Saturday, January 30, 2016

Our New Year Unfolding Strangely

Here we sit at the eve of the second month of our new year and as I reflect on our January, I find myself really dumbfounded with events, direction, leadership and yes, politics.  I think the first bunt should be to speak to the Trump-ness of our political landscape since he is defying every convention known to Americans since the Party system was inaugurated.  

Brash, bold, bully, braggart, pioneering, fighter, can take a punch and will respond with a more potent punch; sound familiar?  He is one of those characters that you truly love or truly hate and apparently many Americans are loving his unconventional, non-apologetic approach to running for POTUS. As I have watched him and looking past the bravado but really listening to how he is atop the real concerning events of our day and answers the mountain of questions frankly, abruptly and factually is, well refreshing. What he has brought whether you like him or not, is a fresh view of the institutional instrument of career politicians and how the jargon, language and approach to the issues of today Americans face and fear are scrubbed into a language none of us can really understand.  So Americans like a fighter and Trump fills that billing well. My term for it; Refreshing! It is my hope if he does not ascend to the thrown that whoever does will adopt the approach to problem-solving Trump has been trumpeting as the core weakness in our political system.

Cheap oil is really scary for it carries such a globalized implication for all of us.  Link this to the escalating tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Shia versus Sunni, all of which are dependent on oil, and you have an elixir of explosiveness fueled by the conundrum of Syria. I never take my eyes too far from Israel for I still believe Israeli military action will be the spark that explodes the kingdoms and dictatorships existing in the Middle East. I am absolutely convince the US cooked up nuclear deal with Iran will be the worst disaster to unfold in the remaining days God gives me life and into the next generation.  Persia longs to be the dynasty she once was Biblically and we have empowered that greatly but now with nuclear capability.

My personal greatest concern is with the craziness we see as our societal values continue to crumble.  People living with each other thus shirking the Biblical mandates for what marriage is, same sex relationship and being celebrated from the White House is frankly sickening to me. The millions, MILLIONS, of children being murdered via abortion is accepted and as well celebrated is classic example of where our nation has stooped to and that is a fundamental shame.  God will punish this most harshly I believe.

My heart is, even through this above, blessed to be where I am, getting to do what I get to do and loving it.  Seeing my children mature as professionals and as parents is such a joy.  Watching my grand kids grow and mature is much greater than I ever imagined it could be. Seeing my grandsons play basketball with passion is such a personal joy for me!!  Just this week I was amazed by a FB conversation with a man I did not know that caused me to take pause as he unpacked some very complimentary comments he made in have seen me play basketball in high school, clear details of a jump shot that was rather unique, and other points which all gave me this warm sense of perhaps having contributed something to a great basketball team and tradition at Emma Sansom High School. 

Remaining in contact with vast numbers of college students I was honored to teach over a decade still thrills me. When my advice is sought, requests for letters of recommendation, conversation; it thrills me!

As our new year unfolds as part of  troubling century, I am ever reminded that God is in control, He knows, He will adjudge the guilty of the wrongs from His Holy Word. I have never understood that more clearly than I have in the last few years.    Seeing so many hundreds of people trapped in a jail or in a physical or mental restraint from aging has touched me and changed me and given me a renewed sense of the blessing of this thing call Life. 

My challenge for you today reading this is to do an inventory of specific things in your life that bring you joy and the warmth of a blessing!

Friday, January 8, 2016


Last evening I watched two back-to-back programs on TV called Vietnam in HD. One featured the Battle of the A Shau Valley and the other on the Tet Offensive.  The programs were unique in that they used rich amounts of home camera footage as well as combat footage and the carnage was more real than most military programs.  

As I sat glued to the TV screen and my wife a few feet away, I realized she was staring as me as I was laser-locked on the scenes. She asked, "why is watching that so important to you?"  By the way, certainly not the first time I have been asked that for there is still this intrinsic hunger to want to understand, to feel, to get inside, to know what happened in Vietnam and why now so many years behind us but still tainting to our adult culture. There is no easy answer to that still pertinent question.

Many that know me know I served my country honorably even though, with the draft lottery, I did not have to serve but I wanted to.  To this very day, there is this gaping, hollow hole in my soul that feels like I should have experienced that combat, in retrospect. I lost so many friends there and later had the honor of working with and commanding so many returning Vietnam veterans in armor and cavalry units. 

