Thursday, December 10, 2015

Self Radicalization

This term, new to our lexicon, has continued to cause me to ponder what it really means. Here is an academic definition:  

    Radicalization is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that (1) reject or undermine the status quo or (2) reject and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.
As one watches the news, read the stories of credible news media such as Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Foreign Affairs, etc, which I do daily and watch the never ending news cycle with each competing for "Breaking News" with powerful graphics and compelling music, it is very easy to throw up your hands in angst and grow numb.  My wife loves to make the comment, "why do you do that for there is nothing you can do about it .." which to a great extent is correct.  But I believe those that have a hunger to want to understand the major dots and how they connect, and I plead guilty to be addicted to that avocation, your context of what is happening in this world becomes mind boggling.

There are so many forces screaming toward confluence in our world that one cannot but go back to Scripture and its clear depiction of the End Times I believe.  Racism, regardless of color, creed, sexual preference, location, etc is raging in this nation.  Flags, songs, monuments, names history, institutions, etc, etc; all being driven by a bullying set of forces. I learned today, assuming it is accurate, since 2007, the number of mass shootings in America is the greatest in American history for the same time frame. Drug addiction, trafficking, killing has accelerated at pace that is is mind-dazzling and what I know of thirteen years of working in prison ministry, the general population has not clue of the degree of this scourge on our society.e 

But my thesis is about Self Radicalization as I watch a diver in a lake in CA searching for a hard drive tossed by the killers of just a few days ago.  I am a man of strong passion if you know me you know how true that is.  But I realize, I think, that have a passion for something is a lower rung apparently than radicalization. Go back and read the definition.  As I read it over and over through the prism of is a crazed world that worsens by the day it seems,  "adopted increasingly extreme .." is the verb of the definition.

So I ask the question in the position hue; why are we not self radicalizing for Jesus and His Kingdom? How long has it been since you heard the terms such as driven, zealous, etc when referencing our Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Kingdom prepared for the believers? When you look at organized religion today and seeing so many churches closing, major reduction of membership thus becoming relics, you must ask why.  Prayer has been removed from schools. Allegiance to our Nation has become a point of caustic ethos so where do our children, our future, learn about God, learn about our Nation they will run in a few years?  The very history of our nation and our states is now being rewritten via bullying pressure from racial and LGBT organizations.  See my point for that point is the void of absolutes in our culture; you know what is clearly right and clearly wrong. Those lines are blurred or nonexistent. Given that, chaos reigns and that is exactly what we are transitioning to I believe. 

I yearn for Americans to turn from the craziness trajectory we are on and I believe if you look at the times of the terrible launch of these indicators, I must go to the President of our Nation and his tenure which is on or about 2007.  The "Great Hope" has turned out to be the "Great Flop" but the implication going forward, my grand childrens' world, is shaded and jaded for their entire lifetime. Our national debt will break the back of this nation due to the mountainous entitlement spending during this same period of time ... I believe you see my point!

So what is missing; radicalization for God so my prayer for this nation is to turn back to Him for if not, this gets much, much worse.  Our new normal is, well, destroying this nation and that lethal injection, I believe, has root structure back to the first ten years of our new, frightening century.  An inept, gridlocked Congress, a cunning, shadowy President with a very unclear strategy for our Nation; caustic equation.  Thus why would anyone be surprised by the Trump Phenomenon? This rise is due to the fact that he has given voice with passion to a scared, weary nation!

Here is all I know: I love Jesus Christ and His amazing touch on my life. I love my church home, The Canton Baptist Temple and the abundant love that church shows in so many ways. I love my family and want the best for them every day. My grand daughter's best friend's mother was brutally killed by her father this week and now my grand daughter is having to try and understand it all.  This is the new normal and Satan is having a field day with the craziness that is unfolding daily. Fear, worry, discouragement; all elements of a world that has turned from God; that same God our Founders leaned heavily on as history rightly records. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Our 2016 World

On this day after the 2015 Thanksgiving Day, ones mind cannot not think about the world as it rolls into a new year only weeks away. The world is still reeling from the Paris massacre, the latest killings in the Murder Capital of the World, Chicago, Europe has rolled up its walls and shut out the rest of the world quaking in fear of ISIL thus ISIL has won without firing a shot.  We see the bawdy, blatant aggression of Mother Russia led by King Putin surging forward unchecked for the great checker, America, has pretty much checked out if you get the play on words. Global warming seems to be the Obama landscape to escape his Commander-in-Chief role when it would seem to me that every meeting and gathering should be focused solely on the elimination of this scourge to mankind called Daesh or ISIL or whatever you choose to called this menace to mankind running apparently unabated.

Earlier this week I watched an interview on Charlie Rose with General David Petraeus in which is articulated as clearly as I have experienced the multifaceted spider web of killers most of which are affiliates of none other than Persian now known as Iran. Yes, that same Persia our President and his minion John Kerry, have negotiated an immense nuclear pact for it is "the best we can do and we must ratify it" for some strange reason I still do not understand. And, oh by the way, this agreement frees up somewhere around $150 billion to Iran and we know now where some of that will go which is to fund the terrorist groups linked and aligned with Persia's intention well stated to remove Israel from the face of the earth. This is the same Persia that is thumbing its nose at the Great American Satan; that would be We the People. It simply is beyond my level of understand to grasp what this President's real agenda is for with seemingly each day, he says and does things that seems shadowy and almost sickening supportive of our sworn enemies.

As a man of passion and patriotism, this POTUS behavior and agenda is not only frightening but downright angering knowing so many have given so much for this wonderful gift of Freedom. Now with the Paris attacks and others no doubt being planned for execution soon, the Government will be seeking more and more access to our personal information thus infringing on certainly inalienable rights granted us by our Bill of Rights.  We see all too clearly the failed of institutions in our nation such as the VA, the IRS, the Post Office, Amtrak, and the list goes on. We see and hear so much about "shovel ready" infrastructure work needed in America which I agree with but have you driven by a work site lately to actually see actual work being done? Earlier this week I did see several road projects underway and what I saw was invariably one person working, one person standing and chatting, one person on break, one person checking the person working and two persons getting read to go to break. It really is actually sort of funny to witness the lack of energy, push to get the work done but then I realize it is a metaphor for where America has evolved to.

