Election 2016: Make America Grateful Again

president-trumpIt is time to make America grateful again.

The 2016 contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will go down in American history as one of our most divisive and rancorous elections. The divide between left and right was deep when it began, deepened during the process, and has never seemed deeper than it is right now. At this writing, four days after the election, protests and riots continue to plague American cities as thousands refuse to accept the outcome.

“Never Trump” has never been more alive. Vociferous and often profanity-laden protests have devolved into assaults on citizens, police, and businesses.


Vociferous and often profanity-laden protests have devolved into assaults on citizens, police, and businesses.


Hillary Clinton gracefully concedes

In her concession speech, a visibly disappointed Hillary said, “I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future.”

 

You do not have to read much of my writing to know that I am no Hillary fan, but I applaud her for doing what she had to do to bring American together after a contentious election.

It didn’t work.

America loves winners

America loves a winner, or so they say.

The truth is America loves a gracious winner. No one watching a lifetime of Trump narcissism would anticipate much in the way of grace when he won as a presidential candidate after being the unlikeliest of longshots and finding himself opposed to establishment politicians from both parties, the bulk of the media, Wall Street, and everyone who had an interest to protect in DC.

If ever there was a time for a Trump gloat, this victory might be it. Instead, he was gracious in victory:

Thank you very much. I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us — it’s about us — on our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign.
I mean she fought very hard.

Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.
I mean that very sincerely.
Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of decision. We have to get together.
To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it’s time for us to come together as one united people.

Its time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country. ~from Donald Trump’s acceptance speech after winning the presidential election

 


Gracious winners and graceful losers. Statesmen committed to their belief in the American experiment. Servants serving a greater common good.

I know that we tend to denigrate politicians, and, more often than not, for good reason. But they remain a vital part of a system of government that has worked magnificently for 240 years. Where else in the annals of human government have you seen a system where power changes hands every four or eight years and does so without violence?

I know that we have seen violence this time, but it is not officially sanctioned violence. It is not the conqueror vanquishing the conquered. It is not the winner doing violence to the loser as has so often been the case in every other human government.

Make America Grateful Again

It is time to make American grateful again. It is time for Americans to realize that, for all of her flaws, she is still what Ronald Reagan called “a shining city on a hill.” She is still the beacon of hope, the guiding light for those seeking a better system of government, a better way of life.

As we approach the holiday America has officially set aside to remind us of God’s goodness to us, to remind us to recognize the grace under which we have thrived, what can I do, what can you do, what can we do to make America great again?

We can begin with gratitude. We can begin with grace.

It is right that we should be grateful for the plenty amidst which we live; the productivity of our farms, the output of our factories, the skill of our artisans, and the ingenuity of our investors. But in the midst of our thanksgiving, let us not be unmindful of the plight of those in many parts of the world to whom hunger is no stranger and the plight of those millions more who live without the blessings of liberty and freedom…

I urge all citizens to make this Thanksgiving not merely a holiday from their labors, but rather a day of contemplation. I ask the head of each family to recount to his children the story of the first New England Thanksgiving, thus to impress upon future generations the heritage of this nation born in toil, in danger, in purpose, and in the conviction that right and justice and freedom can through man’s efforts persevere and come to fruition with the blessing of God.

Let us observe this day with reverence and with prayer that will rekindle in us the will and show us the way not only to preserve our blessings, but also to extend them to the four corners of the earth. Let us by our example, as well as by our material aid, assist all peoples of all nations who are striving to achieve a better life in freedom. ~President John F. Kennedy, Thanksgiving Day, 1961

America’s greatness is directly related to her gratefulness and her grace. Let’s make America great again by being grateful again.

Leadership 101: Make no place for foolish pride

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As you read the following, keep in mind: Effective leadership requires a certain vulnerability.

They say confession is good for the soul. So, here goes:

It is a sad fact of my flawed nature that, too often, the less certain I am on a matter, the more vociferous and vehement my argument. In other words, if I am not careful, the less I know, the more I say.


the less I know, the more I say.


This proclivity arises from pride. The “need” to win an argument or be perceived as right trumps the nobler pursuit of truth. The Be Right bully often outwrestles the Know Right and Do Right twins.

