Monthly Archives: July 2010

“Your faith is what you believe, not what you know.” – Mark Twain

I am a person who loves to read other’s quotes about any number of issues.  As a young boy, I read with much delight the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.  In many ways I identified with these stories, not that I had actually lived these epidsodes in life, but I had experienced the culture of the times while growing up in the south.  These stories take place in a time when you were either wealthy or not.  There wasn’t too much of a middle class.  Living by common sense and gut instinct were the rules of the day.  Those without much, who did’nt have the benefit of formal education and upbringing, survived because their internal core or being provided the ability to deal with much and find ways to get from day to day.  To some degree I associate my childhood with fictional Huckleberry Finn.  Many debate whether Mark Twain’s writings were really racist or not.  I believe that his story allows a  white boy to feel the rejection of community and society.  Huckleberry Finn was really an uneducated outcast orphan who was not protected from abuse by those around him who should have done so.  Because of these experiences, Huck develops an attitude that he would rather “go to hell” than to accept the rules of southern society.  As his friendship with Jim, the escaped slave, grows; his own awareness of right and wrong, good and bad develops in his core being.  His internal conscience is in direct opposition to the order of southern society of the day.  Racist to blacks and demeaning to those below a certain class of society.  My identity in many ways is linked to Huck’s experience.  As a child, I watched, first-hand, the plight of blacks in our community and around the country.  I saw white and black families living in poverty which many today would only believe existed in a third world nation.  The sight of KKK recruiting posters near my home,  the anger towards  and rejection of black children entering my school during forced integration, the lack of adequate clothing, lunch money and other things needed to be successful in school, the attitude by adults of ” I don’t give a damn about these black children” and the rejection of me.  Being a fat, white kid also subjected me to rejection by others.  Like Huck, I felt that those around me, my white community, would accept me.  But, because of how I looked, I , too, felt rejection.  Now, I cannot equate this rejection to the same that blacks dealt with.  I did, however, get a real taste of what it is like not to be accepted.  As Huck processed his world, he developed his inner conscience of right and wrong which stood in opposition of the world around him.  He developed a faith from his core beliefs.  I, too, did the same.  Watching the cruelty towards blacks, the rejection of all who were below a certain economic class and my experiences as the fat, white kid caused me to make certain decisions or beliefs which drove my faith.  I would like to believe that Huck’s ultimate faith was that of Christ, through the Holy Spirit,  changing him to stand in opposition to the wrongs of the world.  In my case, it was Christ.  I really did’nt understand that until later in life.  But, it was clearly the Holy Spirit providing a means for me to see the world separate from the ideas of the day and through the lens of faith.  My faith was not determined by classes or deep theological discussions, but by the Holy Spirit developing a core belief of a Godly perspective on right and wrong in all aspects of life as I lived it each day.  God has put a deep love in my life for those who suffer, are discriminated against and rejected.  My beliefs are shaped by a faith which was taught to me by experiencing rejection first hand.  One of my favorite quotes is Hebrews 11:6: 

Hebrews 11:6 (New International Version)

6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I encourage you not to find truth in this world, but to allow Christ the opportunity to open your heart and mind to a belief in Him and a faith in the hope that only He can provide.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts!

A pertinent question…

Valerie Jarrett

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What steps do you think government should take to help American businesses spur job creation?

This is an active online discussion I am involved in today.  For those in business, this question coming from the Obama Administration should clearly show a lack of understanding in what the fundamentals of economic job creation entail as taught in Econ 101.  For those on Linkedin the thread can be followed on the Whitehouse site.

Simple Memories

Occassionally I enjoy taking time to drive between meetings rather than my usual flying routine.  While driving the “scenic” route through Virginia today, a number of sights, sounds and smells triggered  memories of my childhood.

My summers were defined by the incredibly sweet smell of honeysuckle vines which grew by Pricillia’s house up the road.  I connect the color yellow with this smell since Pricillia always  seemed to be wearing a frilly dress of that color while playing near the honeysuckle vines. 

We spent almost every waking hour outside since TV was limited and the inventors of systems like X-box probably had not been born yet. My brother, sister and I would end the summer with leather hard soles on our feet from rarely wearing shoes anywhere. Trips to the old Harris Teeter with mom to get groceries was a welcome blessing since the air conditioned building provided a cool treat for our feet as we walked barefooted pushing the grocery cart.  

 We grew up in the south so hot days and nights were part of life.  The heat would bubble up tar poured into cracks on the road in front of our house.  A popsicle stick was an  effective tool to scoop up this hot mixture and make tar balls.  By the end of the summer, most of the tar  in the road had been scooped up by each of us. We spent many fun hours of sitting in small groups digging this black, gooey mix up.  I still love the smell of hot tar..strange I’m sure for those who might read this! 

Sleeping at night could be hard since we had no air-conditioning except for an old window unit in the den.  A small oscillating fan and incredible memories of mom swabbing our backs with cotton balls soaked in alcohol provided temporary relief from the humid nights. Falling asleep to the sound of a fan oscillating back and forth provided a calming steadiness which remains with me to this day. I can only sleep with the sound of a fan blowing air.  

 Really hot days were spent sitting face first in front of the window air conditioner.  I can still remember the droning sound of the motor and the smell of the air as it hit you in the face with its slightly humid, mechanically sweet aroma.  Both the sound and smell always provided a sense of security and a defining point in the seasons. 

