Jan 21, 2008

Martin Luther King and Leadership

One of my goals is to visit all of the Presidential Libraries. I may write more about them at a later time. When I visit, I also try to take in any significant historical sites that may be nearby.

In Atlanta, Georgia, nearby the Jimmy Carter Library, only a couple of miles away as the crow flies, is the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and Memorial Site. On my last trip to Atlanta, I led a leadership lesson comparing the leadership of Dr. King and President Carter. The purpose of the lesson was not to be critical of either, but to simply challenge growing leaders to consider what leadership qualities lead to accomplishment and positive change.

For the purposes of this lesson, we just considered the effectiveness of Carter's leadership as President as it compared to the leadership of Martin Luther King (MLK) as civil rights leader. It is important to point out that today, the Carter Center is one of the most effective organizations solving problems of poverty and disease in countries around the world. Carter's leadership as a former President, with respect to poverty, is an example to all former Presidents. Sadly, his contemporary political interjections continue to harm and overshadow the magnificent work of the Carter Center.

As for Carter, it is often said that his Presidency was the "unfinished presidency," which is a nice way of saying that he wasn't successful in what he set out to do as President. The Carter Library demonstrates this with exhibits of good ideas, many of which have still not been accomplished, i.e. a realistic energy policy and a containment of Islamic terrorism. You leave the presidential wing sensing this lack of accomplishment. Fortunately, a new exhibit demonstrating the work of the Carter Center with poverty and waterborne disease is uplifting and inspirational.

But there is not, and will never be, a Jimmy Carter Holiday. Today is Martin Luther King's birthday, so I thought I would post a bit on his leadership.

Coretta Scott King who died in 2006, is now laid next to Dr. King at the King Center

When visiting the King Center, it is interesting to note that the events most known in his life occurred 100 years after the Civil War. Last fall, I included some Atlanta Civil War sites in my tour.
Atlanta was burned to the ground by General Sherman during the War and there are markers all around relating to that battle. Not far from the King Center is the Oakland Cemetery, which contains one of the largest Confederate Soldier burial grounds, pictured here.

I sat for a while, pondering the loss of life in that war. Among many thoughts going through my head was - was it worth it? Meaning, was it really worth laying down your life to basically protect an economic system that relied so heavily on slavery? Its a bit disturbing that even today there are some who feel like it was. I considered the great destruction and pain and suffering and it seemed like such a waste. The love of money is the root of this evil, the root of many evils that lead to the Civil War.

One hundred years later, many of those evils still presided over the law, leading to the Civil Rights Movement and the necessary leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lessons are often learned terribly slow.

It is an interesting comparison, Jimmy Carter, a US President, and MLK, a citizen leader. Who was the more capable leader? One had the office of the Presidency, a world stage and unlimited funds (while he was the POTUS.) The other, a baptist preacher with no legal office and no money.

A pictorial wall of the major events of MLK's life.

A trip through both museums reveals much about each leader. MLK was a leader of great accomplishment, whose legacy is still inspiring others to learn and to allow and make progress. Bus after bus pulled up to the museum, unloading passengers from different backgrounds and ethnicities. The King Museum is not fancy and relatively small; a bit run down I thought. But in just a couple of small rooms, his story and legacy are well told.

This is the key to the hotel room MLK was staying in when he was assassinated.

MLK's personal Bible

MLK's church, Ebeneezer Baptist Church stands next to his memorial.

One leaves the MLK Center quiet, in deep thought and retrospection... and inspired about what can be accomplished with sacrifice and a wise approach to leadership.

Leadership can be defined as "influence, nothing more nothing less." MLK had incredible influence. He was a great leader because he influenced change in a positive and long lasting way. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he refused to run for political office and he led his followers in non-violent approach which forced the country to take notice.

Great leaders are often considered great because they hold to a basic principle to accomplish their goals. I believe that if MLK had not approached these issues with a non-violent philosophy, or had he been elected to some public office, he would not be celebrated today with a holiday or a monument or a museum. He would likely be buried in Oakland Cemetery with a fancy tombstone and be just another spot on the tour map.

And no-one would have today off.

