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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Compelling Conditions

Arrival at Bird Sanctuary - A Memorable Occasion

This has turned into a week of memories.  I have come to feel extraordinarily blessed and enriched by friendships; friendships that have crossed the line to become family either at some unknown point or rather, feasibly, at the very outset.  Perhaps there was never a time after our first meeting when the commitment on either side was not total.  Today I was talking with George who recently got married (see Saturday, June 25th).  The storehouse of memories we share cannot be assessed a value.  George said that he was extremely happy at the wedding, and that he could think of only one time when he came close to being as happy.  That was when, as children, he and his brother Alton called me to say that they had found an injured bird, and that they wanted to take it to the bird sanctuary so that it could receive treatment.  I immediately went to their house and we put the bird in a cage for transport.  Then, we all got in the truck and traveled to the sanctuary where they accepted the bird for treatment.  I did not tell George today, but that was also one of the happiest moments in my life as well.  It was a moment that made me very proud of them.  At any age, the effective exercise of compassion is no mean feat and carries immense significance. 

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After a Visit with Teico

Teico Atkins
The visit was to last 40 minutes,
Would the time drag on with awkward moments of silence?
Would there be a gulf between us
A divide growing with time and diverse interests?

The moment for visitation arrived,
And as quickly passed
News and memoires intertwined
Into an abiding theme
Of mutual interests.
Of mutual cares.        
Inseparably related
Miraculously joined
Within a family of love reborn.

Shakespeare Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
          Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
          Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
          That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
          Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
          Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
          But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
          I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

                              William Shakespeare  
                                      (1564 - 1616)
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Short Circuits Within & Without

"President" Wayne
If this picture of me looks like a mug shot, well it is.  This photo was taken on January 22, 1999.  I was 54 at the time.  The photo was taken at Hillsborough County Jail after I, running for President, trespassed in a secured area at Tampa International Airport.  The photo, I’m forced to admit, looks more dictatorial than presidential.  I would love to know what was really going on beneath that forehead—what neurological circuits were being fired and why.  It was a marvelous escape from reality that didn’t turn out so well.  Tomorrow I visit one of my sons currently in the Pinellas County Jail.  I looked up his mug shot taken last Thursday and I must admit that in his photo he looks far less criminal.  Yet, I wonder about the same thing when all is said and done.  What is really going on behind that forehead?  To what extent does it all come down in the end in trying to escape in one way or another?  I wonder if a major cause of crime might be a seeking after freedom from a depressing load of too much reality.  Could it be that prisons, actual and symbolic, are the ironic habitats of desperate freedom fighters?

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Nothing Is Sacred

The past few evenings I’ve been watching several comedians on Netflix.  One I particularly enjoyed was Bo Burnham: Words, Words, Words.  At first glance, the idea that nothing is sacred is a disagreeable notion.  But when one considers that it is part of human nature to have the capacity to corrupt even the most noble pursuits with selfishness, pride, and even stupidity, then the concept that all is fair game for a little deflating is a good thing.  One may say, surely religion is sacred territory—no fun should be made of it.  Yet, the efforts of man to define and describe God and to develop religious institutions are subject to the same foibles as all of man’s efforts.  In fact, it is my belief that the more faith and confidence one has in one’s religion, then the less defensive and sensitive that person will be to a little humor made at their own expense.  The faithful and confident know they are fundamentally right in their belief while being well aware that they fall far short of perfection in the expression of it.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kathy’s Birthday

Today was Kathy’s birthday.  Wayne wrote his wife the following poem:

Kathy’s Birthday 2011

As Eve mated Adam
You mated me
Making me complete;
Grasping onto the past….gone,
Selfish self-denial…now a distant absurdity—
Greeting each other in the mornings,
And saying kind goodnights,
Holding each other close,
Gentle touches of tenderness,
We form a package deal
Separated only by the trivial coincidence
       of physical existences
Otherwise united in reliable bonds
       of sweet significance,
The only threat posed to me now is
       the minor matter of transient death
And the imagined blur of Joady’s motorcycle
        racing down our street.

