Elementary School Patriotism, circa 1975-76

 

American Flag

I pledge allegiance to the flag of

the UNITED States of America,

And to the REPUBLIC for which it stands

ONE NATION

UNDER GOD

INDIVISIBLE

with LIBERTY

and JUSTICE

FOR ALL.

 

My country tis of thee, sweet land of LIBERTY.

Of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims pride

from every mountainside,

LET FREEDOM RING

 

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.


And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you —

ask what you can do for your country.


I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”


 

These are the verses I remember from my elementary school days. I am proud that I remembered almost all of them correctly. I am sad to think how many people would not recognize these, much less be able to recite them.

I wasn’t alive before the civil war, or during our country’s ugly time of segregation, or born into a family of wealth that shielded me from life’s realities. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. I remember Jimmy Carter, gas shortages, and trouble with Iran. Russia was our enemy.

I grew up in an area where everyone worked hard to make a living. Color didn’t matter; ethnic background didn’t matter. We weren’t thin skinned, because everyone was treated according to their character. Polaks, Jews, Krauts, Wops, Spics, Catholics, Methodist, Baptists, Blacks, Whites, Gingers, Half Breeds. None of those terms are pleasant, yet they don’t bother me. I lived diring the “sticks and stones” era. I also remember people to be proud of their family heritage- while actively patriotic in their American identity. My mixed up family taught me that integrity and character were how we are judged, and we should let God be the judge of others. My view of being an American is being a good neighbor, supporting your family, working hard and contributing to the country by raising good kids, serving at church, school, and the military.

I grew up  in the aftermath of the horror and sadness for the deaths of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Vietnam was ending and emotions were raw.  I’m glad I was a kid back then. In spite of the troubled times, it taught me a lot. I heard a lot of conflicting views. It wasn’t easy. There were bullies at school, no one worried overmuch about my self esteem. There were flaws in the system, both school and government. Yet, the overall attitude was still one of pride in our country, as the greatest nation on earth. After all, we were the first to land on the moon….

The national celebration during the July 4th, 1976 was huge. Parades, baseball, apple pie- things certainly weren’t perfect in the 70’s, but what decade hasn’t had it’s issues? It was instilled in me, even as my elders debated and argued about policy and details. Civility was practiced- not in words that were used (no one was overly “cultured” or “polite” in their language)  but in action. I  was taught why our nation was special, and I witnessed the character of and respect of the people who believed it. People valued community, hard work, and believed in the American Dream.

I grew up knowing I could do anything, if I worked hard and was a little bit lucky. My public school education prepared me for college or trade school. I was free to work and live as I chose, but I must be a good person and good citizen, or there are consequences.  My upbringing taught me a few important things: Work hard, save for a rainy day. Respect authority. Pay your taxes. Don’t shame your family name. We will go to Hell for sin, so don’t.

I know I’m fortunate- and maybe my glasses are a bit rose colored. I’m curious how our youth today will reflect back on their upbringing. How many verses will they remember, about the things that matter? And, will they be grateful?

 

 

Advertisements

Always Play Up

image

Warren Buffet is a fountain of wisdom.

Play up

It’s been my life. I spent my childhood chasing after my older brother, trying to keep up and compete with boys four years older than I.
(It makes me laugh when women complain about inequality or being treated unfairly.)
Playing up is simply playing with those at a level higher level, with the goal of improving faster. I did it by playing baseball with the older boys. I struck out a lot. When I switched to organized sports, playing softball; I became the MVP. I was quicker, stronger, and more aggressive. When I was significantly better than my teammates, I moved to an older team, to play up.
As a child, I had the wonderful experience of “playing up” by starting a student council for my middle school. I was blessed to be mentored by a smart person who pushed me out if my comfort zone. He sent me to the high school to watch and learn. I returned, wrote the charter, and arranged the inaugural elections for our school.
It was a great lesson.

Warren Buffet’s wisdom about surrounding myself with those better than I is a way of life for me. I always want to shoot higher, push myself, grow more. There is no downside to “playing up ” at work, in sports, with people. Pride, can be an obstacle, which needs to be demolished anyway. It may be hard, but I will drift toward a better version of myself.

