Just Wear It

If we were asked to describe America with a single word it would more than likely be “freedom”. In America we have the freedom to state our opinion, no matter how controversial. We have the freedom to practice what ever religion we choose, or for that matter, no religion at all. We have the freedom to come and go as we please, to vote for and elect the people who would govern us, and yes, we have the freedom to own a gun if we so choose. The only true limit to our freedom is that we must respect the rights of others and do no harm by the exercise of our own freedom.

It has always been obvious that we owe these freedoms to the men and women who would sacrifice to protect those freedoms for us all, in some cases, to sacrifice their all. We honor our veterans and our current military personnel. Since the pandemic, we have for the most part honored our health care workers who have placed themselves in harms way as they fight to save the lives of those infected by the virus.

With that as my backdrop, I am perplexed by a behavior too many of us have adopted. We want the freedom of returning to our jobs, to our schools and churches, to the way of life we called normal. We honor all the people I mentioned above for the sacrifice they were and are willing to make for OUR good. So why, when we are asked to make a few simple sacrifices to stop this pandemic, some of us can’t seem to see fit to make them. We shout that masks are denying our freedom. We complain that schools must open whether they can promise to do it safely or not. We demand that we have the luxury to go back to socializing the way we did before the pandemic. If we want these freedoms, we must also be willing to sacrifice; social distancing in public, accepting limitations on service and yes, wearing a mask in public. Are any of these so hard to do? Are they really demands or just common sense? Isn’t it just a means to an end of something we all want ended?

Nike promoted the mantra, “Just Do It.” I am promoting this. We all want our freedoms intact, especially the pursuit of health and happiness. Help me protect you and in turn help to protect me. If we can be willing to sacrifice a little to end this plague, we will all have the hope of a healthy life and happier one in the long run.

Don’t tell me you have a mask, “Just Wear It.”

I Should Know Better……

This has been a historic time for all of us. First we are subjected to a pandemic. Isolation, quarantine and new normal are all we can talk about. Every night we are bombarded on the evening news with the daily statistics and every story leads right back to the pandemic. We try to escape it through social media with creative ideas and clever stories of how we are spending our quarantine time. These social media efforts are at least humorous and help us to relieve the stress but the reality lies thinly hidden behind those clever posts and tweets.

And then the next shoe drops. Through the unfathomable decision by one individual, the ugly reality of racism is thrown in the mix. The reaction is predictable but the scope still takes us all by surprise. But it shouldn’t have. We have spent lifetimes trying first to justify it, then denying it and eventually pretending to not accept racism. While there are those who openly demonstrate their bigotry, the majority of people falsely believe, that though it exists, it certainly doesn’t exist in them. We desperately want to believe that we not only have no biases, but that we are supportive and have worked to reduce the effects of racism in our culture. And yet???? Why do we still unconsciously stereotype black people?

I am one of those and feel the need to confess. Anyone who knows me, knows that I believe in equality among all humans, no matter race, gender or religion. And yet, I was reminded just the other day that I am not so innocent. We were watching a show focused on Black Lives Matter. One of the segments was an interview of a black pro athlete who was speaking of a program designed to answer the ‘uncomfortable questions’. As the interview proceeded, I turned to my wife and said “He certainly is articulate.” I was immediately called out by my daughter. “Why would I have felt he wouldn’t be”, she asked? Because he was a football player? Or was it because he was black? Or worse yet, because he was a black athlete? My first response was to quantify what I had said. But as I began to formulate my excuse, the reality of the situation hit me. That and the fact that I was not the politically correct, unbiased supportive person I wanted to believe I was. I started hearing myself saying “I have several black friends.” Why did I need to attach the adjective?

