exact opposite seeking to judicially and legislatively be made the norm is, well, wrong.  I know that a marriage is between one man and one woman and nothing will nor could nor should change that. To have a POTUS election where that is central to the ideologies of the candidates is sickening to me. I know there are those that adamantly oppose my views on this matter but wrong is wrong and right is right; it really is just that simple to me. Same sex marriage is Biblically wrong!
I will close by wishing each of you a sincere hope for safety this day with so many millions without power and knowing so much flooding will be terrible in the days ahead. Pray for these people!  Pray for our nation and our leaders. Pray for people that cannot help themselves. Pray for peace.  God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me! Amen?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Economic Forces of Leadership --- an essay


As we approach the November elections for President on our country, we have all been pretty much worn out with all the rhetoric, threats, promises, name calling, claims, blames; just deafening.  When I think of the billions of advertising monies invested in this venture when there is so much more dire need in our nation and our world, I simply shake my head in wonder and disdain.  But looking past all of that, I invested nearly an hour in a class in a class last evening drilling into the tectonic shifting of a nation’s Gross Domestic Product through the maturing evolutionary phases from Agriculture to Industry to Service.  These forces or immutable and much history supports the meandering nature of cutting a pathway many times, most times, unseen nor understood but still a new pathway is cut and cut deeply into the landscape of Man.

I have learned many things in my life but one of the key lessons concerning numbers used to tell a story is to never react to a number but seek to ascertain the validity of the number by view it from a historical evolutionary perspective.  In other words, what was the trajectory and velocity of events and forces that have led to that number. GDP is a great example of this belief.  If you want to understand GDP and its relativity, one must understand economic history for events are the chisel of carve out new architecture that is at times good and at others times horrific.

A solid principle of economics is that nations evolve as they mature from Agriculture to Industry to Service; the three components on the Gross Domestic Product.  Defining GDP is vital and the definition I use is that it is the value of all the goods and all the services produced in a given economy over a given period of time.  The equation that is used to calculate a country’s GDP is:  GDP = C + I + G + (X-M).  That would be the total dollar value of all Consumer spending, plus all Capital investment plus all Government Spending plus the difference in all Exports minus Imports. The US GDP sits today at about $15.4 trillion; the largest in the world with no close second.  In other words, America is still the largest, stronger economy on the face of the earth.

However, the context of my writing is that nations at their origination are powerfully driving, measured in GDP, by Agriculture.  As the factors of production are more effectively and efficiently used, Agriculture begins to produce more than the needs of the nation so there are more foods for sale. That is where exports originate.

As food becomes less of an economic drive and technology and need escalates, economies move into the Industry or Manufacturing economic phase meaning Making Things takes on a more and more influential element of GDP and thus, less of a percentage of GDP influence from Agriculture.   It is at this juncture, when Manufacturing triggers that terms like “Industrial Revolution” ignite as we saw in Europe that led to one in the US leading up and after the American Civil War.  More factories need more workers, more fuel, more food, more housing, more cars, more everything.  As technology of manufacturing improves and efficiencies are realized, cost of manufacturing becomes the primary driver for competitiveness.

A global economy where vast amounts of goods can be produced at the same or better quality but a much lower cost changes the geometry of the Manufacturing component of GDP rapidly and broadly.  To illustrate, much rhetoric in this campaign has been spent on peddling the story that nearly three million manufacturing jobs have been lost / stolen to / by the Chinese in the last fifteen years.  Makes for interesting sound bite but leaves me cold in believing for what is not talked about, as it should be, is the phenomenal number of American jobs created by foreign transplant auto, tire, auto parts manufacturers in the Southeastern United States.  The three million jobs that have left our nation left due to cost to produce in America being globally made a relic.  Then if you factor in the every thickening union rules in the Rust Belt that focus on poor performers thus inefficiencies, then the powerful forces of the global economy become a hammer pounding on the anvil of competitiveness.