 Many evenings were spent chasing the mosquito jeeps around the neighborhood.  These jeeps sprayed a heavy fog of bug-killer and were a blast to chase around completely immersed in the fog.  This summer activity carried over to a time when we lived in the middle of a cotton field.  A great thrill involved running into the field to watch crop dusters fly low and spray the plants.  We usually got sprayed!  So far, I don’t believe I have suffered any permanent health issues from these summer activities!  Some of my family and friends might disagree!

Most hot afternoons were interupted by the sound of the Good Humor truck.  With a quarter in hand, I would buy my most favorite of popsicles…a banana juice popsicle.  Oh, it tasted so good if you could eat everything before the heat melted it off of the twin sticks.  Occassionally, mom would make a pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid and bring it outside with cookies.  The simple joy of sitting under a tree in the shade drinking a cup of cool, red Kool-Aid and munching on a cookie.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

We didn’t take many vacations, but occassionally we would go to the beach and stay in a rental house which by today’s standards would be classified as condemned!  But, we were kids and the bugs and filth did’nt really matter.  A breakfast of cocoa puffs in a small paper bowl started the day before we ran to the beach and played in the surf for hours getting scorched.  That scar on my face is the result of too many sunburns as a kid!    

Sometimes we need to find a way to slow down the hectic paces of our lives.  Spend some quiet time reflecting on life and I will guarantee you will see much joy in the many little things you have experienced.  We all tend to get focused on the next big project, the career and jamming entirely too much into a day.  I want to recommend that you change how you do things just one day and  spend time enjoying all that is around you and remembering all that has been and continues to be good in your life!

I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me.”

At the completion of our Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity National Board meeting yesterday, Dr. Angelou delivered a few closing remarks which included the above quote by Terence.  “I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me.”  Her comments were inspiring, peppered with the wisdom of an 82 year-old, and funny.  At one point she said, “I don’t trust people who say they are serious!  They are just boring to me!  You must find things to laugh at!”  “Serious people walk around with no smiles and their hands airplane glued to their foreheads”

For me, when I think about how God has blessed this planet with so many different cultures and races, we must learn to be color blind, understand our cultural differences, respect each other and laugh together.  We must care for our neighbors as Scripture says, “love your neighbors as you love yourselves.”

Hello world!

Well I finally decided to enter the world of blogging.  For me, this will be a means of capturing “in the moment” thoughts, reactions and observations regarding my faith, family, friends and life in general.  I don’t pretend to be a philospher, theologian or academic. Please don’t ever humor me and bestow one of those titles on me.  I am not interested in labels because they put self before others.  As a evangelical Christian I am called to be a servant.  As a Penn State Nitany Lion, I have learned that one does not need his name on a fancy jersey to be good at what you do. It’s not about me..its about the team…its about serving those around you..its about finding a way to make a difference in the lives of those around you..its about never giving up..its about loving life to its fullest and knowing that there are even greater things awaiting those who believe in a risen Christ!  I am just someone who has passions, loves and a creative side which gets me into trouble quite frequently! 

 The older I get, the more important it is for me to relate life’s experiences.  There are those experiences, negative or positive, which forever shape who we have become.  I believe that we are to use those to glorify God, make a difference in the lives of others, and stand up for those who cannot defend themselves.  I believe that we are to use these experiences to be transformational leaders at all times and take stands when we know that it will be unpopular, but know that we are standing on truth.  And, its about laughing alot.  There is always humor in life and, for me, it is one of those things which makes my life fun.  Wearing a pair of underwear on your head while trying to have a conversation with your children affords them the opportunity to look at life with a smile and show that a father can be fun sometimes!  Breaking office meeting tension occassionally by sucking helium out of a balloon before you start..well you get the idea!  Laughing is good for the soul!

Life has taught me to absolutely hate and not tolerate discrimination of any kind.  Being a fat, white kid growing up in the deep south during the 60’s and 70’s taught me many hard and painful lessons.  Being a fat kid from a family with limited means during that time usually put a big red X on my back.  Obesity today, unfortunately, has become accepted.  In the 60’s being obese brought the comments, put downs, jokes and rejection.  Being black in the deep south during those times brought the same and worse.  While I quietly endured fat kid discrimination, I observed the terrible hate thrown at my black neighbors.  Thankfully, I was raised in family that did’nt tolerate racial discrimination and attempted to help our neighbors.  As a result, we too, felt the backlash of our white friends for doing this. So, I hope you see that this is a really big issue for me and one that I will write more about in the future. 

I have great loves in my life.  Patricia, my wife of 25 years, has stood at my side through the ups and downs of life.  She has loved, coached, and advised me constantly.  I relish watching the happiness she gets from the kids (most of the time!), the flowers and landscaping she nurtures daily and her personal faith.  My children, Meredith, James and Stephen are the most incredible gifts.  Very different in so many ways, but one family together.  My extended family, mom and dad, brother, sister and in-laws/out-laws.  Just more of the seasoning which makes the food better!  Speaking of food, I have a great love for that as well!  Everything, except tuna casserole.  Sorry mom, but the smell of that not so wonderful dish still causes me to wretch!  My loves include:  everything Penn State, firefighting and EMS which was probably the most significant thing I have ever been involved in.  At the age of 18 as a graduate of the Pennsylvania Fire Academy and a member of the East Whiteland Volunteer Fire Department, I learned to find bravery and boldness in life, but how to care for others. 

My short time with the Air Force ROTC in both high school and college and later the Civil Air Patrol, has embedded a deep love in my life for those who have and continue to serve our country in the armed forces.  I don’t care about politics when we speak of these heroes.  They serve, they sacrifice and, sometimes, they give their lives.  They are heroes to me!

Well, I reached a point where its time to stop until my next round of comments.