Saturday, March 30, 2013

What is with plastic grass?

Just in from a long night and very early morning time with ten chapel services that touched roughly 300 male and female inmates.  Very powerful experience, tiring yes, but fulfilling and energizing. I believe some lives were changed in the last  twelve hours as evidenced by decisions to accept Jesus into their lives.  THAT is why we do what we do!
In listening to sermons by different speakers, each of which did a superb job, I found myself quietly assessing the trappings of "Easter" in my life time against the context of what Easter really means. I do not understand the egg thing much less the colored egg thing. I do not by any stretch understand the yucky, cheap artificial grass. I do not even grasp the meaning of the baskets nor even the candy.  I am not trying to bah humbug this holiday but I have been made cognizant all over again of what the true meaning of Good Friday is and the power of the Resurrection to me as man.  I heard this week from a man on the radio that were it not for the Resurrection, there would be no thought nor need for Christmas and realized how true that is. WOW!
Easter, for me, is time with my family. Alicia is busy right now preparing for another wonderful family meal tomorrow after all the Easter cantata work is completed. But for me I realize each time my family gathers around our table, together, just how special that really is. I get to watch the grand kids as they grow up and mature and their interface with each other. I get to listen to the caliber of the conversations among the adults most times on Godly matters and less on politics.  I find myself just quietly sitting or eating while listening more and enjoying it even more.  Easter is about family and family is about Easter, the Resurrection of my Lord and Savior and all of us in my family have accepted Jesus into our lives. I love to hear stories from my son and my daughter  about their work and how God brings certain things together when they themselves cannot understand why or how.  As with Christmas, it is my wife that makes the specialness truly magical with a caring, servant heart that is never adequately recognized I realize.
I am very tired but a very good tired with a cantata to be part of later this afternoon so cutting this off to get some body and vocal rest.  Lives were changed today not by eggs, candy or plastic grass. Lives were changed today because of a Risen Savior who's in the world today, I know that He is living not matter what men may say. I see His Hand of mercy and hear His Voice of cheer and just the time I need Him ... HE IS ALWAYS NEAR!  He Lives, He Lives, Christ Jesus Lives today, He walks with me and  talks with me along life's narrow way!
Can I get a witness? By the way, HE IS RISEN!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tenacity --- the Squirrel Metaphor

Of late, with the snow finally gone, we hope, and since the time change, my wife and I continue to be amazed at watching the tenacity, concentration and ingenuity of the squirrels attacking our "squirrel resistant" bird feeder.  Let me say now that Man cannot design a bird feeder that is squirrel free I have grown to realize after many dollars invested in that failed venture.  If there is food, the squirrel WILL find a way through gravity, geometry, grit and gall to get to the food; it is amazing to me!

This morning I was impressed with the word Tenacity in watching the squadrons of squirrels consolidate their positions, sent out their cavalry scout to examine the find which is the chocked full of yummy bird food in the feeder, begin the days theatrics to get to the food.  A definition I found of tenacious is:  Not easily dispelled or discouraged; persisting in existence or in a course of action.  Truer words of description were never penned to capture the power of the nature of a hungry squirrel.  I have shot them with BB guns, hit them with bananas, chased them, shouted at them; but still they come ... TENACIOUS!

Then as we were finishing up our morning devotional and I could see this unfolding outside our back windows on the patio, I found myself simply mesmerized by all the work that squirrels invest for such a relatively small reward.   I was so impressed and imbued by this tenacious spectacle that the reality of that work of the squirrel really is a metaphor for each us in our lives be it spiritually, economically, emotionally, etc!  So the question, how tenacious are you, really?

Tenacity carries with it a kinetic mandate meaning that whatever it takes, the modicum of reward will be found worthy.  When I think about singing, for example, I know for me I invest great numbers of hours working on a song. I listen to the demo track perhaps hundreds of times, not for the joy of the song, but for seeking how God will impress the message of that song into my heart and my soul. If I do not experience that "moment" when I feel that song melt into my heart, I will leave that song and not invest any further time into it.  The power of the song to minister to me, believing that that same sense of ministering will translate to others in hearing the song, is a powerful component for me on the journey to selecting a song to really learn.

Once that "moment" is felt in my heart meaning the ego of singing the song is not existent as it was for far too many years, I then invest many hours in "feeling the music, the rhythms, the lyrics leading to feeling deeply the MESSAGE of that story for a song is always a story.  Once that "story" affects me with tears and a sense of warmth and worth, I know the song is about to be integrated and internalized into my whole being.  Yes, a song is not just a song like that bird food for Mr. Squirrel is not just food but rather that song for me is a step closer to my Jesus believing that that song delivered flawlessly at His anointing will carry a powerful spiritual experience for the listener.  See the metaphor with Mr. Squirrel's tenacity in going after the food?

