Posts Tagged ‘John Gouldener’

Spinning It

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Louise Brown walks down King Street during a Black Lives Matter march, Saturday, June 20, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. The event honored the Emanuel AME Church shooting victims. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

I hope you are not as tired of the marathon 2015 -16 presidential campaign as me. Just when I think it can’t get any worse it does.  How many times in one hour can the talking heads repeat the same thought or can Anderson Cooper and Sean Hannity analyze again what they’ve already vastly over analyzed? How  did we survive all those years without the seemingly infinite lineup of  experts on CNN, Fox News and the other cable news networks telling us what to think or what may or may not happen next?  How in the world did our parents and grandparents make up their minds on which candidates would get their votes? Enough of my cynicism! Indulge me as I shift gears to share something significant that I have noticed about this run for the White House.  Completely missed by the talking heads is that apparently all the candidates are believing the Bible when it says, “…all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Apparently, “all things” includes getting beat like a drum.

How else can we explain the fact that when all the other wanta bees dropped out they stood before their supporters with beaming smiles and sparkling, bleached-white teeth claiming that everything is still wonderful. In all my years watching sports, I have never seen losing coaches put a positive spin of coming in second. But political candidates do it all the time. It is just one more lie. Perhaps there is a clue for the rest of us in all this political hoop la.  Defeat is seldom as bad as it seems, is not final as long as you are still breathing and is only as bad as you allow it to make you feel. Take away: Next time things don’t go your way, spin it like a candidate.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Faulty Image

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

faulty-cause-effect-propaganda_454f953115eacc50A while back, I got a call from a man who was bent out of shape because he had just been stopped on the freeway and awarded not one, but two tickets — one for speeding and one for not having his correct address on his license — total fine $278! He could not understand it because he was just speeding a “little bit” and the ticket for the address deal was just because the “Trooper was unfair and was just waiting to catch him”.  Been there; done that.

If we are really honest about how we view God, sometimes our notion of Him is that of a spiritual cop hiding behind a bush, radar gun in hand, just waiting for us to screw up so he can sock it to us. Unfortunately, because of that viewpoint many of us tend to distance ourselves from Him.  It is faulty image of God, but it is an image that I carried with me for the first 39 years of my life. That idea drove me away from Him for 20+ years. The false portrait was painted by the church of my childhood.  Shame on the people who perpetrated that image then and now; it is a lie of the worse kind! It is the same one that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were peddling and the Neo-Pharisees continue to spread. The truth is that the big “G” in God does not stand for “Got you” it stands for “Grace”

1 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives,2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his  finger.7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11 (NLT)

Why would any thinking person believe that the God, who loved you enough to die for you, would have any use for a ticket book?

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again


Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

6a00d8341c652b53ef01b7c7610e21970b-800wiFriday past Timothy Batts, the dad who shot and killed his little girl by mistake a few weeks ago, who was out on bail which was raised by many supporters, failed a drug test. Part of his bail agreement was that he would not use drugs. Now he has let many people down and is heading back behind bars. On the pain of regret!

A few Sundays back after church I visited a man in ICU at St. Thomas West who was in critical condition and not expected to live. I am not sure he knew I was there. I then attended a visitation for a dear friend’s brother. As I drove home I thought about the two men. I wondered what were their chief regrets in life? I thought about mine. I have a few, but thankfully not many.

What are your chief regrets? Do not most of them kindle feelings of shame, embarrassment, grief, anger, remorse or hurt? Those are the primary emotions that are debilitating to a healthy life. We have all screwed up. Regrets are inevitable, but unfortunately many people choose to live in self-constructed prisons of regret. If you want a life without regret, perhaps you need to do things differently. Talk them out and let them go!

Several years ago we built our first church facility. Whenever I would go to the jobsite there were two places I could park. One was an area right up close where most of the workers parked. It was mostly dirt, mud and at least two nails. Then there was another spot farther away that was mostly gravel and no nails. It took me awhile, but after a couple of flats, I finally figured out that I was better off if I parked in the other spot and walked a little bit. That is a metaphor for how life often works out. If you want to keep sticking nails in your life, keep doing what you have been doing. If you don’t, start doing things differently. I have found that it works!

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

It Ain’t Right

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

poop-babyfaceFor the most part, I keep my personal opinions under control. Believe me this presidential race has put my control to the test. So far so good. After witnessing what I consider a ghastly misuse of perhaps the most overused adjective in the history of the world, I am speaking up. This morning at McDonald’s I overheard a conversation from the next booth. In a nutshell here is what took place: A young couple and their very cute baby boy, that I would guess to be about six months, were eating breakfast. Suddenly, I heard the guy say, to his wife that he thought the baby had “done a job in his diaper”. Mom took a whiff and off to the changing station she and baby disappeared. When she and junior returned, she laughingly said, “Justin that was the most amazing load I have ever seen”. Folks that was the final straw! I am taking my stand. What could possibly be amazing about a diaper full of crap? “Amazing” used to mean “so extraordinary or wonderful as to be barely believable”. It was a word seldom used, because few, if any, mundane things are in fact amazing. Now, it is used to describe everything from a bottle of beer to a diaper full of mess. That ain’t right!

