Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Ten Day Fast

I have taken a fast on my blog for ten days to let the dust settle in my brain as it churns through the never ending journey of seeking to understand what is going on in our world. My input of news has been on  a diet as well so intending to clear out some of the baggage and cobwebs of rational thought that too many times ebbs and flows in the ocean of irrational thought.  So in this Rip Van Winkle state of brain idle, I must admit life has seemed easier, smoother and the water is cleaner and cooler to stay with the analogy.
But today old Rip has awakened scouring the trough of input from around the world, viewing the prestigious news sources of CNN and FOX as the quarterback, me, prepares for some audibles at the line of scrimmage to get this group of people moving toward the goal line. You smiling yet!  My summation of my "rest" is that our world is terribly abscessed and the poison is eating into the nerve so a major root canal is needed or extraction; I am leaning toward extraction in my renewed state of knowledge and awareness.
When I see what is happening with Iran, Yemen, Baltimore, Ferguson, still, Washington, the European Union, Russia, Ukraine, remember Ukraine, ISIL, Al Qaeda, remember them?  Then you start to hear the names of the "affiliates" to these mob organizations bent on destroying ALL Christians, defined as not Islamic and now that doesn't even qualify for they are killing the Islamic folks as well.  Reading about Christians being beheaded, shot in back of the head, tossed overboard into the Mediterranean Sea, etc, etc just makes me, Old Rip, angry. The anger is cloistered in what is evident that the United States and the European Union refuse to acknowledge the depth of the depravity and refuse to step up, man up is a better term I believe, and blunt and destroy this Evil of mankind that is growing.  Fire with more oxygen and more fuel equals a bigger, more devastating fire, right?
I love people and love the joy of working with, getting to be with and to worship with people.  Few things in this life I hate but one of them is a bully. Since I was a child I have detested bullies. I got bullied my freshman year in high school by a senior and I remember this sense of deep rooted fear and worthlessness I felt walking home from school.  It cost me my lunch money for several weeks which led to me working in the lunch room to get a free meal. That is a true confession for time in print so you can know.  But when the angst grew and blew up inside me, knowing I would face a beating from this large man, I "manned up" one afternoon pushing the bully backward into a bleacher in the gym and kicking him.  The bullying was ceased!
So lesson learned?  You do not ignore or cow tow to a bully for you must confront it, challenge it knowing pain may be in the prescription but staking a position and defending it with honor far outweighs the pain.  From the experience, I was deeply emboldened to be more aggressive in all aspects of my life and especially in rebounding in basketball.  Many people I played basketball with both friend and foe felt the fury and damage of some very  sharp, offensive elbows over the next several years but I was never bullied on or off the court again and to this day. I share that story from my own life to make a clear point about our world.
Obama, the EU, the police, the world is being bullied on a grand scale. Just turn on the TV and watch. Bastions of strength via force exists with the bullies of this world while the "good guys" cower under the flag of diplomacy which is ridiculed and demeaned in the name of equality, rights and outright aggression.  The game being played between Obama and the Mullahs of Iran will be book fodder for decades to come when reality hits and it will hit soon.  People will be baffled by the thought of "this could never happen here .." but it will happen here under the shadowy flag of our own POTUS and his minions. The Iranian leaders must be having parties every night at how they are playing blackjack with the United States and we keep bluffing.  Look at Syria; go ahead, look at it and remember the now infamous "red line" which is red due to the stain of blood by bullies.
So in my ten day fast, I guess I should have stretched it out to 11 or 50 but my gut tells me 50 days from now this cauldron of deceit and bullying will be even worse.  Then I look out to 2016 and hear the jungle sounds for Mrs Clinton and I just want to go back to my extended nap. How on earth any sane person would want a continuation of this national leadership and especially her is beyond reconciliation by normal minds from my perch. 
