SEPT 27, 2017 Devotional: “The choices we face and the choices we make…”

We had a great run this morning, albeit only three of us.  And afterwards, I told the group I didn’t really have a prepared devotional this week.  But I did share with them my thoughts on what’s tearing apart our country right now….this national anthem controversy.

Like many of you, I can’t breathe lately without getting bombarded by someone’s thoughts on the matter.  I think my Facebook feed has just as many opinions on the matter as there are constellations in the sky.  While I remain as open minded as possible, just when I think I’m getting swayed to one side of the issue, then I read or hear another angle and I’m immediately back to an “undecided” status.

I have been mostly moved, however, by the story surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers football player, Alejandro Villaneuva.  If you asked me this past Sunday, I would have surmised that Villaneuva went out on his own to stand at the end of the tunnel leading into the stadium, stood firmly at attention, and paid respects during the playing of the national anthem, while the rest of his teammates, under “orders” from the head coach, Mike Tomlin, remained inside the locker room.  The team had decided during a meeting the night before that they would be unified in remaining away from the fray of some players kneeling and other players standing.

But yet, there was Villaneauva, a graduate of West Point, former Army Ranger Captain, who earned a Bronze Star while deployed three times to Afghanistan, appearing to go against “orders” and doing what he felt was right….doing what he was trained to do from the military academy and from his service to our armed forces.

As one might imagine, the media took the images and story and ran with it.  Some news outlets made Villaneuva out to be a hero, a patriot, and someone who put his country above football.  Some of that might actually be true.  I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know.  I listened to Villaneuva’s press conference on Tuesday and I saw this giant of a man, humbled by his actions and what he felt was a great team plan that was butchered in its execution.  There were no excuses during the press conference.  The football player simply and humbly took sole responsibility for the situation.

Villaneuva explained how he was 100% behind his team, behind the coach.  How he had asked Ben Roethlisberger if he could just peer out far enough into the tunnel so he could see the flag.

Just far enough.

But far enough turned out to be too far.

Villaneuva was taken over by emotions, I suspect.  And when pressed to make a quick decision, he did just that….he made a decision, standing at attention, hand over his heart, paying respect as he had done some many time wearing the uniform as a cadet, the uniform as an Army officer, and the uniform as a National Football Player.

I can only imagine how he was feeling before his actions, during, and in the 48 hours that had passed before Tuesday’s press conference.

Is there anything more ironic to the situation then knowing the name of the stadium where all this took place is….Soldier Field in Chicago.

In the press conference, Villanueva said the following:

“So we as a team tried to figure it out, obviously butchered it, but I have learned that I don’t know what it’s like to be from Dade County, I don’t know what it’s like to be from Lakeland, I can’t tell you that I know what my teammates have gone through. So I’m not going to pretend that I have the righteous sort of voice to tell you that you should stand up for the national anthem. It is protected by our constitution, and by our country, it’s a freedom of speech. People felt that based on the comments the president made that they had to go out and support Colin Kaepernick, and that’s completely their right. But it’s not something we’re trying to do with the Steelers, we’re trying to be unified, and unfortunately I made the team look sort of all over the place and not unified. It was a very unfortunate sort of 48 hours for me.”

We’re in a mess right now and not just with this simple story of a football player.

Over the weekend, I had memories of standing on a parade field at West Point, on a crisp fall morning.  There we were, all dressed up like toy soldiers, bringing our rifles to the “salute” position….while the national anthem played.  And at the end of the final portion of the cadet review, were always the words….”Go Army….Beat Navy!”

The crowds gathered (who we affectionately called the “GAP”…”great American public”)…always loved the outburst against West Point’s arch-rival, the Naval Academy.

I am forever grateful for the quality education I received, the lessons I learned, and the moral compass I developed….all on our taxpayers’ dime.

The flag and respect for it mean a ton to me.  Just ask my wife or my kids.  They know.  And more than most, I’ve earned the right to be upset about any disrespect to the those same ideals that I hold so sacred…Duty, Honor, Country, the motto of West Point.

But here’s the other side of those feelings.  I know that my love of the flag and my love of this country also means I am tolerant of those who are allowed to display many things that I am ultimately opposed to saying and doing.  Does that make me wrong for tolerance or make others wrong for disobedience?

I’m stuck in the middle, as I mentioned earlier.

I am comforted in knowing that God is in the middle of all this with me.  And with you.  And with this country.  And yes, He’s even there with our leaders who might be stirring the pot with divisive language.

There are so many other things I’d like to be worried about.  This is far down on that list.

We need prayer.  And I don’t just mean that as a cliche’ saying in a weekly devotional.

The world depends on it.

You depend on it.

And I do too.


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SEPT 27, 2017 WAWA: “Reverse River Otter Run”

Taking a great run we did back in July, and doing it in reverse!  Total distance is about 4.6 miles.

One mile of the route will take us along the Briar Creek Greenway behind Myers Park High School, where I’m told otters like to swim, but I’ve never seen any!