If you think about your own life, what are you tenacious about?  Is it singing, your children, fishing, hunting, basketball, jail ministry, etc, etc?  Whatever you are tenacious about, there your real energy will be invested, right?  I, by nature, am a passionate, tenacious person which some people love about me and others, well, don't.  I am tenacious about organizing work for it to be as efficient as possible. I am tenacious about my grand kids. I am tenacious in finding and seeking ways for God to use me in any way that is pleasing to God for in that I am rewarded with a sense of peace, joy and accomplishment.

So on this beautiful Spring day, squirrels included, I am tenacious about eight jail services for next weekend, about The Pathway Quartet singing tomorrow night, about putting together a benefit concert for the Stark County Jail Ministry, for the next step of the unfolding process that began two weeks ago with the organizational restructuring process in Houston, with what God will open for me to do effectively for His Glory at my church in the days ahead, for being the best grand father I can be to my grand kids, to be a mentor to former students many are so happy but far too many carrying heavy burdens of the past ... for life!  Tenacity has no bounds and I believe no limits but to be tenacious requires choice, focus and energy forward.  I witness a dear friend in the throws of a terrible disease tenaciously fight that awful illness but even in the midst of terrible pain lift prayers of thanks for his friends, for his family and asked me to sing him a song about Jesus; that is tenacity. So I ask again, what really are you tenacious about? 

Thank you Lord, for saving my soul
Thank you Lord, for making me whole
Thank you Lord, for giving to me
They great salvation so RICH AND FREE

Friday, March 15, 2013

Springtime in Ohio ... yeah, right!

It is a beautiful, clear, bright, cool morning here in NE Ohio but at least I see no snow, see deer grazing along our backyard and continue to be amazed at God's beauty of Creation.  It has been a good week.  Busy with singing with a huge singing load Saturday and Sunday but always look forward to that though tiring.  This Sunday will be unique in that a great friend of mine and one of our Pastors at Canton Baptist Temple and I will make our way to a women's prison after our morning worship service to do a one hour church service at the Cleveland, OH location.  A daughter of an older couple in our church is incarcerated there so I was able to work a plan for us to go up to do a chapel service for 250 women Sunday afternoon. Please pray for this service, for our driving safety and that God's Will will be done.
As I finished up our daily devotional this morning, I came across one of the handwritten prayer requests sheets that had gotten lost in my Bible from a young inmate at the Stark County Jail I met recently  As I read his request asking God to help him not feel so alone, I was compelled to write him a letter of encouragement which is now being mailed.  As I wrote that letter, one of probably 1,500 over the last several years, I found myself pondering why God has put such a burden and a blessing in my heart for such a thankless ministry.  Working now with many thousands of prisoners these last few years has been truly remarkable on many fronts.  Hearing many sermons by an array of preachers / speakers touches me as well as the inmates. While I might not share the denomination nor even some of the doctrines of the preachers I work with in the jails, I find myself learning different shades and hues of the Word for the Word is the common denominator.  When I think about the many tears I have seen shed by hardened criminals through the power of a song, a gentle handshake, an arm around a shoulder, a whispered personal prayer; I realize I am getting a phenomenal blessing
This week I made a final decision to step away from university teaching after nearly a decade and the sense of relief and calm that swept over me was affirmation that it was a right decision at this stage of my life.  Mind you, I did not say I was finally retiring but rather moving to a next chapter in my life and that thrills me.  As I have indicated to the hundreds of students that have so kindly responded to my email about the decision, my legacy resides in their success in life from the investment we made in each other during their matriculation time that brought us into each other's world.  I could not be more serious nor more humbled by that statement. The countless hours invested in these students, nearly 7,000, in preparation, prayer, encouraging, disciplining, teaching, driving are all made worth it in knowing they received much they can utilize to the fullest in their professional endeavor as well as their own personal lives. What a legacy, right?
I will close by speaking to the great Faith chapter in Hebrews 11. I have read that many times in my life but it was today's Bible verse for our morning devotional.  When you stop and really think about the power of Faith ... believing in what which you cannot see ... it becomes one of the most amazing and foundational planks of our beliefs, actions and motivations on this daily walk. I highly recommend you reading that chapter today, please.
I will close by saying it is so nice to see the beauty of nature each morning looking out our back windows to the wooded area in seeing the seasons change the colors, the animals large and small grace our backyard and being simply amazed all over again at God's Handiwork.  You think I feel blessed this morning?  I also wish to state that I am probably more excited about Jim Williams's tomorrows as at any time in my life.  I got reenergized last week with the work in Houston, TX in getting to do in real life and real time what I loved doing at Goodyear which is to encourage, motivate, causing new thoughs and ideas come to reality and to enhance an entire organzation to look and think higher and greater than they themselves believe possible. That is a joy to me!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Joy of People