If I do, I should be situated to give back more. And that is the point.

Civility & Manners

The end of the civil war, was the commencement of a new nation, “one nation, under God, indivisible. ”
April 9, 1865, General Lee formally surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant, at Appomattox, Virginia, after 4 yearsof bloody civil war.
I am inspired tonight by a documentary recently on PBS,  “Civil War”… episode 8, Robert E. LEE surrenders, ending 4 years of bloody battles.

This moment highlights an important part of our history as a nation. Lincoln set the tone for re-integrating both sides back into one productive nation with graciousness and good manners.
Grant was intentionally gracious. Intentional, because he respected his opponent, and recognized the benefits to all. Lee’s skill as a commander nearly won the war for the South. Both men were exceptional leaders, who set aside their personal pride and any emotion to represent their country and do their job. Manners and gracious behaviour make it easier for all, and set the bar high for others to follow.
As the vanquished soldiers of the southern armies turn in their arms, the victorious Yankee army salute them. It was a sign of respect,  and allowed the losing side to move on with dignity. Lincoln intended to unite the country after the war, and recognized the difficulties that were ahead. The first step was in treating each other with civility, and with respect.

This week was the 9th Republican party debate. Down to 6 candidates, for the 2016 presidential election. It was a boxing match, sans gloves. A bare knuckle match that spilled blood. Ugly to watch, though some seem to think necessary. Hardly civil, and these candidates are on the same side. We haven’t even gotten past the primaries yet.

This follows Superbowl 50. The Denver Broncos beat Carolina Panthers in a defensive match that surprised many. The half time show featured Cold Play, Bruno Mars, and Beyonce.
At the end of it all, the news highlights and talk are only about two things: Cam Newton’s sulky behavior after the game,  and Beyoncé’s “tribute ” to Black Panthers. Cam Newton has incredible talent and a reputation for being a showboat,  with end zone celebrations and taunting his opponents. He is not a gracious winner, nor a good loser.
Beyonce is also known for her incredible talent,  and now,  by using the most watched tv show of the year to promote her personal message(s), has hijacked the spotlight for herself,  rather than simply entertain. Millions of people watched.
Instead of congratulations to the winning team, and admiration for a game and show well done, the conversations became divisive, and hateful. 

The world is not more divided or hate filled today, than it was in 1865. There are plenty of opportunities for all. Could it be better?

Perfection doesn’t exist, and struggle is where growth lies.

We should always strive to be better, both individually and corporately.
Thankfully, we are free. Which means we are free to speak as ugly as we want to, and say offensive things. I value that freedom. Yet, my  wish is that we would honor that freedom, by respecting it. Just because we are free to insult and tear down and offend, doesn’t mean we should.
It sets us all back when we do. Some things still need (alot of) work. Politics will always be controversial.  Different viewpoints need to be discussed and debated for all of us to grow.  The current lack of respect and civility for our “opponents” hurts us all.
Cam Newton and Beyonce have the opportunity to be real leaders, and reach people all over the country. The presidential candidates have the spotlight for the rest of the year.  It would be great to see some leadership and speach worthy of the office. The barrage of insults, innuendo, and back stabbing tears down the credibility of all.
Its funny to find myself sounding like my parents, preaching the Golden Rule. It only makes sense.  Good manners, civility, and respect for all are more effective than intentional discord. To accomplish anything,  it is a faster and more direct path to winning as a leader.

I will start with self control. I reap what I sow. Regardless of the circumstances,  how I act and respond is up to me. I want good results, I will speak and act as if others want the same, for I am no better than they. My “opponents” are worthy of a game well played or a fight fought well.  I will bring my best, and I will look for the best in others. 
I will accomplish my goals, and be most effective by lifting up those around me.

paradigm shift/ new lens

paradigm shift/ new lens

Change the lens through which I see the world.

The view I have is covered by a filter, created in my childhood and by my life experiences.
I pray for a fresh perspective to see my life, the people in it, and the world.

I want a paradigm shift in my thoughts, prayer life, and a new view .


 

These words above were written over a year ago. I jotted them down, without a plan for them- just a note to myself. Today, I was gifted with a conversation. A blessing from an unexpected source, seemingly out of the blue. A random compliment was given to me. The giver was well intended, looking at my accomplishments (ha!) and claiming to “want to be like me, one day.”

