Friday, December 27, 2019

A New Direction

"Surrender don’t come natural to me. / I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want, than take what you give and I need." - Rich Mullins (Hold Me Jesus)

When God finally got my attention in my late twenties, I started looking for music that reflected my new passion for Him. The only Christian music that I had been exposed to in my past were the hymns of old. Great songs, rich in theology, but lacking a modern, contemporary arrangement. So off I went, into my local Christian book store, inquiring about what Christian music was available for my generation. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Linus's Christmas Speech

One of my favorite childhood memories of Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2019

God's Ways Are Not Our Ways

Did you know that our Sun is almost 93 million miles away from Earth? The ex-planet Pluto (it still stings to write that) is over 2.7 billion miles from planet Earth. Science informs us that there are undiscovered planets, galaxies and wonders beyond our knowledge at this present time. So the reason for this very short sidebar into space and distance is because of its relevance to one of my favorite verses in the Bible.

"Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55: 6-9 ESV)

Friday, December 06, 2019

"It" Is Coming

What is this "it"? When is "it" coming? Is there anyway I can avoid "it"? These are all questions that we all ponder at different seasons of our life, but mostly when our lives are turned upside down. 

When the normalcy of our life ceases to exist, we can choose to either fill that vacuum with what God intended, Himself, or we can continue to give everything else a priority over Him. Therefore the "it" can be a doctor's diagnosis, or an accident, the loss of a friendship. 

"It" can be the loss of a job or financial status. A common thread is that "it" is usually something that we either value or depend upon more than our relationship with God. And let's be clear, God allows suffering so that our lives will be saved, not to drive us into despair without hope. He is our hope, He is our King, and He refuses to share His throne with anyone or anything else.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Widow and the General

You may remember that I wrote about the prophet Elisha a few weeks ago, telling the story about the widow who was persistent in seeking God's provision in her time of great need. (You can read it here) Today I want to write about an encounter that involved Elisha the prophet and the commanding general of  the armies of Syria.

The widow and the general could not have been more different. The widow was totally destitute after the death of her husband and was facing the loss of her children due to not being able to pay her debts. We never learn her name in the scriptures. Naaman, the general, was in charge of all of the armies of Syria, a mighty man of valor and courage. His resources were almost unlimited, the widow had none. Naaman had direct access to the King of Syria, the widow had no such connections. But what Naaman was about to realize is that he was about to face a situation beyond the reach of all of his power, connections and resources. Naaman had developed leprosy.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

It Never Gets Old . . .

Tennessee vs Arkansas | 1989 | National Championship on the line |

It was my first year living in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Invited to watch this game with some friends. Had to endure 3 1/2 quarters of trash talking, fight song singing, and overall unbearable environment. Until, with 1:47 left in the game, Arkansas up by 2 and simply running out the clock, this happened 

CUE: Video. 

Then, suddenly, I was the only one trash talking, fight song singing, and making life difficult for a room full of Hog fans. What a great day! 

P.S. We went on to win the first BSC College Football National Championship beating Florida State in the Championship game. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Notes To Myself

1) Remember today who I serve. Let today be the day that I will keep my eyes focused on Him. I worship the true God, the great I Am, the God who is not surprised or intimidated by anything that will happen to me today. I worship Almighty God who knows me better than anyone else, loves me more than anyone else, and will never leave me or forsake me for a single moment.

2) Pray Scripture. When I pray back the Word of God I am praying the will of God. Prayer is primarily not for me to submit my requests to God but to refocus my mind, heart and soul in alignment with His desires.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

King Tut


Friday, November 08, 2019

The Power of Praise

The line between hope and despair can become transparently thin in certain seasons of our life. It is easy to cross from one worldview to the other, often within the same conversation or even while praying. In fact, without deliberate intention, our minds can drift from faith to fear in seconds. We are, after all, mortal creatures and though as Christians we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, the question of how much control we give Him is still dependent on our free will.

So what should be our response when we experience those moments of utter darkness and despair? When words fail, our hope has fled and our foundational beliefs laid bare for all to see. What have we built our hope upon? If we have based it on our own abilities and resources then we have built our houses upon sand. This life is not the paradise we long to experience. Heaven is promised but not until we pass from this life.  And by the way, just as goodness cannot always be attributed to God's favor, suffering cannot always be linked directly to our sins. It is the height of foolishness to attribute all of our circumstances to our own decisions. God's thoughts and ways are not my ways and how He chooses to fulfill His will through me is not always something I will understand.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Favorite Christmas Songs

In honor of Christmas trees being displayed in October, here are my Top 10 favorite Christmas songs. Some of these I have loved since childhood, "Christmas Dragnet" for instance, but most of them have found their way into my heart over the last few years. These are the songs that stop me in my tracks and demand my full attention.

1) Amy Grant - Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) - This song is simply breathtaking in it's ability to transport me back in history.

2) Bing Crosby - Do You Hear What I Hear? - Many different arrangements but this is my favorite of this haunting song.

3) Carpenters - Christmas Song - Has there ever been a purer voice than Karen Carpenter?