We all see and recognize the racism when it is blatant. We all wonder how anyone can feel that way? Some of us even take up the charge and march alongside other supporters as they protest the total inequity of the treatment. But change won’t take place if we simply succeed in silencing the racists, a task that is anything but simple. Change needs to be systemic. We need to look at ourselves and ask how can I drop the stereotyping and change the narrative. In many ways, it is the day to day narrative, the unintentional stereotyping and the acceptance of the black person’s plight that cuts the deepest and creates the environment we so desperately need to repair. Why go out of our way to identify someone as my black friend, or a black athlete or a black titan of industry. Why can’t we simply drop the adjective and acknowledge the individual for who they are and not what they are. Until we do that, we continue to give room for the racist to breathe their message of hate and for society to fail at honoring our Declaration of Independence, “All men (people) are created equal.” But not until we treat them as such.

The Way Back Seat

Quite awhile back I attempted to write a piece about the way back seat but couldn’t get it to work until now.  For those readers who are somehow too young to know what I mean, let me enlighten you.  The way back seat is not the one we think of in the SUV’s of today that have the third row seating and for that matter not even that rear seat of the mini van era.  Rather it was the rear facing seat in the old station wagons some of our parents drove.  Ours was in a yellow 1964 Ford Galaxy station wagon.  Now a days, the line is “shotgun” as riders fight for the ride in the front passenger seat.  Back then we would fight for that marvelous seat in the rear of the car we lovingly referred to as the “way back seat.”

We got two advantages when securing that seat.  One, we were well out of the reach of the long arm of the law, dad’s arm.  Two, we got to watch the countryside retreat into the distance from our vantage point there in the back seat. This usually, as we hurtled down the road on our way to some aunt or uncle’s house.

Now this is not a safety message or a “how did we ever survive our childhood” story, though the thought has crossed my mind many times since.  Truthfully, we had ample opportunities to face our mortality without the aid of the way back seat, at least I did for all of my antics growing up.  No, this is actually about the view.

As I have aged, I have come to realize that trying to fix our past doesn’t accomplish much more than regret.  Don’t misunderstand me, I adhere to the statement “those who don’t learn history, are doomed to repeat it.”  We must recognize the mistakes we have made and make every effort to learn from them and then to not repeat them.  But we can’t change the past.

So where does that leave me.  The view from that back seat was entertaining but it was where we had been and not where we were going.  That view was from the front seat.  The point I am going to make, is that we can’t relive the past but we can change the future.

On November 6th, we will ALL have the chance to vote.  Regardless of race or gender, if we are of voting age, we will have the constitutional right to vote.  Sadly, too many of us will be in the rear seat being nostalgic and will in fact, not vote.  We will make excuses like, “it is too hard to choose” or “I haven’t got time” or maybe “it just doesn’t matter.”  We will leave the decision to those riding shotgun to figure out where we are going.  The truth of the matter is that they will take us where THEY are going.

This November 6th, I am asking you to vote, to make a decision in your future through those that you would have define it.  You see, your vote does matter and it is your duty to see that it is counted.  Sitting in the way back seat, waxing nostalgic, is not the best option.  We cannot change the past but we can affect the future.  Not just for us but for all who are counting on us, counting on your vote.

Go to the polls, cast your vote.  I am willing to take the risk that you might not vote the same way I do.  I feel that strongly about the process of electing our officials.  But, who knows, if I am lucky, you just might vote the same way I do and together our votes and the votes of others will be counted and our future might just be a little more in our control.

So on election day, I invite you to ride shotgun and help us all figure out where we, as a free nation, just might be going.

The Journey Awaits

We are sitting in the Minneapolis airport tonight, eagerly anticipating our eight hour trip to Amsterdam.  It is mind boggling how small the world has become and how globally we have all evolved.  An ocean between continents is a mere pond jump in today’s travel times.

We have anticipated this trip for six months and yet it was just not real until my younger daughter deposited us at the airport and admonished us, as grown daughters are now entitled, to stay out of trouble, be safe and enjoy ourselves.  We will be in Europe tomorrow morning, sometime.  I say this because while my wife laid out all the plans, I stayed blissfully unaware of the details.  In fact just the other day when asked where we were flying through, my response was “the air?”  After several days exploring Amsterdam, we will hopefully board our boat for a tour down the Rhine River.  I say hopefully for we were warned just yesterday that due to low water levels our boat ride may become a bus or train ride.  We remain hopeful but are also steeled to make the best of whatever awaits.

