Saturday, March 29, 2014

"3,000 Arabs and the Skywizard"

No, I have not fallen off the back of a truck and hit my head; at least not that I recall. Earlier this week I engaged on FB a post by a former student on the topic of abortion and its wrongness.  Other posts began to populate generally agreeing with the wrongness. But then this young man, whom I did not know, began a very disrespectful  line of comment about life only begins at about eight months to which I retorted that life begins at conception.  He then began to write derogatorily about who decides when life begins, etc, to which I retorted that it is very clear in the Holy Bible. That was met with acidic comments about "that bunch of pages written by a bunch of Arabs over 3,000 years ago ..."  And then another choice morsel calling God a "sky wizard" which caused me to respond that he should be very wary of such words for the Bible is quite clear on how things like that are dealt with. There was one more response to which I responded that his comments no longer deserved comment from me so I backed out of the FB dialog.
That conversation has remained in my brain in feeling real sorrow about such disrespect for God but in realizing this young man is certainly part of a growing population of people that simply could care less about there being a God, the Bible is a nonentity and that heaven is a myth. I realize there have always been those around us that feel that way but to read it in such boldface did not anger me but saddened me and that has only deepened as I think more and more about it as a microcosm of society. 
All of this is, no doubt, tempered with the thousands of prison and jail inmates I have met in this last decade. I realize some portion of them came to the church services for something to do or to just get out of their cells for a hour or so. But I also realize the great numbers of them attentively listened, fervently prayed, shed real tears, expressed great joy and sought to be better people. So, it is certainly not all bad but quite encouraging.
Yet, to realize that there is a growing, I assume, piece of the population that are truly disconnected from God and His Teachings is, well, quite frightening for His Word creates societal norms and boundaries. As our prisons overflow, the degree of criminality escalates, the heinous nature of crimes worsens, why should anyone be shocked or surprised?  Yes, I live in a spiritual bubble for I seek that bubble for inside that bubble resides peace, joy and love coated with respect. I have realized in the last few years why my church has endless numbers of events for men, women and children to be a part for that involvement is a furtherance of the opportunity to stay connected inside that spiritual bubble providing a means to not be tempted to be pulled into things or places that would otherwise create harm to ones spiritual life.  That is my understanding which I think is absolutely wonderful. Our challenge, then, is to, through testimony, sharing and planting seeds in an array of ways, move others to want to seek to understand what and why we believe as we do. God takes it from there which is a joy to realize. Our job is to plant and fertilize; He provides the yield!
So, therefore, in that brief FB share which was rather unsettling for me to see God referred to as a "sky wizard" and the Bible "a pack of pages written by Arabs over 3,000 years ago" with inference that therefore those pages, the Bible, have no relevance today, has led to to a renewed joy in knowing that God that inspired the writers of the Scriptures is that same God that has prepared for my family and me a home in Heaven with Him when that time to leave this land of the dying to enter that land of the living for eternity.
It was not intended as I began this blog to preach a sermon but realize it has provided me an opportunity to put to readable words my heart. It is my hope and my belief that someone reading this will be piqued enough to seek to understand more clearly where my heart resides.  Thank you for taking the time to read my heart and I wish you a blessed day.  My quartet, The Pathway Quartet, is singing a concert later this afternoon to a large group of elderly people as a local assisted living facility and my prayer for days has been that something would be said or sung that would inspire them spiritually. This is such a phenomenal ministry God has opened to us and it is always such a blessing.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