I am getting sleepy again so maybe when I awaken it will all be grand and glorious or better, I will be in Heaven getting to sing in that Heavenly Choir; now that is a great deal!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Those that follow ,,,

Last evening I was watching an NFL Football Life piece on Bill Parcels. The piece was not too complimentary, in all honesty, but then Parcels, the man, was quite interesting as you watched his life unfold in ebbs and flows as a great football coach.  He was tough, intentionally displayed anger and was prone to temper tantrums but through his journey, there was a common figure that kept him grounded and tethered to the craft he had chosen.  That person that provided stability, a source of honest, sincere input and a man that Parcels could depend on through the storms of this career was his high school basketball coach.  Toward the end of the program, much was made of the other Super Bowl coaches that were spawned under Parcels example and coaching technique and the number was six former coaches that went on to be Super Bowl champion coaches.  Parcels, in response to the interviewer's question was that success, true success, in a man's life is measured less by what he or she did but by what "those that follow" accomplish in their lives.
As I was going to bed that three word comment resonated with me and as the infamous THE MAN IN THE MIRROR began to flow through my brain as it did with Parcels many times, I began to think about my own life and those that will follow me and the vital metric of impact on our world each of us possess by those that came along our pathway and the influence each of us had on future generations.  For my own life, I have been both honored and humbled by thousands of people I have rowed the boat with in a rather diverse career in my professional career at Goodyear, university teaching, prison ministry, singing, church involvement, my family, consulting.  That inventory is something as I look into my mirror that you just do not ponder often or even think about until something will happen that will trigger the inventorying of your life.  I think it a worthy exercise for in that venture you begin to realize the gravity of this thing called life, mortality, future and probably as importantly, if you had things to do over, what would you do differently! Pretty deep stuff this still dark Monday morning is it not?
Many people have entered my young life that uniquely touched my life for the duration of my life thus far. Like Parcels, my high school basketball coach, Walter Holt, had profound influence on my life and I find myself often thinking of things he would say, would example, would point out for even through intense scrutiny and criticism or challenge, you always knew he was coaching a  team but he was also realizing his role as a tent pole for lives of young men, many of which had not strong example in their lives at that crucial time and age in life.  My list could expand geometrically of others as I have many times in other writings I have done. Jesus Christ, Lamar Berry, Joe Cowan, Glenn Avery, Zeddie Morton, my grandfather Williams, my mother, Riley Whitaker, Bill Sharp, Tim Heijermans, Jerry Butcher, COL Alton Barnes, K.B. Kleckner, Gary Roach, Mike Frazier, Walt Gawron, Ray Coblentz, Ray Hexamer, Sharon Rohrer, Neal Wheeler, Dave Sabaka, Edna Baker, Ruth Epley, Alicia Williams and the list becomes lengthy.  With the unique and timely touch of these artists painting my portrait, my life and my portrait will live on long after my last breath for Parcels' was correct, the true measure of a person will be found in those that follow and in their contribution to this journey of life.
Learning, absorbing, interacting, listening, watching, driving, responding to painful experiences, working through deep disappointment, seeking to do and to be your best are all ingredients to this amazing journey called life.  I have seen many successes and have experienced many failures. I have seen the sunlight and the snow. I have warmed and basked in the joy and have cried many tears internally and externally.  I have loved watching victories and have hated the bitter taste of other's defeats.  I have said thousands of times that for me the greatest sin of all is one choosing not to fully utilize one's capability. 
Many thousands of students will attest in real time my living example of pushing them, guiding them, expecting more and more of them and watching them find the wherewith all to accomplish victory in the challenge when they never thought they could but through focus, drive and leadership met and surpassed the challenge.  With each victory their lives and the lives of their web of family, colleagues and friends are changed as well.  There were times I saw students just give up, quit, walk away or sulk but it was they where I focused my energy for I knew if I could say or do something that would cause them to reach more deeply into their being to come to the fight and slug it out that they would accomplish something that would change and shift the course of their lives. That, for me, was the essence of victory, not the accolades and compliments but the smell of victory and the ensuing twinkle and smiles I saw in the eyes of those that fought the battle and won.
When my mind does the inventory of those that have trod this path with me and I see or learn of their accomplishments in their own lives or read testimonials from hundreds in letters, FB messages, calls, etc, my heart is warmed in reading how their lives are better for having gotten to get to work with me. I can say that without a modicum of ego for their success is mine to enjoy; and I do immensely. 