While there is much more progress to be made in the area of civil rights and social justice, MLK's accomplishments do not stand as unfinished or unsuccessful. His life completed with a solid legacy and clear purpose.

My favorite MLK speech is the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech. While the content is important, this speech moves me because of its context in MLK's life. The speech would be the final speech ever given by King. With a careful read and a historical perspective, I can't help but wonder if he somehow sensed that his life or influence would soon come to an end. It is the perfect final address. The speech itself summarizes his accomplishments and gives a time-line of the movement up to that point. He also gives warnings and guidance for those who would continue on, and he gives reminders of the importance of the non-violent approach. He ends the speech with these words:

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!" - Martin Luther King, Jr.

He said those words on April 3, 1968 in Memphis. He was assassinated the very next day, April 4, 1968. These are the words of a great leader who finished well.

You can read or listen to this speech here: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkivebeentothemountaintop.htm


Jan 17, 2008

Oceanic Airlines TV and Billboard Ads

I haven't had the time to blog for some days now. Since I won't blog on Fridays, thought I'd post something fun.

Well, fun if you get it.

This is a television commercial for Oceanic Airlines. This ad is showing during regular programming on the ABC television network. There are also billboards in certain cities all around the globe advertising Oceanic's current routes. Below the video are some interesting billboards for Oceanic appearing in strategic cities around the world.

Sydney, Australia

Los Angeles, California

Ames Iowa (Big Ben shows a time of 8:15)

Miami, Florida

Knoxville, Tennessee

Portland, Oregon

New York, New York (Times Square)

Seoul, South Korea

Tustin, California

Shortly after these billboards were posted, there were each vandalized with the words "find815.com". Here are a couple of samples from Knoxville and Miami (all of them were done, I don't feel the need to post them all.

Something interesting is afoot. Something viral, something challenging, something Lost fans need to get caught up on...

Before January 31.


Jan 12, 2008

Stuffing the Ballot Box

A got a little bit of enjoyment from today's San Diego Union Tribune poll results in today's Family section:

Tell Us About It
January 12, 2008

Last week, we asked for your predictions about who would win the Republican primary in New Hampshire. Could there have been some ballot-stuffing going on for one long-shot candidate? Take a look.

78% Ron Paul
8% John McCain
6% Mike Huckabee
5% Mitt Romney
2% Rudy Giuliani
1% Fred Thompson


For some reason, reading this article made me laugh. I love it that someone (or a room full of someones) decided to own this reader poll for their candidate. Interestingly, the actual New Hampshire polling data wasn't much better was it?

I once had a role in a presidential campaign. No, I wasn't the candidate, 2008 is actually the first year I would be eligible to run. Thanks for wondering though.

One of my duties was to set up what were called "Debate Parties." The purpose of these parties was to get a whole bunch of people together in a room full of pizza and phone lines. As soon as the Presidential debate was over, everyone was to drop the pizza and start dialing.

In front of each person was a phone and a list of television and radio talk shows and the call-in number. Larry King, C-SPAN, local and national radio programs, etc. The party goer's job was to call those numbers, get on the air live, and say that our candidate clearly won the debate and that they were the most "presidential." It really didn't matter whether or not they had even watched the debate; it didn't matter if our candidate was utterly destroyed by his opponent. The point was to flood the airwaves with positive spin in order to influence the unsuspecting electorate.

Across town, another debate party for our opponent was also in full swing with the same phone numbers. These debate parties are held all over the country on debate nights. I'm sorry to report that many, if not most of the callers you hear after a debate on these shows, are campaign volunteers and not your random average American.

When I watch campaign coverage today, I like to guess which callers to these shows are actually legit, and how many are just pizza freeloaders who are playing the game. Its much easier to tell if the host of the program decides to get them to elaborate on their opinion. They are immediately stumped. Truth is, they probably have more nuggets of sausage in front of them than nuggets of debate insight.

With all the spin and political gaming going on, accuracy is often lacking. I am concerned that the candidates may be more distracted with playing and winning the game rather than giving a solid vision for our country. Someone once remarked that Washington is just like Hollywood, except that what happens in Washington is real.

And it has real consequences.

Its already an interesting year.