            Deeply in love,

Note: “Joady” is Wayne’s imaginary competition in the lovelorn category.  He is about 27 years old, with dark complexion, has black slicked back hair combed in a ducktail, and frequently takes Kathy speeding for rides on the back of his Harley motorcycle usually going to the beach or some other area full of fun and free of any responsibilities.  Wayne feels that his greatest vulnerability when compared to Joady is that unlike his competition Wayne has no tattoos. 

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wedding Day

Linda (George's sister), George, Takeesha

This evening George Hall and Takeesha Williams were married.  The wedding was held at the Women’s Club on Snell Isle.  It was a full house wedding with bridesmaids, jr. bridesmaid, groomsmen, jr. groomsman, flower girl, and ring bearer.  Following the service appetizers and dinner were served.  It was a Christian service but George’s imam was in attendance.  This closes a chapter for all of us.  It represents much happiness and dreams come true.  George is a son of mine and I honor him for stepping up to the plate to accept the full responsibilities inherent in becoming a married man.

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Unintended Returns

Greed drives many to invest in stocks.  I have myself and seen others eagerly buy shares with deeply felt anticipation of immediate and flagrant gains.  Yet, despite the certainty felt that the investments were virtually risk free, we have seen our investments lose significantly in value.  What we couldn’t wait a minute to purchase, we now hold with modest hopes that the price will someday recover.  While being well aware that I can be accused of rationalization, I hold that some of these losses can be good for us and teach valuable lessons.  First, and most simply, they teach patience.  Second, they teach the obvious that firmly held beliefs and deeply felt emotions resulting in almost tangible fantasies about the future can be disastrously wrong.  Imbedded certainty is no guarantor of success.  As obvious as this may be on the face of it, in fact it is a lesson best and most surely learned the hard way of experience.  Another lesson taught by bad investments is similar to what people express after other disasters; it can help us focus on what is most important.  We can be surprised in life by what is expendable and what is not.  Like when making a loan to a friend and the loan is not repaid, we must determine if friendship is more important than money—if an eventual and unintended act of generosity can be more rewarding than an exact balancing of accounts.  We may “kicking and screaming” confront a truth—material wealth is not our ultimate repository of value.  “It’s only money” can state the real condition.  Fourth, bad investments teach us that though we are deeply flawed beings that are sometimes scarred by experience, we yet are survivors.  We have met the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” yet have somehow survived and prevailed.  While we thought we were putting “all our eggs in one basket,” actually life proves to be a portfolio of many needs and gifts of which material wealth is only one of them.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Redefining “Necessary”

This week I have made two purchases—one, a soundbar surround sound system and two, a washing machine.  Both of these purchases offer extended warranty coverage’s.  A four year warranty after one year manufacturer’s warranty on the washer costs 22% of the price of the washer.  A three year warranty on the speaker system costs 17% of the speaker price.  I like to consider myself a risk taker; after all, who wants to be considered a wuzy.  But however much like John Wayne I pretend myself to be, my actions frequently indicate otherwise.  I swagger onto the scene cavalierly in favor of risk, but then I begin to consider my vulnerabilities.  For one thing, we frequently have heavy electrical storms in Saint Petersburg during the summer months.  Both the soundbar and new energy friendly washer are full of low voltage electronics susceptible to power surges.  I’ve learned through experience that the smart cards found in apparently heavy duty appliances are very expensive to replace.   So after a moment or two of resentment that I must spend more than I intended on the purchased items, I meekly call back within the allowable time frame and add warranties to the purchased items originally purchased with resolute determination not to spend a penny more than immediately necessary.                                     