The famous three million jobs were not stolen by China but were given away via too globally noncompetitive compensation costs and union-driven inefficiencies.  The three million jobs lost are not lost if they are redirected for the redirection takes us to the reality of the tectonic economic shifts from Manufacturing to Service. America, like West Europe’s economies have matured since WWII to Service and Information.  Our challenge is not to try and return to that “golden” era of 8,000 person steel and tire plants.  Our challenge should be and must be to invest in new technologies and fuels such as wind turbines and maximize our factors of production on those technologies of tomorrow, today.

It is my fundamental belief that there is not going backwards for a national economy for the march forward is always the drumbeat of civilizations.  None of you reading this wish to return to the farms of our grandparents nor to the factories of our parents.  There will always be a place for Agriculture and for Manufacturing as economies mature, a good thing. It is how the maturing economies embrace and utilize the capabilities of the Service and Information Age. We are just on the periphery of this age as China is on her periphery of her Industrial Age.  China has over a billion people still on farms in the western provinces of that vast land with over a million each day moving east to the manufacturing jobs along the Eastern coast of China. That should sound very familiar to use if we could talk with our grandparents and great grandparents that moved to Ohio, Pennsylvania for the factory jobs; the exact same thing China is experiencing today; and that is a great thing I believe.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Harmony in the Midst of Cacophany

Good Saturday morning to you as I sit here in the still darkness of an unbelievably busy Saturday and Sunday of singing but looking forward to all of it. The smell of coffee brewing is wafting gently to that special place of feeling good and comfortable with life even in the midst of, well, so much not good and discomfort.  Last night I felt a remarkable sense of harmony as I watched for two hour a dozen highly talented men and women unfold a piano concert that was, well, simply fabulous.  With all the moving around, the large crowd, seeing old friends and trying to remember names, hearing many warm hearted comments, the cacophony of all of that melted into a real harmony via the music. I was deeply impressed and touched.

I realized watching and listening to the crafts of those men and women being unfurled in the name of our God that loves us that my mind was assessing the craziness of our world, the many issues of my students that I in someway will be touched with and by, the politics of the day, the hurt and disappointments of so many in my portfolio of people, the prisoners.  Through all of that whirling through my brain, the beauty of the music was blatant but the cord that denominated it all was the ever present harmony.  Harmony sounds good and makes us feel good, doesn't it?  We all seek harmony in our lives. We long for that assurance of harmony in relationships.

As this semester now marches toward week eight, there continues to be lesser but still present shadows of disharmony in the machine of Jim, Inc.  Plagiarism, not fulfilling directives of the course, a choice, tardiness, under performance on examinations; all are elements of disharmony and my toleration of it and for it has hit bottom.  Mind you I am only speaking of a very small percentage of poor choosers and there is a heavy price in points for the bad choices but the collateral results is requiring more of my time and the team leaders' time in sorting out and dealing with the ramifications of still Twenty Percent behaviors.  That, frankly by this stage, only angers me at having to  refocus energy from the work ahead and that, for me, is criminal, at this stage of the semester.

Harmony is a gift. It does not just happen for it has to be crafted, sought, achieved through effort, practice and execution. Every athlete knows this. Every musician knows this. We all know it intuitively.  Commit this day anew to bringing harmony into your life and in so doing you bring much needed harmony to so many others.   Again, last night was therapeutic for me to get to witness so much talent in so many ways performing their art that touched me so deeply to develop this blog this morning. I believe there is Divine Purpose for this coming to me as it has.

This will be a weekend filled with singing in different groups and locations and songs and in each, achieving harmony is at the forefront for harmony facilitates loving and praising the name of the One that the music is written about; my Jesus.  That and He is why I sing and I love the challenge.  But never forget, life is about achieving harmony. Yes, it is doable but it takes work, doesn't it?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Plato's Cave 2012