Jan 10, 2008

Forgiving the Unfriendly Town

Today I had to drive to a meeting that was normally about a 90 minute trip away from my office. Much of the trip takes me through some smaller, more rural communities in our fine county.

Once such community I came to has several shops and stores along a strip that is really the only main road through the town. Because of the proliferation of Indian Casinos (Native American Economic Entertainment Resorts) in that region, there was a major road widening project underway. This is causing significant traffic delays, but it is necessary so that the roads could handle the increasing casino traffic cruising through this small town all through the day and night.

I had already been in two meetings, starting at seven o'clock in the morning, plus another meeting of sorts on the phone while on the drive. In the three meetings, I had much coffee. In the car, I had much coffee. During my phone meeting, it became clear to me that I would need a biological pit stop.

First I stopped at a gas station. To my great surprise, I learned that I would not be given the gas station restroom key. I thought that perhaps they would prefer that I buy something and "pay the rent" so to speak, so I offered to buy a pack of gum. Rudely, the attendant told me the restrooms are not for the public. I offered to buy gas at $3.63 a gallon but even that wouldn't get me into the restroom.

Flabbergasted and increasingly more biologically concerned, I got back in my car, waited for the flagman to allow me back into traffic, and went next door to a quaint local restaurant. But on the front door was a very large sign that said "Restrooms are for paying customers who eat a meal only." I definitely had no time for a meal and quickly discerned that I didn't have time to discuss policy with the manager.

Next door was an auto-parts store, a rather large one. Surely these guys would understand. But they were the most adamant "Absolutely not, you can absolutely not use our restroom. We in no way have a public restroom." He then added, "and no one on this whole strip is going to allow you to use their restroom, so you might as well be on your way."

Discouraged in my mission, I inquired as to whether or not he could direct me to some appropriate shrubbery. At this, he gruffly said "Not on my property!" I left... and he and three other employees followed. They watched me all the way to my car until I got in and drove away.

Eventually, in another town farther away than I thought possible, my mission was completed. There were no further complications of any kind.

I spent the rest of the day pondering this experience. What an unfriendly town! I kept saying to myself. It was clear that they had some kind of town meeting where they collectively agreed on this policy. I was surprised that even buying something would not earn me some hospitality or even pity. This mean town angered me throughout the day.

But by this evening, driving back through (I had been very careful to take care of all biological business before leaving my meeting) I was reminded of a great rule of thumb to remember whenever people are rude or hurtful: "Hurting people hurt others and are easily hurt by them." I teach that all the time, its one of my favorites. I got this rule from John Maxwell. He said I could steal it. The purpose of this rule is to help us learn to respond well when people hurt us.

How should we respond when people are rude, condescending, inconsiderate or mean to us? Should we be rude back? I don't think retaliation is part of spiritual maturity. It seems to me that a mature response is to understand that when people behave oddly or hurtful, there is something behind it, something that if I fully understood, I would have compassion rather than take it personally.

I wondered about what would precede a community-wide no-public restroom policy, one that would even drive away business, one that would not be customer-friendly.

I realized that the local casinos, four of them that I am aware of within just a few short miles, could be having a negative effect. Certainly, the traffic in the small town was not helping their businesses. It was a mess outside: construction mess, hundreds of cars, most of which were not local and not carrying potential patrons. The smoke, noise and traffic cones must make shop owners grumpy.

I also figured that a large number of people leaving casinos may not be taking care of their own biological business before leaving. Passers-by with too much to eat and too much to drink probably increases the number of drop-ins these businesses receive. And since these drop-ins have no money left, they aren't buying anything either.

Could it be that there is a necessary reason for the no-restroom policy?

Is it understandable that these shop-owners would be rude considering they are likely deluged with over fed and over watered people who have no intention of patronizing their establishment and take the parking spaces of those who do?

Are these people hurting financially because of the issues? and personally as their small town is carved up and polluted by casino traffic?

Are these people hurting?

With those thoughts, my anger turned to compassion. And in my heart, forgiveness.

I guess I don't actually know if my speculations are correct, but nonetheless, the unfriendly people there deserve my consideration of their situation. And my patience.

Next time I go through that town, I think I just go in these stores and smile. And buy something.