4) Emerson, Lake and Palmer - I Believe in Father Christmas - I understand the lyrics and intent of this song, which has been made very clear by its writer, Greg Lake. Greg was so moved by the lack of authenticity in our world, especially during Christmas that he wrote this emotional response to this world's apathy and untruth. Jesus was pretty clear that He would rather we be "hot" or "cold" but He really despised it when we resided in the apathy of the middle ground. That is where we lose our true hope, that is where we have lost our ability to be awed, to be joyful, or moved to anger. When we still have passion, I believe He can still change our hearts.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Widow's Dilemma

Elisha was the man that had assumed the leadership role of his mentor, Elijah, after he had been called by God to join Him in heaven. After picking up Elijah's mantle, (literally and figuratively) Elisha then begin to do God's work as well as lead the men that had previously been following Elijah. This is where we pick up our story . . .

"Now a wife of one of the prophets appealed to Elisha for help, saying, "Your servant, my husband is dead. You know that your servant was a loyal follower of the Lord. Now the creditor is coming to take away my two boys to be his servants." Elisha asked her what she has in her house and she replies that she has nothing except a small jar of oil. Elisha then tells her to ask her neighbors for as many empty containers as she can get and then after she has collected the containers to go back to her house and close the door, leaving just her and her sons.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Things That Are Already Gone (Or Soon Will Be)

Here are just a few of the things that were common place when I was growing up:

Cartoons on Saturday morning only
College Football games on Saturday afternoon only
Movies only viewed in Theaters (No VHS, Digital Copies, Cable TV, etc.) If you wanted to see a movie you had one shot, until . . .
Video rental stores - Which are also no longer around except for that one Blockbuster store in Oregon . . .
Socks - To be very specific, Tube Socks
Going outside without sunscreen
Brutal Playground Equipment (I really miss this . . . )
Zero crowds at the Beach - well, at least after Jaws came out in 1975

Friday, October 11, 2019

Surgery, Vacation Days and Super Mario Brothers

One of my best weeks I've ever had was a week spent playing video games with my brother. At the time he was stuck at home recovering from surgery during the same week that I took off for a vacation. At this time in our lives we were next-door-neighbors and he had just purchased a Nintendo NES game console. After spending a few hours playing the "Baseball" game, I suggested playing the game that he had received with the console, "Super Mario Brothers." (Plus, I was getting killed in the game of Baseball . . . )

Super Mario World was a side-scrolling platform game in which two players could work together to navigate the Seven Worlds in order to free the princess and fight Browser at the climax of the game. The team play in addition to the awesome amount of game play hooked us from the start. We decided that before the week was out, we would defeat Browser and win the game. The challenge was on.

Friday, October 04, 2019

The Hiring Dance

Raise your hand if you enjoy the experience of interviewing for a new job. Anyone? It's been my experience that even the most confident among us can be reduced to puddle of uncertainty when undergoing an interview that can influence your career trajectory.

In a previous life, I worked in retail management for over 20 years. In that time I probably hired hundreds of people and after awhile I found myself asking a variation of these same four questions:

Do you think you possess the skills, expertise and experience to perform this job?

What do you think you would bring to our team that other candidates don't possess?

Why do you think you are a good fit for our team, our culture and our company?

In what ways will you help our company make more money?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Wonder of Romans

It would be very difficult to choose my favorite book of the Bible. There is the poetic description of creation in Genesis, the miracles in Exodus, the rise and fall of rulers in the book of Judges, the prophecy of Isaiah, the lyrical prose of Psalms and we haven't even got to the four gospels or Revelation. But if I had to pick one book as my favorite, it would have to be Romans. Paul, the author of this book, in my opinion offers the best balance between explaining the theology of the gospel of Jesus Christ and then showing us how to live out this gospel in real life applications.

Since I'm more of a bottom-line kind of person I used to skim over the first part of the book of Romans to get to the what I thought was the meat of the book, the "How To" portion. I have come to realize that without a knowledge of true theology, it is impossible to understand the task at hand. Yet since I am most familiar with the second half of Romans that's what we are going to take a quick look at today.

Friday, September 20, 2019

God Has Made A Way

One of the many things I love about God is His attention to detail. No element is too small to play a part in His ultimate plan for our lives and His Kingdom. This is repeated in the Old Testament view of how we approached God in worship and the New Testament ordinance established with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Looking at the establishment of the Tabernacle we see a clear flow of worship that man must complete before approaching a Holy God. We see this from the very beginning of Creation when God first killed an animal so that Adam and Eve could have clothing. In this very first act of sacrifice, God demonstrated His willingness to insert Himself into our world, to meet our needs, and to offer a pathway for restoration to Himself.

Friday, September 13, 2019

God And The Plans Of Men

I just finished reading an riveting biography of President Richard Nixon by John A. Farrell. I found it to be refreshingly fair and objective, especially when dealing with such a historically polarizing figure. One of the many things that I learned was the role Nixon played in positioning the United States to help rescue Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

The back story is, like most events involving Nixon, complicated. President Nixon was up-to-his-neck with the Watergate crisis (of his own making) as well as having to deal with the surprise resignation of his Vice-President. He was also, by his own account, drinking heavily to combat the stress. The Soviet Union, sensing blood in the water, picked this moment in history to galvanize nine Arab states, including Egypt and Syria, and instructed them to invade Israel, who would most likely stand alone in the defense of their country. The Soviets were attempting to exert their influence throughout the Middle East and was the chief supplier of munitions to all the major players in that area, except for the nation of Israel. The goal of the Soviet Union was the spread of Communism throughout the world and only one thing stood in their way in the Middle East, Israel.

