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!