Adela out to sea

Hopefully not our Captain…..or our boat.

So Europe awaits.  Castles, mountains and cities older than any of our time frames in America will unfold before us.  My goal will be to document the sites and scenes and to mingle with the people we meet along the way.  My daughter, Kathryn, told me some time ago that the secret was to be in front of the camera and not behind it.  The tourist sees only what is presented to them but the traveler experiences the people and their culture.  When tomorrow finally arrives, I want to be in front of the camera.

Now if we could just get a plane in our gate.

Stay tuned.

Heart Sick

I have deliberately waited to write this piece.  The emotions are still too raw.  Last week while on vacation, I turned on the TV to view yet another senseless school shooting at Parkland High School just a stones throw from where we were staying in Florida.  Fourteen innocent students and three faculty members were killed while over a dozen others were wounded by a self proclaimed “school shooter”.  We will blame this on a muriad of reasons but the simple truth is that a willing individual had the tool to carry out his plan of destruction.  But this is not the destruction of some inanimate object, it is the destruction of human life and the countless lives that life touched and would have touched.  It is the destruction of families and friends and ultimately the trust that innocent students would be safe in their schools.

Reaction was swift and filled with rhetoric.  “Thoughts and Prayers”.  I am not saying that prayers are not necessary but they cannot be the only response.  And they weren’t.  There was the usual knee jerk reaction that we need to arm schools, have more “shooter drills” and spend more money on school security issues.  And again, I am not saying that these security issues haven’t become the new necessary protocal, though arming schools is an abomination.  Our children and educators should not have to be trained to become an armed camp.  In some ways they are being made the culprit for not being armed when they were in fact the victim.  Lets not lose sight of this.  The real issue here is the gun in question, the AR 15 assualt rifle.  There is simply no reason for an individual to own an assault rifle unless you are in the military or law enforcement.

I live in a state where my legislators want no waiting period to buy a weapon.  In addition, they would cut spending that specifically reduces the mental health offerings that are clearly another symptom of these school shootings.  How can we in good conscience claim that we are addressing this problem when we make it easier to obtain a gun and specifically an assault rifle.

And here comes the standard disclaimer.  I grew up in a family where my father had several hunting rifles and married into a family where sport hunting is a major activity.  I have countless friends who are hunters and own guns for this purpose.   I am not against these guns nor would I advocate for their unlawful siezure.  That said, none of my family members owned or saw a need to own an assualt weapon.  An assualt weapon has one and only one purpose and that is to efficiently kill another person.  They are not hunting weapons.  I know the push back will be the person who says but I only target practice or collect them.  I am sorry but the collection of children targeted and killed in school shootings by the AR 15 has become epidemic.  Can we really advocate that our right to own one supercedes their right to life?

We have banned fully automatic rifles.  It is time to do the right thing.  It is time to be courageous in the face of the cowardly use of and argument against banning the AR 15 as well.  I can hear the argument and I’ll even pose it.  If we ban them, what about all the ones still in ownership out there?  My response, it is the first step and one that is sinfully long overdue.  Only by stopping the proliferation can we ever hope to ultimately remove the threat.  I applaud the students who are now stepping into the outcry.  They show the very maturity and conviction that we sent them to school to develop.  I only pray that we will not simply write their movement off.  We need our lawmakers to listen but listening without action is a placebo.

The victims of these shootings were generally too young to even vote.  They depended on us to do the right thing with our votes.  I for one will not ignore that responsibility.  I will continue to vote with conviction for those legislators that will take on the courageous battle for educated, sane and meaningful gun legislation.  These are our children that these families are burying this week.  To pretend they are not and to simply send thoughts and prayers without action is cowardly.  For my own children and my grandchildren, their future must change.

What can one person do……….