I think about things strangely for I take the long view of what I see. For example, it has now become commonplace to see panhandlers at major intersections with signs asking for financial handouts and in all configurations of sad faces, torn, dirty clothes, animals, old Army camouflage passing as an old veteran, etc, etc.  Each time I witness this act playing out I find myself wishing I had ten job cards in my pocket I could hand to the poor begging soul and then see if there would be any effort to actually go earn a wage. I am convinced the great, great majority would throw the card away and just occupy the corner begging perch. When I see the same beggar on another corner I know then there is organization, planning, transportation, logistics invested in this begging venture. Sound cold?  I implore you to check me out on this non-work institution.  When people do not have to work, they will not work for when We the People are paying them not to work; well, you get my drift but sadly that is where we have evolved to.

In my naive belief that police are fundamentally good and seek to keep the peace, with each highly publicized shooting with police involved, I sincerely get sick of the same rhetoric and poison stirrers that work people into a frenzy that leads to blatant harassment of police all on national television.  CNN has become, sadly, the chief culprit in the stirring with the likes if Suny Hosten, Charles Blow, Don Lemon; all black, all with an agenda and all creating more angst and accusative narrative about "all" police that is getting more and more of them killed as they sit upon their perch pontificating angst and hate aimed at the very people that get up each day to protect us.  

It is beyond me, frankly, why a sane, normal young person would choose police work as a career in this cauldron of hate spun by media in the midst of blatant abuse and criminal activity by those, some of which end up shot or killed in the line of duty. But the police, regardless of circumstance, is guilty and drawn and quartered by the CNN butchers I have grown to loathe.  I know so many police and deputies and see how hard they work, how dedicated to their mission and I love and admire each. Yes, there are bad ones as with any profession but this is a very, very small percentage but it is they ghat get all the television time thus broad-brushing the great majority of great police.

If I have a deep concern for our nation, and I do, it is with the overworked and overwhelmed all-volunteer military construct. Ten deployments is simply wrong for the service person and their tortured families.  It is illogical to me for less than one percent of the US population to protect the 99% of Americans. I understand fully the logic for going to the AVA but that was before the days of multi deployments in never ending conflicts in a world gone mad with weaponry never thought feasible. I think it criminal in a nation as great as America to know have a system where every single America male and female must serve our nation for two years at an early age.  We are one of the very few if not the only nation in the G20 that does not have a conscription system to bring fresh minds and bodies into the role of protecting our nation. We see all too clearly the downside of multiple deployments and this will only worsen.

During my ten years teaching university level students I found a way to trigger the conversation about the above paragraph meaning their thoughts on taking on the responsibility of protecting our way of life from foreign and domestic enemies. Easily over 99% saw no reason nor any desire to step up to that noble task which saddened me but allowed me to project that that is our America today. We are an aging empire that, like all other empires will collapse from the inside due to the weight of government cost, entitlements and no internal armed force to fight back the enemies that would wish to destroy our way of life. Does that not depict America today?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Poison of Hate

On Lady Liberty given to us by the French, lest we forget, that has met countless millions of immigrants coming to our Land seeking refuge, a new chance and life and freedom of worship.  Emma Lazarus is inscribed on this Statue of Liberty: 

"Inscription on the Statue of Liberty"

Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, 
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

In these terrible, deadly, ever-shocking days unfolding on global networks and social media, the litmus test of and for each of us reading this resides in the 2015 application of those infamous welcoming words.  Within a 99.9% percentile of those reading this came here from another location for an array of reasons but freedom was the overarching thrust of the voyage and the worth of the challenge to leave loved ones, homes, work, etc.   

As I began to see a few weeks ago posts to FB decrying acceptance of the poor and pitiful migration of people scared to death and many dying trying to escape the horrors of their hell in their homeland, I began to feel conflicted deeply. 

Then with the Paris attacks, the xenophobic nature of Man began to rear its ugly head around the world but not stronger than right here in America. We have all read or heard of the internment camps for the Japanese after December 7, 1941. We can all, as well, understand the fear our grandparents felt in trying to grasp the what and why Japan did such a dastardly deed. History has always shown us the Japanese felt they were driven to take such drastic actions due to America shutting off its raw material supplies. I am not justifying the whys or wherefores of what happened but history has recorded that as a dark time in American history with the treatment of the Japanese which were American citizens.

This with the Japanese is but one of many such xenophobic reactions to calamities.  The Syrian refugee crisis looms in the sunlight and TV light of our social media world so it more real and in HD for we in 2015 than it was in the black-and-white media world of 1941.  Seeing photos on FB of these poor wretches of people selling their lives to Turkish and Greeks to get away from the morass of their lives next to pits of rattlesnakes crawling on each other are, for me, reprehensible. While reprehensible that one of the Paris bombers allegedly came into Europe as one of the refugees angers, sickens and causes many of us to want to lash out in some caustic way. But let me say again:

"Inscription on the Statue of Liberty"

Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, 
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

I am deeply, deeply conflicted on the actions of now roughly thirty American states denying entry of these "huddled masses yearning to breathe free .." for none of us can know the statistics of the level of potential threat.  To give it another slant, the Mafia has been granted almost elite star status with movies when realizing these were Italian and Irish street gangsters and thugs making their way to America to Americanize their ill gotten gains and means to those gains via murder and mayhem, right? So do you see my point and parallel?

In our local Canton, OH newspaper today, a great writer, Charita Goshay, has posted a challenging piece on this very issue in American life in 2015.  That which we have held valid and valued is now challenged on every hand in America and in Europe.  Legitimizing and celebrating the many things the Bible clearly states to be wrong in God's Eyes is example of the transformation of America as it becomes more god-less as has Europe since World War II.  

I worked for an executive at Goodyear that loved to state when some were celebrating attainment of a target and wanting praise, he would quietly and succinctly state .."one robin doeth not a Spring make!"  I believe one terrorist is that robin in this ocean of people that direly need to be absorbed into the less barbaric global village.  If not I believe the level of brutality and killing will be enhanced via technology of explosives and weaponry obviously readily available on world black markets.

Many will disagree with my sentiment in my writing this morning and please know, that is perfectly within your right for I understand fully the innate longing to protect and build a wall. But our global village is burning around us. I am convinced the Obama Administration has heavily prompted and fueled much of this disdain and hatred both foreign and domestic we are seeing come to fruition as the sunlight of hatred grows hotter around the world.

I go back to Lady Liberty's telling words for my guidance as I navigate this deep sense of confliction I myself am feeling on this mass of people seeking life ... is that really too much to ask?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Skin in the Game

I am beginning my comments with this link of a student interview about the million student march. Like so many of us we have watched the bullying at the University of Missouri and saw clearly the utilization of the leverage from athletic program revenues and then see the top two university officials simply tuck their tales and run and hide.  I do not know about you but all of this is, well, typical of America today defined as bullies gaining the high ground.

