Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Respect the Flag

I know I may be in the minority on this one, but I think one of the best moments of the upcoming Super Bowl is the presentation of the colors at the beginning of the game. When the large flag is unfurled across the playing field and the bearers start the flag waving, I am proud to be a part of this great nation.

For me the flag is not just a piece of cloth; it is a story.

The story began with a group of forward-thinking individuals declaring "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 declaration brought forth a new nation, one secured through the sacrifices of brave men and women who were willing to die for the cause. The flag they fought under was a symbol of freedom, a rallying point for the masses, a sign of hope.

Soon the nation would once again be tested by war, this time with enemy forces burning the capitol. As the collapse of our emerging nation looked certain at the battle of Baltimore, George Armistead, commander of Fort McHenry, ordered "a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance." This flag was still flying after the enemy's 25-hour bombardment, ensuring the survival of our nation, and inspiring -- ultimately -- our national anthem.

This nation has been tested in battle many times over the years. It is still being served by our troops in harm's way.

But the cloth is not just the story of a nation and the testing of battles; it is also a beacon for freedom.

The flag declares to the world that those who live under its shadow are free people, endowed with certain rights and responsibilities. That is a statement I find inspiring, comforting and hopeful.

I will continue to thrill when I see a giant flag unfurled on a football field. I will stand for the national anthem and salute with my hand over my heart. I will stand and salute the flag when it passes in front of me in parades. I will stand at attention when the flag is presented and when the flag is withdrawn.

I will respect the flag. And I will do so gladly.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


The other day I listened to a presentation about leadership. Now since it is my belief that men need to be leaders in their families and communities, I wanted to hear what the speaker would say about a seemingly contradictory title: "Servant-Leader." How could one be a servant, who by definition follows the commands of another and be a leader, one who gives the commands?

As the speaker laid out his points, my mind started down a different path. Now it should be said, this departure wasn't a commentary on the presentation's quality, it was just me. My mind erupts with related possibilities when a speaker sparks my interest. Along this line, I thought how a servant-leader concerns himself with the well-being of the people he leads, resisting the impulse to subordinate everything to his personal agenda.

I began recalling servant-leaders I could relate to. Among them are honor-bound naval captains, who go down with their ships, holding fast to a code of maritime ethics that puts passengers first. I thought of those who seek out the cause of the mishap or calamity when danger strikes, putting the welfare of others over their own personal safety.

I also recalled my dad.

He was a servant-leader for our family. He'd work two jobs, so I could have money for education, sports and hobbies. He'd take long trips with kids in the backseat, so we would experience the country when he would rather be home. He'd set aside his newspaper to answer our homework questions. He'd even listen to our stories and laugh at our jokes, even when they weren't funny.

He would also sit for hours on a hard bleacher just to watch me pitch two innings.

Dad would put our well-being before his and, by so doing, we would follow him wherever he went. He was given the role of leadership by virtue of having children but, in our eyes, he earned it and completely deserved it.

Each man has the potential to be a great servant-leader to those around him: family, friends, co-workers, and from there the circles continue to widen.

On this day following our nation's recognition of one of the world's most influential civil rights leaders, it might be good to remember his words on offering service to others. "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spending Time

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, on an average day in 2012, Americans aged 15 and older slept about 8.7 hours, spent 5.4 hours doing leisure and sports activities, worked for 3.5 hours, and spent 1.7 hours doing household activities. The remaining 4.7 hours were spent in a variety of other activities, including eating and drinking, attending school, and shopping. It was also reported the average American spent 1.6 hours per day in discretionary activities.

The University of Southern California reported total U.S. media consumption reached 1.46 trillion hours in 2012 -- an average of 13.6 hours per person per day, which is a year-over-year increase of five percent. It appears many Americans were multi-tasking as they consumed media via television, radio, phone and computers ... and still performing other activities! Now who said men can't multi-task?

All these studies point out that the average man finds his day increasingly scheduled with many of the "have tos" of life, and with not a lot of time left over for life's "should dos" and "really should dos."

I'm just as guilty as the next guy of loading my days with activities I feel I must do, neglecting those things I should do or want to do.

For instance, I find myself at the end of the day feeling worn out and guilty. I feel guilty when I open my daughter's bedroom door and recall how little we spoke that day, or when I see my son's baseball bat and remember I should have watched his game that day. Most of all I feel guilty when I listen to my wife's prayers and recall missed opportunities of sharing time with her.

Guys, I offer you a resolution. It's based on my experience. I try each day to

1. spend time alone -- praying, reading, stretching my mind, gaining fresh knowledge;

2. spend time one on one with my wife -- listening, talking and holding her hand;

3. spend time with my family -- listening, asking questions, building memories for the future.

I have found time spent this way is never wasted. In fact, these times, when it's all said and done, yield dividends that making ticking another item off my unending to-do list small potatoes indeed.

So, how are you spending your time?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Life Happens

One thing I have learned over the years is that one will rarely hit the pillow at the end of the day having accomplished all one had in mind when waking up. That's because between the time your feet hit the floor until the time it's lights out, life happens. And life happens to be no respecter of person, talents, time or intentions.

For example, on a not-too-distant day in the past I awoke to what was going to be a leisurely morning working around the house, tackling some of those when-I-get-around-to-it kinds of chores. The first one on the list was to organize our address list.

That should be easy. I had just entered all the addresses into my computer database to send Christmas cards. All I had to do was fire up the old computer, open the program, and sort through the list -- a couple of clicks and away we go.

Upon opening the program I found my screen had turned a lovely shade of blue with white letters and numbers all across it. Since that really wasn't what I wanted to see, I did what most men do at a time like this: I turned it off and restarted the contraption, hoping for the best (after all, it was the new year; my luck couldn't be going this bad already). The second time the dreaded "blue screen of death" appeared I took matters into my own hands. I decided a quick whack on the motherboard would rectify the issue. It did: one computer down.

Now I had to buy a new computer.

As I backed the truck out of the garage to check on a new computer, the engine began to chatter, with the tachometer showing the RPMs looking like an out-of-control EKG: up and down, up and down. I turned off the truck and when I tried to restart it, nothing, absolutely nothing: no click, no hum, no lights, no go.

I took out my cell phone to call my wife home from her errands: no battery charge.

So now I sat in a dead truck with a dead phone and a dead computer and began to laugh - yep, laugh. (Crying didn't seem like an option.)

My wife drove up and saw me laughing and wanted to know what was so funny. She didn't see the humor in all the dead pieces of equipment right off, but joined me in a hearty chuckle anyway.

Afterwards, I remembered life just happens, and we have a choice on how we react. I chose to calm down, see some humor in it, and tackle one thing at a time. Soon the phone was charged, the truck started when I tightened the battery cable, and I used the back-up disc to restore my data on my new computer.

As we enter 2014 let's resolve to take life in stride -- cherishing those around us -- giving them a laugh or two, even if it's at our temporary misfortune.