Our church is in the middle of a four part educational class led by Kathy Michaelis that sheds light on racial discrimination.  My wife and I were in attendance and the effect of the class is profound.  I am hoping that you are not sitting back finding reasons to not read my blog today.  Reasons like “I would never discriminate” or “I am not racist” or “Here we go again”.  I will be the first to deny any leaning toward discrimination and I am betting that better than 99% of the people I call friends and aquaintenances would say the same.  The problem is even when we don’t actively discriminate we support a system by our silence or inaction, that inheritantly does.  The system doesn’t intend to, but the truth is that after over 150 years since slavery was abolished with the 13th ammendment, a clearly unequal playing field still exists.  Even when we have laws to guard against it, the system has a long way to go to be equalized.  For reference to the divide between net worth for African Americans and whites I will ask you to check out this YouTube video:  Race: Power of an Illusion “The house you live in”.  It will go through how lending and building expansion was skewed to make it almost impossible for African Americans to own property let alone create equity.  Equity in our economic society is what in most cases describes the majority of our net worth and allows us to create leverage for our purchasing power.

Kathy used this video in week two to highlight the inequitable policies of the building boom of the post WWII era and how the result of those policies are still felt today.  I consider myself history smart, but the revelations were not only shocking but almost depressing when I am forced to ask the question “but what can one person do?”  As a class we passionately discussed this question.  The conversation was at times overwhelming.  It is too easy to ignore the realities of life as it exist in our society.  It is too easy to pretend there is no such thing as “white priviledge” or worse yet to defend it as something we have earned.  Don’t take this the wrong way.  White priviledge is not an insult or a statement meant to elicit guilt.  It is just a fact and as such, gives me a head start in the race.  There is an activity described as “the race for the $100 bill”.  A $100 bill is laid out and the participants are asked to line up for the race to see who can get to the bill first.  Before the race begins, the starter states that “if you come from a stable family with two parents” take one step forward.  If your parents both have jobs, take another step forward.  If you know where your meal will come from tonight, take yet another step forward.  And so on.  White priviledge becomes painfully obvious.  By now you are getting my point.  We can blame poverty or education.  You can claim that they don’t take the initiative.  You can find a hundred reasons to hide behind but the truth of the matter is that the race was never fair.  They started late and have to take off from behind the line.  Whether you believe in profiling or not, the percentage of blacks incarcerated is completely disproportionate by any statistic.  And when that incarceration creates yet another child growing up in a single parent home, well you get my drift.

So what can a person do?   I have my opinion and I am compelled to share it if only for the hope that someone will take it as a place to start.  I think that there are four things that we can do and is at least a place to start.

One, we can act individually.  We can take the initiative to help even one individual to get ahead or at least get up to the starting line.  If we are in the position to make a life changing decision, like hiring, then consider stepping into the role.

Two, we have a vote and we must exercise it.  But here is the rub, just voting to vote accomplishes very little.  We must be educated to the campaign promises and the pressures of the party line on the candidates we choose.  At times we must be willing to make sacrifices with our vote.  I once told someone that if I wanted to get elected the first promise I make is to cut your taxes.  No one wants to pay taxes but it is a sacrifice that is demanded of those who can, to provide the revenue through taxes that ultimately protects, preserves and improves the society, culture and infrastructures we live and thrive in.  On this front I have a clean conscience.  I have voted in favor of referendums that would raise my taxes.  I have looked for and supported candidates that would favor programs and laws that would seek to provide for and improve the lives of those in need even when it meant I would see my taxes increased.  I don’t relish paying the taxes I pay but I do it without complaint and feel better for it.

Three, donate and volunteer in the programs that will take us in a better direction, assist those unable to overcome their inherited plight and ultimately begin to truly level the playing field for all.  If you have the financial resources, give generously from that head start that you had.  If the financial resources aren’t there, then donate with your hands and feet.  Either way or both ways, your actions are a start to the long road ahead.  If it took 150 years and this is all the farther we have come, there is plenty of work and unfortunately, time ahead of us.