Friday, September 06, 2019

I Am Thankful For . . .

I am thankful for . . .

Jesus Christ - who took upon Himself all of my sins and all of God's wrath toward me to make me righteous and reserve my eternal destination with Him. Who has given me His promises (The Bible) which allow me to have hope in this hopeless world. Who promises He will never leave or forsake me. He is all mighty, all knowing, all holiness, who gives daily mercies, bears my burdens, breaths life into my lungs for each moment that I'm alive on this planet, and who is responsible for all the good gifts that I have been given.

Friday, August 30, 2019


The Pew Research Center started categorizing American's religious beliefs into three unique groups. These three groups are "Highly Religious", "Somewhat Religious", and "Non-Religious". (You can click here to view the entire report) What I found interesting is that in the two groups that have some religious beliefs, over 94% of all those surveyed believe in the existence of Heaven. (Even in the "Non-Religious" group there was 12%  and 4% respectively of those people who professed to believe in the existence of Heaven) Let's spend a little bit of time examining the perceptions of over 90% of the planet population who do believe there is a Heaven.

Whether a culture indoctrination of the existence of an after-life, or a faith-built belief system, it is evident that people want to believe there is a better place than planet Earth. But what do they believe about Heaven? Check out some of these quotes:

"One road leads home, and a thousand roads lead into the wilderness." - C.S. Lewis

"Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company." - Mark Twain

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The End Of Ourselves

When I was in my late teens I took a trip out west with some friends. Somewhere in Utah our car broke down and so two of us started out for help. In the desert. In the middle of summer. I remember the sun was directly overhead when we started out because after the first mile my scalp started to burn. Now one of the advantages of being in your teens is that you are stupid. That is also the disadvantage of being young. Did we think about taking water? Nah! Did we think about estimating our endurance before we reached the next town for help? Nah! Adventure awaited!

The year was 1979 so there were no cell phones and we had no way to stay in touch with our friends or call ahead for help. So we walked. And walked. After the third hour, walking under the summer sun no longer seemed like an adventure. It was becoming a marathon, an endurance test. After the sixth hour it started to feel like a test of survival. Finally, around 8:00 that evening, we reached a town that had a mechanic and most importantly, a water fountain. Parched, and exhausted, I had discovered that my resources were not unlimited and that there were some challenges that not even youth could overcome.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Kings In A Cave

"Then the five kings of the Amorites -- the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon, joined forces. They moved up with all their troops . . . The Lord said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. None of them will be able to withstand you."

After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua and his army took them by surprise. The Lord threw the enemy into confusion, and defeated them in a great victory . . Now the five kings fled and hid in the cave at Makkedah. When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hidden in the cave at Makkedah, he said, "Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave and post some men to guard it. But don't stop! Pursue your enemies and don't let them reach their cities, for the Lord your God has given them into your hand"

 . . . So Joshua and the Israelites destroyed the armies of the five kings completely . . . Then Joshua returned to Makkedah and said, "Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings to me." When they had brought the kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders, "Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings" . . . then Joshua proclaimed to the men of Israel, ". . . Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight." Then Joshua killed the kings and hung them on five trees until evening." (Joshua 10: 5-27)

There is so much about this story in the book of Joshua that intrigues me. First, is the amazing turnaround in Joshua's confidence. Just a few chapters before it is God reminding Joshua to be strong and courageous. In fact, God proclaims that truth three times to Joshua in the first chapter alone. Yet, by the time this battle occurs, it is Joshua reminding his leaders and people to be strong and courageous. It is evident that God had greatly deepened Joshua's faith during this time.

Friday, August 09, 2019

A Crisis In Leadership

Have you ever faced an impossible challenge? A challenge that no matter how long you strive to reach a solution, it remains hopeless. A challenge of that magnitude saps all of your strength, slowly draining away your hope and can leave you cowering in fear.

When facing a situation with what appears to be no solutions, I try to remind myself of the story of Joshua. Joshua faced an impossible assignment. Moses, the revered leader of the people of Israel for over forty years was dead. Now, after Moses's death, God appoints Joshua the new leader of Israel. Imagine that, being the person in charge of God's nation on earth! God reassures him with these words, "No one will be able to stand against you as long you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous." (Joshua 1: 5-6)

But Joshua's immediate problem was that he had to convince the people of Israel of his qualifications and status as their new leader. So Joshua started first with the elders and the commanders of Israel, communicating the promises of God and reminding them of their allegiance to Moses and his leadership. He then testified to the faithfulness of God and urged the leaders to communicate that to the people under their command. The people responded well to Joshua's leadership and so together, the nation of Israel marched toward the next test of their faith.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Blessed Are The Poor

In perhaps what is the most famous sermon in history, Jesus Christ delivered his message known as the "Sermon on the Mount". This teaching occurred after Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist, after his forty days in the wilderness experience, and shortly after he began his public ministry in Galilee. This sermon is the longest continuous discourse of Jesus found in the New Testament and contains some of the most foundational tenants of the Christian faith.