I would drill deeply into these men blatantly touched and scarred by the experience for I was insatiable in wanting to feel, to know, to understand what it all meant. That hunger is powerful to this very moment I realize as I watched last night the Huey medivac in-bounds, the door gunners, the long barrel artillery pounding, the stacked corpses of both sides; an endless array of whys for me.  As I watched the home protests, the testimonials of returning veterans finding themselves disdained by people at home thus ditching their uniforms touched me deeply. I actually emailed a great friend that went and returned as a completely different man that I knew so well to ask if he was the target of ill will by people upon his return. Why? It was and is still important to me.

Teaching a few years on the Kent State Main Campus and very close to the location of the May 4, 1970 shootings that always resonates in my brain in wanting to know locations of students and troops, angles of fire, the pagoda.  Recently my wife and I returned there one Saturday afternoon for me just so I could walk the pathways of the shootings, the memorials where the students died; I just have this need deep in my soul as strange as that may sound or even be this number of years hence.  

As a man of passion, my wife has stated many times that had I gone to Vietnam I no doubt would have been killed in taking the point or the leadership of the unit or the mission; perhaps true but fact remains, there is something missing in my journey for not having experienced that. I have studied the battles, researched the strategies, endless hunger to want to see footage, hear and see the stories both there and in parallel here at home as the confluence of home and her came crashing into a cataclysmic tarnishing of an entire generation of men and women still dealing with the deep internal hurts, anger, frustration of the experience. 

Our current loss of national prestige, I am convinced, as the great policeman on the beat is driven in large part by POTUS and Congress scared to death to not repeat the Vietnam experience. The reality and results is, of course, the world no longer trusts nor believes in the effective use of the military asset American possesses thus our intentions are questioned and our long term commitments doubted and rightly so!

Yes, at almost sixty-eight and as much as I was invested in the military of my country, the gap in my soul concerning Vietnam is real and doubtful will ever be fully filled. I am sure there are many others that feel the same and likewise, many reading this will assuredly believe I have lost my mind. Oh well!

To the men and women that served there and to the families still marked by the names on the Wall, the nearly 60,000 that died there and the countless millions still fighting the ravages of Vietnam via drugs, alcohol, treatment centers, prisons, hospitals; please know my heart and my prayers are with you.  It is still so very painful and yet uplifting to stand at The Wall seeing names and touching the names on The Wall of close friends that were part of my young life. Yes, I should have been there!

For those that served, you did not serve in vain for you served this nation honorably in a transformative time in American history.  For each Vietnam veteran I know, see and hope to see, I salute you for what all you and your families did for all of us! Thank you.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Clash of the Titans

It is snowing and so very pretty; I love the snow and especially the first of the winter.  I love seeing the fat cardinals perched in our trees staring into our home with tears flowing waiting for t-bone food pellets that, well, never get there so they fly off in disgust. Speaking of disgust ...

The rapidly unraveling powers in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran, is what I call a clash of titans for those nations are centuries old with long standing cultures and wealth and thus networks. This entire ISIL and the other thug groups are at the core Muslim and claim either to be Shia or Sunni. This is a millennial conflict so it will not simply stop. 

The division is very real with centuries of drastic killings and bloodshed.  Things are terrible with the ripping apart of Syria and all that goes with that. But now with the Saudis and the Iranians breaking of relations one must factor Turkey into this equation as well as, yes, Israel.  Turkey, as I have said many, many times, is the strategic balance of the Middle East culturally, geographically and economically.  

Having worked and traveled extensively in Western Turkey, I grew to love the Turkish people and their amazing journey began by Ataturk's reform after WWI.  With the diplomatic meltdown between Iran, the spiritual temple of Shia and Saudi Arabia, the spiritual temple of Sunni, Bahrain has now, this morning, joined with her huge neighbor Saudi Arabia, in breaking relations with Iran. 

Never forget there is a bloody civil war with another SA neighbor, Yemen, that poses as the military triggering mechanism for the entire Middle East to go up in a nuclear cloud; literally. Therefore, that small, uniquely quiet, nuclear nation of Israel as well must be factored to this cataclysmic cauldron of dissent and death.  I have long contended that Israel will hit Iran and her nuclear plants and arsenals when the world least expects it for that is what Israel does and does very well. Add to the fact that Israel has more to lose than anyone and you can imagine the strategic planners and diplomats sweating bullets. I further contend that the United States is doing something or a lot to keep Israel away from the military option that one day we will know.  The chilly relations spearheaded by Obama is of great concern to me as the backdrop to this paragraph.

It is so very hard for me to not waltz down the trail of the political aspect of all of this but I choose not to make that journey. We are walking on shells of embers long glowing and hot but made hotter with the oxygen generated from the diplomatic falling apart the world must be studying closely. Interestingly, I still wonder where China is in all of this.  Too large, too potent and too quiet the Chinese are and that troubles me greatly.

