Wednesday, October 7, 2009


The word eulogy literally means "good words." So when I was given a couple hours notice that I was going to eulogize my recently deceased father-in-law, I was really stumped for just a few good words. As I thought about how to capture his life, I turned to a familiar saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words." So my mind searched for some "photos" of his life. Three actual pictures came to mind.

Picture #1 - A photo of Poppy and Nanny (in much younger days) with some dear friends of their's (the Cottons) dressed in Razorback attire (including some wild looking cowboy to hats!!) ready to go to a game. I noticed looking more closely at the picture, all four are smiling broadly; all four look happy and excited and I really hope the Hogs won whatever game it was... but Poppy was standing just behind the other three. In my mind this represented well how he supported many of his friends. He was right there but also willing to step in just behind you to be there when needed. He was that kind of friend. Never captivating the attention of a room full of people, and usually overlooked in that same room, but always there when needed.

Picture #2 - A picture of his support of family. In this case, he is "actually" supporting Stephen (now 16 but 2 or 3 in the photo) on his shoulders. He was always there for his family. During the time that this picture was taken there were some tough things going for our young family and in the midst of the storm, there was Poppy. And that smile on Stephen's face exemplifies how much he enjoyed and loved his grandfather. In a providential twist of events, in Randall's last days in the hospital, it was Stephen staying the night with him. One night as Poppy began to hallucinate and rip his IV's and tubes out, it was Stephen stepping over to him and holding him until the nurse could come. What a great legacy to leave - one of support for the family. I have to be honest, during the days of the funeral our family was pretty tense with one another. I know I snapped at the boys and their emotions were running high as well. The thought of this picture made me stop and think about what that lesson of support means to me now.

Picture #3 - A picture of Randall with some of his Democratic political buddies (Susan MacDougal, a former professor of mine at the U of A - Steve Smith, and a few others). There he is proudly wearing this donkey tie too. Now, Randall and I never saw eye to eye on politics but we had a mutual admiration for the other's commitment to the cause. He cared about this country and he wanted to see a difference made. He was adamant about many issues of policy, personal ethics, and faith. On these things he did not waiver. In this day and age of riding fences, that is a great lesson to challenge each of us. What do we really care about?

There was one other picture that came to my mind's eye; after a tough day at work, Poppy would sit down in the recliner and promptly fall asleep. He'd open up one eye when a noise caught his attention, and if you suggested he just go to bed, he'd say, "Nope I'm wide awake..." and off he'd nod. He'd wake up just in time for the late news, get the latest sports and off to bed. That was a picture of how tired life had made him and how he needed rest. I think in the last couple weeks Poppy realized that life had made him tired and he needed rest. 80 years on this planet and a life full of family, friends, faith, and unwavering commitments can make one really tired. He is getting a much deserved rest now in the waiting arms of God.

Randall Eugene Bailey - born October 18, 1928 - died September 29, 2009. Someone once pointed out that those dates weren't that important, but what your life represented in the "dash" between the dates. Poppy filled that space with a lot of things - mainly a love he shared in a quiet and soft spoken way. You will be missed. May you truly rest in peace...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The folks in the next seat...

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Lebanon to help teach/establish the middle eastern version of the Focus Leadership Institute here in Colorado. It is a six week course of study that attracted some 30 students from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. We met in an old monestary in the hill country above the Bakaa Valley. The challenges for Christians in that region of the world are not anything we face here in the west. Students, for example, who were totally disowned by their families for attending. Not just an upset dad or mom, but they were not longer acknowledged as their son or daughter. Tough stuff.

However the teaching and students were not the best part of the trip. The best part was the six people that I sat next to on the six legs of the trip (3 out there and 3 back). They are a testament to the fact that there is a lot of hurt in the world that just needs an ear to listen to, not a condemning voice of a Christian professor.