If You Do Not Stand for Something, You Will Fall for Anything

Last evening was a wonderful experience for not only me but for a couple of hundred wonderful people from all walks of life, ages, histories, experiences as I was part of a concert to raise funds for a local jail ministry.  Many songs were sung, many words were spoken, many tears were shed, many smiles shared, many wonderful sentiments expressed, many people, old friends, for the first time in a long time reconnected; it was at the aggregate a Joy!  Through absolute exhaustion from the physical and emotional stress of such an event, when I got home and was able to reflect on the whole of the lead-up to the concert and the concert itself, and I was deeply reminded of the very words I spoke last night to the crowd on my now found Five Principles of Jim Williams Life:
  1. If you do what you have always done you will get what you have always gotten
  2. If you do not know where you are going, that is exactly where you will end up
  3. If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything
  4. Whatever it is in life you are looking for, you WILL find it
After a crazy, restless night of sleep, my mind re-registered on Principle 3 as I have read the morning news which I love to do each morning.  We are watching Russia begin annexation of her former republics with absolutely nothing that will stop the Putin juggernaut, the continuing saga of the lost jetliner, the global equity markets jumping in all directions, gold continuing to lose value, etc, etc. 
Last night I had this moment of reality and relativity slowly slide into my cross hairs when just before my Quartet took the stage to do our set, I saw this young man sitting near the back of the crowd. I just glanced at him for my mind was already to take the stage. He was tanned which was unique for NE Ohio in late March and as he looked at me I realized it was one of six former students that came to the concert last night but this young man, Ryan West, had just returned from his third tour in Afghanistan. Many times during this deployment I had prayed for his and his unit's safety while in-country.  I was so deeply touched and we stood and hugged each other for a few moments. In that moment, my Principle 3 flashied more vividly across my radar screen for here was a great young man that Stood for Something!
During our set after having sung No One Ever Cared So Much For Me, I asked Ryan to come up onstage with me and I recognized all the veterans and spoke about Ryan as a student, as a trooper and as an excellent example of our America.  It was special given that moment with so many watching to embrace him and tell him I loved him and thanked him as did many before his departure.  In that few moments, the stark reality hit me that so many around me sincerely do not exemplify what they stand for therefore they can and do fall for anything.
I have extreme concern about my country, a country I have loved for my entire life, have worn the warrior cloth of my nation, have paid my taxes without a whimper and prayed for my leaders as hard as that it is to do at times and especially currently.  But then I step back and asked the same, simple question about what does my nation stand for in 2014?  It is at that vertex that I feel  I am in the equinox of not knowing what my nation really stands for in complete honesty. The values that established the boundaries and provided the strands of culture are unraveled it seems.  It would seem my nation seeks only tolerance which translates as no absolutes that translates to no boundaries.  A culture with no boundaries is a gang with no morals as I view it.
I have been teaching my four year old grand daughter to render a sharp hand salute and how to cut it away sharply this week and my wife and I are helping her learn the Pledge of Allegiance to our Nation; precious to say the least to see her combine the salute and the Pledge for it swells my heart. But core to that swelling with pride is in knowing she is Ethiopian and now living her life in America; a blessing as is she. But what will her America be for I know it will certainly be very, very different that my America was, right?
This nation is not the nation most of us grew up in, loved, worked, sacrificed, and will die in. This nation is adrift in a sea of borrowed and lobbyist money making our leadership more and more prostitutable; so sad! We see our military top brass being rightly publicly admonished for bad choices and conduct. Where are the heroes? Where are the ones we want to be like?  It seems each day a new blemish or shadow is cast upon our horizon and I see a whole generation of great young minds casting around in disillusionment for those that Stood for Something have gone AWOL at a time when the "heroes" and "examples" of right are needed so desperately.
Last night as Ryan and I embraced in absolute respect, I was re-energized and lifted in my love for this nation and its youth.  So I ask the question as I did to the audience last night ... what do you stand for, really, what DO YOU Stand FOR?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Life at the Dash Perspective

Earlier this week I attended the funeral of a great and very dear friend.  The funeral was, of course, a celebration of the home going of this man that had meant so much to me for many years.  In the course of the funeral, a gentleman read the great poem, The Dash. It was not new to me but this time given my place in life, my dash, and the context of the man being celebrated in his passing, the power of those words has touched profoundly which brings me to this early morning.

The essence of the poem, which I highly recommend you reading, is that when our time comes, people will gather at our graveside and we will see all the headstones.  All headstones are common in one regard with that being they reflect the birth and now the death date of the departed.  At the birth date there is assumed that joy and tears abounded at the arrival of the new life. The end date, of course, reflects that point in time when life on this earth ended which again usually triggers tears with regrets, celebrations, honoring words but still, loss.  Yet the most prolific information that, our, tombstone is not the dates but the separation of those dates by the dash for that dash is the journey of the life now etched on that rock marking the grave of the departed. I was impressed deeply by the simplicity and poignancy of that thought around the simple question, what am I doing with my Dash?

Last evening in conducting back-to-back chapel services at the Stark County Jail with The Dash still fresh in my mind, I spoke to the receptive inmates that came to the chapel services about their dash as they sat there in the jail garb and tan sandals yet very attentive and many moved to tears.  See, their Dash is quite different and unique, as is ours as well for our Dash is one of its kind. Our journey through life will take many turns, cut through much rock, meander in many juxtapositions, interface with many different  other Dashes with each of those interfaces modifying our own personal Dash. When I stop for just a moment, so many names begin to flood my mind that have adjusted and modified my Dash in so many ways to this very moment.  Just a sprinkling of those people would be named Barnes, Holt, Morton, Stone, Williams, Berry,Lee, Park, Richards, Farley, Keim, Frazier, Wheeler, Sabaka, Friday, Watson, Brown, and the more I think on this concept the names flood even more powerful into my mind this morning.  Each unique. Each special, Each powerful. Each for a purpose.

I can assume that my Dash has found its ways crossing many other Dashes in many ways due to the wide swath of diverse paths my life has taken in career, marriage, family, music, prison work, teaching, military, church and that list just keeps expanding but you get my point.  Each of us reading this traverses the Dash of people every day.  In seeing, listening and empathizing with hurting men weekly in jails, my heart continues to be touched powerfully with their Dashes in make poor choices, surrounding themselves with those that would pull them down versus pushing them up and wanting the best for them.  When I realize the number of people that and continue to cross my Dash, I just have to stop and thank God for these good interfaces and thank him for pulling me back from those interfaces that would have taken me down a very different, noncontributive pathway with my life.