It think it is interesting to compare the accounts of the gospels of Matthew and Luke in regard to this sermon. Scholars have disagreed throughout the years in their explanations for the different perspectives and accounts of these two gospels. However, one of the most common explanations for the different gospel accounts lie in the target audience that both men were addressing with their writings. For example, Luke, as he was writing primarily to non-Jews, used different terminology and emphasized different points than did Matthew who was writing to the Jewish people in his account.

Let's compare the opening paragraphs of this Sermon to gain a better understanding of the differences we just discussed.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Worthy Investment

Meraki [may-rah-kee] - is a word that the Greeks used to describe what happens when you leave a piece of yourself (your soul, creativity, or love) in your work. When you love doing something with that kind of intensity, whatever it is, you pour all of who you are into it. This can be your passion for Christ, your love for your children, your career, or your love of music or sports. Whatever you pour yourself into, whatever you go to sleep thinking about, whatever drives your deepest ambitions, that is your meraki.

Side bar: I think its interesting that there is no English equivalent to this word in our language. (Though the word reminds me of a Japanese word in the peaceful way it rolls off of the tongue.)

So let's get to it, what would you say are the meraki in your life? And remember, it may not be a thing, it may be a person. So why don't you grab a piece of paper, turn off your phone, (or at least the notifications) and focus your thoughts. Think deeply about what really holds your heart captive. Is it your job, entertainment, pleasure, social media, numbness, friends, enemies, justice, politics, what is coming to the forefront of your mind right now?

If you are still seeking clarity, examine your fiances and your calendar. We always find time (and money with rare exceptions . . . ) for the things we love and value. But I would encourage you to take this experiment one step further; select someone close to you and ask them to describe your passions. This could be anyone, your spouse, child, best friend, co-worker, anyone who has spent quality time with you and knows what you are like when you take off your mask.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Footprints . . .

As I write this entry the world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing tomorrow, July 20th, 2019. I remember my parents allowing my brother and I to stay up way past our bedtime to watch the grainy footage on our black and white TV and listen to the immortal words of Neil Armstrong as he became the first human to walk on the moon. I remember watching his boots sink into the moon surface as he descended from the Lunar Explorer and thinking, "I wonder how long those footprints will last?" And my second thought was more reflective, "I wonder if I will do anything in my life that will outlast my years on this planet?" Weird thoughts for a nine-year old I know but trust me, if you asked anyone who knew me as a child, this is pretty typical for how my childhood brain worked.

One of the many stories celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing had to do with preserving the artifacts that are already on the moon. This includes the Lunar Modules, Lunar Buggies, American Flags and the footprints of the astronauts themselves. Without interference by man, those footprints will probably last as long as the moon itself. The reason they will endure is because unlike on Earth, there is no erosion by wind or water on the moon. It has no atmosphere and all the water on the surface is frozen as ice. We actually have more to fear from aliens or astronauts from other countries on earth erasing the footprints than the natural processes of the moon itself.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Joy In Suffering

"Joy" and "Suffering" are not words that most of us would group together. In fact, with the state of the world around us, joy would seem to be in short supply. But just like most things in this life, the Bible teaches us a different truth.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1: 2-4)

James is telling us that apart from trials, our faith and character will never achieve their full potential. In fact, he is promising us that our suffering will result in our characters being perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. God is promising us perfection through His glorification which can only be brought about through the testing of our faith. But this is not the only verse discussing the binding of suffering and the deepening of our faith . . .

Friday, July 05, 2019

Missed It By That Much . . .

One of my favorite television shows growing up was "Get Smart". The hero in this show, Max, stumbled into victory despite his best efforts, and uttered these words several times due to his propensity for clumsiness, "Missed it by that much!".

I wanted to start with this humorous anecdote because the rest of this blog addresses a more serious topic. It is of little surprise to anyone who is paying attention to world affairs that this world is more divided than ever before. I'm not talking about politically, socially or even economically. I'm talking about the great divide, between those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and those who do not. There appears to be three cultural camps holding sway in the world, two of which are opposed to the truth of Jesus Christ. This puts most of the world in direct conflict with everything I believe.

Friday, June 28, 2019

He Who Will Emerge From The Sea

The number 13 is a number that usually brings forth feelings of trepidation, certainly not feelings of comfort and protection. Chapter 13 in The Book of Revelation is no exception. This chapter describes the height of Satan's rebellion against God, a rebellion that begin before the dawn of time. Imagine, in all of history there has never been an influence of evil such as the world will experience in the Great Tribulation.