Seat 29E from Colorado Springs to Atlanta: Phillip

Phillip was a native of West Palm Beach, Florida who had come out to Colorado to make some money in a construction project which had come to an end (out of funds, not the project was complete). The first words out of his mouth when I asked why he was traveling to Atlanta was that he couldn't wait to get out of the s***hole of a state like Colorado. That peaked my interest since I believe Colorado to be one of the most incredible places to live. After a bit of prying his anger was not at the mountains or beauty but of people he'd encountered. He had been exposed to the Christian community (which is vast) here in Colorado Springs and he found it to fulfill all of his expectations of loud and rude; second, he had been working on a commercial construction project that ran out of money and he was bitter toward the owner; and finally (and most importantly) he was a sailor by trade and he was stuck in the mountains. Well, that makes sense - Phillip was wired to be on the water and because of circumstance he was miserable. I asked if I could have his email and I would check in with him 3 months to see if he still felt the same way after being back on the water for a time.

Seat 39F - Atlanta to Paris: Robert

Robert was a business man from Birmingham, Alabama who was on his way to Istanbul to meet his wife and travel down to the Mediterranean to sail a boat around for three months. As we talked he shared his major disappointment in his two sons who had not taken over his business and had gone down paths he didn't think were successful. One had turned to the pastorate and Robert viewed that as weak and with no future. I think he loved them down deep but his lenses that the business world had given him were very clouded with a worldly version of success. I encouraged him to take a picture with his iPhone of he and his wife on day one of their adventure and send it to them with a note of encouragement. I told him how much I knew that meant to me... it was just a thought. I hope he did it.

Seat 29B - Paris to Beirut: Hans

This guy was the most jovial German I'd ever met - he had an infectious laugh and a bubbling personality. He was a doctor in Vermont but was returning to Germany after a short holiday in Lebanon. It was a weird story and hard to follow but I did catch that he moved to Vermont because he wanted to practice medicine in his own way. Not sure what that meant, but the more we talked the more I found out his expertise - women's reproductive health - namely he performed abortions. When we got into that area, and he knew what my background was - his soft and enjoyable personality closed up. Everything changed about him. He expected (and told me so at the end of our flight) that I was going to judge and condemn him for what he had done. We had a number of crying kids on our flight which he quickly pronounced as "spoiled". He was bitter toward children and I could follow why when I heard what he did for a living. I tried very hard to express some concern for life, while all the while affirming him... this was a really tough one. I think I probably walked the line too cautiously and I regret it. Hans and I shook hands when we parted at the baggage claim area and I said I'd be praying for his future practice - he only nodded.

The Return:

Seat 18C - Beirut to London - Helena

This young Arab lady was on her way to study in the UK. She was looking very forward to the freedoms she could express when she got to the west. She had purchased western clothing to blend in and had clearly practiced her English language skills and she even sported a NY Yankees hoody. Other than the fact she was misguided in good taste in teams, :) (I'm a Red Sox fan) she was ready to immerse herself in the freedoms of the new life. On this five hour flight we even got around to my asking if she had a boyfriend, and she responded that no - her family had tried to arrange some but she rebelled. She was looking forward to having lots of boyfriends at school. I don't know if that just didn't come through in translation (my rough Arabic and her English) and she was looking forward to building relationships or whether she was just loose (?). She looked sweet enough, so I pray it was the first not the latter. My only piece of advice to her was that she seemed like a nice young lady and she should never be ashamed of her heritage and not work so hard to be someone else, but to be herself. She thought long and hard about this as we walked together in mostly silence to customs and flight transfers. I hope she does okay. (and by the way we had 10 screaming babies this whole flight - and it made we think of Hans - he'd have loved it!)

Seat 26D and 26E: London to Minneapolis

The very attractive young lady in 26E was British and on her way to America for a national tour. The lady in 26E was the stereotypical British grandmotherly type. She was probably 75, and given the chance I think she would have tidied up a bit if the flight attendants would have let her. She drank tea (very particularly I might mention). This wasn't so much my discussion but overhearing the beginning of their's. As it turns out, the young lady was an "exotic dancer" (i.e. stripper) and her national tour was to strip clubs throughout the U.S. I wish you could have seen the grandmother's face when she figured this out. The word "deary" was used in quite a few comments after that as she attempted to figure out how on earth someone could do that - not that she was judging her (she made that comment almost as much as deary). It made the young lady a bit uncomfortable - because I really don't know if anyone had confronted her in this loving but firm way. You could see a blend of irritation and conviction come over her. I wanted to get into a deeper discussion with her because the conversation was not about vocation as much as it was about motivation for getting up in the morning - a worldview type issue. I didn't get a chance as her attentions were balanced between the grandmother and the growing amount of attention that was coming from the male passengers. I pray that "grandma" gave her some things to think about...