Plato's Cave is an allegory that has been around for a great long time. I do not recall when I first was exposed to its powerful message but all my students know well the story for it is about changed reality.  The thumbnail of the Cave is that people come into this world "chained" to the walls of a reality.  The shadows we see bouncing off the Cave walls and ceiling become our currency of communication via stories, lore, etc. We that are chained to that Cave develop a culture which I define as the sum total of the behaviors of the Cave. We really do, over time, begin to think and act like each other the longer we are in the constraints; it is human behavior. 
The Cave allegory goes on, however, to illustrate fundamental change when one of the Cave dwellers is released or actually unleashed from the constraints.  Plato contends that the newly released dweller must then choose to seek to be re-confined back into the culture OR to seek to exit the Cave in search of determining why and what has been creating the images inside the Cave that has formulated the language of the culture.  After discovery of the cause for the images, a bonfire with natives dancing around the fire, a new reality, the released dweller must then decide to either strip down and join the new reality or does human behavior drive the dweller, armed with this new knowledge, back up to the Cave to spread the new, good news to those still constrained. The answer is that the dweller will do anything to go back to explain to the still constrained dwellers, where life is still good in their common Cave reality, where the images are coming from.
It is here we see the power of the allegory for upon the re-entrace to the Cave filled with new knowledge, the unleashed returning dweller finds himself understanding operationally the term "shooting the messenger" for those still in the comfort of their chained reality really do not wish to hear about the new reality meaning rejection of the newly found knowledge.
In the work I get to do in teaching, I see this allegory play out out all the time which makes it a compelling driven inside me to release as many of these young minds from the Cave of their established reality to experience the cool water of a new reality in hopes they will return again and again to those still held by the chains of laziness, not caring, no drive, no desire to take a new path.  All of this came flooding back to me in the snippets of the VP debate last night for I realized, at sixty-four years old, I was watching the old and the new sparring with each other.  I wish I could avoid personal comments here for that only makes my blog today another "FB post" with political motivation but that is certainly not the case.  Regardless of my political party of choice, it is the ideology I seek to understand and thus choose to embark on a path.
Thus, my take on last night and the previous POTUS debate grounded on several years of personal investment in studying, researching and watching the governmental process via CSPAN is that what we are seeing at the conceptual level is one party hearkening back to the golden days of post WWII when FDR walked on water, history would have us believe, or Reagan and his brilliance as he tip toed on the waters as well.  Yet there is this now much young, intelligent, articulate "force" that would have use to cut loose the chains of constraint to move forward into a very frighting 21st century un-navigated channel of issues.
What I saw last night, certainly unsurprisingly, was a typical cocky, smart mouth, arrogant Biden that, for me, is an icon of exactly what I describe in previous paragraph of wanting to keep adding more chains on the Cave walls for more and more to remain inside the Cave of debt, entitlements and tepid diplomacy.  Biden is mean spirited, cunning and when I think about that one heart beat from POTUS and him residing in the Seat, I quiver and have since he became VP. But in Ryan I saw a freshness, a knowledge of what he was talking about, a family man, a man untarnished in character and reputation; I saw the future and I liked what I saw.
Is the Romney / Ryan ticket perfect? Certainly not for I believe there are many potential candidates that bring more to our nation than these but have chosen to remain in the Cave apparently.  In my heart I honestly cannot see how this nation can withstand another four years of what we have witnessed almost daily.  Dozens of unelected, highly paid czars, inordinate Executive Orders, oexpanding government into every particle of our personal lives, debt we cannot even calculate with trillions more planned; the madness must stop. Never have I been sicker of even now four years into a presidency and the only spoken defense is what was inherited four years ago. No business on earth could or would operate on that defense. You take what you get and make it better; PERIOD! But still the blame and finger pointing at "W" continues and We the People deserve better, much better.
By the way, FDR was certainly not without his ghosts nor was Reagan but history airbrushes out those realities. This nation deserves a great leadership team which I do not believe we have currently and I am very tired of the constant campaigning. I am even more tired of realizing that POTUS electioneering is measured not by policy but by campaign funds flow. Multiple BILLIONS of dollars blown for a $400,000 annual salary position; doesn't that just smell strange to you?  Also, I believe the greater issue resides at the Capitol than at that White House. That is a place that really needs a good cleaning out.
I want my children and my grandchildren to have a chance to succeed; it really is just that simple for me.  Biden simply makes me want to slap him across the mouth and tell him to shut up for that is exactly what he needs but then the army of the political brotherhood that resides behind him in Pelosi, Reed, etc, etc all have that same arrogance. Tearing down an economic class of people that have made their wealth by working for it to pull up a class far too many of which are snared in the entitlement generational cycle is simply wrong. There are abuses in all the camps; I am not naive enough to not believe that. None of this is perfect for We the People are not perfect.  All great empires throughout history were not lost to outside armies but to the weight of implosion on trying to manage and pay government workers and entitlements.
My greatest issue of concern ... why has Americans chosen to continue down the path of marching away from our God whose principles were the foundation of our Nation and our Founding Fathers commitment to that God? I guess all of that really means is that we are getting pretty much what we deserve, right?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Leaves of Autumn