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Carry Your Candle

Tonight I want to hear music.  Carry Your Candle  follows:

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold
There is a Spirit who brings fire
Ignites a candle and makes His home

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

Frustrated brother, see how he's tried to
Light his own candle some other way
See now your sister, she's been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle without a flame

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

We are a family whose hearts are blazing
So let's raise our candles and light up the sky
Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus
Make us a beacon in darkest times

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, deceived and poor
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Heart of Brightness

The human spirit rebels at drudgery
Which would make itself king of the workhouse—
The spirit of fun and play and imagination
Cuts through the shadows of mindless labor,
Rumored once as being a dominate curse,
And fills stressed rooms with laughter
Expelling slavery from the role of man
Leaving in its place the cheerful mastery
Of love’s sweet dominion and simple grace,
Replacing dread with healthy highs and reliable liberation,
Purpose upon purpose set,
When skills become a gift and responsibility a blessing.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Atmosphere as a Determining Factor

FTA Negotiations in Seoul
Atmosphere is often a conducive and determinative factor in human behavior.  Major decisions can be as dependent upon it as much as or more so than the other factors bearing on a decision.  A good atmosphere carries with it feelings that are positive and optimistic. One comes to like one’s counterpart in the decision process and a desire arises to realize mutual benefits.  Good atmospherics can be destroyed by apparently minor but symbolically significant initial nonperformance—as arriving late for an appointment or displaying a lack of good judgment in what is appropriate.  There is a feeling that if the other party is so fundamentally flawed that they cannot judge what is appropriate regarding simple matters, how can they be trusted in large matters?  For example if one expects one or a few players on each negotiating team, for one side to come with an army can sabotage a good atmosphere  and result in irretrievable damage.  A sense that the other party has good judgment can be decimated at the outset.  No one wants to make deals with fools, for fools can be unaware of their own desires and capacities.  This can spell major problems in the future for the performance of any forthcoming agreement.  A reliable agreement depends upon reliable negotiators.  Atmosphere is no substitute for substance, but likewise substance alone is futile without an agreeable atmosphere.

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The Limitations of Analogy

Once I had a professor that bristled on the use by students of analogy.  I have to confess I sometimes get tired of it as well.  While analogy may show a grasp of a problem—one sees how this situation is like another—it too often can close off further analysis of the new situation.  While some things may be similar in part, the differences can be decisive and determinative.  While I enjoy reading the devotional guide The Upper Room, I sometimes find myself wishing they would reject any devotional submission that begins with an analogy.  Too many of them begin in this formulaic fashion.  I do not want the conclusive contentment and even apathy that can come with a presumptive analogy; I want a cold look at the facts pertaining to this particular situation.  Analogy can be a cheap substitute for the extensive work required in investigating the particular interplay of facts unique to a given situation.  This is almost the definition of a professional—the ability to see the exceptional lurking beyond surface commonality.  Analogies too often present the temptation to slovenly jump to easy conclusions in which we become prematurely satisfied and content.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Rock & The Rabbi

Tonight we attended the musical The Rock & The Rabbi.  It got me thinking again about Jesus and how I can best be a witness for him.  Many things about him are inimitable.  There is no chance that I will ever walk on water, calm the seas, or ensure abundant catches of fish.  In brief, all the miracles of Jesus from healing the sick to turning water into wine are beyond anything that I could possibly do.  However, one thing I would really like to do that Jesus did is speak the truth with simplicity.  If I could achieve a fraction of what he did in this regard, I would be very happy.  I want to live in the spirit of Matthew 5:37 (NIV): Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one

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Warmth in Human Relations

To discuss warmth in human relations, it is helpful to begin with a discussion of its opposite.  Such relations are often described as cold, calculated, detached, aloof, and remote.  Under these conditions a person can feel ill at ease, barely tolerated, rejected, disliked, unloved, and under constant negative assessment.  Warm relations fortunately provide the opposite encounter.  Here we find acceptance, lack of a sense of being negatively judged, a feeling of being comfortable and at ease, and a feeling of being liked and loved.  The person showing warmth is nonjudgmental, egalitarian, forthcoming, and seeks to establish a friendliness that cultivates intimacy, spontaneity, and lack of guardedness.  Paradoxically, under these happier circumstances much greater frankness is allowed without the counterproductive static found in cold relations.  With this more agreeable relationship, influence on the behavior of others can grow even in areas of striking disagreement.  Under this climate criticism is viewed as constructive, not a blunt instrument used to put one down.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Realism of the Streets