Seat 9A: Minneapolis to Colorado Springs; Ron

Ron was a typical businessman returning home after a week of business meetings. He was wearing a Live Strong bracelet and I asked about it. Tears came to his eyes and I really thought I had overstepped my boundaries. It turns out that he had lost his father about a month before. It was obvious that they had not had a good relationship. Right before we both drifted off to sleep, I tried to encourage him not to live in regret. That is what I prayed for him as we landed. We also exchanged email addresses and I want to see where he is a short while.

I believe God provides us with opportunities to touch the lives of others - it may be in things like these plane conversations we can hear people's stories if we bother to listen. I'm glad I heard each of them and I pray that I will be a better listener in the future. Glad to be home though!

Monday, August 31, 2009

A New Dawn

Last week I took my Focus Leadership Institute staff for a two day off-site retreat. We drove out of the Springs to a semi-remote location - Christhaven Lodge. The goals of the retreat were to (1) build a deeper understanding of each other; (2) build a deeper understanding of the transition we were undertaking; and (3) to get pumped up about the next set of students coming in. By this time of the academic year (i.e. August) our staff is just plain pooped. We sort of live our lives along with the academic year, thus the Fall is the "kickoff". We had changed some staff, added a couple, changed our name, adapted our curriculum and implementing a new marketing approach. There is a lot to be excited about, but also a lot of hours and hard work have gone into this (and still is) so they are tired.

So....what was my plan? First we spent the afternoon doing some activities related to Myers-Briggs - (figuring out we have a bunch of extroverts - which explains a lot about the overwhelmed introverts who show up at the Institute); Strengthsfinder (and learning that we've got just the right folks in our two key areas - "learner" and "empathy" - which define our academic and community aspects of the program); and Spiritual Gifts (and confirming I need to surround myself with folk with "mercy" since that is WAY down my list). After dinner we had some "forced fun" and ended up in an incredibly competitive and creative game of charades and pictionary. Sometime before I run for public office I will have to burn the pictures of me acting out the TV show Lassie. :) Right before turning in, I introduced the theme for our year; the dawn. Then I asked a great deal of them... I want you gathered at 6am to watch the sun rise.

Man, they were great troopers and even though a few saw the sun rise through sleepy eyes, we shared that moment. We also talked about what Scripture has to say about the dawn, sunrise, the morning star, etc. My question to them was, "what happens when the sun comes up?"

We figured out that even though we were struggling with some of the transition, it was always darkest before the dawn. Also we found that the dawn brought a feeling of new life. We saw that God promises the same thing in our own lives when we commit what we are doing to Him. He reveals paths and direction when the sun comes up. We see things for what they really are when the sun comes up. It may reveal some absolute beauty but also the dirt of our lives. The sun rise is about rebirth and renewal. That is our hope and prayer for this year - we would be renewed in our passion to see college-aged student's hearts touched, minds engaged, and lives transformed to live it out in this world. One of our big challenges this year comes from a motto of a church down in Atlanta; "Love God, Love your Neighbors, Prove it."

May this season be a dawn for each of you too...

P.S. Thanks to Jeff Abel who took this wonderful shot of the sunrise at the Grand Canyon last year...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Finding the "Jesus" balance

On the way to drop the boys off at school the other morning we were listening to WAY-FM and the topic of discussion was one of their staff member’s dealing with their young daughter’s unexpected pregnancy. The topic surrounded the issue of how the Christian community is unfeeling and sometimes insensitive to people going through stuff like this. On the one hand I’m impressed that they were willing to address these tough issues. On the other hand the discussion went into the tougher area of the mix between taking a stand and doing so with love and compassion.