One of the things I speak often to many people about currently is that a person will only crave that which they have experienced. That craving can be a great thing and as well can be a devastatingly terrible thing but still, to gain a state of craving, a point of experiencing must take place.  What one choose to experience is a very personal choice. I realize that not too profound but very potent in a person's Dash for that choice can and will alter and modify  each person's Dash, right?

As I sit here in the quiet of a new morning of a new day of a new opportunity, my Dash will be out and about in Bible Study, meeting with a great former student, a full day at church tomorrow, a full week of singing in various locations and the drumbeat of Dash-dom bangs ever so loudly. But I never forget that that Dash can become permanent in one breath.  I would ask that each of you reading this, please, do a Dash Analysis asking some frank question of yourself. Where is my Dash headed?  How can I turn my Dash in a more proper and productive direction from this vantage point to a horizon of positive touch on others?  How do I thank God for the Dash only He can give? When my Dash becomes permanent, where will I be residing for eternity?

I bid you a wonderful weekend and please know I appreciate each of you so much. Your many comments in so many ways are always uplifting and encouraging.  Thank you for taking your time to read my blog or maybe this is part of my Dash running forward looking for another Dash to intersect with? Be blessed!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Society's Trash Can

We went through the Peoples' Choice, the SAG and the Oscars. I personally would rather have my toenails pulled out as to watch that but my wife enjoys it so, well, being the great husband I am, I chose to grin and bear it.  Then you begin to realize with each awards show they are talking about the same movies, same music, same, same, same and then the thanking of those paying for the extravaganza. Am I sounding a bit cynical this morning? 
Then you quickly begin to realize that 95% of the movies being celebrated we have never seen nor probably ever will so why do we invest time watching it?  THEN,  we turn on the TV and watch some of the new sitcoms in trying to be less 1950s children and experience some of the modern entertainment I guess to be "cool." Well, cool we are not for what you realize you are watching in the movies, the television, the Dr Phils, the Ellens, etc, etc is societal trash.  Trying to watch a documentary this week on the making of SCARFACE and could not even watch that due to the perversion and killings and horrific language. 
Graphic killing, gay and lesbian is now the norm, divorce is mocked as a cultural norm, special effects give me a headache and for me, as bad as any of it, is in these animated movies where nobody acts anymore but rather add voices to computer characters.  Let me put it this way, I am pretty much done with movies and television. Really, what a phenomenal waste of time!
You can call me old, cynical, counting toward the end days, etc but fact is, if this junk is all our children and grandchildren have to fill their minds, not wonder divorce rates skyrocket still, a normal husband and wife family with children all at time is a unique and often time scoffed at.  My grand daughters love to watch Disney television. As the Poppy, I watch it with them but what I see program after program is some of the same junk I speak of above.  Smart-mouthed kids, disrepectful to and from parents with their children, again the gay / lesbian interfaces colored as normal.  Try to imagine the images being formulated in the minds of our grandchildren for what equates to "normal."
I used to laugh when people would talk about disconnecting their televisions or never going to a movie.  I am now there!  The first and probably last movie in saw the last ten years that I thought worthy of positive comment, was CAPTAIN PHILLIPPS. It was action packed, suspenseful, well acted and kept my attention.  YES!  My wife rented three DVDs  of some relatively new movies we have already watched and all three deserve the trashcan instead of returning to the store.  WHAT A WONDERFUL LIFE,  TARZAN, epics like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or PATTON are no more!  Drugs, profanity, blatant sex, gay and lesbian sex, disrespect; all the new norm.  I tried to watch Ellen DeGeneres yesterday, openly gay and going through a "divorce" from her lover, interviewing this openly gay man talking about how much he loved his "husband."  I immediately was sickened by the mockery of marriage and proper, God-blessed relationships and just turned the TV off. I have realized that Dr PHIL is an upscale, HD version of Jerry Springer all focusing on the depravity of Man. The list just gets longer.
I find myself this day thinking over just this week just how sick and tired of the junk and you cannot call it anything but junk!  I want better for the children of this generation for project the value systems formulating in them today into what their children will be viewing and processing?  I believe, hope, we are a better nation than this but we are what we eat and we are what we allow into my minds.  This mind-junk is just wrong on many fronts.  When I stop and try to imagine the billions of dollars invested in this junk, the commercials, many of which are suggestive in themselves, I just shiver at the impact of what is being developed in the minds of our future! The SIMPSONS, FAMILY GUY, MODERN FAMILY, etc, etc are all simply terrible examples that depict humor and normalcy in our world today; how sad!
Alcohol, drugs, sex, perversion; all points of normalcy and presented in humor is just wrong.  Then let us not forget the video games my grand children are starving to play laced with blatant violence and killings. It is all a cauldron of value equation I believe fo we are seeing the manifestation more and more frequently of kids killing kids fueled by what they learned from these games and trashy television. I would propose you take a day, any day and just get a good sample of the delicacies our children are being fed.  Even now gay childrens' program characters are presented as gay. We will not even talk about commercials!
Your thoughts and input are sought and appreciated! I am a frustrated grandfather this morning.