It seems to me that we have taken a word that used to pack quite a punch and turned it into nothing more than a meaningless and misused adjective for the non-amazing. There are some truly amazing things: God is amazing in all of His attributes. Occasionally, sunsets are amazing. Unconditional love is always amazing. A few people are amazing, but a mess in a diaper is not even close! The bottom line is that few things are truly amazing and that is the very reason that they are.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Doesn’t Seem Right

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

bullet_hole_PNG6063With all the horrible shootings of all stripes recently I though back to the day a few years back when out of the blue I was nearly shot. Cathy and I were driving in a very upscale area of Williamson County, Tennessee admiring the gorgeous homes and rolls of golden hay scatted like precious jewels about the lush, green pastures off Del Rio Pike. Suddenly, the tranquility of the moment was shattered when something hit the passenger side door, where I was sitting, with such force that I reflexively shouted, “That felt like a bullet”.  Since we were on our way to eat dinner, naturally we kept driving. Actually we did not really believe that it was a bullet, but probably a rock striking the side of the car.  By the time we made it to the restaurant, we had other priorities and forgot to check it out.  A few days later, as I was walking to the car, I was shocked to discover a bullet “hole” in the door about 18 inches below where my head had been stationed that evening. When I saw it a shiver went down my spine and I was flooded with numerous notions.

There may be some folks who want to shoot me, but that was not the case this time. The theory is that it was a stray 22 caliber bullet fired from a great distance or possibly a ricochet because it did not completely penetrate the door. From the impact point, the lay of the land and the fact that nobody had a clue we would be driving that road, it was apparent that it was not an “attempted hit”. Yet, having said that, judging from the sound of the impact and the damage to the door, there is no doubt that I would have been seriously injured or perhaps killed had the projectile struck my head.

Later, as I reflected on the incident, I had many thoughts. Here are a couple of them: First, never assume that you will get where you are going. Life hangs by a thread in the best of circumstances.  Second, had I been killed it would have been the lead story on all the local news.  Yet, when someone is shot dead in the “hood” it hardly merits a mention. Since I believe that God loves, values and grieves for us all, that doesn’t  seem right.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Nothing Much Left

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

tornado-damage-wisconsin-110414-02My grandson Hudson and I were boxing up some old books and I came across “The Winners Manual (For The Game of Life)” written by former Ohio State Football Coach Jim Tressel.  After I had read it several years back, I was so impressed by Coach Tressel’s book that I gave several copies to family and friends. If you keep up with college football you know he was fired a few years after the book was published. Bottom line is that Jim Tressel got caught lying to the NCCA and it cost him his job — sad ending to an incredible career.

I reflected on some of the lies I have told in my life. Like Tressel’s lies, nearly all of mine were told to cover my rear end too. Like the time at the University of Tennessee, when a RA happened to walk by my room and saw a can of PBR (beer) on my desk. When he later confronted me, I willfully chose to lie. I got away with it, but I have never forgotten it. I avoided him for the remained of my junior year. He knew I was lying, but could not prove it. At the time, I thought I was really cool. Interestingly, I do not feel that way as I type.

Here is what I’ve learned about lying. Folks can often get away with lying even when they lie compulsively — for a while. Yet, in this media age when leaders lie they seldom get away with it, because they usually have to keep lying to cover the original lie. This seems to happen with time table regularity with preachers, politicians and  coaches. Somewhere along the way, the wires seem to always get crossed up and often lead to the leader’s disgraceful downfall. Coach Tressel  lost one of the best jobs in football not because he broke the rules, but because of the lie he told to cover up. He is not the first coach to be proved a liar.

Closer to home we have essentially the same situation that cost Bruce Pearl his job at the University of Tennessee. The score will always be settled sooner or later. In life we all make mistakes, but ounce for ounce lies may be the most personally damaging. When you lose your honesty there is not much left is there?

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Shake It Off

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

donkeydownloadDuring a hospital visit my critically ill friend told me this story about a donkey: One day an old and feeble donkey fell into a dry well. Fortunately, he landed feet first with no broken bones. The farmer looked and looked and finally heard a faint sound off about 100 yards to the east. Walking toward the sound, it got louder and louder as he followed it to the abandoned well. Sure enough he looked in and at the very bottom was the old donkey staring up with a look of pure hopelessness.  Well, the farmer did not think there was any way he could ever pull him out and if he could it would probably kill the old donkey, since he was so old and weak. Besides that, the truth was, he was not good for much of anything. So he decided that he would just throw dirt down into the well and bury him alive. He did not know what else to do. He called for a few neighbors; then he said a prayer and they all began to shovel dirt into the well. As each shovelful hit the donkey’s back, the old fellow shook his back real hard and fast, kind of like he had a bad chill, so that the dirt fell off around his feet.