What concerns me when the latter topic comes up is that Christian’s have found themselves in the “extremes” of the possible responses; from the extreme of taking a stand with little or no compassion (and the “world” loves it when we do that because it totally fits the stereotype they have come to expect and delight in) to the other of extreme of ultimate compassion that leads to an acceptance of pretty much anything (and we then are prey to fall into the relativism of the world as well).

I’ve always wondered what it took for us to get to that point. My contention, after probably incomplete thought and due diligence, is that part of the issue is external – i.e. the cultural pluralism, postmodernism, and issue of tolerance becoming the “ultra-value” for our culture. I believe that part of it is internal – i.e. we have lived out the modernistic view that there is shame in sin and we ultimately hide it. In fact we’ve gotten really good at playing the part of “everything is fine” even when it is not.

Whatever re-building that authentic community looks like (and Francis Schaeffer has a great article about a few aspects of it called, The Mark of a Christian – www?) much it comes down to the problems the WAY-FM on-air staff was somewhat addressing; how we communicate our standards and compassion. This is the extremely challenging view of how one communicates Truth in Love. A former colleague of mine once told the story of a graduate student from east Texas who said, “It appears to me that love without truth is sappy romanticism, and truth without love is a mighty bloody sword.” Simple but profound. So that leads me to ask, what are some ways in which we can better address this tough balance when we are dealing with real people with real issues?

One perspective has to do with knowing who are audience is. Jesus did this not only intuitively but also through recognizing where people were at. We need to do more of that. Before we lay down the law have we realized where the person hearing that message is coming from? In the case of most of us, when a particular sin is mentioned and we have had that issue in our lives, then we are in one of three places; (1) we’re being tempted by it, (2) we are in the midst of it, or (3) or we have felt the redemptive power of being delivered from it. The way we address the Truth related to “it” depends somewhat on understanding that our hearers are coming from different perspectives.

The next perspective to understand the power of the words we use. In Matthew, as Jesus tells about the fruit and tree (i.e. a tree is known by its fruit, remember) he makes the comment, that we will be judged for every careless word we have spoken. Compassion is partially about understanding the words we use. My wife contends that sometimes I have “gumball’ communication – i.e. I let a thought come out of my brain, onto my tongue and out of my mouth like a gumball. This type of communication allows for some of the careless talk to get us in trouble. In the WAY-FM discussion they talked about Christian artists, preachers, speakers, etc. who publicly take a stand on an issue and put their foot down. People cheer the fact that they are taking a stand. I disagree with a comment that was made, however, that taking a stand is easy. Nope – more Christians need to take a stand – but to learn how to do it with words that understand the reality of some people’s circumstance. The acceptance or use of language can be key to finding that balance. Let’s suppose I am a young, good looking, spiritually filled Christian rock star – work with me here! J I stand up in my concert and I have been convicted to really stand up against abortion and to speak out on sanctity of life issues. In my audience, research tells us, that probably over half of the teens in that audience are sexually active and because of that probably about ten percent (or more) are dealing with or have dealt with the abortion issue personally. I need to be able to say that God is a God of life and abortion is wrong. That is a true statement but I need to also be able to acknowledge those that are dealing or have dealt with it. The audience needs to hear the message of life, but also of redemption. I can foresee the strong stance on life being followed immediately by a softer tone delivering the words of redemption from the hurt and reality of experiencing abortion. It removes the shame (since they more than likely already feel plenty of this) but demonstrates a community of love and support – not necessarily condoning the actions that led to the situation.

The final perspective is that of reading other people’s feedback. In a concert that is tough to do… in an email or post on a social networking site, a bit easier… in person, so much easier. That leads me to better understand that our best demonstration of love and truth comes in personal relationship and interpersonal conversation with others. So if I am the Christian speaker or musician, I need to try to move the members of the audience to find a time, place and person to talk more deeply about this; if I am the writer of a completely awesome blog, then I also encourage you to either write to me, comment to me or others or sit down over a cup of coffee with someone to talk through the issues; or if I am already in conversation with them to practice good listening habits, kind responses, and the ability to speak truthful but understanding things into their lives.