And four, educate yourself and anyone else that will listen.  Start by sharing this blog, but don’t stop there.  Volunteer to repeat this process in your church or school or any other organization.  There is a wealth of information out there and the education process has to be nurtured.  At the very least, assist schools when they broach the subject, be supportive with your time, dollars and your vote.

The solution starts with individuals.  Think of yourself as that seed you put in the pot of soil.  If you command the seed to grow and then ignore the whole thing, odds are it won’t.  If on the other hand you water it, even fertilize it and at the very least pay attention to it, you just might see it succeed.  Please remember that dispair is the last step on the road to giving up.  Don’t dispair, believe that you are not alone and take the first step in the other direction.

Goodness and Mercy

What follows is a message I delivered to my church family on October 8th, 2017.

Psalm 23  King James Version (KJV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

King James Version (KJV)

Public Domain

I want my message to focus on the last passage.  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the lord forever.”  Where is the House of the Lord?  Heaven?  Or is it here.  All around us.  In fact in us and through us.  I believe it is the later.

I am not denying the existence of heaven but rather that the House of the Lord is wherever we would take it to be.  I personally love metaphors and I like to think of this as a metaphor.  If we accept that the Kingdom of God is here on earth and that he reigns from above, then why wouldn’t he have a house here amongst us?  But this house is different than the brick and mortar house we may be inclined to imagine, but is rather a presence that we can project and that God lives and works through us in that presence.

So what does it mean to project this presence?  How do we do that?  I believe that it is indicated in the beginning of the stanza.  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me”.  I believe that the goodness and mercy that will follow me starts as a reflection of the goodness and mercy that I show toward others.

Now I will admit that I haven’t always been as open as I COULD have been.  And I haven’t always been as nonjudgmental as I SHOULD have been.  Nor have I always forgiven as quickly as I WANTED to.  Just a few weeks ago, my car was rear-ended at an intersection while I was waiting for the light to change.  It was fortunately only a tap and no damage was done.  When the driver of the other car emerged, wringing her hands and trying to apologize, she stated that she was in a hurry and had not been paying attention.  She stated something about her daughter and a doctor but at that point, I was not really listening.  Earlier, I had noticed her tailgating my car, and I was bound and determined to not only judge this behavior, but to hold her accountable.  Though I managed to contain my irritation, now bordering on anger, I did not find it in my heart to comfort her and tell her it was alright.  I failed to show her mercy.  As I drove away, I was overwhelmed by the emotion of guilt.  No damage had been done.  No one had been hurt.  She was obviously sorry and quite distraught.  I could only think how my acknowledging that and calming her instead of scolding her would have gone so much further.  What if she had just learned of something terrible that had happened to her daughter and that she was rushing to the doctor?  I needed to show her mercy.  But it was too late, I had already sown the wrong seeds and my opportunity had passed.  I could only hope to be better next time.

Goodness and Mercy.  It is not always easy but it is what God expects of us.

A few days ago my wife and I were hiking on Door County when we came across this sight.  I was more than likely deep in thought about this sermon and I immediately saw the metaphor in this image.

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As one tree had toppled into another, literally breaking it in two, the second tree had caught the first and cradled it from crashing to the ground.  This so reminded me of what an act of mercy would look like.

Could we be as merciful in an event where we could suffer a loss and yet step in to give support, to comfort, to do the right thing?  As difficult as that may be, we need to strive for that very model.

I cannot help but mention Las Vegas here.  Last week a person of unspeakable evil took the lives of 58 innocent people and injured or ruined the lives and families of so many more by his senseless act of terror.  But it is the courage and compassion of the security people and the concert goers themselves that rushed in without consideration of the risk to administer mercy to those wounded or dying that speak to my topic of goodness and mercy.  There was no goodness in the shooting but the compassion shown by every person who assisted, every hero who acted and for every person who offered a prayer, demonstrated goodness and mercy in its fullest.