Too often we accede too readily to the notion that the realism of the streets is filled only with violence, lawlessness, gangs, and drugs.  I do not and cannot deny that this painful aspect of the streets is true.  Just today I learned that Bo Diddley was killed—the brother of Aaron who was also killed on the streets of Saint Petersburg.  Both I counted as friends.  Yet, I also know of another street reality.  In Saint Petersburg every community is filled with churches, parks, and recreation centers.  There are people and programs actively seeking to provide job training and placement for all—especially youth.  Many compassionate people have refused to throw in the towel on any neighborhood.  Hardnosed change agents are reliably committed and never cease conceding that even the worst neighborhoods are filled with children.  The commitment for betterment is founded on the belief that there is a citywide community whose perimeters are all inclusive.  In a way this neighborly commitment is a choice, but in another it comes from the realization that neglect carries a price that cannot be neatly contained.  A city without compassion and widespread nurturing is doomed to make one’s own property values and quality of life go down wherever one lives.  Perhaps the flipside of compassion is an elemental fear of the invisible hand of cosmic justice as it brings retribution to the self-absorbed and callous.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Camouflage Behavior

Camouflage:  “something that is intended to hide, disguise, or mislead” (Encarta Dictionary).

A very present aspect of human behavior involves camouflage.  This morning I started out with a cheerful note to my wife—actually I was not all that cheerful.  I put on hair tonic that serves to color my hair.  I went to the closet and picked out a shirt that I hoped would mitigate my midriff.  I arrived at work and went cheerfully about my work—actually I was not all that cheerful.  I went to Radio Shack to get a part that I needed for work.  Actually I went specifically to Radio Shack with a hidden agenda—I also wanted to purchase on my account an adapter that I needed at home.  In the afternoon I went about my work trying to hide the fact that I was drowsy after having pizza with a friend for lunch.  During lunch my friend chatted a good deal about his new baby.  I showed perhaps too much interest.  Later in the afternoon my boss asked me to take care of a matter, which I did cheerfully—actually I was not all that cheerful. An acquaintance spoke to me in the hall.  I attempted to cover the fact that I couldn't recall their name.   In short, my day has been replete with actions “intended to hide, disguise, or mislead.”  I am either hopelessly phony or adamantly human.  I ask my dear reader to decide based on their own behavior starting with getting out of bed unfit for living and perhaps a little later crafting a public face by smiling cheerfully in the bathroom mirror.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The City’s Nurture Committee

Nurture: to give tender care and protection to a young child, animal, or plant, helping it to grow and develop; to encourage somebody or something to grow, develop, thrive, and be successful (Encarta Dictionary).

A church I attended had a nurture committee.  Now I work for the City of Saint Petersburg and often feel in making my rounds in the Parks and Recreation Department that a more accurate name for our organizational entity would be the City’s Nurture Committee.  The activities involved in our department are highly dependent upon intense personal effort and contact.  To me “Committee” implies this much more than the more bureaucratically remote “Department.”  The whole organized effort undertaken is in nourishing people either in recreation centers or parks.  Today and yesterday I witnessed the careful nurturing of children and youth in several recreation centers and at Camp Redbird during the busy “schools out” summer season.  The mission clearly is “to give tender care and protection” and to encourage children and youth to thrive and flourish.  But nurturing is not limited to the young.  Adults and senior citizens also need nurturing so there are centers and activities especially designed for these age groups.  People never outgrow their need for nurturing.  I feel proud and lucky to work on what I personally choose to view as the City’s Nurture Committee.          

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Possession Is Nine-Tenths of the Law

Possession is nine-tenths of the law is an expression meaning that ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something, and much more difficult to enforce if one does not” (Wikipedia).  When my parents retired after having lived in parsonages during their working lives, they needed a place to stay after retirement.  A home available for retired ministers was vacant at the time in Bradenton.  My parents expressed interest in it and obtained a key to inspect it.  They received word that the decision had been made to let them live there, though it would be several months before my parents’ schedule allowed them to move in.  A minister friend of my parents encouraged them immediately to lay claim to living in the house by putting something personal in it even if a small piece of furniture.  This my parents did, and they did get the house to stay in for as long as they wanted it.  Laying claim is true not only of property, but also of belief.  Self-confidence arises from laying claim to self-assurance by acting as if it were true.  Likewise, belief in the supreme efficacy of the disciplines of love is much easier to hold if one personally invests in the concept through action.  Without this investment, it is easier for the position to become debatable and conflicted in one’s mind.  Prejudice the case for favorable causes by making personal commitments, even if that means for the moment taking smaller largely symbolic steps of action.