Chapter 13 begins with the rise of the Antichrist, the beast who will emerge from the sea. (The sea refers to the Gentile nation - Revelation 17:15) The ten horns that the beast has are affixed to a composite body which combines the appearance of a leopard, bear, and lion. In military terms, this suggests that the Antichrist will have the staggering speed of an leopard, the overwhelming power of a bear, and the ferociousness of a lion. And the ten horns represent power and kingdoms, and the Antichrist will exert his power like no other ruler in history. He will wield absolute power over ten nations and kings who will exist to do his bidding. The False Prophet, (who will emerge from land - referring to the Jewish nation) only has two horns. But make no mistake, that is an strategic deception. His power exists in a different realm. Where the Antichrist will utilize his power with a sword, the False Prophet will accomplish his means using his amazing charisma and persuasion. He will speak like a dragon, using lies, threats, deceptions and coercion. His appearance as a lamb will disguise his true intentions. Great miracles will accompany the False Prophet as he works in conjunction with the Antichrist to deceive and command the world.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Perfect Poem

"Casey At The Bat"
by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They though, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
We'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Loss of A Friend

My first experience with newspapers were reading the Sunday comics. I loved the vibrant colors, the amazing creativity used to tell a story in such a small space, even the smell of the paper itself as you unfolded it to reveal the treasure within. As I got older I expanded beyond Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, B.C., Hagar the Horrible, The Phantom, and discovered the Sports section.

No more asking my friends if they knew if the Atlanta Braves had won the night before, or having to listen to boring news shows on the radio just in the hope of hearing the score. This was a life-changer! I mean, Tennessee Vols football (my other favorite team) played once a week in the fall and winter and I could follow them live on the radio, but keeping up with the Braves required a different level of commitment. Enter "The Paper". The Chattanooga Free Press had a sports section that remains to this day the bar of excellence for any paper I've ever read. They do an outstanding job covering area High School, College, and Pro Sports and we're not talking about a measly 4 page section. There were in-depth stories about the Vols, and the Braves! Mixed in with this wonderful content was the tranquility of retrieving the paper from the porch, settling on the couch, and immersing myself in a much bigger world.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Power Of One

Before the advancement of DNA testing, Ancestry.Com and the popularity of knowing one's "Family Tree", I grew up hoping that I was related to one of the two most famous Lee's in our country's history. And I vehemently prayed that I was not related to the other one.

General Robert E. Lee, (Civil War) occupied a spot of honor in my household. He ranked below Jesus Christ but above the current President of the United States. (I don't remember which President, but honestly it was true of all of them . . . at least in my childhood mind.) However, General Charles Lee (Revolutionary War) was a different story. If you are wondering why I was so passionate in my choice, let me illuminate you about the Battle of Monmouth.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Leonid Vorobyev & Friends

Moscow based musician Leonid Vorobyev has put together a band that sounds more like Chicago than Chicago! Leonid is the leader and founder of the band, Leonid & Friends. He is the band's producer, plays bass and piano, sings lead and backing vocals, transcribes all the musical scores and produces, mixes, and masters all their audio and video productions.

On his Facebook page Leonid recalls, "This was my crazy idea, in the fall of 2014, I had reached a pension age (60 in Russia) but I didn't want to retire, so I decided to make something special to celebrate the date". He gathered up some friends and covered the Chicago song, "Brand New Love Affair (Part I & II). The rest, as they say, is history.

Check out a video of his band performing "25 or 6 to 4" below:

Friday, June 07, 2019

A Man of Honor

Last week I talked about Bob Gibson, probably the greatest pitcher that I had the good fortune to watch. This week I wanted to talk about one of the athletes that I most admire, not only for his skill as a pitcher, but for his character and honor.

Bob Feller was a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians in 1941. He was driving from his home in Iowa to Chicago to discuss his next contract with the Indians when he heard over his car radio that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. Even though he had a family-related draft exemption, he informed the Indians that he was joining the Navy rather than sign his contract extension, and was sworn into the United States Navy two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Defining Greatness

There is no clear measuring stick to determine the greatness of a man's heart, but there have been men who were so great at their jobs that they changed the rules of the career that they chose. One of those men was Bob Gibson.

I was born too late to view Babe Ruth hit a homer in Yankee Stadium but I did get a chance to see Bob Gibson pitch. When I was eight years old, Gibson, who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, absolutely ruled the sport of baseball. His dominance was so great that after the end of that 1968 season, Major League Baseball changed the rules of the game to help the hitters. First, they lowered the pitching mound by five inches and then they shrunk the strike zone, moving it from the batters armpits to the jersey letters. All of these changes were designed to help only one position, the hitter. These rules became known as the "Gibson Rules".

Friday, May 24, 2019

Socialism - Who Wouldn't Be For It

Socialism is similar to the experience of purchasing a new car. The showroom is designed to highlight only the stark appeal of your possible purchase. The custom lighting reflects the metallic midnight blue exterior of your future car. The cockpit interior that beckons for you to take control. You start the car, feel the power and then, magically, you're driving this technological wonder on the raceway (also called "streets") as your heart explodes with passion. Your senses are on overload and your brain is fixated on how to obtain this experience in your daily life. You deserve this!

So you say, "Yes", and you sign the paperwork but the experience is mostly a blur. Your real attention comes as you are seated in your brand new purchase, focused on the luxury, the world waiting as you start your purchase and begin your new life as the proud owner of this new car. In fact, you decide to mark your life as the time before this car and after this purchase.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Grace's High School Graduation (2019)

Grace's High School Graduation from Lakeside High School | May 19th, 2019

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Barbarity of Man

Let me ask you a question before we dive into the idea at hand, "With a basic knowledge of history, is it any surprise that war is an endless appetite from which mankind will never recover without divine intervention?"