There is so much more we can take from this simple yet challenging discussion… maybe more posts, discussion or books need to be written… ?

Doc Leland

Monday, August 17, 2009

A French Paradox

I've been to France a couple of times. I've worked with a French co-author on a project some years ago about political matters. I've fallen in love with the Tour de France each July. I've even come to appreciate most French foods. However, what I get the biggest kick out of is the absolute paradox that the French live with each day.

Let me give you some background on my take... I am reading a book called, God is Back (excellent read) and in chapter 1 the authors (two Oxford educated editors of The Economist magazine) make the point that Europeans - namely led by the French are responsible for most of the anti religion sentiment that we've experienced in the world since about 0h... the 1500's. Most of it, they claim, comes from an intellectual snobbery that looks down its nose at anything that is not entirely pragmatic and empirical. Now... that led to the birth of the intellectual atheistic movement we've got today including guys like Dawkins and Hichens and the rest. Follow me if you will... if they take God out of the picture they are left with a purely humanistic way of determining morals and ethics. That leads inevitably to the following of the philosophy of "if it feels good do it." The French began to lead the world in morally questionable cultural things like the Moulon Rouge and there came a sexual freedom that came with the times. Even in age of high collared dresses and floor length hemlines, nudity and the celebration of the human body became a norm for them.

Fast forward several years (okay 1985 when I was studying in Europe) and after arriving in Nice, in the south of France on a very late train - my buddy and I headed to the beach and plopped our heads down on our backpacks and slept. I was awakened the next morning with my traveling companion saying, "Look but don't look too noticeably when you open your eyes." What? I popped up and looked around... we had decided to crash on a nude beach and were were VERY clothed at the time. It was one of those moments of western awkwardness versus the idea of absolute freedom that came from the birth of postmodern thought in that country. That is, I am free to be me and do what I please. For them, it was sans clothing!

Fast forward again to a vacation I was on with my wife in Cancun, when on a sunny, warm and lazy afternoon I fell dead asleep in my lounger next to the pool. My wife is to my right, and some friends of ours are to her right. They watched me with anticipation as I woke up only to realize that the lady on my left was sunbathing topless. You guessed it - she was French as it turned out. Again, awkward.

In the last couple of trips, that same resort has put up signs to prohibit topless sunbathing. A sign of the times? Prudish American morals? I'm not sure... but based on something I just read, it may not be out of line to propose that a new social ethic is cropping up in of all places, France. Time magazine did a story on how less and less young French (and other European) ladies are even desiring to sunbath topless.

Okay, stay with me a bit longer. In the place where the postmodern thought that allows for a culture to accept one thing as a freedom, individuals choose to return to, what would be considered by some, a more modest approach to outdoor living. One might say this is just the postmodern deciding that something else is appropriate. I would contend that all around us, there are examples of where people are choosing to return to, in this case, modesty. The decision to go away from modesty to nudity was based on some sort of thought process. What brought us back? What prompted the return that Time magazine is reporting? Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a Truth - a moral foundation on which our lives are supposed to be based and when we wander away from it, believer or not, eventually we return to or at least desire to return to it. Maybe we are wired to seek that foundation even when we think we are finding freedom and happiness in doing "our own thing."

Remember - it is never just a French beach! :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Great Outdoors

Last week Team Leland went to Steamboat Springs for Nicolas to play in a baseball tournament and to have some family time camping. There were so many things that crossed my mind while either sitting on the warm metal bleachers or sitting comfortably in a camping chair by the fire looking beyond the sparks to the stars...

One thought was a worry that as a parent/dad I've not done enough for the boys. There are moments when they demonstrate such good traits and then there are other moments when they are at each other and you wonder what went wrong. With my oldest, Stephen, heading into his junior year in high school in a week, you realize how fleeting the time has been and will be in the next two years. I don't know if a parent ever feels totally at ease with the job they've done and whether they have prepared their kids enough for the world that awaits them.