Specific details on this week’s route is at this link.

Here’s the highlights:

  • Three primary “climbs” along the route:
    • Climb 1:  0.8 mile mark – 1.6 mile mark.  52 feet of climbing
    • Climb 2:  2.2 mile mark – 2.9 mile mark.  60 feet of climbing
    • Climb 3:  3.1 mile mark – 3.7 mile mark.  63 feet of climbing
  • A couple downhills along the way to catch your breath!
  • Easy pace planned!

No rain in the forecast for Wednesday morning.  Temps will be in the lower 70’s.

Meet outside the Cornwell Center ready to go at 5:45 am!



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SEP 20, 2017 Devotional: “Will You Be Ready?”

I have probably taken at least a hundred or so classes for CPR, first aid, etc. over the past several years if you consider my time in the military, group exercise instructing, and other various roles along the way.  And sometimes, the procedures for certain triage have changed over the years.  Take CPR, for example, where I can recall four or five different methods for administering breathing to someone who’s unconscious!

With all those types of changes, I’ve often wondered, “If I’m ever in the situation for immediate care, would I recall how to respond?”.

Since moving my office from the South Park area of Charlotte, to the Uptown area a few weeks ago, I’ve seen my share of the flurry of activity in the city’s thriving, major business network.  Last week, I talked about the sidewalk preacher who I often see while walking the three blocks from the bank building to the parking deck.  There’s always something to see on those walks…but this week, I found myself in the middle of something completely unexpected.

I was working a little bit later than usual on Monday and by the time I walked out of the bank building, the streets were definitely full of cars and people heading home for the day.  I was in a little bit of a hurry since I had a 6 pm obligation, and was trying to catch as many of the crosswalks with the pedestrian “go” signals lite up as possible, even if it meant going a slightly different route than usual to get to the parking deck.  I made it through two crosswalks without delay, but the third one was lite up “red”….no walking yet.

There were several others at both sides of the busy intersection and I watched as the red flashing numbers opposite from me counted down from 5, 4, 3, 2, and then 1.  Whew…finally I could cross.

Then, I heard a crashing sound from just to my right; a new sound I had not heard since moving to Uptown.  As I spun around to see what was causing the noise, I saw a commuter cyclist smashed into a car who’s driver had obviously not see him at all.  Imagine the horror as I watched the cyclist upended, doing two somersaults before coming crashing down to the hot asphalt on the other side of my crosswalk.

Instinctively, I ran across the street, threw off my computer bag, and dove to the ground where the cyclist was lying in pain.  Another pedestrian, likewise rushed to the man’s aid and immediately called 911 for help.  I quickly reached into my bag and grabbed a pad of paper and a pen.  As I looked over the man for injuries, his knee was very badly damaged, a chunk of flesh ripped away several inches deep, as was a smaller wound near his ankle.

“What’s your name”, I asked.

“You’re gonna be okay.”

“Tell me what hurts.”

“Do you have any allergies?”

“What’s your blood type.”

I was scribbling down everything the man was saying to me.

Another by-stander came over and said, “I have the license plate of the car that hit him.”

“Thanks”, I replied and wrote down the number since the driver was not immediately at the scene of the accident.

Within minutes, a half-dozen police officers were at the intersection, as was a team of paramedics and ambulance.  Everything happened so quickly and in a strange way, seemed very orchestrated.

The first police officer came over to me as I was still sitting next to the cyclist on the street and said, “What do you know?”

“Here, officer.  I have some information that might be helpful.”  And then I went through a quick litany of injuries based on my rudimentary sidewalk triage.  The officer asked if he could have the piece of paper from my notebook, which I tore out and handed off.

And then as the cyclist was loaded onto a stretcher for transport to the hospital, I faded away from the scene and continued my walk to the parking deck.

And, within moments, the whole event seemed surreal.  “Did that really just happen”, I was asking myself.

I wonder how many of us have those similar “God wink” moments throughout our lives, and even throughout our days?  Hundreds of classes, yet I was hardly ever put into a situation to “act” until this week.

Or, maybe there were other moments and I just wasn’t paying attention?

I believe God is constantly preparing us for times where we will be called into action.  Maybe not quite as dramatic as rendering first aid to another injured individual.  But still, He is preparing you and he’s preparing me.

We may never know when God will call us, but rest assured, He will call.  How will you respond?  Will you be ready and will you act?  Or will you stand by and be a witness?

My prayer this week is that we will not simply stand by.  There are events happening all around us where God has been preparing us to step in.  Let’s all open our eyes to the world around us that needs our help.  Conduct some inventory of what God has been preparing you to do, what talents He has provided you, and discover where you can serve your community and fellow human beings.

It’s God’s creation, but we’re charged to take care.


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SEP 20, 2017 WAWA: Rest Day!

We haven’t had a WAWA rest day in several weeks so I’m calling one in for this week.  A few of our runners are on the mend, including me, so it’s a good reminder to incorporate “rest” into our fitness regimen.