What a wonderful week!  First you should know that ten years ago when I retired from Goodyear I made two commitments with one being  I would never fly again and two that I would never spend a night in a hotel by myself without my wife.  Well, both commitments were shattered as I flew to and from Houston and spent three nights in a hotel there alone.   I will off set those broken commitments with the realization of the joy of getting to get to know and work with thirty really phenomenal people that are filled with energy and enthusiasm to make their company truly world class; that is  powerful!
During my years at Goodyear and especially during the tough days of acquisition integration in Poland, Slovenia, South Africa and the eight Dunlop plants Goodyear took into the family in 1999 was the most demanding, draining and exhausting work of my thirty-six year career but yet, it was the most rewarding for a host of reasons. Doing that integration work, you learn much about yourself and you are carved with lessons that are inscribed in your heart and on your life forever.  Then being able to turn those inscriptions into lessons to deliver in real life and real time to thousands of students over ten years manifests joy unspeakable in realizing the processes developed works.
But the real joy is getting to now apply those same experiences and in scripted components to a group of "hungry" professionals yearning to step up to make their business more efficient and effective in the context of a stormy, painful previous ten years most of the people would prefer to forget every happened. But they did happen and they did create the root structure of a case for change going forward.  The experience was a joy  for me to get to teach, energized and engage the leadership team to embrace the past, project the future but make the journey ahead arm-in-arm, with a singular purpose. Will the work be easy? Certainly not! Will it be successful? I believe at this juncture absolutely.  Am I excited to get to be part of the development of the road map for the journey? You cannot imagine for I am getting to take all I have learned and cultivated in an academic incubator with thousands of students and get to utilize the mixed bag of skills learn to seek significant financial and organization accomplished believe unattainable.
The power of Wanting To is truly amazing and that is what I experienced; thirty people focused forward and realizing their are personal and external factors that can have a push back or anchoring implication, are corporately joined and committed to overcoming, creating infrastructure as a new pathway, yet uncharted, begins to develop and unfold.  Seeing the energy and excitement was worth the two broken commitments.  
Then to get home exhausted on Thursday night and then get to work two phenomenal jail services last night at Stark County Jail was truly the icing to a wonderful week.  I saw power of Spirit and renewal last night in many of the inmates. Wow!  This afternoon I have been asked to sing at a funeral of  dear lady from my church that I pray will be a blessing for her family and friends that will be there.  And then into a full day of activities at church tomorrow ... yes, a great week!
As this young day brightens, I know many are not waking up to a beautiful sun rise or a joyous prospect for a good day. I know, therefore, I am fully blessed.  Dear Lord, thank you for the blessing you are providing my family and me; so humbling!

Monday, March 4, 2013

A New Adventure

This will be my first blog now at the advanced age of sixty-five. It really feels strange for I feel great, excited about the tomorrows and loving the life God is giving me.  I say that for an array of reasons but one of which is today begins a new chapter in my life but then there have been many chapters, new beginnings and transitions in my life.
Today, after several weeks of planning, thinking, building a mental architecture, I will depart for Houston, TX and will be there for a three day initial workshop for a company seeking my assistance in guiding a restructuring in one of their functional areas.  I have realized that as the time has drawn near I have grown more excited about getting to do what I have done so often in my Goodyear career.  But as I was discussing with my wife this morning, it will be much different due to the ten year interlude of retirement from Goodyear and that ten years has been filled with university teaching of thousands of students. I say that as a supreme positive for this whole journey I am about to begin which will last several months no doubt to pull it all together will be very different for me in many regards.
In our daily devotion this morning, my prayer was that in this work about to begin with many people none of which I know but for one, that God will use this vessel and this time for His Glory through the auspices of the work and relationship.  This whole process with the project is about cultural change and adjustments seeking a higher degree of interrelationships and focus on the day to day work.  This is about people and all the unique, ubiquitous nature of bringing people together around a new challenge and direction. That is work I do enjoy in the depths of my being for I have seen great experiences in many places around this world when the work is done properly.  Is this a challenge? Oh, very much so! But I am so excited to get to invest into this journey.
All day yesterday my mind kept rumbling through the archives of my life and the thousands of experiences and multiple thousands of relationships I have made.  I found myself awed to be given a challenge like this in Texas as my threshold of sixty-five slipped up on me.  When I realize so many people my age and much young are dying daily such as my brother-in-law last week; I am amazed. When I realize many people my age physically or emotionally cannot do work like this; I am amazed.  When I realize I get deeply excited by the challenged of this work; I am surely amazed!
I wanted to share this with you first for information but more importantly to covet your prayers for safe journey, good health, openness of minds to change, calmness in my work in establishing myself with people I do not yet know and that the work to be developed will be fruitful and beneficial and God-honoring.  When I get back I will update you on how the week progressed but please know how happy I am to be given this opportunity and challenge, for the many years of experience to prepare me for this and for the joy of getting to do what I love to do.  Yes, I am amazed!