I do so love this time of year especially on early mornings watching the golden leaves rain down through my back windows and see deer gently walking around all of this while reading my Bible; pretty good morning!  Facing a busy day with Christmas cantata practice in a few minutes but I always look forward to that challenge. This week ends another week of challenge, opportunity, concern, joy, disappointment, mystery, mountaintops and valleys; thus life marches on!

This semester continues to stand as an anomaly from the previous dozens I have taught.  There are great numbers of successes and victories but still there are a couple of issues remaining, as we move into our sixth week of the journey, that I simply have not gotten my mind wrapped around yet.  There is something generally different about this semester and the general Student for I am hearing similar expressions of wonder and concern from other professors. Late arrivals, not grasping the work, no initiative, poor writing skills, not embracing the work, not showing up, not caring; and my prayer is that this is not a microcosm of the generation about to embark on life in the world of real adults. 

This week I have seen tears of disappointment. This week I have witnessed great victories as the teams come together into one organism of productivity. I have watched team leaders finally gain their footing and are embracing their role and delivering on a grand scale. I have had absolute validation that the Jim, Inc. concept is valid, viable and provides great synergy in addition to rich learning. I am pleased! But what Jim, Inc surfaces in a boldface manner is the scourge of the 20%ers in being impediments to growth and productivity of the 80%ers and how the 80%ers expect, demand leaders to eradicate the very essence of the Takers called the 20%ers. I love watching that unfold and how knowing that it never lets me shutoff my radar in seeking out any semblance of a 20%er. Yes, there are still a couple but they will self destruct under the weight and force of their team; peer pressure is potent and powerful and I love nurturing that for that is real life and these young minds are getting a laboratory opportunity to develop it as they prepare for their individual launch sequence into their working lives.

With all of that, the rewards, for me, are the eclectic ways the pain of lives find their way to me for that pain are impediments to growth.  I know great numbers of my students have already done things and are in in the present tense they themselves know, KNOW, they should not be and there is always a price to pay for bad choice. We all struggle with that but I have found the true joy of my efforts in teaching really comes from my students having enough respect and confidence in me to involve my prayers and hopes for them in opening up their lives to seek light in their world of darkness and discouragement.  My prayer and my hope is that in every situation presented me that God's Will is what is ushered forth and not some pearl of comment from my internal ego. I hurt when my students hurt as I do when my own family hurts.

I will close but restating what I state often: if you do what you have always done you will always get what you have always gotten.  Additionally, if you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.  If you consolidate the essence of those two adages, you will smell the aroma of much discouragement, hurt, disgust and disappointment in far too many really great young people.  I do love what I get to do for an array of reasons but today's blog I believe captures what I value most more than just the teaching; it is about touching the future today!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Procrastination the Cancer

Good morning and having now completed five weeks of a semester, I have learned all over again about the negative power of this thing called "procrastination."  Many people are naturally prone to that process I have learned for those that know me know that I am certainly not one to embark on that time wasting journey.