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A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

In raising children there is the operating belief that small acts of love consistently applied can avert major and less successful interventions later on.  The simple fact is there comes a time when “too late for small acts” becomes sadly a real condition.  What is left is the unhappy situation where society is forced to pick up the pieces following the failure of relationships to provide preventive small acts in a timely way.  As in failing to regularly service a car with oil changes, such necessary small acts not done can result in the serious rise in the costs of neglect.  These costs typically become externalized into society which becomes the repository of diverse dysfunctions which can be broadly defined as failures to nurture.  In this light, timely small acts quickly lose their “take it or leave it” aspect and can be seen as necessary in avoiding the escalating costs and less effective “big acts” eventually forced upon us.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

The One Essential Ingredient of Leadership

I have always wanted to be a leader.  But I never have been perceived as such and never shall.  The reason is I lack the one essential ingredient of leadership—the gift of gab.  Consider actual leaders throughout history and from your own experience.  No quality is essential except this gift.  Leaders need not have integrity, honesty, compassion or the lack thereof, a sense of humor or the lack thereof, goodwill or ill will, closed minds or open minds, good imaginations or minds in conventional ruts, demonstrate intelligence or the lack thereof, be law abiding or law breakers, be prejudiced and filled with hatred or loving and filled with kindness, be wise or foolish, or any other essential ingredient except the gift of gab.  Enter any crowded room, and the leaders are readily apparent.  They are the ones engaged in active conversation, and the pronounced leaders are always most talkative—sometimes to the point of being neurotically so.  Being talkative is greatly misconstrued as being at ease in social situations.  It often is just the opposite.  But the appearance of social mastery is taken as reality.  It is assumed that a quiet room is a tense room; that a quiet person is a tense person; that a talkative person is bright, that a quiet person is dull.  Even though untrue, these false conceits are firmly believed by many, especially leaders.  Self-confidence becomes equated with gabbiness.  It is inconceivable to gabbers that one could have quiet self-confidence, a quality viewed as a nonstarter.  A leader almost by definition is a malcontent, and this characteristic is egregiously manifested in endless chatter.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Just Call Me Stupid

Art by Martinho Isidro Correia
Yesterday’s blog found me in a world without love.  All of the good things characteristic of love were absent—an outlook filled and overflowing with being hopeful, positive, imaginative, forgiving, and joyful all resting on a belief in heaven above and a loving God that cares about each and every one of us.  Looking back, I have resolved never return to that hellish limited view of life again.  I am fully aware that I stand open to the criticism that I am being unrealistic—a more realistic vision being based on an individual’s short lifespan filled with sharp limitations, disappointments, and even futility.  I reject this view and choose to believe otherwise.  If this makes me unrealistic and too weak to see the world as it really is—then so be it, just go ahead and call me weak and unrealistic.  Frankly, I am not at all convinced that we are better off as a species without our delusions (if that be what they are) of a divine loving father imbuing each of us with eternal significance.  In other words, I am not at all convinced that humanity is better off without faith.  I am not at all sure that “being realistic” is in fact being realistic, in fact being true to what is—“what is so regardless of what we may say about it.”  Assessing which view is delusional is itself always fundamentally based on belief. I align myself with the words and Christian faith of I Corinthians 15:55 (NIV) underscoring the reality of eternity: “Where, O death, is your victory? /Where, O death, is your sting?”  

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Feeling Down, Feeling Blue

Today I was reminded of my limitations—in mind and body.  I felt demoted for deficiencies, my loves and passions discounted.  My interests and assets mocked.  I ran for comfort to a friend of many years (having lunch with him) who gave me strength emotionally, yet scolded me for being overweight.  Later, I took another friend shopping who was short on cash so I treated by purchasing some of his wants arising from his current enthusiasms, but was rebuffed by him when expressing a simple enthusiasm of my own.  I got angry.  Arriving home, I reclined in bed and Kathy read to me I Corinthians 13.  Then I prayed which somehow gradually became a prayer of thanksgiving and praise.  Before falling asleep, I counted my blessings, but it was difficult to fully shake the blues.  