Another thought that came to me was the sad state of some families where the parent lives vicariously through their kids. This was apparent at the tournament we were at this past week. I watched parents (mainly dads mind you) who lost their cool so easily and began tirades either from the stands or if they were coaching, on the field. In one case, an entire game was stopped while the umpires had a conference to figure out how to deal with the unruly parents. In one conversation with a long time umpire (who was an active duty military officer as well) shared that the umpires had a meeting before the tournament began to warn them of the extra difficulty they were going to see that week. It was a national tournament, he explained, and as such the grown ups thought there was an extra layer of anonymity that protected them and allowed them the freedom to speak out more than they normally would. I guess if you are in your hometown, you might hold your tongue. At this tournament, he also explained, they hear louder voices than normal, more criticism than normal and the use of language that was more shocking than normal. I honestly wonder how many of those kids puff up with pride when "dad" gets thrown out of game.

One other thought that came to me, was the importance of family time in this chaotic world. This summer our family did too much. We had four boys playing on six different teams. Though everything on the schedule was valuable, it squeezed out the simple "do nothing" or "do little" times when you just hang-out. Dr. Dobson would claim that the biggest problem facing families today is over-commitment. I learned a lesson, when the two things that my kids wanted to do while out camping was to (1) find some cheap inner tubes and just float down the Yampa River (which they did a couple different times); and (2) play a simple card game like Uno or Phase Ten or even go-fish (and it was an extreme game of go-fish). Smores were of course in order, as was riding bikes. There was no ultra organized hike to the top of a mountain but simple activity of being a kid and being a family.

One final thought was the incredible blessing of living in Colorado and having the splendor of His creation at our backdoor. The cool mountain air on a summer's evening; the crisp water of a mountain stream or river; and the beauty of a mountain range called The Rockies. His majesty spoke volumes each morning with the sunrise and each evening with the expanse of stars above.

Thanks for letting me ramble... some may have a photo album, others have a journal, I have the randomness of thought... :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back in the saddle....

Folks... I've been gone too long. Between travel, family, and responding to daily confusion about how a Christian worldview applies to current events... I've let this go. My apologies...

Today though I feel compelled to address a topic that comes up every semester with students here at the Focus Leadership Institute (new name!) as well as it seems to be hidden loosely behind articles in Christianity Today, ads I see for Christian conferences, and in the defense of where I work. The issue is the apparent divide in the Christian community between those that feel that Christians belong in the public square and those that believe that the Christian's place is in relational evangelism.

First of all - the question is begged - Why are those two things considered independent of one another? Why do we believe that one cannot engage in politics and be faithful to the Great Commission? Somewhere along the way, those on the public policy side of things fell prey to the cultural argument that we live in a Christian nation and it is under attack and we must do all to save it. Somewhere along the way, those on the personal evangelism side looked disdainfully at the policy guys and felt like they had cooties.

I believe the chasm began as a result of the move from modernism into postmodernism and then to whatever is next. The church of the early 20th century was politically active in small ways, individual ways, and it resided in people elected to office with Christian character. Later in the 20th century when postmodernism began to morph into political issues (abortion, etc.) the lines were drawn. The public square was an ugly place that got messy and confusing.

As the postmodern myth entered the church our theology began to adapt. The nature of the story became increasingly important along with the idea that your faith was about your individual experiences. This heightened view of self expression and our individual relationship with God began to overshadow the larger story of Christians in the culture. The move to relational evangelism began in earnest. We have seen this exhibited in a slight move back to the social sphere with an increased concern for social justice issues amongst young people. Behind that concern is an odd mix of loving God, loving our neighbor and caring about issues.

In the movie Amazing Grace - Wilberforce is sitting at a dinner with some of the early anti-slavery proponents. One says, "we understand you are troubled with whether to serve God or practice politics." The lady next to him then adds, "may we suggest that you can do both." Just like that was a shocking idea for Wilberforce, it seems to be just as shocking today.

I guess I encourage all to think more deeply about the fact that God created all of the spheres of influence in this world - public, private, etc. The state is His creation. The Body is His creation. We exist in both and must figure out how to both love and care for others on the smaller scale and be involved at an appropriate level in the matters of the State, especially those that impact how we are to live our lives as Christians in this culture.

Glad to be back...


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Wisdom of an 8th Grader!