There was one more metaphor that day.  Amongst the rocks of the Lake Michigan shoreline, hikers had erected prayer towers.  Deb and I had learned about prayer towers years ago while hiking in Hawaii.  The story goes that the tower represents your prayers for someone and the higher you can build the tower, the stronger the prayer and the greater its reach.

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We prayed that day for a very dear friend.  Why did we build the tower?  Because the life he leads and the image he casts are so deserving of this prayer for strength in his battle with cancer, we were compelled to ask for this mercy.  Our friend shows us goodness and mercy in his private as well as his professional life every time we are with him.  I can only hope that my life would cast the same deserving shadow if ever I need a prayer tower.

How then do we bring God’s Kingdom, “the House of the Lord”, into every aspect of our life?  I believe that the way we model our beliefs and convictions is the key to that process.

I need to share this story and you can show me mercy for a little bit of humor.

On the first day, God created the dog and said, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past.
For this, I will give you a life span of 20 years.”
The dog said, “That’s a long time to be barking.
How about only 10 years and I’ll give you back the other 10?”
And God saw it was good….

On the second day, God created the monkey and said,
“Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh.
For this, I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.”
The monkey said, “Monkey tricks for twenty years?
That’s a pretty long time to perform.
How about I give you back ten like the dog did?”
And God, again saw it was good.

On the third day, God created the cow and said,
“You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer’s family.
For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.”
The cow said, “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I’ll give back the other forty?”
And God agreed it was good.

On the fourth day, God created humans and said,
“Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I’ll give you twenty years.”
But the human said, “Only twenty years?
Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back,
the ten the monkey gave back,
and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?”
“Okay,” said God, “You asked for it.”

So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.
For the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family.
For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.
Life has now been explained to you.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable information.
I’m doing it as a public service.
If you are looking for me I will be on the front porch

On the second day God created the monkey.  Entertain people, do tricks and make them laugh.  For this I will give you a life span of 20 years.  The monkey thought about this and replied, 20 years of doing monkey tricks seems like too long.  I’ll do what the dog did and give you back  a life span of twenty years.”
The dog said, “That’s a long time to be barking.
How about only ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten?”
And God saw it was good.10.  And God again saw that it was good.

On the third day God created the cow and said:  You must go out in the field every day with the farmer and suffer under the hot sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer’s family.  For this I will give you a life span of 60 years.  The cow said that’s an awfully tough life to live for 60 years.  How about I give you back 40 and keep 20.  And God said that can work.

On the fourth day God created humans and said:  Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life.  For this I will give you a life span of 20 years.  The human said, that’s not very long.  Could you possibly give me my 20, the 40 the cow gave back, the 10 the monkey gave back and the 10 the dog gave back, that makes 80, okay?  And God said okay, you asked for it.

So that is why for the first 20 years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.  For the next 40 years we toil at work to support our families, for the next 10 years we do tricks to entertain our grandchildren and then for the last 10 years we sit on our front porch and bark at everyone.

Even God has a sense of humor.

But to my point, if the majority of our life is spent in our working careers, how do we bring God into that space.  This I know is a tough one.  If you are like me, you avoid the full on, Jehovah Witness frontal approach.  Human nature, and rememberGod created that as well, is not overly comfortable with confrontation.

So back to goodness and mercy.  There is the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words”.  If we are to demonstrate goodness and mercy, it is exactly what we need to be about.  How we conduct ourselves, the way we do our business, the attitude we bring to our daily life, these are the actions that will speak louder than words.

We were recently at the Taste of Madison and sitting on the Capitol lawn.  We were joined by a couple we did not know.  Shortly after we had introduced ourselves the conversation turned to the wife’s new occupation.  She had switched from nursing to real estate and eagerly explained how she presented herself to and the service she offered her clients.  She had a service heart from nursing and she comfortably slid into a conversation of her faith and how it drove her in the treatment of her clients.  I was honored that she had been so comfortable sharing her story with me.  I believe that she could sense that I was as receptive to this as she was strong in her faith.