Listening to this young lady talk about the March is designed to get free tuition for college, all student loan debt paid off and all paid for by the "1% of people hoarding" the money.  

How immature misinformed and incredible such rhetoric is.  I had a great friend many years ago tell me bluntly that until you have skin the the game, you nor anyone else will full embrace nor engage the issue.  But her rhetoric aligns perfectly with the Democratic 'give me because you owe me' mentality that now abounds.  In doing organizational effectiveness consulting for nearly ten years after my retirement from Goodyear, I saw that adage so clearly.  Free anything means free some taking responsibility.

Had I not personally witnessed by thousands of university students how badly student loans were abused, not an intent to repay, total disregard for credit viability into the future, purchase of nicer cars, nicer computer, iPhone, clothes etc, etc, I lost great respect for many students in their intentional misuse of borrowed funds. That was exacerbated by the fact by the fact of knowing so many parents were sacrificing their retirements accounts, etc, to pay for their child and to see the abuse of the sacrificial support from parents and grand parents was and is sickening to me.  Mind you, this does not describe the majority of students but a sizable portion certainly feed it that trough in various tributaries.  

But at the aggregate of my thesis is that unless a person be they a spouse, a child, a student, an employ invests some of their on skin / responsibility into the work involved, they will never fully invest themselves thus fall along the roadway of bystanders. I apply my Pareto analogy of the 80/20 for I believe it is roughly 20% of students that choose not to invest themselves and tend to take advantage of the 80% that invest themselves fully into their education and thus life and thus future and it is that 80% that will lead the future while dragging the 20% along the way as their, the 80%'s taxes they pay from earnings are siphoned into entitlements and safety nets for the 20%ers. Trust me, this is a viable theory that is very real and measurable. 

There are millions of amazing, gifted, hard driving students in our classrooms.  My greatest concern for those students is the very poor quality of teaching they will receive as too many professors are over-focused on research, dissertations (a racket in and of itself), and too many faculty, like the communications professor at Missouri inflaming the terrible unrest now apparently proven to be fueled by lies and troublemakers.  But alas, the Pandora box is now fully opened so we will now witness more and more of this and it will be the 20%ers of tomorrow that will be filling the campus quads and student centers shouting and demanding.

The Missouri reality should have been handled day one by the President firing the football coach, revoking all participant football scholarships and forfeiting the rest of the football season.  What we are witnessing is a new form of bullying and the stick of TV revenues flowing into universities and being spent less on student enhancement to learn but on more computers, buying parts of cities to expand country club type facilities, etc. 

America has turned soft and flabby with this new exhaustive layering of movements, entitlements, softening the rules enforcement, police hating, loss of global power leadership and more than anything, turning solidly away from God. A recent poll I saw this week indicates that 42%  of Americans consider themselves spiritually "nones" meaning they have nor feel no sense of connection nor value in organization religion. 

Satan is winning!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Facing the Bullies

Good morning. I have just watched a Charlie Rose interview with Admiral McKernan, retired Navy Special Operations Commander.  Rarely am I moved as I watched with swelling pride renewing my pride in our nation's military as I watched this highly decorated Navy Seal answer Rose's questions with fervor, frankness and absolute clarity.  I realized how much I miss briefings and straight forwardness that is the military for it cuts through the politics and smoke and the misdirection or pitfalls of poor communication.  This man was the key military head of the Bin Laden raid so his credibility is beyond reproach. He had thirty-seven years in the Navy and is now a Chancellor at the University of Texas. Enough on his stripes but there were two areas of the hour that resonated with me deeply both of which I absolutely concur and always have.

How do you stop a bully?  "To stop a bully you have to stand up and push back and push back hard."

Is Leadership hard?  "There is no endeavor more difficult and challenging than that of leadership."

Let me expand on both these boulevards of success for a few minutes:  How do you stop a bully?  "To stop a bully you have to stand up and push back and push back hard."  There are very few reading this that have made it to this stage of the journey and not have faced the sting and stench of being bullied.  My first real experience that is still vivid was in the ninth grade and a senior guy began to say terrible things to me, threaten me and demand my lunch money. I yielded and gave up my lunch money thus going without lunch for nearly a year which nobody ever knew. This began against when I hit the tenth grade the this same guy was still there. He was large, scary, rude and frankly, I was afraid of him.  About the third week of my tenth grade year, he confronted me yet again but something had happened that summer within me. He poked me hard in the chest, demanded my lunch money and as I fell backwards almost falling down a set of bleachers in the gym, I took a hard swing with my fist as he was sitting and hit him in the left side of his head. He was as shocked as I as I remember. But something immediately happened inside me which was that I had a gut full of this sense of being a wimp and with that, as he stood to kill me, I am sure, I hit him again in the same place harder. He fell backward, he jumped up and walked away and that never happened again. LESSON LEARNED; I hated being bullied and detest a bully to this day!

Bullies exist and feed off of the weak. As I watched this Admiral expound on America today as viewed by the world, he iterated Russia, ISIL, Syria are bullies and they are bullying America. As along as America, like my bully, is allowed to keep pushing and scaring, they, the bully, will only feel more empowered; so very true.  

I believe the Obama Doctrine when assessed and viewed through the lens of historians, will clearly carry the taint of a weak, isolationist, dovish President as our standing as The Global Power Broker imploded around him. I sincerely believe that is what we are all witnessing day-to-day but with no Title affixed. History will affix that title! So in the mean time, Putin will have his way in reconstructing Mother Russia, he will augment that with his Middle Eastern influence he now musters via massive arms sales to these ME States. 

The Iran Nuclear Deal is another example, at this stage at least, of the US being bullied by assuming the position of weakness and pleading instead of a position of strength, fear of retaliation and force structure and projection. 

America is being bullied at home by the race-baiters and the fissures of that will likely lead to domestic warfare as the police are now the enemy. That, personally, concerns me more than ISIL, Russia, etc. And for me, this President and his policies and rhetoric has fueled this widening gap within our nation.  