I’ll publish a weekly devotional, per normal, on Wednesday morning.  This week’s message is about responding to what God has prepared you to do.  At a moment’s notice, how will you respond?  Sharing a true story that happened to me just this week!

So, kick your feet up and enjoy the rest day……!  You earned it!


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SEP 13, 2017 Devotional: “Jesus saves……….he bellowed out to me..”

I get asked a lot, “How do you come up with the content for the stuff you write about each week?”  Truth be told….I don’t have any ground-breaking secrets to the stories.  They’re just stories….and maybe I’m a decent story-teller.  According to my sister-in-law, I am….and that’s good enough for me!  The whole world is a story waiting to be told, I think.  You just gotta open your eyes to what’s going on around you.

This past week, Charlotte was bracing for the remnants of Hurricane Irma.  Monday was forecasted to be the worse of the storm, with rain and high winds.  I packed an umbrella for my 3 block walk between the parking deck and my office, thinking I might get wet otherwise.  But it was so windy that it really made no sense to use the umbrella, else I’d end up like Mary Poppins, or maybe one of those wicked witches from the Wizard of Oz.  I just kinda put my head down, and walked briskly to the bank building, dodging rain drops as best as possible.

Later in the day, the weather had gotten steadily worse.  Winds had picked up.  But oddly enough the rain wasn’t falling as much, it seemed.  When I stepped outside to make the reverse trek back to the parking deck, still keeping my umbrella packed up, I noticed the rain was actually being blown around by the gusts so much that it hardly seemed like it was raining.  But it clearly was and it was also very clearly, very windy.

I made my way down one of the side streets that stretched between two taller buildings.  On a normal day, the traffic would dampen out any echoing noises that bounced between the two buildings.  But not this day.  Not sure if it was the rain, or the wind….but I could hear him as clear as day.  I’d heard him before, but this day, his voice was really echoing.

“Jeeeeeeessssus…Saves….!”…he bellowed.

“Jeeeesus saves!”

I’ve seen this sidewalk preacher many times and inevitably I would either walk on the opposite side of the street or would simply not make any eye-contact with him.  On this rainy day, he was wearing a raincoat of sorts, a clear plastic bag that he had poked arm holes out the sides, perhaps so any one could still see the heavy, worn, black leather Bible tucked beneath his arms, keeping it dry from the elements.

This day, I was drawn to him and I can’t explain why.  As I got closer, I stared at him, hoping he’d make eye contact with me.  He didn’t notice me as I drew closer.  He just continued those bellowing sounds.  No one was paying him any mind.  Everyone just wanted to get home.  Wanted to get out of the rain.

I was nearly next to him when he turned and looked me squarely in the eyes.  Suddenly, his voice became soft.  And while the rain and wind became the main noises, this man looked at me and said, “I hope you’re enjoying God’s rainy goodness…!”

“Amen, brother, ” I said to him.  “Amen!”

For a brief moment, I wanted to stop.  I wanted to get a little taste of whatever he was taking because obviously it was making him so positive.  I wanted to stand there and pick up whatever it was he was putting down.

But I didn’t.

I just said my two “amens”…and quickly crossed the street for the last two blocks of my walk.  As I cut across one of the parking lots, I could still hear him in the distance.

And for a few minutes, I felt ashamed.

Have you ever had a similar situation?

Suppose I had stopped and stood beside him and joined in his triumph news?  What if one of my co-workers was to pass by or, supposed one of my bosses at the bank?  Then what?

You know who else gets me feeling like I want to pick up whatever they’re putting down?  Millie Snyder, one of the pastors from my church.

And she probably doesn’t even realize it but I was hung on a short sermon she was sharing with a gathering of deacons this week as well.  As I sat in the front row of the smaller chapel at the church, Millie shared a commercial made by Heineken, of all things.  (Click this LINK to watch the video for yourself.)

I loved it.

The commercial is called “Worlds Apart….” and features three pairs of individuals who have very polarized opinions on issues.

But at the end of the day, and as Millie explained, what makes them get along is that there’s a third element to each encounter.  A project.  A challenge.  An emotion.  Or, perhaps, even a beer.

Whatever the reason, I was eventually taken back to the man on the street from earlier in the day.  The same day.  Coincidence?  Not likely.

We’re always trying to get things into one category or another.  Make the square pegs fit into the square holes; and the round pegs into the round ones.

But in reality, things aren’t always that simple, right?  Things aren’t always black and white, as one person in the video states.

I still have struggles with some of the things that are polarized in our country and in our world.  But maybe if I look for that “third” element in my differences, then perhaps I can also find common ground.

Things are better when taken as threes, maybe.

Father….Son….Holy Spirit?

God had it right all along.

The world could use a little more tolerance with one another.  Won’t you pray with me that we can all look for common ground?  Maybe if it starts with us, then our leaders might do the same.

And a cold beer every now and then won’t hurt either.


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