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Supercharged Secret

Today I referred Robert Norton to yesterday’s blog.  Robert was the director of the Let’s Get Together video.  His written response to me touches on the fundamental human drive to avoid pain and seek pleasure.  One can’t help but believe the world could be changed overnight if this key to attaining the deepest pleasure were widely appreciated.  He wrote, “Thanks Wayne, It really feels great when you can move people in positive ways :)”  Could major change in human affairs really be this simple?—bringing to realization that the way to attain the greatest pleasure is to “move people in positive ways.”  The paradox inherent is that the most socially positive behavior is also the most personally rewarding.  Could human affairs be redeemed by a thinly concealed supercharged secret accessible to all and readily verifiable by practical experience?

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Let’s Get Together

Today while working at TASCO I was privileged to view a video before official release called Let’s Get Together.  This stunning achievement produced by TASCO Center for Teen Technology and edited by Robert Norton and Sean Keller features the people of Saint Petersburg and has as its central message that tragedy can and must be redeemed by hope and brotherhood.  This flawlessly edited composition is driven by the lyrics of a song that carries the central message—the vision of loving relationships is the only avenue providing hope and positive movement forward.  Throwing political correctness to the winds, the movie is strongly Christian in theme and content—and in a city with numerous churches knitting the fabric of almost every neighborhood, this frank acknowledgment underscores a sense of realism—as sadly also do the references to recent tragedies. Since it seems that guns are a given in our society, the only recourse to avoiding tragedy is overcoming anger and hatred in the human heart.  When that day comes—and faith affirms that it will—half the criminal laws in the city will be made nugatory.  Joy and celebration mark the end of the video with the firm conclusion that abiding hope and loving convictions are daily realized and are stronger in the end than evil is now or ever will be.    

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Monday, June 6, 2011

The Drive for Big Acts

My previous blog was on our Sunday service which introduced a new theme that will be developed in the coming weeks—the significance of “Small Acts.”  I would like to discuss “Small Acts” and the humility they suggest and contrast that with the pride often associated with and driving “Big Acts.”  A “Big Act” that immediately comes to mind is the act of murder.  Surely the desire to do a “Big Act” with major impact is at the heart of this crime.  The gun on the street is not only an equalizer; it allows decisive and permanent dominance. It enables us to do “Big Acts”—big gestures that are at base motivated by pride.  We see this also occasionally upon the “spontaneous” receiving of awards.  It is with pride that the recipient thanks the “little people” that made it all possible in acceptance speeches tailored to outdo the Gettysburg Address.  The overweening pride that accompanies “Big Acts” can be embarrassing glaring.  “Big Acts” suggest heroics and self-promotion; “Small Acts” suggest a humility that seeks to effectively assist others.  Jesus reveals the heart of the matter (NIV Matthew 6:1-4): “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  

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Today in Church

Today’s sermon by Pastor Gil Smith was on the theme “Small Acts” that make a difference in our world.  Gil, who uses vivid imagery, at one point compared our small acts to a multi-tiered fountain that begins at the top with an individual’s initial contribution flowing from the outpouring of the holy spirit, but which cascades down to other tier levels finally reaching the wider tiers of local community and eventually world.  The unfortunate flip side of this concept is that the evil that we do can also have wider and wider consequences.  In fact, it is clear that all our actions and the spiritual quality that is their source will be magnified and broadened in impact.  From this point of view, there are very few (if any) small acts that are limited to ourselves.  Once done, the impact of our actions quickly becomes outside our control.  This is to be celebrated when the influence is positive, but regretted when the influence is bad.  We are constantly reminded sometimes gloriously; sometimes tragically that mankind has a spiritual dimension that when manifest in action is inescapably social in character and has ramifications that are indeterminate in duration and consequence.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