My freshman year of college at a tough basketball practice one evening, a senior player was guarding me and with each rebound he was intentionally pushing me around, elbowing and being profane.  This went on for several minutes until I popped him with my elbow in the ribs, legally I wish to add, and he went down no doubt feeling embarrassed in front of the rest of the team. A minute later I received a pass about twelve feet from the goal and was about to drive to my right for the basket and as I did he hit me in the fast  hard with a fist that sent me to the floor. I was dazed for a minute or so, felt really terrible and looked up and he was smiling at his accomplishment. The other guys, I realized were waiting to see what this freshman was going to do about this as was the coach I realized as well. Knowing I would be killed, I felt this sense of "who cares" wash over me and as I came up I returned the favor I had received sending him reeling. I heard this applause and then realizing I had passed some unwritten test.  I have never forgotten that night for many reasons.

I hate bullies!

Is Leadership hard?  "There is no endeavor more difficult and challenging than that of leadership."  I love watching, studying, assessing, coaching leadership perhaps more than any other field of endeavor.  For some leading comes seemingly ease and for some it seems unlearnable. I have been privileged to work with some amazing leaders and as well to try and work for some simply horrific leaders for they themselves were never comfortable in their own skin.  

Respect, Calm, Directness, Clarity and Can-Do assemble the traits of effective leaders. There is no leadership until the leader fails and decides to get up and learn from the knock down or choose to reside in the prone position. I have experienced both with so many others and within myself.  If the leader does not feel the work or the job can get done, it will not and so many lessons for those being led will have been lost forever.  

People want to be led. People want to cool in the shade of leadership. People crave effective leadership.  After all is said and done, that is my summation comments on the topic. 

The Admiral was the best example I have seen in a long time of exhibiting leadership as a science and an art. But understand, when it comes to leadership, you must learn the science before crafting into the art.  Those being led will see the lack of depth if the art is sought too quickly meaning a leader must earn the right of those being led to lead.

I highly recommend watching the Rose interview at his website.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Like Sands Through the Hourglass, So are the Days of Our Lives

Yes, I made that title up, not sure where it came from, ahhhhhhhh, I hope there is no TV show that uses the metaphor so it is MINE to use this rainy Saturday morning. It has been two weeks since my last blog and there is so much unfolding in our world that it is not a matter of what to expound upon but the challenge is selecting which from the mass.

This week we see the GOP continue with its circular firing squad approach to the POTUS elections.  I still smile when I read or watch Trump's name come up, as it so often does, and there is this cynical, sarcastic smirk that accompanies any comment about Trump so the pundits want so badly to see him crash and burn; but he keeps on chugging.  

This week we saw Mrs. Clinton probably ascend the throne to the POTUS but the tactical partisan Benghazi hearings, frankly for me, were blatantly partisan to the point that the killings in Libya were a sideshow. Clinton, short of a disaster or an unexploded IED, will surely be her entry cadence. Why? option 2 is what in either party? 

So sad but at this stage so blatantly correct. So another eight years of Obama legacy is something I cannot fathom but I will be seventy-six by the end of her reign so it probably won't matter much, will it? Enough on POTUS politics for it truly sickens me for my children and grandchildren but the ball is rolling and it is apparently unstoppable from this vantage.

I choose this day to remain hopeful and believing that God is absolutely in control of all this noise for that is what it becomes is white noise.  Legalization of drugs is the new norm.  Ms Jenner is the Woman of the Year; how sick is that but hey, this is our new norm it would appear.  Putin is doing what he wishes while our POTUS strategy stated is that he will mire himself down and he will just pack up and go back to Moscow. Yes, and pigs fly is my thought on that gutless doctrine! 

Did I mention the Middle East is at a state of absolute collapse which I am thinking is inevitable and perhaps good in long term for the boundaries the British drew in 1917 are being erased in blood and will be redrawn by ethnic boundary markers I would envision.  But there will be much blood yet to be spilled as the erasing goes forward and as Iran and Russia and I believe China will dictate the pace and terms of this monumental transformation. The U.S. will be fundamentally a zero-based force in the redrawing. So enjoy the cheap gasoline while you can!

Here is what I know! I am happy. I love what I get to do. I hear often I do too much of it but that is me if you know me. My family is healthy and happy.  My amazing ministries in both prison ministry and singing in assisted and nursing homes continue to bless and amaze so it is worth the abundant effort and time and energy invested. I love getting to do that and never could I have imagined my life would have evolved to that.  I could not be more proud of my five grandchildren as they are excelling in their strengths be it athletics, music, academics; such a blessing!

This lyric keeps circling through my mind; 

I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today. I know that He is living whatever men may say. I see His Hand of mercy, I heard His Voice of cheer. And just the time I need Him, HE's ALWAYS NEAR. So I will just lean on that fact in my life!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Let's eat!

It is early afternoon on a beautiful, cool, Fall day and am just in from an amazing Bible study.  That is important to know but the precursor of importance to my blog today must go back to last night after being part of two county jail chapel services.  

In the two services we had over fifty men of varying ages, races, ethnicity, crimes, family situations; yes, a metaphor for life on this journey I have come to realize. For almost thirteen years I have been more and more heavily involved in prison ministry now numbering nearly 300,000 men and women. With each church service I find myself feeling blessed, warmed at the fire, seeking ways to be more effective but still with the question: what is it that keeps that ministry work vital, always a blessing and grasping bigger bites of involvement each year to me. I am a man of passion as many of you know and if I get impassioned about cause, my drive triggers to accomplish more and more. But the prison work still maintains a deeply rooted question as to why this ministry is so important to me.

Most people I know would never understand the blessing that comes from this work.  Getting to do this work with an array of preachers, speakers, volunteers that are there just to be there and to encourage; I find myself blessed by the equation God fulfills in bringing such an eclectic band of brothers and sisters all pointed at bringing the matter of Salvation to the surface in these men and women society would generally like to just assume do not exist which extends to their families as well. 

The services last evening were unique in the sense of connectivity established and the level of respect, intensity of listening, the spirit of the Lord being shown in raised hands, clapping, praising God intently; WOW!  In this Bible study this morning we drilled into the story of Jesus and Levi (Matthew the tax collector) and the answer to the burning question for me and the why of the prison work came bursting to the light of day.  Jesus intentionally put Himself in places and with people "normal" people did not and would not associate with.  
Read these verses from Mark: 

Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick" ...  Insert prisoners for the "sick" and voila, that is exactly the why!  In the hundreds of services I have conducted and been part of and the innumerable songs I have sung and the many times I have had to get rather "stringent" to quiet and stop anything as to behaviors that would interrupt the work church service, I have never felt fearful nor threatened.  The relationships developed with the corrections officers and deputies is part of the blessing for I get to minister to them as well and realize my personal behavior and demeanor given that environment is satisfying to those men and women in uniform doing potentially dangerous and ever changing events inside the bars.