Two posts in a week - what a record. Perhaps I am getting the hang of this.

Last night our new President addressed Congress, D.C. leadership and the nation to lay out his economic and legislative plan to rescue the U.S. from our economic woes. Picture this... I am sitting with my 1o year old at the kitchen table, preparing a school project (a time capsule of sorts on the life of Hank Aaaron - I told you we were really into baseball!), my wife is chatting with two former FFI students in the living room, my youngest son is taking a bath, my oldest son is sitting in the family room watching Obama's speech, and I didn't have a clue were Nicolas was... Until mid way through speech he came down the stairs, planted his feet firmly at the base of the stairs and asked, "Where does he think all this money is going to come from?" He had been watching on a TV upstairs. The kid who has a pretty good mind and beyond his years in this thought process was watching, thinking, and really was stumped by this lack of logic and clarity.

My wife has an Masters in Business and I have a Ph.D. (granted not in macro economics) - and we are surrounded by some pretty bright people, who I also asked this question of and low and behold even a friend who IS a macro economic scholar couldn't answer the theoretical (yet very important question). I am trying very hard to raise some objective thinking kids, but an incident like this just demonstrates how hard that is in a place and time where those in charge don't make sense. This morning no one in the media is asking/answering this question, they are merely talking in terms of how good people felt after the speech. OF COURSE THEY DID! He said what they wanted to hear and did not use a critical ion in their bodies/minds to ask the simple question that even an 8th grader could ask. If we spend more we will save more... What? One can apply all the mumbo jumbo of speech writing (which I used to do) and economic jargon but it does not change the fact that a statement like that is highly illogical and just bad politics.

I am watching today to see if by chance those that actually invest in our economy have something to say - right now they are saying they don't buy it and the Stock Market is down over 125 points. Every time Obama has spoken about the economy the market takes a hit. We'll see. Thanks Nicolas for stating the obvious.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Spring of Truth

My finger is still healing bit typing is a bit better.

In Florida and Arizona some young men ( and a few old ones) gathered this past week to begin the right of passage known as "Spring Training" for Major League Baseball. My family, being the baseball fanatics that we are will be headed down there late in March (Nicolas plays a tournament down there and we get to work out with the Rockies).

I am very intrigued, as is most of the world, with the unfolding story of Alex Rodriquez and steriod use. The one person pretty pleased with the timing is Barry Bonds who a week before the A-Rod exposure, was confirmed to have taken steriods. In A-Rod's case I find it interesting that the concept of the truth is so fluid. A couple year's ago, he was interviewed by Katie Couric and was asked point blank whether he had ever taken any type of steriod or human growth hormone. His answer, "No." She even followed up and asked if he had ever been tempted by it... Again the answer was, "No." In the last couple weeks the court of public opinion has been hard on this guy for coming forward a few years later and admitting he was indeed taking them in the two seasons before he was offered the largest contract in MLB history. He sits on camera and ESPN baseball guru Peter Gammons asks several lead in questions then gets to the big one recalling what he had said to Couric. DId he lie? His answer is elusive and the great PR guy that has worked with him helps craft an answer that is a non-denial apology (i.e. I did it but am sorry and let's move on) and cycles the conversation back to "looking to the future." As a result of the new alegations other players are seen to be in trouble for lying to Congress. One might get off because he doesn't speak English and might not have truly understood the question (except for the fact that the same Congressman asked it five different times - and this guy had a UN translator).

In the end A-Rod lied and he cheated. As sorry as he is, should it be that easy to move on and basically ignore his actions? I love baseball and there is a tradition to the game that must transcend these very highly paid athletes. It was challenging to sit and watch ESPN and the news reports and try to explain to my boys, who are deeply engrained in the game... that the truth still matters; that integrity still matters; and even with personal grace comes a public judgment that must protect the game and the Truth.