The men kept shoveling. About an hour later, the strangest thing happened. As the farmer was about to throw a shovelful of dirt into the well, he noticed the old mule’s head poke up out of the hole. Each time the dirt had landed on the old donkey, he shook it off and stepped up on the new dirt until he had worked his way to the top of the well. The donkey story teaches us all a great lesson about handling life – shake it off and always keep stepping up!

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

The Box

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Carton_Box_2A while back while on retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, KY. (  Outside the window there was a small cardboard box. A few days earlier while I was sitting in the garden, I noticed the box tucked inconspicuously in the shade of an old wooden bench. When I checked it out, I discovered that it is the temporary home to an injured Robin. Several times a day a young man, that is a giant of a guy, about 6’6” and chiseled like a granite rock, goes out and tends to the bird. He gently cradles it in his massive hands as he lifts it to eat from a feeder suspended from a majestic oak tree.  Then he opens his hands to give the bird a chance to fly. In the evening, just before dark, the man takes the box and the bird to the safety of his room for the night.  Each day I see the man run several miles in sweltering 95 degree heat. I suspect that he may be a former college basketball player.

Whenever I come here there are around 40 other visitors of every size, shape and description.  Since our retreats are supposed to be spent in silence, I seldom learn anything about the others. Past my observations I know nothing about the “bird man” except that, despite his massive size, he apparently has a gentle spirit. Again, God gave me another much needed reminder to not base my opinions on people’s exteriors. Based strictly on appearance, he is the very last person that I would have thought would be the foster father of a bird.

There is another man here who is wearing a gigantic wooden cross hanging from an over-sized neck chain. Everywhere he goes he carries a large Bible and a stack of religious books. He also seems to have a difficult time keeping his mouth shut. Again, based on appearance, he is the last person that I would expect to be breaking the rules.  I wonder what folks are seeing in me?

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again   My struggle with porn, other stuff and a God Who is Good!

A Matter of Time

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

635926994092832926-AP-People-OJ-Simpson.1When I was a little boy, I stole a plum from H. G Hills at 20th and Charlotte. Now  over sixty years later whenever I pass the plum department at Publix, I recall that heist.  As far as I can remember, the plum caper was my first “official” sin; there have been many more since that day.  Most of them I prefer not to write about.

God is pretty up-front about what he blesses and what He doesn’t.  From one end of the Bible to the other, it is as obvious as dirt that He never blesses behavior that is contrary to his will.  He never has and never will, because He can’t. It is against his nature.  If a person lies, cheats and steals to get to the top, but does lots of good stuff in the process and prays every day for God to bless him, I’m betting that the blessing will never come.   Sooner or later, the chickens will come home to roost.  It is just a matter of time.

I watched ESPN’s five-part series about O. J. Simpson. I was amazed at how a guy who looked so good was actually so very bad. I believe that he got away with a double murder. But he did not get away with a two-bit incident in Las Vegas. Instead of a slap on the hands he got 33 years. In life often it is just a matter of time.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again


Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

distracted-parents_wide-5694743d781df652a2c5811e7c46e94211e0ab5f-s900-c85I am having lunch at the City Limits in Bellevue. Across from me, there is a couple with a little girl about five; they are waiting for their order number to be called. The girl has been looking around and now she is getting in and out of her chair. Her mom and dad are both zoned into their Smart Phones.  Occasionally, one will show the other something on their screen and they will laugh and  resume their separate “Smarting”. The entire time, they have ignored their beautiful daughter, who is now touching mom’s right arm. I think she is doing that trying to get mom’s attention away from her phone. The little girl looks sad and left out as her parents continue to be enmeshed with their screens.

Full disclosure requires me to tell you that I have been guilty of the same thing. If you spot it you’ve got it, I guess. There is no question but that one of the greatest causes of social ills in this country is the lack of personal communication. Until recently one of the few places folks actually talked to each other was when eating together. With the near universal preponderance of digital communication devices, that bastion is now gone.

Several years ago, my former church split. I wrote a book about why that happened (see link below). There was no single cause or simple answers. However, I’ve come to believe as I worked on the book that a contributing factor  was that my co-pastor, who was also my best friend, and I resorted more and more on digital communication over personal communication. Today 88.5 percent of Americans have cell phones. Because of that fact many of us have sentenced ourselves and those we love to a life of isolation.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again