This is damaging to relationships. It is damning to professional pursuits. It is better to know and do the true thing than to be perceived or applauded as the authority on said thing.

How, then, do we frail humans, fraught with pride, protect against these passions of our imperfect, importunate, and sometimes impertinent nature?

Glad you asked. Here are some thoughts. (If you have others or know why any of these are flawed, I am all ears.)

Value truth over triumph.

“Red” Sanders, the UCLA Bruins football coach in the 1950s is famous for having said, “Winning is not everything. Winning is the ONLY thing.” That is a memorable, quotable, rah-rah, go-get-em mindset. For football!

Let’s not, however, take this mentality into boardroom, bedroom, or barstool conversations and disputations. Don’t make every conversation a contest. Make every conversation, instead, an education, a part of your journey to knowing enough to be the best version of yourself and squeeze the most life (and value) you can out of every circumstance.

Risk humility, even if you fear humiliation

Merriam-Webster defines humility as “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people .”

Humility is one of those difficult-to-hit moving targets. It is the kind of thing that, if you are proud of yourself for practicing it, you probably never really did. Humility, however, is vital to building alliances and gaining true friends and/or devoted followers. Few things are more valuable in a leader than humility and few things are more damaging than false humility, which is really just thinly-veiled pride.

We have all seen false humility in action. A gorgeous, shapely girl saying, “I’m hideous,” or “I’m so fat.” Or, an athlete claiming, “I’m such a clutz.” Or, a person of supreme intelligence fishing for confirmation by saying something like, “I don’t know much, but…”

You know what I am talking about. We have all seen it and most of us have done it. I know I have.

False humility stems from foolish pride, an over-inflated self-image, and insecurity. Before you say these things are mutually exclusive, let’s think about it. A person constantly thinking about self-image is insecure, no? If he or she wasn’t, there would not exist a constant need to be confirmed.

How fragile the human psyche.

Conversely, humility is actually an act of strength. It takes supreme confidence and healthy self-esteem to yield the floor to another, to collaborate, to acknowledge someone else may have a better idea or deeper knowledge of a subject.

Use conflict to build a coalition, a consensus, and a strategy

William Wrigley, Jr built one of the great American brands. In a March 1931 article in American magazine titled “Spunk Never Cost a Man a Job Worth Having” Wrigley is quoted:

One of the biggest pests in business is the carbon copy—the fellow who always says: “Yes, Mr. Wrigley, you’re absolutely right.”

Perhaps meaning: “Have it your own way, you old buzzard, what do I care!”

Business is built by men who care—care enough to disagree, fight it out to a finish, get facts. When two men always agree, one of them is unnecessary.

The weak leader seeks to surround himself with “yes” men, bobble-heads bubbling over his or her every proclamation.

Don’t yield ground too quickly or easily

If you have studied a situation and have enough observable data or anecdotal experiences to have arrived at a considered conclusion, don’t be too easily removed. Just because you are challenged doesn’t mean you are wrong. If your postulations can withstand the battery of debate, so much the stronger they will be in their implementation.

Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger

Early in my professional journey, I worked on the staff of a man who was fond of saying, “Do something…even if it’s wrong.”


Do something…even if it’s wrong!


In every situation, someone has to be willing and able to say, “Let’s do it.”

Someone has to take responsibility for making a decision and deciding a direction. After all, it is not about winning an argument. It’s about doing the right thing the right way for the right reason with the right attitude.

Liberate subordinates and associates to contribute to the conversation. Listen to others with genuine interest and an open mind. Learn what you don’t know. Lay out what you do know. Lead!

Leadership 101: Influence requires investment

Influence requires investment.

If you had to define leadership in one word, what better could you find than influence? Leaders effect change because leaders influence. Leaders achieve goals because leaders influence. Leaders are only leaders to the extent they influence.

I remember bits of a sermon an evangelist passing through our little west Texas town preached when I was about 11 or 12. This preacher was from Tennessee and he whistled his “s” sounds. We called him the Tennessee Whistler.

Get off your can!

The part I remember is the quote he used to drive home his main point. The quote is of unknown origin, but it goes like this: “Get all you can. Can all you get. Sit on the can.”


Get all you can. Can all you get. Sit on the can.