Jan 7, 2008

Oceanic Airlines Resumes Flight Schedule

There aren't too many TV shows that I follow closely. I've hardly event noticed the writers strike.

This is because my favorite show isn't set to begin its new season until January 31st.


Eight shows are done, eight more are expected but may get postponed if the strike is still going much longer.

Why do I like the show? Many reasons.

On the deeper levels, the writers have definitely been to Sunday school at some point. There are significant themes about good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, science vs. faith. There are characters with Biblical names - Jacob, Ruth and Naomi for example. There are also characters with names of philosophers - John Locke, Rousseau, Hawking and more. These character names are not red herrings and add to the richness of the conflicts that are being played out by the characters.

If you haven't watched the show, it would take a while to catch on to what is going on. Knowing what the Biblical characters and the philosophers represent adds a layer into the show that is very fascinating. But it will be hard to watch if you haven't caught up on the previous three seasons.

I'm not sure how the show will end up - I'm not optimistic that it will present a world view that I would agree with. But, its been fun and educational up to this point.

The writing is superb (less Nikki and Paulo) and I say pay the writers whatever, everyone knows they have a valid gripe, and let's get on with it!

I'm sure to comment more on Lost in time, but too many people reading this have not caught up on the show yet and I don't want to spoil anything. But for now, this post is really just to give a special announcement relevant to anyone who follows the show:

The picture below is a real ad appearing now in Time Square in New York City. It is promoting flights from New York to London on Oceanic Airlines.

Oceanic Airlines has announced that it has resumed operations as of December 31, 2007. As you may know, Oceanic Airlines ceased operations after the loss of Oceanic flight 815 on September 22, 2004.

Click below for a link to the press release from Oceanic Air:



Jan 6, 2008

A Great Man.... Sort Of...

I told someone recently that a great man once said, "For everything, there is a first time." I was proud of that encouragement.

Later, I realized that it wasn't a man who said it, actually, it was a Vulcan.

Have a great week!


Jan 5, 2008

No Friday Blogs And No Osteen Tickets

Its difficult for many people, including myself, to take a day off. A real day off. Its one of my goals this year. For me, Friday is the best possible day. So, no blogs on Fridays.

Last night, my wife and I did go out for dinner with her parents. One the way home, we got stuck in unusual traffic waiting to get into a show at Cox arena, at San Diego State University. Who was playing? Joel Osteen.

I didn't buy a ticket.

But 12,000 other people did.

I've never read his books and I've hardly watched him on TV so I'm not going to give much commentary. He has lots of critics and supporters, many of whom I suspect haven't read his books or watched him on TV either. People often criticize or endorse people or movements that they don't know much about simply to satisfy a need to have an opinion or a side. Its much the same way we pick US Presidents.

But it is interesting that thousands of people are coming to his church and road show, and not all of them consider themselves to be Christian or religious in any specific way.

Critics of Osteen worry that his message of "God has good things in store for you" that focuses on self-improvement neglects the deeper theological teachings on matters of sin and redemption. Someone was quoted in our local paper saying that by focusing on self-improvement, Osteen turns God into a "cosmic bellhop who is there to make sure Americans are having a good time."

Whether or not his teaching is incomplete is not my point here. Like I said, I really haven't paid that much attention. But seeing so much interest in that kind of message reminds me of a great quote by CS Lewis from the book The Weight of Glory:

"If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." --C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"

We are far too easily pleased. Clearly, we often miss the wonderful things that God has in store for those who put their faith in him. Perhaps what we miss most is the deep joy of blessing others because we have been blessed.

Something to think more about...


Jan 3, 2008

What's an Iowa Caucus Anyway?

Since I will be unable to post today, I thought you may find this timely for your reading pleasure.

Most people don't know what a "caucus" is, as in, today's Iowa Caucus. Here's what it is according to the somewhat reliable Wikipedia:



Jan 2, 2008

Some Business in Ghana

Death - not what I figured I would post about on just the second day.

In the US, most people don’t spend a whole lot of time contemplating our common fate, unless we have good reason to believe it is coming soon or unless we have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage. Other than life insurance, most people don’t really plan for it.