It is this image that we need to cast.  It is this approach that opens the door to these opportunities.

Quoting Christ from Matthew 5:16
“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

If your actions are those of a Godly life, they will be sensed if not noticed.  In many instances, they will lead to a conversation and in the conversation you can be inviting.  In my career, I had many opportunities to talk about my Christian beliefs and my passion to spread generosity.  When people sensed this in me, a door opened through which I could enter into a conversation on goodness and mercy.  On numerous occasions, clients who at first were not very charitable, began the process of increasing their giving.  I am not taking credit for their giving.  That comes from the giver’s heart.  But I am content in the fact that I was there to start the conversation.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

One heart, one mind, one life at a time.  Each life that we touch can touch so many others.  Only God knows how the seed spreads.  I wear a bracelet made of fishing gear.  It is a symbol for me of a promise made long ago but it serves as so much more.  Countless people have seen the bracelet and asked why I wear it.  “Are you a fisherman” they will ask.  I always respond with “I am not, much to the chagrin of my in-laws, but let me tell you why I wear it and the story behind it.” And thus starts the invitation.

A few weeks ago I was at the wedding of a client.  It was a surprise invitation and I knew no one else at the wedding.  We were seated with the bride’s former manager and his wife.  As we shared conversation, I noticed his “WWJD bracelet.  As the conversation continued he became aware of my bracelet and eventually asked the question.  “Are you a fisherman?”  What ensued was a new direction that revealed his strong faith connection and service to his church.  In the end, he asked me for the details and the story of the bracelet and will soon be introducing the idea to his men’s group.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

We must be open, forgiving and nonjudgmental.  These are the keys to a Godly life.  They are the answer to the question on his bracelet, “What Would Jesus Do?”

In conclusion, I chose to change the words of the verse slightly:  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow YOU all the days of YOUR life…..IF YOU will dwell in the House of the Lord always.”

 

Apparently Height Matters

Recently I was at my retirement party when one of my clients came over.  She was holding her granddaughter who was playing quite shy in the company of all these strangers at the party.  To break the ice, I leaned down and asked her how old she was.  Getting no response, I said “you look to be about four.”  Her immediate response was “no, I’m three.”  Knowing that my daughter would soon be arriving and was bringing my three year old grandson with her, I mentioned that he would be here soon and he too was three.  Her response was immediate, “how tall is he?”  Apparently, if I was going to set her up with my grandson, height mattered to her.  She was clearly not going to be seen with someone who couldn’t measure up.

I am sure this little girl was not being judgmental, but rather was just looking for a point of reference that was more appropriate to her take on life at three.  The retelling of this story to my daughter triggered a thought that I needed to explore.  This little girl was astute enough to remind me that age had nothing to do with my grandson’s playability, yes I just made up that term, but rather his size was the compatibility statistic for her.

This got me to thinking in broader terms.  Am I tall enough?  Tall enough for my clients, my wife, my family or even the stranger I will meet on the street?  In other words, do I hold to my beliefs and ethics everyday and in every way.  Do I walk tall and can those around me sense that.  I can only hope so and then make it a priority to put forth the effort to make it happen as often as I can.

Since height mattered to her, and by the way, they got along famously later, are you always striving to be tall enough?  If not, try putting a little lift in your attitude.  People might just notice that you seem a little “taller”.

The Slow Walk..or the only way to appreciate Madison

I just finished the world’s slowest walk also known as The Madison Farmer’s Market.  The pace was slow in part due to the throngs of people enjoying the chance to shop for the freshest produce to be found but also to the fact that it is the pace of a beautiful Saturday morning in Madison.  For anyone who has not been able to experience it, the Farmer’s Market stands as the center piece of Madison summer Saturday mornings.  The eight blocks surrounding the majestic Capital building are completely filled with all sorts of produce stands.  Mushrooms to Meats, cheeses and cheese curds to cauliflower and cucumbers, fresh bread to fresh cut flowers.  If you can imagine it, you can find it somewhere in those eight aroma filled blocks.  Goats milk anyone?  Maybe some Ostrich jerky.  And did I mention the Capital views and the vista’s down side boulevards to the two largest Madison lakes?  Or the view down State Street with the University and Bascom Hill at its terminus.