I can still hear the boom in the whistlin’ preacher’s voice, like an Appalachian thunderclap, “That’s not right! That’s wrong! That’s not the way to anything useful. That’s not the way to wealth. Investment is the way to wealth. Just so, it’s not the way to influence, either. If you want your life to matter, get off your can and take off the lid. Pour yourself into something. Pour yourself into someone!”


“If you want your life to matter, get off your can and take off the lid. Pour yourself into something. Pour yourself into someone!”


I am thankful that among the indelible impressions stamped upon my soul in my formative years, was this one from a traveling preacher, whom I heard speak five times in a week and never saw again.

Time passed and I would find myself in various leadership roles, charged with casting a vision and achieving an end. I learned quickly that I could achieve nothing of real, lasting, or far-reaching value by myself. I could not make a difference by being too introspective.

The unexamined life doesn’t much matter.

I could learn, but what was the point of learning if I could not teach? I could gain wisdom, but hoarded wisdom is its own brand of foolishness. Socrates, during his trial in which he was accused of corrupting the minds of youth is reputed to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”


“The unexamined life is not worth living.”


Think about it. If a person lives only for himself and then goes the way of the world, who will remember – or care – that he ever lived at all? One’s influence is the only way to impact the world beyond one’s own reach.

A leader is only as great as his influence.

Bill Parcells is widely regarded as one of the great coaches in NFL history. Other coaches have enjoyed longer careers, won more games, and even won more championships than Parcells, who coached four NFL teams over an 18-year career. Parcells coached in three Super Bowls (with two different teams), winning two.

The greatest thing about Parcells is not his winning percentage or championship runs, but his football acumen and ability to teach the game to players and coaches. To see his true greatness, you have to look at his influence.

parcells-treeESPN did a series on the Greatest Coaches in NFL History. Parcells is included and special attention is paid to the “Bill Parcells Coaching Tree.” Among those directly influenced by Parcells are Bill Belichick (six Super Bowl appearances and three wins as head coach in New England), Tom Coughlin (two Super Bowl wins as head coach with the New York Giants), Sean Peyton (Coached the New Orleans Saints to their only Super Bowl win), Chris Palmer, Al Groh, Romeo Crennel, Tony Sparano, and Todd Haley. Indirectly, Parcells influenced such notables as Nick Saban, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, Jim Fassell, and Bobby Petrino.

One could show even more impressively credentialed coaching trees by tracing those of Vince Lombardi or Tom Landry.

But I will leave the ranks of football for the grander stage of influence upon mankind as a whole. Whom would you say has had the greatest historical impact on the world? In 1926, James Allen Frances wrote One Solitary Life in an effort to answer that question:

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty when public opinion turned against him

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life

Love Him, hate Him, deny Him, follow Him, revere Him, revile Him…each of these choices have been made through the centuries since the Galilean walked the dusty roads of Palestine.

The one thing it is impossible to do? Ignore Him.

Why? Because of His influence! And what was His strategy for influencing so many for so long? Investment!

…Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach… Mark 3:14

Want to change the world? Want to make a lasting difference? Share your wisdom. Invest yourself in those who comprise your circle of influence. Get off your can. Take off the lid. Pour yourself into others. That’s investment, which becomes influence, which is another word for leadership.

The Dance of the Insane – or – The Direction of the Informed?

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

huckI was in the house alone, except for my English Setters, Huck and Finn. I was lustily singing a Willie Nelson song to the plaintiff guitar strumming in my head. The dogs couldn’t hear the inimitable sound of Willie plucking his old signature guitar. They only heard me braying like a bereft mule. They thought it odd and said so by barking at me as if I were an intruder.

I stopped singing to ponder what it must be like to be inside their heads. What was it like to see a human singing and carrying on with no apparent prompt or reason? Then I thought how the world outside Christ perceives the behavior of those who glory in Him.

Is the dance of faith insane?

I thought of King David when he danced before the ark of the covenant to the embarrassment and scorn of his wife Michal…

And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly garment… But as the Ark of the LORD entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she was filled with contempt for him… When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” ~2 Samuel 6:14,16,20

I thought of the way Stephen endured a violent, unjust death at the hands of angry men and the adverse affect it had on all but one of them…

The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.mBut Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”

Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.n

As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. ~Acts 7:54-60

willie-guitarStephen was “dancing” to a tune these unregenerate religionists could not hear. He was moved by a sight they never saw, a voice they never heard, a love they could not possibly comprehend. How it must have drilled into their rancid souls when he, through broken teeth and bloodied lips, interceded for their forgiveness.