This semester, versus previous semesters, has been quite surprising, tiring, somewhat disappointing and has been slower to mesh the gears of the teams in the four classes.  Inordinate numbers of students dropping the course, inordinate numbers enrolled but never show up and inordinate numbers that choose not to embrace the work, the boundaries of the class process we call Jim, Inc, find themselves hamstrung by that demon of procrastination.  It is my belief, hope really, as we launch into week six of the semester that we now have the right people in the right place focused on doing the right things as the mid term examination looms for that is a major eyeopener to the mandate for effective teamsmanship for all the parts of the team must gel to succeed. Yes, that process I use is tried, tested and proven over and over again to be a right and proper means to teach.

This semester has seen many highs and far too many lows.  The tragic deaths of a current student's mother due to a drunk driver, the loss of a great former student in a one car accident, a student whose room mate this week was threatening suicide, two teams still not cohesive in their approach to the work and have felt the "sting" of me to "motivate" that process that is centered on procrastination, The Cancer.  I have found myself this week especially burdened, given all the above, about these students of today looking twenty years down the road when they are working, raising families and facing the ever present headwinds of life and their preparation for those mega pressures.  Weighing all the points in this paragraph projected, I have great concern, frankly, about how this generation will be able to shoulder the weight of responsibility.

In classes we have discussed and debated that very point. This generation has expressed by this generation is founded now more on immediate gratification, lazy, lacking traditional family organization and the value systems normally that go along with that and the "E" word, Entitlement always finds its way to the head of the discussion docket.  Those, each of those, are significant in their implication but join them all into the cauldron of today's reality is certainly worrisome at the least and concerning at the aggregate. So how do we "fix" or evaporate these impediments to the Tomorrows?

All of this, for me, is measured by the level of physical and emotional exhaustion and stress I feel more acutely than in any other semester.  I have worked through the rationalization that the problem must be me, that I expect too much, that the work is too heavy but then I stop, reflect and come to the realization that absolutely not for the approach, the organization, the work is no different than many previous semesters.  Then I begin to hear from other professors similar comments about this semester as I outline above and then assess that perhaps there is something truly and culturally unique about the Student at this time of our life!

I tell my students frequently that they will get just as much out of this educational journey as they are willing to give to the journey. Most, the great majority, are doing a wonderful job and giving their all and I have every right to expect that for that is exactly what they get from me, their leader and I shall continue to give that.  But seeing a much higher number of those choosing not to be part of the learning journey is disheartening and disappointing and at both of those my natural human tendency is to go into attack mode for they are enemy soldiers in need of annihilation for as long as disheartment and disappointment are allowed the light of day, they will pull others toward them and callous those choosing to reside there.  It is in the attacking of those twin demons that frustration and exhaustion result and then too many have to witness the not pretty side of me as I embark on the combat operations to lift the whole class to the light of the sun of educational growth.

But you know, it is WORTH IT.  All the time, the effort, the energy, the process of ferreting out what I call the 20%ers that can suck the energy and lifeblood from the 80% people that want to be the best they can be and seeking new a deeper understanding of the things we are drilling into as they prepare for the battles of life that reside unseen before them.  There is nothing I will not do for the 80%ers as they and the thousands of others in the Winners Club will attest but likewise, there is no amount of constraint that I will not cut through in eradicating any essence of 20%ers in behaviors and PROCRASTINATION.

I love what I GET TO DO! I GET TO be part of two generations and their choices personally and professionally. THAT is why I do what I do and I love it thus that far over arches the energy burn.  Kids want structure and boundaries.  Far too many young people come to me in the classes lacking either of those in their lives I sense.  If you instill structure and boundaries with generous helpings of respect and caring, the 80%ers will be nurtured to greatness while the 20%ers will find every excuse to muddle around in the mud of being an anchor. I detest anchors for as the adage say, "a rising tide lifts all ships."  The only counter to that adage is that is all very true but those at anchor in a rising tide are sucked beneath the water and are drowned.  I believe you see the metaphor against the context of my blog this day.

All of this, by the way, extends far from just a classroom experience for this is about life and it is about life that I seek to teach via example and process. I LOVE what God is allowing me to do for I realize that this work, teaching, if with a right heart and drive, is every bit a ministry and I do believe God has called me to do this work and that work is being blessed in so many ways.

SLAY the demon of Procrastination daily!