Unfortunately, as with most celebrity truth issues, A-Rod will play; the Yankees will pay his huge salary and fans will eventually forget. As I go stand in front of our Little League opening day ceremonies I pray I can speak to them of the honor and integrity of the game and not feel too much guilt as a grown up... Play ball!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


That title could refer to my ability to keep up with blogging...however it refers to my inability to type based on a recent accident that put 14 stitches in my right index finger. I had no idea how much I use that hand in every day to day things. Typing this post for example is taking the better part of the morning. I was going to plan to use only words created with the left hand but that looked really stupid! :)

I wish I had some great bear or chainsaw story but the accident happened as a result of helping my sweet wife prepare to host some of our FFI students. She dashed out to take one of our son's to a guitar lesson and as I was lighting candles I realized that one of the larger one's had burned down to the bottom of its glass container. It is one of those but hurricane type glass holders. As I tried to get the candle out, the glass shattered and shaved off a good portion of my right index finger at the middle knuckle. (TMI I know...) After an adventurous couple hours I was home among our great students doing praise and worship. A gift indeed... Could have been a lot worse.

I think you learn a great deal about family when emergancies like this happen. The boys sprang into action; Stephen drove me to the emergancy room then returned home to host the students; Nicolas came to the hospital after his lesson and as a "doctor to be" watched intently as I was stitched up, asked endless questions and took pics on his phone (no they will not appear here); Christopher offered assistance in the form of his favorite stuffed animal; and Matthew told us he could put himself to bed - he insisted he was a big boy!

In a week I should be back to full hand use... until then go see Seven Pounds as the ultimate worldview commentary of the month.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


The inaugural speech and ceremony just finished.  Regardless of your perspective on this incoming President, the peaceful passing of power in this land is indeed unique and special in the world.  It was intriguing to see the looks of "knowing" and "understanding" that all the former presidents and first ladies had with the incoming President and new first lady.  Obama's face looked as if he was beginning to feel the reality of the pressure of being the leader of the free world.  There is a weight that none of us can truly understand.  Each of those former presidents also looked so much older than when we saw them stand where he did today.  One of the political/editorial cartoonists this morning showed the Chief Justice administering the oath of office and President Obama with a huge globe on his back.  Welcome to the Oval Office and all that goes with it.

This was indeed historic and my honest prayer is that God sees fit to look down and surround this president with wise people and discerning guidance.  The challenges ahead are even more daunting than in previous years and he is going to need that wisdom.  

From a worldview perspective I find it interesting that in a post-modern era - defined by the need for individuals to express themselves and do what they like - that we have just re-entered an era of more involved government.  So many of those that live by those same post-modern standards elected a government that believes whole-heartedly that government can and should help solve the problems of this country.  Time will indeed tell if this group of the electorate someday will think less about today in glowing terms, but like a new Kenny Chesney song - "I went home at 2 with a 10 and woke up at 10 with a 2"... 

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sad News

I saw the email come a little while ago from our Alumni Coordinator here at the Institute and I was fearing what it said when I opened it. A young lady who had attended FFI last Spring was in a motorcycle accident over last weekend and has been in a coma every since. The last word I had was that she was taken off of life support last night. I knew in my gut it would be a number of hours before I got this email. Lindy reported what she said she didn't want to, but that Angie had died.

There are so many things that go through your head and heart whenever things like this happen. Part of me says, "in my head I understand death - especially for a believer - but in my heart I grieve." Another part of me tends to begin to question all that know to be true, because it runs counter to how I feel at the moment.

Angie was a young lady full of life and even though life had not given her the best circumstances in the past, she faced every day with joy, or at least she tried to. I remember conversations in my office where she would start by talking about someone else and we would move a little closer to her own journey and she would try to direct the conversation away from her. I occasionally would get her to open up and got to know a woman who was scarred but seeking; was thoughtful and compassionate; and most of all she would break out with a loud laugh whenever the mood hit her. Once in class she found herself in one of those moments we all hate, but when you laugh out loud and no one else really does... But where you and I would be bothered, she just kept on laughing - and eventually the infection hit the whole class. What I said - not that funny - her reaction - priceless.

I know that death is part of life - but usually the only things that come to mind in moments like these sound so trite and empty. I also know that Angie is having quite a party right now... She walked out of our lives and into the Father's arms. Not a bad place to find yourself at all... We'll miss her though!