What he fails to see….is what I see. I see an accomplished and charismatic man, upon the threshold of his own success. He works tirelessly to lift others up, or at least brighten the day. I know enough of his story to understand the filter he looks at himself through. The words I spoke came from within me, without hesitation.

“Look at yourself as if you are meeting yourself today- what you will see is not what YOU see.”

His filter was put in place a long time ago. His adult life has been spent trying to shed or change an image he has of himself. The specifics I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Maybe too fat, too ugly, not smart enough, not quick enough….ideas cemented in place a long time ago by mean kids in middle school, or an unworthy parent or relative. His self image was colored by a real or imagined flaw of some sort. Whether those flaws existed or not- he has overcome them. In the time I have known him, I have never seen them. Yet they color his personality, evident in his care and concern for others as he works. A gift, really. The flaws he sees in himself has caused him to grow into a person better than he ever would have been without said flaws. Yet he cannot see it.

The filter we look at the world and ourselves through colors and distorts our vision. Where and when we pick that filter up doesn’t matter as much as when we recognize it for what it is. It is a distortion of the person God sees. No matter where it comes from, it is harmful. It mutates our thinking, and keeps us from reaching our full potential. Could our potential be unlocked if we shed the lens through which we see?

I reread the words I wrote a year ago. A new view on life AND a paradigm shift in my thinking has truly taken place. Funny, though, that I asked and received it- yet didn’t notice it except in someone else. I truly hope my friend will take a hard look at himself now- as he is today, and believe what others see.

What distortion (or lies) do I believe? My faith tells me I am loved by God, was loved before I was created, and promised a glorious future. I am forgiven my flaws and a made new as a child of Christ. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) shows like the prodigal son, I am welcomed and loved regardless of my past mistakes and flaws. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says I have been washed and sanctified and justified by Christ. Do I believe it? Do I now go through my days, rejecting my old way of thinking and living as a new creation? 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.           2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

I know I am not worthy – but I also know I am grateful. Grateful for the insight and wisdom that comes with age and maturity; earned through the pain of many mistakes. My paradigm shift happened at some point after I asked. I’m not sure when, or how.  I prayed and expected to see God move. Then I got busy, and didn’t notice when He answered.

Today was the day I received a new perspective, and more importantly, shared it with someone who will share it some more. Here’s to you, Coach Rob and all the lives you will touch.

lens flare

 

Reactive vs Proactive

Random stuff happens sometimes. Circumstances are rarely perfect. In relationships, we have no control over another person. People react badly sometimes.
Sometimes people we love disappoint us. Sometimes they hurt us.
(Without looking further into intent.)

Favorable outcomes are sometimes beyond my control.
How do I react when things don’t go my way? There are two types of responses that I can immediately choose: proactive or reactive.
Am I humble enough to acknowledge that I am not the center of the universe?
Wise enough to accept I cannot control the people around me? Each person has their own journey, which includes their own lessons, hills, and valleys.
I can only control myself: my words, thoughts, and actions. I cannot “will ” the results I want. I cannot make someone love me or even like me more. I cannot make someone buy my product. I cannot make others smarter, or change their behavior.
I can act like myself. More importantly – I can become the person I want to be. (Not the selfish, spoiled brat I sometimes am)
I can be kind, and thoughtful, and considerate in my responses- no matter how I feel.
I can love my neighbor. I can reflect the love of Christ, in spite of how I was treated, real or imagined.
Isn’t that what I should aspire to?
I can determine how I will act, regardless of the words and actions of others. My disappointment does not give me permission to react badly. Reacting to circumstances, with emotion, gives my power away, and makes me a victim. Others may have had a bad day, disappointed me, act like selfish asses. My new habit is a proactive and positive response. My responses to others will be centered in God, because I want to please Him.
I will be a lamp and a light. Kind, considerate, and compassionate. I will speak with words that lift up, not tear down. I do not need anyone to meet my shifting standards or needy requirements of love. There are no rules that must be met to determine how I act.
I will be proactive in love, not reactive to circumstances.

image
B&W trees