Music and singing has become at this stage of my life an avenue that brings abundant joy in investing huge amounts of time effort and energy but worth every ounce of it when you see the impact a song can have on a person's heart at a moment in time.  Countless comments verify for me that it matters much less how a person sings but much, much more in the heart and the passion with which a song is presented. I love to sing but I love to see singing as a vehicle that brings joy, smiles, tears of warmth and a stream of joy in which the person can swim in the turmoil of their own lives. So who gets the blessing? That would be me!
So, to those that follow you and they that will follow them, what is your contribution to those generational spans you may or may not get to see in the first person? I think it a worthy exercise to look in that mirror and assess your actions and activities to get a sense of destiny in what you have done and will do that carves pathways in those around you that are watching, listening, seeking, your attention, your touch, your essence as they will decide to drink from your well or move on. 
At sixty-seven I am fully cognizant that I have more years behind me than I do in front of me and please know, I am perfectly alright with that reality. I am immeasurably blessed by so many that have touched and crafted my life into what it is today this Monday morning but I am even more blessed far above that threshold when I reflect on the thousands of people I have touched in some way thus investing my life into theirs. My wife, my children and my amazing grand children will be benefactors of my essence investment in just living. How powerful is that to ponder!
I implore you this day to stand in front of that mirror all alone quietly and unhurriedly and do a deep personal assessment of the real person you see standing there and begin a mental inventory of those that are most responsible for that person you see but also begin to peel back the layers of those you yourself have touched in a very special and unique way. See, that is the real you isn't it?
Google THE MAN IN THE MIRROR; it is worth it!

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Just in from seeing the movie. As I watched it very closely and very deeply having lived during that time and remember it vividly my junior year in high school and shortly after returning from playing in Alabama State Basketball Tournament at the University of Alabama; another hot spot of the era, I found myself leaning toward the skeptical side of what I was about to see on the screen.  I had seen the many interviews of the main players over the last several months and chose to not see it until the dust and luster cleared thus not getting caught up in the emotion of the cameras.  I have walked across the Pettus Bridge, viewed the Alabama River, walked the streets of Selma near the Bridge in about 1980.  The sense of the spirits of The March was still very evident to me then and that same spirit was triggered in watching this movie.
As a Southern man having grown up in Alabama in the era of the dogs, marches, bombs, killings and names made famous such as Wallace, Connor, Clark, Johnson, etc still ring in my head. Seeing these names and many others brought to life on the screen triggered my mind in many directions knowing what I was seeing was more accurate than not.   To realize only less than a year ago that the major issue brewing the discontent in the South and Alabama in particular was the inability of blacks to vote was alarming to me in that realization.  Many of us, most probably, in our teens, had no clue about the backdrop of the issues blacks faced. Yes, I remember well the Colored and White fountains, bathrooms, back entrances to doctors' offices; and it was just the normal culture in which we all lived.  Experiencing the desegregation processes triggered by the infamous Judge Frank M. Johnson and his orders are remembered in retrospect as strange, upsetting and probably wrong, then! The memories are so very clear and after watching this movie, so very more wrong.
Having seen and experienced years later similar cultural activities in South Africa, I was reminded of how cultural bonds are so strong and impregnable when change is introduced. The movie has touched me deeply and feel it should be required viewing for every student in our schools today for those same actions that were normal can be ushered back to reality if left unchecked in the march of time.  Cultures do that so the key point of my blog tonight while the movie is still fresh is about the power of culture.
We live in very troubled times on a scale I cannot recall in my lifetime.  And I have this overwhelming sense that the times will worsen and become more threatening in the years ahead. I will add as I have written before that the fires beneath the cauldron of racism in our nation are being stoked by the White House and the media machine.  I have tired to watching TV news which I love to see for the blatantly inflammatory nature of cable news is terrible.  Police have now become the enemy and it seems they must patrol the streets of Khe Sahn in 1968 with everybody take shots at them. I do not defend murder or police brutality or heavy handedness but I worry about our police being sauteed in the fires of racism.  I cannot believe MLK wished for and worked for what we are witnessing today; certainly hope not for I want to hold him in high regard of history with an eye toward the future.  
