Profoundly saddened...

One of the smartest things I've ever done was the decision to serve my country in the United States Air Force. I knew this was the "right thing" from the very first time I looked through the promotional materials before I signed on the "dotted line."

With very few exceptions, I received very, very good medical care while I was on active duty. Like I just stated, there were a few exceptions, but there were indeed "some."

What troubles me greatly now is the reports coming from places like Walter Reed Medical Center, and the examples given by Bob Woodruff concerning the neglect of some troops that have suffered life-threatening injuries in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

I was riveted by report in the Washington Post last week about how poorly military veterans were treated once they left "in patient" care at the finest medical center in the country, Walter Reed Medical Center. Dana Priest, a staffer from the newspaper spent four months researching the atrocities at WRMC--and did so with little, if any, interruption.

Bob Woodruff just about died covering the conflict in Iraq--being injured, airlifted to both Landstuhl Medical Center (Kaiserslautern, Germany) and then to the Naval Military Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland. Bob, much to his everlasting credit, has done alot of follow-up with those brave men and women who have suffered traumatic brain injury...and what he has found in many cases is not good news.

Our military veterans deserve much, much, much better treatment than what has been revealed.

One question keeps swirling around my mind: " Why would it take two reporters, a near-death experience for one of them, and a four-day expose' in a national newspaper with worldwide readership for the "powers-that-be" in the nation's capitol to discover all of these things? Defense Secretary Robert Gates has promised the nation a full investigation, and that this matter would be rectified immediately. Too bad his predecessor wasn't nearly as attentive--or maybe this mess wouldn't have happened in the first place. I do not miss Donald Rumsfeld.

Secretary Nicholson from the Department of Veterans Affairs has made a nationwide promise that our brave military personnel returning from war zones will receive immediate and far superior care to what they have been receiving--on a long term basis.

We owe these men and women the very best.

It's time we deliver...

And with all due haste.

Happy Birthday, Tim Elston!

Tim is an amazing man!

He and I became good friends almost 27 years ago when we were freshmen in college in southeastern Tennessee.

Spring 1981 semester, we were actually roommates. How he ever put up with me is still "amazing" in itself....but then again, maybe I wasn't that difficult to live with after all.

Tim is originally from the great state of Oregon. His parents served in the pastorate for many years, so Tim has a deep and rich heritage in the church.

He's a marvelous trumpet player. He's also a military veteran--and there are lots of stories we could tell about our military service, and how we seem to always bump into each other all over the world.

Tim is probably one of the brightest people I have ever known. He has such a brilliant mind, and he can always think outside the "box"--however that box is defined.

I wanted to wish my pal, Robert Timothy Elston, a wonderfully happy Birthday!

Bob Woodruff, welcome back!

ABC's Bob Woodruff, is returning to work in the news division of ABC. He was injured some 13 months ago (January 2006) while reporting from a Humvee in Iraq. He, along with one of his cameramen, sustained life-threatening injuries to his head and brain.

Bob made an appearance on Good Morning, America today. There is a special that will be on ABC tonite, 9 p.m. Central/10 p.m. Eastern time.

Bob is the husband of Lee, and the father of four wonderful children.

His injuries were so great that he was in a coma for some 40+ days. His wife and children helped him immensely in his recovery, once he left the hospital. These five most important people in his life helped me learn the "words" and "signs" of every day existence again.

Bob credits the wonderful men and women of the United States military for saving his life.

Before becoming a journalist, Bob was a lawyer. He also is quite the linguist, speaking Chinese, French, and Italian in addition to English.

It did my heart good to see him on television this morning. I look forward to his documentary tonite.

Jennifer, forget about "Simon"....

Jennifer Hudson....uh, excuse me, Academy Award Winner, Jennifer Hudson....

Girlfriend, you rocked the house!

Even though I did not see your "performance" on American Idol...I did see you win the OSCAR last night in Hollywood!

I just hope that Simon Cowell was watching, and now he can issue a nationally-televised apology for how wrong he was about your skills and talents.

After all, "Simon" doesn't have an Oscar...

You do!

Happy Birthday, Matt Foster

Matt Foster, one of my pals (who also happens to be an attorney) will be celebrating a birthday tomorrow....He's in his 40s, and doesn't look a day over 30...

That's what makes all of us so blessed mad!

Twenty six years ago this August, I first met Matt Foster when he and I wound up in the same men's dorm at college. I was a sophomore and he was an incoming freshman.