One business that will always be in business is the death business. One out of every one person dies. Wars and disease do not increase death, they only affect the time and circumstance of it. Everyone is a customer. You can even buy your coffin at Costco; however, you may have to buy the 2-pack.

A friend of mine is a missionary in Ghana. In every economy, some businesses thrive more than others. In Ghana, the funeral and casket making business is quite visible sadly, as the circumstances in this impoverished nation keep death and dying in the greater conscious of the typical person. He has recently been posting some local advertising for caskets. These photos struck me as a profound statement about our blessings and the opportunities we have to bless others.

Coffins as common as coffee tables.

"Time Will Tell" - a salesman with a sense of humor.

Wherever you go, some American has a business going.

If you can't read it, the ad on the right is for an undertaker, just in case you might need one while you are visiting this town.

For some with a little extra money, fancy caskets are all the rage.

Ghana is one of those poor countries that has one of the best chances to grow economically. It has relatively little violence compared to many of its neighbors, abundant natural resources, great people and a great location (coastal Africa) for business and trade. They even speak English. But the poverty level, especially in rural areas, is overwhelming. And people don't live very long.

Government corruption is one of the major problems, making it difficult for world governments to help and international aid is often squandered.

Who can help? I believe that ultimately, only the Church is free to help, without hindrance of bureaucracy or corrupt governments. People like my friend Stacey, who go and demonstrate and announce the message of Christ.

Praying for Ghana today.


Jan 1, 2008

New Year - New Blog

Happy New Year 2008!

New Year's Day.

It seems like the best day to try once again to become a regular blogger.

I've tried several times to make this a regular habit. I was once posting on three separate blogs at the same time. That was fun, but I never had the time for all that, so none of them became fruitful.

So today, I'll begin a new blog without some funny name or title and without a limited scope of content. Just a blog to express ideas, stories, thoughts, whatever, in a hope to find this medium useful for ministry and personal growth.

There are so many reasons that this is a good thing for me to do. I won't explain here as they will become evident in time in the event that this new blog remains current.

Where to start?

How about some resolutions for 2008?

These are in no particular order of importance or priority. Just a few things I'm thinking about on this New Year's Day...

Blog more: Thus, you are reading this...

Take a real vacation: Other than a couple of family visits, Kristy and I haven't taken a vacation for a long time. This is not to say that family trips are not vacation. We have decided that most of our vacation time should be spent with our families who live in other states. But a trip somewhere new, just the two of us, that's what I'm talking about here. Its been a long time.

We knew that 2007 would be an unusually busy year, but we thought we would have some chance to get out of town for a while. Didn't happen.

So, we are thinking of going to Ireland this year. We almost have enough Frequent Flyer Miles to go to the moon, so Ireland should be no problem. We have missionary friends there to visit and to mooch off of, so it will be a cheap trip. Except for the airport Starbuck's - they really stiff you for a regular tall coffee!

Its also the last year for the original Yankee Stadium and I think I should go take in a game (and also mark the FDR Presidential Library off my list.)

Remember the Sabbath: Pastors don't get Sundays off. Unbeknownst to some people, but knownst to most doctors, pastors work too much. My non-church-going doctor even pointed out to me that pastors are some of the most stressed out patients he sees. I've been helping him understand why.

This year, I must commit to a weekly day off, a true Sabbath. No work - just God and the family. Its going to be on Fridays. I need to do it before I can teach it well.

Go to the beach more: Its ridiculous to live in this town and not be at the beach more often. There may not be a better place to live on the planet and I hardly make it to the beach. I think that's where I should be most Fridays in 2008.

Lose weight: Well, I didn't gain any weight in 2007, that's the good news. But I'm at this crazy size where its hard to get clothes to fit. I'm an "extra-medium." I have yet to find a store that carries that size.

Stop smoking: I don't smoke now and I've never been a smoker. Its extremely unlikely that I will start smoking this year, so this will be an easy one to keep. Its good to have a few gimmes.

I have other resolutions, mostly they are between me and God and they will stay there. I'll probably think of some more later that could have been a part of this blog post but this will have to do.

The real purpose of this post has more to do with keeping the first resolution listed here anyway.

May God bless you tremendously in 2008!