In Spades

Childs Park
Today I feel like one of the richest men alive.  Bob (my brother who was in town for a short visit) and I did a quick tour of Saint Petersburg.  I began where I first lived near Bartlett Park.  I shared with him the moment God called me to live in that specific apartment complex in a specific apartment, and from that beginning in 1975 have arisen experiences and friendships that have preternaturally enriched my life.  From there we toured several parts of the city that have special meaning for me.  We went past the University of South Florida, Mahaffey Theater, the Pier, Northshore Pool Complex, Snell Isle, where I currently work at Woodlawn, Childs Park, Campbell Park and Midtown, and finally Bartlett Park.  Bob, who was twice mayor of Orange Park, was very impressed by the investment Saint Petersburg makes in providing parks and recreation facilities for all its citizens.  It seemed like everywhere we turned were beautiful, well maintained parks and recreation centers.  This afternoon Tu Tu called and we had dinner together, then we went to see his brother Bobby recently returned to town and who plans to marry in July.  I have known Tu Tu and Bobby since they were kids and have experienced in spades their trust, acceptance, and love.  Later, Kunte called and we made plans to work on his new DVD player set-up tomorrow.  On looking back, when I survey this vast expanse of purple grain and the unexpectedly high return on my life investments, I feel a kinship in kind with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

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Friday, June 3, 2011


Today my brother came down from Georgia for a visit and to spend the night.  Tomorrow he will leave for Lakeland to see Trey (his grandson) graduate.  This evening over dinner at home and for hours thereafter sitting at the dining room table, we had a loveable feast.  At one point, Bob called our cousin in Tuscaloosa.  Our cousin, also a Bob, and his wife Karen had lived in a house 42 years, only to have it demolished in the recent tornados. Today they were sorting through what’s left in the house.  The house will be bulldozed down in a few days.  Bob and Karen were in the basement when the tornado hit.

After the call, Bob and I began to reminisce about our childhood and youth.  We unearthed many detailed memories stored somewhere deep within our brains.  None of the specifics matter much except to Bob and me.  Yet for us they offer a strong sense of identity and a legacy of adventure, fun, and freedom.  The key ingredient to all our experiences is the grounding love cultivated by our parents and generously bestowed upon each of us. After hearing of the experiences of others, we now realize that our childhood may have been somewhat abnormal.  There was none of the family treacheries and dysfunctions that make for great literature.  Nevertheless, our lives were not bland.  We were the beneficiaries of the fruit of the spirit fully manifest in the close quarters of a home.  This has enriched our lives throughout the years leaving it necessary for us to struggle hard to come up with even a few regrets.  If Bob & I could wish any gift on others now or for endless generations ahead, it would be the presence of loving parents filling a home with quiet conviction, genuine confidence, and reliable humility.  Life is filled with many questions, but for good or bad the disposition of the heart in the laboratory of the home becomes dependably known.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let Go and Let God

The phrase to “Let Go and Let God” is often used to encourage letting go of excessive self-directed control in our own lives.  The phrase can apply just as well to our over involvement in the lives of our children or in friendships.  We can find ourselves trusting ourselves too much in these relationships and trusting others and their sense of sound judgment and inspiration too little.  By seeking too much control we can kill not only the self-initiative of others, but also more importantly curb the development of their exercise of faith.  It can be difficult, but sometimes the most important thing we can do is to be left out of the immediate equation.  The results often can surprise and delight us.  We can garner a greater respect for the life competencies of those we tended to underrate while simultaneously garnering a greater sense of aptitude in discerning our own personal limits.  

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Reproach Loop

Today I made a major blunder.  It was near the end of the workday and I called my bank.  For various reasons my focus was entirely on the call (the connection was not good) and I was oblivious to my fellow worker who was also on the phone.  I talked so loudly that he had to move his location from by me to mid-room.  On leaving for the day, he showed some mild irritation at my behavior.  This evening I keep thinking of a passage of scripture (NIV-Matthew 5:46-48): If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  For application to my behavior today I keep thinking “If you are kind and considerate during relaxed and ideal conditions, what good is that?  Anyone can be kind and considerate under ideal conditions.  But you are to be kind and considerate even at stressful times when the inner impulse is to be self-centered.”  This loops in my mind persistently and serves as an enduring reproach.

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