Verse seventeen shown above, for me, was like watching a shooting star as so many questions I have had were answered. Jesus I certainly am not. But this work has created an inexplicable empathy for these men and women that have made many terrible choices and they are paying the consequence. 

Never have I excused the act that put them into the prison for it is all part of the process they chose to embark upon.  I have yet to have a prisoner tell me they were in prison for no reason and believe me, I have had thousands of conversations hearing stories that most would think were from a television program. Broken homes, drug addiction, alcoholism, violence, hate, anger, discouragement, suicide, murder; that is my world in which I feel this amazing sense of joy and worth. It still simply takes my breath away even when tired, frustrated and discouraged.

A bonus to all of this is in getting to work with some amazing volunteers and pastors that take time from their busy lives to invest in these downtrodden and many times forgotten men and women.  I learn from each sermon, each testimony, each quiet private conversation with an inmate. I am blessed!

To close, each of us if we are like most Christians, have many friends that are Christians. It feels right and good and warm to be with other Christians. But here is the challenge for Christians I realize more strongly than ever before: how many non-Christians do you know and choose to associate with? Think about that for a moment! 

My answer is in the thousands of non-Christians I am with each year and realize more clearly with each passing year that God has opened this door to me for exactly what the verse 17 says and the example Jesus gave us all.  He did not linger or warm up to those that are on easy street and going well. No, He went to the tired, the poor, the dead so why on earth should we not follow that example?

So, how many non-Christians do you choose to be an example to in your words and deeds and actions?  Please, ponder that. I am re-energized in these last twelve hours as I guess and hope you can tell!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Pope, Yom Kippur, Putin, Christendom, Obama, Ahead ....

The title for this blog seems to capture this deeply rooted sense that the world, as we know it, is certainly transforming at a pace and depth most could never have imagined.  I certainly am not Catholic but I am a born again Christian and will never regret that announcement to any and all that would see it and hear it. Watching the never ending TV coverage of a mere  human in a white uniform be treated as a holy man with healing powers, people hanging on every syllable just baffled me quite frankly.  This all transcends partisan politics even though that divide with leap into confluence in the next few hours as this Pope heads to Congress tomorrow to address We the People from that Congressional pulpit. I find that irksome so you can know!

There are seemingly so many tsunamis crashing toward each other such as blatant Russian aggression now in Syria in military support of Bashar al Assad.  This will translate, over time, as Russia being more dominate in Middle Eastern oil-driven nations; Russian dominance all while America is under a hands-off POTUS and Congress.  This week is a major Jewish holiday in celebration of their new year.  I find that an interesting integer in the equation of geopolitical events.  Four million displaced refugees from Syria seeking a place to call a home and far too many nations turn their backs; a price will be paid for this!

As the US POTUS electioneering is escalating and the field is thinning, I cannot escape this sense that Rome is burning as so many of Nero's instruments are playing and we are therefore not focused on the core matters that face our nation and our world.  In watching Obama and his wife with this Pope, I am reminded of his hand kissing toward at the inception of his Presidency to the oil-rich kings in the Middle East as he apologized for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We are still paying for that poorly call game plan play I believe.

America since 9/11 and with the entrance of Obama under a huge electoral mandate has seen our global and internal status take unheard of steps backward. Celebration of LGBT, same sex marriage etc, in programming, commercials, movies; it just staggers my mind and causes my heart to hurt. But alas, that is the Obama Game Plan playing out via the auspices of the US Congress and the SCOTUS as the backstop.  Our nation will be a heavy price for this craziness and we the Christians will certainly be made the focus of more litigation, bullying, misogynous idealism as the days go forward.

At sixty-seven years old, I am dumbfounded at the pace of deterioration of my nation. I am thankful to attend a church where the Bible is preached boldly and societal issues that are now promoted or ignored are strongly preached and taught from pulpits and lecterns and songs of praise to a living God are freely absorbed. PRAISE GOD for that!

I will end this blog simply; God is in control, it is His game plan and we know who wins in the end!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Waters They Chop Higher

These days since my last blog have shown me the choppiness of our national waters is growing exponentially. There are things literally daily I seek to understand but my well seems to have run dry.  The American people, at least the ones I know, feel the Iran Nuclear Agreement is a disaster looking for a place to land. But I watch the Liberals and feel like I must still be on Sand Mountain with a flat tire. My Alabama friends will understand that.

The equity markets are telling us a major story with the huge swings almost every other day. Markets are a reflection of the culture thus one could assume the culture is in shock. China has cooled and the world is getting pneumonia.  Crude oil prices are at historical lows but price of gasoline, like equity indexes are telling us a more dismal story to come. To see gasoline here in Canton go from $1.93 to$2.29 in two blocks is, well, suspected criminal behavior.

Having worked in management for many years, you learn to look for the right dots that are formative of the core reality thus not getting hung up on peripheral white noise which is so easy to happen.  I have spoken many times of the societal value deterioration and the family unit evaporation that are major contributors to our national backward steps.  I will insert here once more that the percent of population addicted drugs and alcohol is one of the most understated and misunderstood realities of our life. There is consequence we are experiencing but the trends show the results ahead will again worsen exponentially.  Heroine, meth, cocaine, etc are rampant as are guns, gangs and killings.  Where is the outrage!

Given this, the link is to a Foreign affairs article about Henry Kissinger and the worlds he has touched and impacted.  It is an academic piece that is filled to the brim of knowledge so please, take the time to read it and then read my upload paragraphs for context and implication.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Shadows

Good morning. Been several days since I did a blog but have awakened this morning in this strange state of quiet with my wife in Pennsylvania with our daughter increasing the GDP of our nation under the guise of Christmas present purchasing but it is really more about them having an annual mother-daughter time away which I think is wonderful.  I am choosing to let longer periods of time between blogs be an ingredient of seasoning and watching the ebb and flow of our times more closely and more deeply.   

I heard someone state a few weeks ago that you define life as a set and subset of memories. For some reason, that few words intrigued me and the essence of its meaning took root deep inside me. As a result I have found myself more often thinking more deeply, watching more closely, listening more clearly to people, to events; to the drumbeat of life.  The other night, as example, I was rubbing the right side of my neck and my fingers came to rest on my jugular where I found myself feeling and counting heartbeats.  The rhythm of the pulse was strong and steady in its thump-thump. In that few moments, this thing called life and its array of memories began to flood my brain; it was an interesting few moments please know! It is at that threshold my mind has come to rest this morning as I arose from my quiet bed and quiet home drinking my quiet coffee and thinking about, well, life as a set of memories.