Only one person in that crowd (that we know of) was ultimately stirred to embrace Christ and the Cross: the “young man named Saul.” Saul would later be known as the Apostle Paul and would himself become the New Testament era’s mightiest, most vocal, most celebrated, and most reviled evangelist.

Saul would hear the music others could not understand on the road to Damascus and this Pharisee sworn to the destruction of the church would become the mighty apostle. Those with Paul heard the voice he heard, but it did not mean to them what it did to him. It did not impact their lives the way it did his. (Acts 9)

Late in his life, in the events that would ultimately culminate in his death, Paul told his story of redemption to King Agrippa and his court. A dignitary of that court named Festus declared, “Paul, you are insane! Too much study has made you crazy.” (Acts 26:24)

What’s this music that makes you dance, Paul? It isn’t like the dance we do. You are out of step, man.

What you call crazy and what I call crazy are not the same thing.

You look around our homogenized society, where everything and anything can suddenly become a trend (if only for a few hours). I read something about how middle schoolers are into flipping water bottles at the moment. A few weeks ago, on a Saturday, I walked home from work, taking time to amble down a walking trail through a city park. I saw 20-30 people, adults and kids, looking like the Walking Dead, walking in odd patterns in the park, eyes glued to their cell phones, trying to capture the Pokemons in their heads.

Things like that aren’t crazy to a society desperately filling its soul with whatever pleasures and pastimes will get them to senility and the silence of the grave. Whatever it takes to drown out the voice in their head that says, “Meaningless, meaningless. All of this is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

But following Christ, loving your enemies, praying for those who abuse you, giving with no strings, valuing the gold in the Golden Rule over mob rule, valuing a soul more than your savings, walking this way when the crowd goes that way…

That’s crazy, man.

Just ask Huck and Finn.

To Trump or not to Trump | Decision 2016, a Christian’s quandary

To Trump or not to Trump? That is the question! It is also the most hotly debated social media topic among conservatives – particularly, CHRISTIAN conservatives – right now.

The Trump Tapes

In the wake of the perfectly-timed release of the Trump tape from 11 years ago, on which he engaged in lewd and foul rhetoric and demeaned the fairer sex (an old-fashioned term I am sure to get into trouble for using, which is ironic in a way), Republican leaders like Condoleezza Rice have pulled their “support” of the controversial Republican candidate.

Rice wrote on Facebook: Enough! Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw. As a Republican, I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run for the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth.

I have seen fast friends and even fellow ministers duking it out on Facebook and Twitter over whether it is appropriate for a Christian to vote for Trump. The debate has been lively and colorful and sometimes involves suggestions that the person taking the opposite view is either delusional or deranged…or downright sinful!

The ones taking the high road and saying #NeverTrump put forth the argument that essentially boils down to this: The lesser of two evils is still evil! 

Got me there.

I am trying to remember when an American election came down to God vs the Devil or complete Good vs complete Evil. I don’t recall Billy Graham or Mother Theresa ever having been on the ballot. Granted, Trump is the worst best option we have had since I can remember. But some of the same people who were willing to forget a lot of things they know about Mormonism as it relates to traditional (biblical) Christianity to vote Romney sure have been slaying the wayward sons and daughters willing to overlook brutish behavior and dirty words to vote Trump.

Conversely, those selling out to a wholesale endorsement of a man whose best qualities revolve around the kind of delusions of grandeur and egomania rarely seen in anyone not holding the title Caesar or Emperor are a bit annoying, too. Telling someone they are wasting their vote if they vote for a third candidate is the same as telling them they can never vote their conscience and that underdogs should never have any support.

Trump: Will he make America great again?

Trump may be the best hope for America, given the options. I really don’t know that I can say he is…or if he will be, as he would say, “a total disaster.” I am not sure anyone can say for sure.

What we can say for sure is that Trump is not the squeaky clean candidate we would like for him to be. He has been self-serving, cold-blooded, ill-tempered, and middle school bully-like way too often to suit me.