The movie is eye opening and heart stopping and very well made.  The depiction of Gov Wallace whom I met on four occasions is probably more right than wrong as it that of POTUS Johnson; a master politician.  Change comes slowly and when a paradigm shift is made, EVERYTHING is and was that seemed right is changed forever.  This movie and this era was about a human paradigm shift and that change is still being crafted into the human genome I believe.
There is much more I could write but will stop with the fact that we have come a great distance but there is a great distance yet to trod but we must never cease the journey.  Having an African grand daughter I have grown to love with all my heart resides central to my thesis. When I kiss her, hold her, play with her, goose her, watch her learn and grow and touch so many people in so many ways, I realize racism is truly for the ignorant. That will offend some I am sure but I am no stranger to offending if my words come from my heart and these do!

Saturday, April 4, 2015


As we are moving toward a globally recognized event, Easter, we must not forget that it is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ, God's only Son. Already there will be those reading this that will be scoff, ignore but a few will admiringly acknowledge the wonder of that event in world history.  I think that sentence is a moniker for our world in 2015, isn't it?  Some believe, some don't, some do not care, some care about something but no clue as to what ...!
In our Good Friday church service last evening, I was humbled and honored to get to duet the great Gaither song, SINNER SAVED BY GRACE.  I have sung that song many times in many venues but last night with the auditorium near capacity, the meaning of that song's message seemed to weigh heavier on me than usual.  The first verse says:
If you could see what I once was
If you could go with me
Back to where I started from
I know you would see
A miracle of love
That took me in it's place
I'm here to say I'm nothing but
A sinner saved by Grace
Let that sink in for a moment.  Each of us fit into that prescription for humanity do we not?  It is an absolute miracle of God that at sixty-seven years old that I have great health, get to do all the things I love to do, a wonderful family, still contributing to the world and relishing in the fact that if God took me home today, I would be home there with Him for eternity as will all my family when eternity is made real and my faith becomes sight.  That, my friends, is a great deal!
As we have come through a really harsh winter with pot holes the size of the Grand Canyon, almost, the world around us is melting into a cauldron of hate, blood, racism, political corruption, societal decay and a further turning from God's clear direction in Scripture; is it any wonder that the global village is corrupt and falling farther and farther away from God's creation?  There are so many examples to support that statement but I am about to decide the abominable acts of violence from ISIL and AQ are metaphorical for the world as a whole.  We revile what they are doing and represent yet there is a mysterious magnetism that is drawing thousands of young men and women to that sick cause not to mention billions of dollars of financial support backing the slaughter. It defies logic but then as I often say, if you apply logic to an illogical situation, all you can expect is an illogical conclusion. 
Add or factor in the potentiality of Iran becoming a nuclear power in the Middle East, and they will I am convinced, then the sickness we are witnessing in the Middle East and now Africa and these global acts of terror will be amplified many fold.  I find it amazing that another 9/11-level attack has not occurred in either Europe or the United States but believe it probably imminent and please remember, I am the eternal optimist!  I still believe the trip wire will be Israel's military action against Iran to protect themselves from eradication by Iran. 
But with all this and many other examples I could indicate, I go back to the message of humanity in God's Hands that He created. We are all sinners from birth due to Adam's sin. That is irrefutable.  Spending eternity in heaven is a choice made on this side of life. That is irrefutable as well. So with all the unfolding of craziness of epic proportion we are witnessing as a People, as we celebrate this Resurrection of Jesus Christ in word, in song, in family time together, with friends, we must never forget we live in a fallen world.
This world is not my home, I'm just passing through. If Heaven's not my home, then Lord what will I do.  The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door and I can't feel at home in the world any more!  That is a lyric from a great song that fits perfectly the context of my blog today.
So as Christians have expressed to each other for centuries; He is Risen! and yes, He is Risen, indeed!!!!