I came to Madison in 1977 after spending the first twenty-six years of my life figuring out how to get here.  That fall, I began the next leg of a teaching career that would span twenty-one years and eventually morph into a career in financial planning.  In the ensuing years, I have owned two homes on the eclectic East Side, met my wife and raised two beautiful children.  I am currently enjoying being a part of the raising of two grandchildren and loving the fact that they can grow up here in Madison.  I have sat on the world famous Union Terrace chairs, ridden on all of her bike trails, taken in countless music venues in her parks, restaurants and saloons (sounds so much more inviting than bars), soaked in the culture of Art Fair on the Square, oohed and awed at Rhythm and Booms and cheered on the Muskies, Mad Hatters and eventually the Mallards baseball teams.  I have boated on her lakes, Monona and Mendota, watched water ski shows on her bay, yes that bay, the one with the “dock of it” and rode my bike along their shores.  And on gorgeous fall afternoons I ate savory brats, washed downed with local craft beers and cheered on The Badgers at venerable and historic Camp Randall.

If I sound like a tourism ad it is because one cannot help but fall in love with this city.  The activities it offers are countless.  The culture it supports is woven into its fabric.  The vistas and changing seasons are its own personal art gallery.  From its lakes and parks to its gardens and architecture, there is no shortage of scenery to satisfy any of the senses.

Forty years have passed since I moved in to my little apartment on the South Side of Madison and I have never reconsidered that move.  I guess taking that slow Saturday morning walk around the Square today made me realize and appreciate this city and all it offers.  The crowds just reminded me I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.  Hopefully there will be countless more slow Saturday mornings and my chance to remind my children and grandchildren who have lived in no other place, to never take it for granted.  Take the walk, slow down and enjoy the views.  Madison welcomes you every time.

Looking Great at 241

Happy birthday USA.  You are 241 years old today and you don’t look a day over 200.  A little gray around the edges but that’s just because we haven’t been doing our best lately to keep you beautiful.  Some would say we need to make you great again but I for one don’t think you ever weren’t great.  You are the most recognized country in the world and a leader in every aspect.  You are a trend setter when it comes to the definition of Democracy and an example for any emerging country that would care enough about it’s populace to protect their freedoms.

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None of this came without a cost.  You have had your share of conflicts to resolve and growing pains when you learned to stretch the definitions of personal freedom.  Through it all, you have kept your poise.  Your fifty children have followed your example and each in it’s own way adds to the beauty of your legacy.  Freedom and diversity are the cornerstone of that legacy.

So what’s all this about making you great again.  Don’t take it personally when someone would imply that you had lost a step.  You still are and always will be the land of freedom and opportunity.  As such, you have always striven to offer those opportunities to all who would rise to the challenge.  And rising to the challenge has been exactly what you have done.

As your song states, from sea to shining sea you are a land of majesty and beauty.  From the mountains on your east to the peaks on your west coast, you rise majestically and scenically to the skies above.  Your plains roll rhythmically across your midsection seaming the country together with their softly flowing rivers.  You offer a vista of awe and wonder at every corner.  Your interstates keep us connected and your back roads rise up to meet us when we leave the beaten path.  Your cities afford us culture and style, while your towns and villages offer us history and Americana.

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Happy 241st birthday, and with calm and sane reasoning, many many more.  You are great and no amount of rhetoric can hide that obvious truth.  Life is good and you continue to afford us the opportunity to live, love and grow, in and because of that goodness.

Let’s think about this the next time we Pledge Allegiance or sing the National Anthem.  Let’s pledge ourselves not to making you great again, but keeping you as great as you already are.  Let’s celebrate your birthday with fireworks and envision them as the birthday candles lit for you today all across your night sky.

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Happy 4th of July, 2017.