I propose that anyone with a rational mind would answer "No". Conflict and national aggression is the norm, not the exception. To appeal to a broad base of the population, with small windows of exception, you can never go wrong appealing to the baser instincts of man. So our dilemma is this, how to lead a group of people, whether a tribe or a nation, without having to galvanize the platforms of conflict, greed and racism. Throughout history leaders have always found the quickest route to the hearts of their people is by casting one segment or more of the population as villains. It is difficult to find noble leadership throughout history that didn't stoop to pick this easy fruit.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Defeat In Detail

Defeat in detail is a military phrase referring to the tactic of bringing a large portion of one's own force to bear on small enemy units in sequence, rather than engaging the bulk of the enemy force all at once. This exposes one's own units to a small risk, yet allows for the eventual destruction of an entire enemy force. This is most often seen when an army divides itself into smaller groups, which can be easily be separated and defeated in isolation. - Edward Erickson "Defeat in Detail: The Ottoman Army in the Balkans"

Growing up, I loved to read about battles and the tactics employed by both sides. Living in the South there were several battlefields within easy driving distance and I took advantage of this close proximity. Walking these hallowed battlefields was humbling as well as inspiring with their stories of  bravery, sacrifice, and tactical brilliance.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Graduation Truisms

In this season of new beginnings, it is commonplace to gift graduates with wisdom, with the goal of easing some of life's challenges, helping them to not repeat the mistakes of others, along with the teaching that their upcoming challenges are not unique to mankind. Did you know that there have been more books written about how to achieve success than any other non-fiction category? Now anyone who is more than a casual reader of this blog will have already ascertained that I hold to the beliefs that the greatest source of wisdom is from God. I believe that He wrote the only book that can teach us how to live a life pleasing to the only person who matters, God.

But that doesn't mean that we humans lack the ability to encourage, equip and grow each other through our own life experiences and one such collection of that hard-earned wisdom is one of my favorite books, "The Best of Success". Recognize the temporal perspectives of all who are quoted but learning from their mistakes and resolutions can be a help as you navigate the life you are about to begin. So here, in honor of the Class of 2019 graduates, are some of my favorite quotes from that book.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Komkom Vase

In AD 812, skilled craftsman delivered their masterpiece to the King. The vase, which was about nine inches tall with 202 hieroglyphic blocks, was painstakingly created for the most powerful man in Mayan culture. This vase would become the King's drinking vessel of choice, with no other human allowed to ever use it other than the King.

In April, 2019, 82 fragments of the Komkom Vase, named after the royal owner, were recently discovered in Belize. What was interesting (but sadly not a surprise) were the inscriptions on the vase. There was no mention of the economy, the weather, or anything about the common people the King ruled. For this King, like most people who weld great power, had no use for the mundane concerns of life.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Problem of Fear

When I was young I loved to write stories. Stories about detectives solving crimes, race car drivers, baseball players struggling to reach the majors and much more. But the one theme I kept returning to over and over was fear. Looking back now the fingerprints of my unresolved fears were all over my life.

I really don't remember confronting my fears, at least not in childhood or in my teens. And though I've experienced my share of pain and loss throughout my life, I don't remember being consumed by fear and dread. Until a fateful night when I was in my early twenties, while hiking alone in Moab, Utah. There was no external catalyst to provoke a feeling of fear but I was suddenly overcome nonetheless. I remember wildly looking around, even stumbling to the point of falling the in cold red dirt, but I couldn't locate the cause of my intense fear. This consuming feeling stayed with me for a few days and then left as suddenly as it had arrived. I couldn't explain it to my friends and there was no reason I could ever give for this experience. To this day I still can't recall any particular trigger for that unusual outburst but I can still vividly remember the emotion that racked my body, mind and soul for what seemed like days. All-consuming fear.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Power of Duke

The year is 1980. Walking to my car with my friend Steve after working a long shift. I remember it was raining, a steady downfall.  Steve had been talking all day about this new album from his favorite band and I finally agreed to listen to just one song before I headed home.

Now my '74 Nova may have not been a lot to look at from the outside but the inside contained a state-of-the-art Pioneer sound system. The glow from the blue lights of the sound system lit up the interior as Steve handed me the cassette. I pressed the rewind button to play the first song. The whirring finally ended. I pressed play . . .

Friday, April 05, 2019

Relics And The Past

In Rome, in the Vatican Museum, are 28 marble stairs. Once a year the Vatican opens up this exhibit to the general public and removes the wooden covering protecting the marble stairs underneath. These stairs are called the “Holy Stairs” and they were brought here from the palace of Pontus Pilate located in Jerusalem. Tradition says that Jesus Christ ascended these chairs after being convicted by Pilate and beaten by his palace guards. There are three crosses on the stairs that represent the locations where Jesus collapsed and shed drops of his blood. Pilgrims wait for hours for the privilege of ascending these steps and replicating the climb of their Savior.