Having now gone through my normal body of media information which is standard for me each morning, I realize that media, especially print media, is built on finding the bad in our lives, developing eye-grabbing headlines and then take your brain down a pathway hoping to evoke a mental "oh my" triggered response.  I get that for it sells.

Shadows are images real or imagined or remembered through the layers of time and rationalization I believe you will agree. Dreams continue to be an amazing element of living.  Being a dreamer, I can still wonder about the fact that up until roughly three months ago, after working for Goodyear for thirty-six years 95% plus of my dreams were Goodyear-centric. Each morning I would wake wondering many times why I would dream such and such or is that dream trying to tell me something!  It told me one thing undeniably that I allowed my career to dominate me completely thus my brain and its memory banks were dominated as well. I find that sad, now! But it is what it is but interestingly in the last few months that all seems to have been replaced with other types of dreams; shadows on my wall of life.

Memories are powerful images are they not?  Memories, to me, are shadows of life some of which you see at the time while others are there but not visible because your view if obstructed by other priorities; I plead guilty! For me, very personally, I have come to realize that my family for too many years of my life has been asked to metaphorically sit in the lower regions of my brain as other "more pressing" events and actions took center stage with me. That is so sad!  As the world seem to be melting down before our eyes with Syria, Putin, ISIL, this terrible national leadership we are under societal values being demeaned and silenced for the sake of equality and rights meaning no absolutely, for police targeting fueled by race baiting and political favoritism, family structure and values being a relic of the past, national debt immeasurable and growing exponentially each quarter, politics more and more money-driven and not quality of candidate focused .... see what I mean?

Last night our Ms Hope fell and cut her knee requiring six stitches and as I saw the photos my son sent from the ER, I was quickly reminded of the value of what is important in life and falling crude oil prices, for example, is certainly not on the scale of our baby girl being hurt.  So this morning my brain is in hyper-drive in my memory bank like slowly turning the pages of old photo albums you have not seen in far too long.  Some of the memories are still very painful but time tends to ease that I realize.  So many of my memories trigger smiles as I look at the many photos stationed throughout our home in being taken aback at how quickly my grand babies are growing and I am missing so much as I did with my two children.

I will close with a statement of reality. Life is about memories but what we choose to remember is just that; sets of choices to put ourselves into the place and position for our mental cameras to turn on.  At sixty-seven and being around great numbers of elderly, many infirmed, saints each week in speaking and singing. I often wonder what they are seeing and will remember and always intrigued by the life history sitting in each of the seats watching and listening to me realizing that what I am doing is being recorded in their minds to be played back as the days grow shorter.

So this morning I am feeling really, really blessed!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Social Media, Guns and Politics; a Sour Mix, Indeed

I find myself taking more time in absorption in last few months and less time in putting to words in the near term my concerns and hopes. There are so many seemingly contradictory forces abounding that the world seems a whirl. 

The jaunt of the DOW just this week has been dizzying and frightening but so very predictable as the Chinese economy has been overheated for far too long and it is demanding a correction. What people now realize more clearly, I hope, is that China is not that backwater, rickshaw country where everybody works in a tea or rice field.  China is a major global economic force AND is the holder of the largest trove of sovereign debt led by the United States treasuries, gold and foreign currencies.  Their unpegging of their currency, the Yuan, has been pined about for years for it was pegged to the US$. Well, they did and we see what it launched; chaos! I wish to use that as the backdrop or back story to my thoughts this morning for it illustrates how interconnected and yet still quite uninformed of our world in this ever meandering tectonic shifting or national boundaries, desires and drives.

The killings of yesterday in Virgina is beyond tragic for it was brought glaringly to our television screens with the poisonous coloration of the history of the shooter, his anger, his desire to go out with a splash. That splash illustrates, I believe, the unexplainable power of this thing called social media.  I cannot imagine Zuckerberg ever imagined where his FB invention would end up meaning becoming a primary communication currency in a world seemingly gone mad. But ISIL has mastered its power, politicians led by the Commander-in-Tweet has learned to craft policy via 140 characters blasted incessantly from the White House. There is something just not right about any of that as I view it but then, it is what it is!

Then there is the ebb and flow clashing of the mix of guns and mental health. A few people get shot up and the NRA goes quiet waiting for the storm to pass for it always passes. Then the flow of the ebb quickly flows to the issue of mental health so if you add guns to mental health; what we are too used to hits us in the face on ever shortening spans it seems. 

Let me be frank: YES, we have a mental health tsunami in this nation.  YES, we have a gun tsunami in this nation and when you fold the two together, we are left with a catastrophic elixir with no satisfactory conclusion. That is the definition of a Conundrum as I view it.

Then there is the axis of Politics that stirs the pot of dissent, hate, hopelessness, fear and doubt; that describes the general American view of Washington; certainly my view. I have lost confidence in the Legislative Branch as well as the Executive Branch and, oh yes, the Judicial Branch so that pretty much sums to I have lost confidence in the governmental system our Founders created.  The result is weak diplomacy, poor economic policy, tepid foreign policy, suspicion by our allies and our enemies view us as a much easier target. Other than that I guess things are about perfect!

The sideshow called the 2016 Presidential Campaign has been upended by Mr. Trump for his brash, bombastic yet fresh and no-holds-barred approach to the core issues our nation faces and continues to created is resonating with the electorate.  Discount him, demean him, cast doubt on his legitimacy but fact remains; Americans are listening. BONUS, his is using his money and not creating more strings attached to Superpacs, Koch Brothers, etc, etc. That part I am LOVING! No NASCAR driver suits with a hundred brands sewn on it will be part of the Trump Triumph it appears at this juncture.   He literally appears to have his own Elephant candidates fearful to stand up and take a shot at him thus they are all being viewed as weak.  This great concern about Trump destroying the Republican Party; well perhaps it is time that and the other Party were destroyed you think?

Here is all I know, I am deeply, deeply concerned for and by my nation for the concern goes quickly to the amazingly terrible leadership. Oh yes, let us not forget, which many have, that the infamous Iran Nuclear Pact clock is ticking for a vote by the Congress.  But now Congress is threatening yet another government shutdown as leverage on a completely different tangent.  Direction? Who knows!