I have, frankly, been on the fence and on either side of it numerous times in this election. I am torn, like so many of you. I do NOT like Trump. I do NOT trust Trump.

But…I believe that Hillary is as close to evil incarnate as a candidate is likely to be. Furthermore, she is on the wrong side of EVERY issue that is important to me, and some of those have real spiritual implications (like ABORTION).

In last night’s debate, the people Hillary most passionately and eloquently defended were illegal immigrants and Muslims. She lied about her stance on the Second Amendment. She lied about how she changed her tone on the “Irredeemable deplorables” statement. She did what she does: if her mouth was opened, she was lying. She believes she is entitled to the throne. She thinks America owes it to her.

I don’t know about the #NeverTrump thing. But I am down with #NeverHillary, brothers and sisters.

She is completely nonplussed that this is any sort of contest at all. How can Americans actually entertain a cartoon character like Trump and make this a close race?

Rather than being informed by this fact and doing an honest self-evaluation, she is instead totally disgusted…with you.

 

My question is with whom are you disgusted? For whom will YOU vote? Please poll here…

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
Start date 10-10-2016 12:58:18
End date 31-10-2016 23:59:59
Poll Results:
How will YOU vote in November?

A Birthday New Year’s Resolution -or- 101 reasons to celebrate


What a week it’s been! I have 101 reasons to celebrate life right now.

Last Friday, my baby girl got married to the love of her life and started that incredible journey called marriage. It was a beautiful wedding, well attended, and pulled off without a hitch. I had the privilege of preaching the charge and officiating the vows, which means I have both given away in marriage and solemnized the vows for all three of my girls.

How could you top that?

gene-and-cakeWell, I can’t and I don’t want to. But I can add a cherry on top of the delicious red velvet wedding cake my wife made and my gifted cake guy son-in-law decorated (with an assist from his wife).

You see, today started the new fiscal year for me. I turned 55 yesterday (which was the speed limit when I got my driver’s license back in 1977). I remember how depressed I was when I turned 40, feeling all “I haven’t accomplished anything much and here I am at mid-life.” What a dumb kid I was then.

Celebrate hitting the speed limit, but no speed bumps

Fifty-five seems like one of those watershed numbers for reasons I can’t quite put my arms around. Maybe it is the impressive double-nickel plating. Maybe it’s knowing that those two fives don’t make a 10, you have to make your life a 10 by hard work, hard loving, and harder decisions…all immersed in the grace and goodness of a loving, forgiving, patient God. Maybe it’s the senior discount these smart alecs want to saddle you with at the buffet. (Not that I will turn that down or anything.)

There is something sleek and aerodynamic about 55. I feel much cooler today than I did two days ago.

The biggest reason 55 has not hit me the way 40 did is Facebook. For all the complaining folks like me do about social media and its attending evils, there is no birthday quite so cool as a Facebook birthday, because friends and family – some of whom you communicate with every day and some you hardly ever interact with – come out to celebrate YOU. Man, that feels good. People stop down in their busy lives and take the few seconds or minutes it takes to say, “Hey, I noticed you today and you matter enough to me to say so. I want the best for you. I am thinking about you.”

101 Reasons to embrace double grace

101birthdayreasonsI looked this morning and saw that 101 Facebook friends had posted to my wall and thought, “Now there’s 101 reasons to look on the bright side of this whole aging process.”

Sure, I am not as far around the retirement curve as I ought to be at this stage, but thank God I am no further behind than I am.

Yes, I have made my first million and change by now…and am only about a million bucks short of being a millionaire.

OK, so, the pepper has given ground to the salt in the salt-and-pepper hair I had last birthday.

Fine, I am not where I wanted to be by now in a lot of areas, but I am better off than I ought to be, given some of the missteps along the way.

Besides, I married a gal whose beauty is ageless and have three daughters who are all happily married and locked into productive, quality lives…

And a grandson who still calls me DooDah at age 11, because he is cool enough not to be too cool to do that.

My mother-in-law called to wish me a happy birthday and reminded me that five is the number of grace, so at 55 it’s like double grace.

Yes, I can think of at least 101 reasons to rock on.