It has been over two thousand years since Jesus died and was resurrected and people are still fascinated by the relics of his past. Items such as the Holy Grail, The Shroud of Turin, and many more to numerous to list in this post. (You can click here to view a partial list) This desire to touch something that has been used by the Divine, is not, of course, confined to just Christians. And it's not just confined to religious artifacts.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Deception We All Face

Some of us might recognize this verse from the Bible, "So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13) In that verse Paul is summing up his chapter on the importance and virtues of love. We are reminded that God himself is love. (1 John 4:8) In fact, Jesus included the action verb "love" when He was summing up all the components of the law into just two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)

I set the table with these verses because I wanted to point out the difference between these verses and their counterparts, the words that drive the sins and bad choices that are most likely to destroy our physical, mental and spiritual lives. God gives us words of life and hope but the enemy goal is to steal, kill and destroy. 

The Bible says that Satan is the great deceiver. We see this from the very beginning in the Garden where Satan twisted the words of God to Adam and Eve in hope that they would choose sin over obedience. This pattern of behavior continued, all the way to the book of The Revelation, where we see that in the future, Satan will try to replicate God's Trinity. Satan's end game has never changed. History records the destruction that evil has brought about in this world. The entire Bible speaks to the deception and lies that Satan uses to deceive the people of earth. So, having been thoroughly warned, why do so many of us fall for his traps?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Putt Putt versus Mini Golf

I've played some pretty cool mini-golf courses in my life, Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg for example, where you have to take a tram to the top of the mountain and then play the course to the bottom, and Mulligans in Salt Lake City, which has lots of waterfalls. But my favorite golf experiences are Putt Putt Courses. If you don't know the difference between these two types of golf  then you've come to the right place.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Importance of Context

When God finally got my attention in my late twenties, one of the first gifts He gave me was an intense hunger for His Word. I remember leaving my Bible at the bottom of my stairs each morning so that when I returned home that evening it would be the first thing I would see. Day after day, I couldn't wait to dive into God's Word and be refreshed by His presence. The healing power of His Word started working on the deepest parts of my heart. Then I started writing down and applying the promises of His Word to me.

After months of immersing myself in the Bible, one day I heard a sermon about the importance of claiming your very own life verse. That sounded logical to me so I started searching through all of my favorite scripture verses in the quest to discover my "life verse". (Now let me explain that I'm not against the concept of having a life verse but at the time it seemed like a box I needed to check on my way to becoming a mature follower of Christ.) After not a lot of searching (sic) I landed on Jeremiah 29:11. Because let's face it, what Christian doesn't long for the comfort and promise of this verse? "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Did you know that Jeremiah 29:11 is the second most searched Bible verse on the Internet?). And let me save you the trouble, John 3:16 is the most searched Bible verse on the web.

Friday, March 08, 2019

A Great Teammate

In most team sports there are several ways to evaluate the impact of your teammates. More than just the skill they bring to the sport, the most valuable teammates think the best of their fellow players, motivate through personal example, and put the interest of the team before their own personal gain.

Mickey Mantle (left), pictured in the photo above with his teammates Bobby Richardson (center) and Whitey Ford (right), was by most accounts, a difficult man to be around in social situations, but his baseball teammates revered him. His talent, his humility, and the way he played the game for fun had a huge impact on the Yankee teams of the 1950's and 1960's. They won seven world championships with Mickey in the lineup. And it wasn't just his fellow teammates who appreciated his awesome talent. The great Detroit Tiger, Al Kaline was once taunted by a young fan, "You're not half as good as Mickey Mantle," to which Al replied, "Son, nobody is half as good as Mickey Mantle."

Friday, March 01, 2019

Which Comes First - Love or Obedience?

Jesus said some of the most radical things that the world had ever heard. In the book of John, Jesus was talking to His disciples and check out some of that statements that flowed out of that conversation. Truths such as, "I am the way and the truth and the life." No man comes to the Father except through me." and "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."

Yet His words, "If you love me, you will obey me." are sometimes overlooked in that chapter of John (Chapter 14).  Tucked between the promise for the present, "Ask for anything in my name and I will do it" and then followed with a promise for the future, "I will ask the Father for an advocate, and He will send the gift of the Spirit of truth who will abide with you forever." it can be granted a position of lesser prominence.

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Chronicles of Narnia

When my daughter was very young, we had a appointment every night with C.S. Lewis and his books, The Chronicles of Narnia. Over the course of many months we read through the entire series, starting with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe then working our way through the remaining six books. 

The memories of reading each night to my beautiful daughter and having her fall asleep in my arms made this a part of my day I looked forward to with great joy. There was also the added benefit of knowing she would drift off to sleep with vibrant images of Narnia in her dreams. Also, these books conveyed such deep truths on a simple level. I know some Christians attach an almost canon-like quality to these books but that's not how I look at C.S. Lewis creation. What I draw from these books is a wonderful description of the age to come, as well as the age that is. C.S. Lewis painted word pictures that make Heaven seem real, exciting and welcoming, and I thought that if he could convey those feelings with an human imagination than how much more was our Creator dreaming up for our future home! This scripture became even more of a foundation for my faith because of these books, " . . . no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived - the things God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Corinthians 2:9 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Rocky Mountain Racetrack Closes After 54 Years Of Racing

In the late 1970's I spent a summer in Salt Lake City. My faded memories of that time are mostly all good, a organized and very clean city filled with friendly people. I was living with a family in Salt Lake and they were gracious enough to take the time to show me several of the nearby attractions. The one that I remember enjoying the most was the Bonneville Raceway.