I wish to think We the People deserve better but perhaps not!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Enigma of Mr Trump

I have not done a blog for seven days for I chose to give it a week to see how the Trump Conundrum would unfold.  I am actually finding great humor in watching the TV networks poke, ridicule, attack and insinuate the real Mr. Trump.  As an aside, I am certainly no fan of Trump but it is very, very interesting to see how We the People are reacting to this man. He is brash, frank, blatant, in your face and speaking directly to the issues many Americans, the silent majority have simply chosen to just remain silent on due to the constipation of Congress and socialist agenda of the Liberals headed by POTUS.  If it were not so sad, it would be funny to a degree.
America, as a nation and as a political beacon to the rest of the world, seems to be more or less broken. We all feel it. We all hate it. We all fear it.  We just want somebody to step forward, toe the line, square back and attack these issues.  Americans are "fighters" for we understand that to succeed, you have to fight your way 360 degrees, seriously!  So with all the anti-Trump rock chucking, it is interesting that the infamous "polls" seem to keep liking Mr. Trump.
Of course, I have not been called for my opinion but assuming the phone rung and my opinion was asked, from what I have seen and heard in this craziness of a the POTUS race, I would today be supportive of the Trump roller coaster. But let me back up on that ... one thing with Trump is you can predictable his assertive, acerbic "tone" but he is saying the things many Americans has been our political system ignore, can down the street or find ways to haul in more billions of dollars from K Street.
Let me tell you what I want with no name attached:  I want my POTUS to be bold, frank, offensive and causes the forces of evil inside and outside the US to step back and reassess their motives.  The villains of the planet I sense have lost that wall of fire feel which was the litmus best for aggression and push back.  Keep your friend close but keep your enemies closer.  This Administration has redefined that adage for this President, from what I see, has embraced the bad guys and their sob stories and strategies as our new "friends" with Iran as the poster child for my assertion.  Like more and more Americans, more and more Americans have lost faith in our national leadership and especially in the ineptitude and corrosive environment we call Washington. 
There is too much illicit money in the system.  Trump is apparently separate from this NASCAR world of money sponsoring and thus directing our elected leaders.  I detest lobbying. I detest pork barrelling.  I detest the Congressional process that I believe is fundamentally broken.  I am convinced our Founders would commit suicide if they returned to see their handiwork today.
It is my greatest desire to see a Christian occupy the White House.  As I look at the field of both parties I have to just shake my head in wonder and disgust.  Trump is certainly no Christian but he would not deny that. I like seeing one thing about him which is he appears to be apolitical.  Clinton, Biden, Sanders; surely not!  The Republican Herd is neutral, vanilla and seemingly playing the political game. I want to see somebody get really angry and aggressive on the terrible state of affairs of my country.  Trump comes close to that and for that I appreciate his boldness.
But Trump is a political enigma which I think is good for it makes the rest of them shake as what he will say and do next; personally, it is quite a show. So with CNN, FOX, MSNBC, Leave it to Beaver and Top Gun trying to paint Trump as inept but is failing miserably as per the American people.
So who am I voting for? I have not a clue at the juncture!!!!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Show me the Plan, Please!

Those that know me know it is very important for clarity, direction, expectation and future state vision. Once I grasp that constellation, I will then decide to embrace or step away. Our nation, like no other time in my life as I recall, is as disjointed and disgusted as I have ever seen. We all watched the Republican debates this week which, for me, was not a debate at all. I am not at a point to endorse anyone for not a single you creates a fire in my belly to want to embrace. I was disappointed with the FOX team in their inciting  approach of questioning but that was certainly predictable. While I do not care for Mr. Trump, he is voicing the deeply rooted angst of We the People in a very apolitical approach. The dust up in Trump's rebuttal to Meghyn Kelly's blatant attack on his character has shown the power of the media leading to Trump now being made the villain. For me, the debate in the evening I watched was at best vanilla in strengthening my position on any of these men.
I must say that Mr Rubio was articulate, refreshing and clear in his responses. I am pasting in a Foreign Affairs editorial that I believe paints a very clear portrait of our nation today. Not sure he would pull any of the plan into real time but this plan is clear, it is plausible and more than anything, there is a Plan! I highly recommend taking the time to read this writ by this young man.
The state of our Nation spiritually, diplomatically, militarily and economically is at best concerning and at the worst depressing.  I am convinced at the core of the conundrum we call the United States of America is the result of too many decades where God's Principles and Word has been back seated and ignored.  We are witnessed levels of depravity most could never have imagined but Man's depth of depravity capable is immeasurable.   Planned Parenthood is now rightly in the cross hairs of this blatant legalized killing and pleased to see my home state of Alabama was one of the three States to de-funded this institution of death.
Legalization of marijuana is now a sporting contest.  Remember when all the casinos were being sold to the public on all the millions that would go to school funding? How big of a joke is that! Then on these advertisements you see a 1 800 number for "people with problems with gambling" to call; how sick is that?!?!?!
The traditional respect for political leaders has evaporated via corruption, lobbyist control and not sense of purpose for what Congress is actually doing. The Supreme Court has now reared its ugly head on societal issues that will have generational impact.  Our POTUS is, well, somewhere in space it seems to me.  The whole world is neysaying the Iran Nuke deal and yet he continues to spend millions in travel, speeches, threats, etc, in trying to convince We the People he knows best .. about Iran! Come on, Man!!!
I need to stop now!!  Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts!!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A View from the Cheap Seats