He's originally from Oklahoma, and has a rich heritage in the Kingdom of God. His family raised him right...for the most part.

Matt was instrumental in my introduction to such wonderful musicians as Bryan Duncan, Ed DeGarmo, et al.

He's also one of those people that I can tell anything to--regardless of the subject matter.

I hope he reads this post about him...

Happy Birthday, Matt!

Why we need FATHERS in this nation....

More than ever before, I'm beginning to see just what tragedy we are experiencing here in the United States due to the lack of "active fathers" in our culture.

Just look around:

Brittany Spears---no mention of her father, ever.

Paris Hilton---again, little, if no mention of her father, ever.

And those are just two of the more notable figures....

But we see this tragedy on a very local and personal scale everywhere.

In my job, I am always talking with young men (and some young women) are who single parents. And most of these folk are still "babies" themselves, by and large. They want the best for their children--at least that's what they tell me. I tend to believe least some of the time.

What really bugs me is the fact that so many children are growing up in a deranged, distorted, and dangerous society where the value of "fathers" is increasingly being scoffed, or worse yet, being ignored.

No child in this country should be forced to grow up (and they will grow up, whether we like it or not) wondering what the value of a "man" really is. These precious children did not come into the world on their own, or with only the help of their mother. God created them a product of both a man and a woman.

Children need both images in their life.

Why am I so concerned about this now?

Because I grew up without a father in my life.

My parents divorced when I was a few weeks old, and then abandoned me. Even though I know them both, I was the victim of their dropping in and out of my life at their convenience. My precious paternal grandmother raised me the best she knew how--and she did a remarkable job, if I must say so myself.

I never knew what a strong, good man was like for a long, long time. I never knew the tenderness of a dad who would teach me how to pitch a ball, or mow a lawn, or any of the other stuff that every "boy" needs. No child (boy or girl) deserves a bully as a dad, but they do deserve a dad.

God has brought me a long way since those days many, many years ago. There have been several great men in my life who continue to demonstrate just what it means to be a "strong, gracious" man of God. These men have become "fathers" to me in ways that only eternity will reveal.

But, as Gordon Dalbey so eloquently states in his Healing the Masculine Soul, we need strong and godly men in this nation. Those strong and godly men are needed in their families.

We can't afford to allow children to raise themselves anymore. And we certainly can't afford to allow "children" to raise children anymore.

What shall we do?

In a quandry right now...

A few weeks ago I posted a "prayer request" about a Job opportunity that had come my way...

The position is the State Coordinator/Recruiter for the Troops To Teachers program here in the State of Illinois through the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

I received the call this morning, offering me the position. After a good conversation with the Human Resources personnel, I found out the budget for the position had been cut as of this week, and that several other responsibilities will be added to the person who accepts this job.

My first inclination is to decline the job offer. I really don't want to be traveling 3 weeks out of the month, and I am not that fond of hotel rooms.

The salary was cut significantly from the original job listing. From what I was offered, I would be making less than 5% more than where my current salary stands.

Right now, in my mind, it's just not worth all the "transition" effort that it would require.

I like my current job, and my employer is very happy with me.

I'll have to make a decision soon.

I never thought I would ever....

watch American Idol...but I did.

Last night, as a matter of fact.

And for only one reason.

My friend, Phil Stacey, is one of the contestants on the competition this season.

Phil is an amazing man. Truly, truly amazing.

He is the son and grandson of Church of God ministers. He has a deep and rich heritage in the Kingdom of God. His parents currently pastor the Hendersonville Church of God, right outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

Phil and his wife Kendra are graduates of Lee University--also my alma mater.

Phil is currently serving on active duty with the United States Navy, stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. He and his wife are very active in their local church there. He and Kendra have two beautiful daughters.

I first heard Phil's beautiful voice about 8 years ago when sung "I"ll Be Here" at his cousin Matt's wedding in the Knoxville area. It was just wonderful.

He also has that kind, gracious, and gentle spirit that characterizes so much of his heritage.

Phil, I know you don't have time to read this, but if you do:

I'll vote for you.

And since I'm in Chicago, I'll take the late Mayor Richard Daley's advice:

Vote early and vote often.

So is he "black" enough?

Listening to "Talk of the Nation" on our local NPR (National Public Radio) station. The discussion is the candidacy of Barack Obama, junior Senator from the state of Illinois.

The question has come up, "Is he black enough for us?"

What a dumb question...absolutely assinine!