It was a cool summer afternoon and our plans were to spend the day at the Racetrack. The bill included Funny Cars, Top Fuel Dragsters and Motorcycles. It turned out to be an awesome day filled with noise, smoke and speed. At the time it was $3.00 to get in the gate and if my memory is correct, you could splurge another $2.00 dollars and have access to the pit area. The bleachers weren't very crowded so we sat on the row nearest the track. I don't remember if there was a fence separating us from the racing but either way I do remember it was a sensory-overload type experience. As night fell the visuals became even more stark. Cars racing into the darkness, flames and smoke illustrating the speed and danger, and the Rocky mountains absorbing the roar of the engines before releasing it back into the valley at an even louder volume.  I do remember watching a funny car explode at the starting line and the burst of heat that quickly became uncomfortable, even from the safe distance of the stands. The green light and the emerging parachutes on the race cars seemed to be separated by the blink of an eye, and the excitement of watching these mechanical duels never got old.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Chain

 Can you imagine playing this song for over thirty years standing next to the person who was the reason you wrote the song in the first place? Greatest love/hate song ever. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Thursday, February 07, 2019

A Thaw In Winter's Grip

In my childhood I had several favorite foods. I loved pancakes with chocolate chips, very fond of spam sandwiches, spaghetti with garlic bread was another favorite but my all-time favorite food was cornbread. Cornbread with pinto beans, cornbread with chili, cornbread with spaghetti . . .

I also found it was the perfect food for those days when I couldn't seem to get warm, inside or out. But then I would catch a whiff of that smell and Boom! Starting to get warm in here just thinking out about those days . . .

Of course, it could also just be a southern thing . . .

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Behind The Curtain

This story is from the illusionist Jim Munroe as published by the BGEA. 
"I’m a psychological illusionist. I spend hours thinking up ways to make people think something is happening when it really isn’t. So over time, I’ve developed a bit of skepticism about how things work.
When you’re a magician, you realize that most of what’s going on behind the scenes is fake. One famous magician said, “To become an illusionist is to give up wonder.”
To many, the idea of an all-powerful God seems silly, and as a teenager, when I would talk to people who would go to church, I remember thinking that they were just falling for a simple magic trick. They wanted it to be true because it gave them peace; it was a crutch for them.
When I went to college, I began to think about all of the different philosophies and ways that people believe, and I decided that I was going to answer “the God question” once and for all for myself. I majored in psychology, so I studied the brain and the mind. And I took religious studies courses from people who didn’t necessarily believe in God."
Click here to read the rest of the story . . . 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

God Gave Them Over . . .

Moral nihilism, also known as ethical nihilism, is the meta-ethical view that morality does not exist as something inherent to objective reality; therefore no action is necessarily preferable to any other. For example, a moral nihilist would say that killing someone, for whatever reason, is not inherently right or wrong. - Wikipedia definition.

On the 46th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, New York state passed a law to protect women's access to abortion if the historic case is overturned. People in the chamber cheered, and national media rejoiced in this cultural victory that will ensure death over life in the name of self-freedom.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Ernie and Bernie Show

In 1975 the Tennessee men's basketball team finally crashed the party. What made this team so exciting was the length of time since their last visit. Tennessee's last conference tournament championship in basketball was in 1949. Their last appearance in the NCAA tournament had been over nine years ago so the fans and program were hungry. They had a respected coach, Ray Mears, but the terms national basketball powerhouse and Tennessee still rarely found its way in the same sentence.

Then came 1974. Coach Mears had an assistant on his staff named, Stu Aberdeen. Stu recruited Ernie Grunfeld, (who lived in New York City) to play for Tennessee with the promise that he would institute a running offense and that Ernie would have the green light to shoot at will. This was an huge concession to the new recruit but Coach Mears was tired of losing. If it meant he needed to create a caste system for his basketball team, than a caste system it was. But Stu wasn't finished recruiting the New York area, and the following year he recruited Bernie King to play for the Tennessee Vols. The Ernie and Bernie show was born.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Lonely Post

One of my favorite places to linger when I was growing up was this beautiful spot atop Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN. (See accompanying picture) It didn't take a lot of imagination to visualize the Union army below, surrounded on all sides, their supplies diminishing daily, morale fading quickly and the Confederates standing guard from above, entrenched on the mountains surrounding Chattanooga.

The Confederate forces, had their armies camped on Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain and Missionary Ridge. Artillery was placed in strategic positions to render a direct attack and this status quo remained for around six weeks. Passivity was not the friend of the Confederates and they were about to pay the price for their in-activity. On the sixth week, President Lincoln ordered General Grant to Chattanooga and to use whatever means necessary to open up the blocked supply lines and break the rebel siege.