Good morning and yes, I am up early this morning and sitting here in the quiet coolness in dim lighting to not awaken my wife thinking about life, family, our world.  Yesterday afternoon I sang a one hour concert at a local assisted living facility to a sweet group of about twenty or so precious elderly adults.  It was yet another worshipful experience and felt like this amazing ministry God has opened up to me in singing in so many locations like that, getting to meet hundreds of older folks each month, to hear their stories and to see the rapid deterioration of the human mind and body over relatively short periods of time still so striking to me.  With each of those dear people I have met in these last few years of doing this, the precious wisp of the miracle of life becomes even sweeter to me with each new encounter.
As I was singing and speaking to those folks gathered around me, I felt a collective closeness that only comes when you know you have connected emotionally with your audience. For that one hour, while tiring and draining, as I departed I felt that God was clearly in the room as the residents made their way back to the quiet reserve of their rooms and thus the drumbeat of life thumped ever onward.
More and more in doing this ever increasing work which includes meeting family members of the residents, the agony of children and grandchildren watching their parents or grandparents slip into deeper states of emotional separation becomes so strikingly evident. But even in that seeing the loyalty, the love, the gentleness, the caring for that aging patriarch or matriarch is so precious to me. The sadness really comes when I realize how many of these pillars of life rarely if ever have family or friends to invest time with them so they wile away their hours in loneliness.  That, I have come to realize, is why I believe what I did for a spiritual purpose in singing and investing my life in theirs is so vital and uplifting. I do love it!
In another dimension, however, looking into the eyes of these precious older folks that have survived, reared families, lost spouses, are becoming less and less mobile, the minds not processing as we each take so much for granted in our own lives, the brevity of life and its quality, you realize, is more fleeting and precious than gold.  I see eyes staring at me in wanting so badly to fully grasp my words I am speaking which are always intended to lift and encourage that takes me into a song as well intended to lift and encourage the audience.  Some times when you see a gentle clapping of hands to a rhythm or the quiet mouthing of lyrics along with me in a song or see a sweet tear begin to form knowing a particular song has touched a memory or a hope; that is why I feel so much a part of these sweet lives invested in me for a hour or so!
But then when I allow myself to step back, usually driving home after the concert, to think about the escalating craziness of our world in wars, suicide blasts, political craziness on a grand scale in our world, I almost envy these sweet people in coming to a place and time in their lives when all of that is meaningless for they are wonderfully shielded from the landscape carving by world events transpiring just outside their doors.  Frankly, I am so glad that the forces of evil in our world that are blasted on airwaves so readily rarely get much attention by these wonderful people.
These people have experienced wars, deaths, economic depression, physical deterioration, financial deep holes, anger, angst, etc, etc. They have earned the right to not know, see or understand.  That is yet another reason why I feel so deeply that speaking about a God that loves us, singing songs that praise His Name, witnessing God's love and touch in my life can be and I know is uplifting to these amazing elderly people. That is my blessing and it is so rich in its depth.  Seeing their faces get excited when they see me return to sing to them is a Christmas present that keeps on giving.
As well, I have learned all over again the vital nature and ministry of a church pastor and his staff in visiting these precious people if only for a few minutes. For many, that is the only sunlight in their lives that shines into their darkness and I can say the same in watching them light up, smile, touch  me when they see me ready to give them an hour or so of my life in singing, sharing and lifting their souls toward heaven.  You can usually always tell the Christians from the non-Christians by the way they understand what the songs and my words mean versus just enjoying the change of pace by my presence and singing.  
As with the thousands of jail inmates I meet and get to know each year, these wonderful folks in these homes many times are left alone and forgotten by friends and family.  There are similarities I realize in the inmates and the residents but so much resides in the area of commonality of their place in life. True one group is there for just having lived long enough to find refuge in a place that cares for their every need while the other is there for rehabilitation and correction for wrongs inflicted on his or her fellow person but still each are in need, each want to be made to feel special and each yearn to be treated special as they so richly deserve. Core to this in either group is the love of God that can solely bring a sense of joy, a lifting of a burden, an opportunity to bask in the Sonlight of God in word and song. So yes, similarities and I do glean so much joy in working with both demographics.
So my view from the Cheap Seats this morning; invest yourself in others' lives and guess who will get the blessing? That would be you. Do not fear injecting yourself in just sitting and sharing or listening or in reading to these precious souls that have experienced so much. Never forget, each has a unique story to tell and many long to share their stories; so many simply cannot but it is worth the effort to put yourself in the position to allow them to share for it shows them that someone truly does care! And never forget, but for the grace of God each of you will be there sooner than later and find ourselves in that ever narrowing, darkening space called old age.  This work that I get to do honestly makes me feel more vibrant, younger and an overwhelming sense that I am actually doing something of value and worth in the lives of these folks in either a home or in a jail chapel services and it feels Great!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Whirling of Life

Today is my number two grandson's 12th birthday and today we had all five grand kids at our home most of the day. To see now two 12 year old grandsons and three beautiful, fun-loving, loved grand daughters and their exploits at Grammy and Poppy's is, well, wonderful.  Later in the afternoon I sang a concert at local assisted living location where I have sung many times in the last three years. As I was singing to an amazing array of wonderful elderly people I have grown to know and to love, the whirling sound of life became excruciatingly evident in my mind's ear.
My life has been a life around masses of people.  My Goodyear career brought into the world of literally hundreds of thousands of people of all races, languages, beliefs, competencies, religions; and I loved every connection. My military time was vested in thousand of men as we worked complex issues of men, materiel and mission to accomplish assigned goals to a timeline.  I love the challenge and the smell of victory with each accomplished.  Post Goodyear led me to a decade of students as I got to teach and example to seven thousand young men and women.  That decade was a whirl but so many lives I was given access to via this powerful tool called education. I count every encounter blessed though some were better than others; still blessed. Twelve years in jail and prison ministry still takes my breath when I think of the nearly 300,000 men and women I have been blessed to get to know, to learn about, to communicate with and to share God's Will for their lives. So many disappointments  but so few amazing changed lives I have witnessed. But for me, perhaps the most amazing leg of this journey has been in the last four years through music.
As I was singing in one of the twenty-one locations where I sing regularly, I saw, yet again, the pace of physical and emotional shifting and transforming the human body can go through oh so quickly.  Seeing the conditions of vibrant, successful, loving mothers and fathers now aging rapidly and to have such a joyful relationship with hundreds via the music is one of the top five joys of my life.  Part of the joy comes in the reality that it has nothing to do with fame or fortune or ego; just pure, unadulterated joy of using gifts God has given me to give to people that need and love what I am doing. Therein lies the blessing for me.
At sixty-seven, I well realize from my work these last few years around so many elderly people that life as we know it can change so quickly it takes your breath. But in saying that, the gravity of spiritually being ready to go comes to the surface as the overarching pinnacle of why all the time, effort, energy and work required to do the best I can do when singing for these people. I strive with every song to make it the best it can be; why? For it is their life, their legacy and their  future that makes it all so worth it. 
I spoke, today, that I realized in the last few concerts that I have developed a habit of touching my ear with my fingers each time the lyric is about "hearing" meaning when God's is speaking or we are listening for His Word.  So many songs have that resonating theme. We must listen via study, praying, yearning to hear God's Word. God's Word, for many, come through my vocal cords in this wonderful growing ministry.
Not knowing how many more years God will grant me nor how many more concerts I will get to sing or  how many sermons I will get to preach or how many hugs and sharings I will get to experience, I know that it is my greatest hope that when God calls me home, he will grant that I be getting to do exactly as I have just described in doing His Will and not laying in a hospital bed not knowing where I am. I want to go in active mode. I want people to remember that I loved the Lord, I loved my family, I loved my ministries and I loved to ENCOURAGE every person that God put in my path.
So when you think about your own whirl; count it a blessing!