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!