I will close with the fact that I realize I have only stated the blatant obvious but in that stating, my level of concern about America's stepping back from the table of leadership that has historically quelled issues in the volatile Middle Eastern region has gone missing and the US leadership is solely to blame.  

The world is facing a morbid and growing fundamentalist reality with the Muslim world and I say that in knowing so many Muslim people I admire deeply. But the fact is, it seems, is that the Islamic world is standing on the sidelines watching the death, destruction and migration patterns of what is a slice of Islam, ISIL and the other radical militants. I very much want to see the religion of Islam get radicalized to stamp out this cancer that is sweeping the world with fear and discontent and lack of trust.

Seeing Europe fundamentally shutdown in fear, places I have been many times with many friends in those nations, has been disheartening to me thus the threat of ISIL has carried the day for fear has caused the EU to shut up and shut down their civilization. That is very, very sad!

We must all watch in the days ahead the Sunni / Shia divide with the break in diplomatic relations but as importantly, never let your view shift too far from Israel and China. I think we now clearly know what the US leadership reaction and response is which is fundamentally nothing. To have allowed this to fester and explode as it has is simply criminal but we have what we have and we are what we are and again, I find that all very sad from the greatest nation the earth has ever known; well at least we once were.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Days Ahead

Here we reside now facing into the mist of a new year. For some it is with trepidation, for some joy and excitement, for some fear and discouragement.  The year we are just finishing has shown We the People that our world is more sinister, more violent, more corrupt than any of us could have ever imagined.  Many are pained by the leadership of our nation and I am one.  So many are changing their very way of living because of the terrorist attack fear.  We see the societal values evaporating at a pace thought unimaginable. Terms like "same-sex marriage" have become as typical in use of the term "sunshine."  Drug addiction led by alcohol has become rampant at a pace the general population cannot fathom and most not know want to think about its horrific consequences. I could expand this litany into chapters but you see where I am going; our world is in a morass with no sense of recovery from the plummet.  Please never forget that I personally am the perpetual optimist!

Over the holiday period we have had much family around us in various configurations to include the whole "herd" gathered. I have had time with my growing grand children from six to now thirteen. Each are an amazing creation and amalgamation of genetics and culture.  I find myself staring at each of them playing back their time on this earth with us as they mature, invest themselves in their various activities, friendships; the cycle of youth is amazing and made more amazing I think because of my age. 

When you realize that tipping point when you know there are more days behind you than there are days in front of you, the essence of life begins a rapid transition. Some will try to ignore, some will embrace it and some will crawl in a time warp of worry and whining about getting old.  I, for one, have embraced for, frankly, there is very little about my life looking through the rear view mirror that I would change for the place of the journey today is so very filled with blessings.

Obviously, none of us can view into the mists of tomorrow but that puts us squarely on the footing of choosing to be ready for what resides ahead.  I am not a worrier and am certainly not concerned about life after this life is done for I believe through my faith in God that the best is yet to come. Many will read this and simply nod their head or blow  it off but I believe those words more powerfully than ever before.

Seeing so many pass each year with many of those younger than myself always causes me to take pause and ponder. Being in the presence of vast numbers of elderly people through my singing ministry each week, I realize each of those dear people have and are touching my life in very unique ways. I sincerely feel I have gained so many new "brothers, sisters, parents and grand parents" into my life in these last three years that my "family" grows closer to me each day.

Getting to sing and speak about Heaven, the Holy Spirit and Christ in encouraging the array of people to be sure they are ready for eternity has become one of the high spots of my lifetime for I know the motivation is founded on their betterment more than mine. That, for me, qualifies as the definition of a blessing!

Our world ahead as viewed from the earthly dimension is bleak at best.  I am choosing to not pontificate on the elements of that bleakness in my writings for I find my writs do not bring much light to the darkness but rather creates via social media a forum for expression that often times becomes poisonous and thus adds no value. But it is truly amazing to me at how Facebook as evolved as the currency of communication so rapidly.  Simply amazing!

I do not predict! I do watch things, events, people closely and assume a direction of the connected dots that form a portrait. The portrait I see is not filled with light and grand hopes.  

There is far too much government in our lives. There is this cancer of entitlement eating away our future. This cop hating has grown to something more fearful to me than ISIL and Americans are allowing bullying as are our political leaders by these "movements" that will grow worse as they are allowed to escalate violence.

Here is my fallback position: God is in control! The rest is academic noise. So my advice on new year is to stay focused on God's Word and its principles that are so very clear. I promise to write more often as many have asked of late; thank you for caring enough to encourage that. I only want to always be a light in a dark world via the gift of encouragement.

Be blessed!