Did the "black" folks--and I'm not one--ever learn anything from Dr King's "I Have a Dream" speech? Can we judge Senator Obama's character instead of the color of his skin?

I really hope that the voting citizenry of the United States contemplate the substantive issues of the Presidential Race for 2008. "Race" in my opinion isn't one of them.

Except for the "human" race. Whoever gets my vote must be "human."

Asking alot, huh?

I was thinking....

What would life be like IF:

1) We knew we could always trust those with whom we have deep, meaningful relationships:

Pastors trusting members
Members trusting pastors
Family members trusting each other
Church members trusting each other.

2) We knew that when a fellow believer tells us something, that we can:

Know that it is the truth--and that no information has been conveniently omitted
Know that "their word is their bond"--no need to double check "the facts."
Know that the "best interests" of all persons involved were being taken to heart.

I guess I've gotten somewhat cynical over the last 15 months. Back in November 2005 I was betrayed and bruised by a very ugly situation in the local church where I was a faithful member and attendee. The senior leadership of that congregation made false statements to me and about me. I can't remember when I've been as hurt and wounded as I was by those actions.

Up until that time I felt that I could trust that pastor with anything, regardless of how personal or "embarrassing" it might be. I confessed things to him that I had never told anyone else.

And yet, for some crazy reason, I was betrayed. I was gossiped about, lied to, and accused.

I still love that congregation and even the leadership there. But I was hurt, and there really was never an apology, or any reasonable explanation for all the "things" that happened.

The law of love was clearly violated. The Body of Christ was bruised, and that hurts me even more than my own personal injuries.

God knows. God sees, and I have to leave it all in His hands.

But it still bugs me from time to time. Goes to show that I really did care, and that it was such a vital part of me.

Happy Birthday, Kevin Moses!

Dear Kevin,

Happy 32nd Birthday to you!

Even though I've already called and wished you a wonderful day (actually your birthday is tomorrow, Feb 9th), and you've already received your birthday gift from me--I just wanted all of "cyber space" to know that it's your birthday!

We've been very close friends now for ten years. Ten wonderful, exhilirating, learning and stretching years. We've both grown alot since that Spring semester 1997.

You are now the proud (rightfully so) father of two wonderful sons, and the husband of a wonderful, wonderful lady! Monica, Micah, and Caleb are your gifts from God. And YOU, Kevin, are God's gift to them. Always remember that.

You've been my brother through thick and thin. You've seen my good side, and some of my not-so-good sides, and yet you've "hung in there" with me. You've been the face of Christ to me at times when I wasn't sure what He looked like. You've been God's love--with skin on--when I felt unloved, and unlovable.

Wishing I were there in Georgia with you to celebrate, but alas, I'm not.

Happy Birthday!

Poignant Reminders...

It's been brutally cold here in Chicago for the last several days...and I do mean brutally cold.

And what's more interesting is that the "water" system into our condominium complex has been down ever since Monday sometime...

Now I grew up in the "sticks" in north Alabama, where we didn't have running water in our home until I was almost twelve years old. But that was a long time ago....

We still don't have "running water" in our complex as of this writing. I've been forced to get creative, just so I could shave and bathe for the last couple of days....

Yet, it seems that God has reminded me of all the people...multiplied millions of them, around the world that don't have fresh water to drink or use--EVERY DAY!

Here I am feeling that I am "deprived"--when millions around the world, and MANY here in the United States don't have fresh water to use whenever they want it.

I should be ashamed of myself....and in some ways, I am.

This situation has also been a stark reminder that millions--multiplied millions--don't have the "Water of Life"--Jesus Christ, God's Son.

I sit in a wonderful sanctuary here in Chicago every week. I offer my acts of worship to the Lord among His people regularly. The gospel is preached clearly, passionately, and with great power.

Yet, how many have never received this "Water"?

There are multiplied millions (I've used that term several times already, huh?) who have never received...or maybe haven't even heard about this Water?

Yes, my "light affliction" over the last few days has been a very poignant reminder.


Congratulations are in order for the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS for winning Super Bowl XLI!

I've never been a big football fan--mainly because I just didn't understand the game.

Then, about three years ago, I had an epiphany...

One of my pals (about 20 years my junior) sat me down one Sunday afternoon, and explained the game to me.

Thanks Christian...even though you are a Green Bay Packers fan...

It was an interesting game last night--or at least the first quarter was.

And two commercials were terrific:

The one with Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman

And the one about the "connectile dysfunction..."

The rest were okay...