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Modern air travel has changed over the last thirty years of my professional career.  The sound system for the passenger’s listening pleasure have improved immensely.  I like so many, however, use our own I-pods with superior stereophonic sounds. 

Rising fuel costs and security measures have been a major distraction for air carriers.  While they try and make flying more enjoyable these two external factors make this means of transportation more inconvenient.  They are real problems, as real as a very bad employee who is righteous in her own eyes. 

The security line was jammed through all of the switchbacks.  Hundreds of people were moving slowly.  Inside I groaned. 

But, one of the agents told us that we could go to the other end of the airport, pass through security there, walk around the terminal and get to our gates.  It was a little bit of a walk but it might be better than standing in line.  That’s all some of us needed and we were off to the other end of the airport.

I finally reached the security checkpoint.  The information that the guard gave us was correct.  There were only six people in front of me.  We breezed through the security.

Sure, I had to undress and redress after the machines scanned my glorious body for anything that was sharp, explosive or dangerous.  But, now I was on the inside of the terminal.  The longest line was now behind me.

Swiftly, fellow flyers and I walked through the passage way to the other terminal.  The walk was long but we passed the security area that we originally meet the massive numbers of travellers.  It was still jammed.

Now, I was at my gate.  There were no seats open for waiting passengers.  I stood, read and eventually found an empty seat.  There I collapsed only to wait for an hour and a half for my delayed plane to welcome us aboard.

I’m so glad that I got through security so quickly.  Now, I could wait in an uncomfortable chair and sleep restlessly until my number was called to board our turbo prop plane.  I fly enough that I am privileged to board early. 

Airport travel is one wait after the other.  The trick is to hurry up with privileged access to wait for everyone else who is going to the same place.  Is “airport” Latin for “waiting”?

photo credit: google image

A decade ago I felt what every American felt.  We were in shock that our beloved nation was attacked.  Terrorists had slipped into our country of goodwill and murdered 3,000 innocent lives.

There was no open challenge.  This was not a war that was declared.  There was no honor in the actions of the evil cowards who chose a wicked road with their lives.

As a nation we immediately turned our hearts toward God.  We set aside our differences and joined in prayer and sang “God bless America” with a national resolve that I have never experience in my lifetime.  Our fellow citizens chose to rescue, comfort and resolutely respond.

Prayer meetings were springing up around the nation.  We prayed for the families of the victims.  Together we cast our care upon God and asked for success against our enemies.

Our President led our country to unleash her resources with an appropriate response.  He also stood with first responder heroes who rescued all that they could and with families who had to bury loved ones.  Faith was very much a part of our nation’s response to the 9/11 travesty.

While 3,000 perished, 6,000 escaped the twin towers that became piles of rubble.  Their lives pointed to the unity of those who fled the twin towers.  Today they treasure their lives as a gift from God.

But, in the city where the tragic event of the twin towers falling occurred, the powers that be have made a horrific decision.  They have banned the clergy from the service on 9.11.11.  Although the nation responded powerfully with a spiritual reaction toward God, those in control have decided to only let political figure speak.

Prayer will not be permitted.  Those who can bring God’s Word to a nation in need of refreshing its spiritual resolve are being kept silent.  Praying for the families of victims will be skipped.

It is too difficult for the politicians to decide which clergy to invite so they have concluded not to do anything.  It makes us all wonder how they decided which political figures should be chosen to speak.  Perhaps avoiding God matches the speakers who have no spiritual commitment.

But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  On the tenth anniversary of this national trial, I will change our normally scheduled sermon to speak what God has to say about facing tragedy.  I have resolved to do so.

photo credit: google image

My vocational transition has taken me from one challenge after the next.  One of the most disheartening ones was the need to sell our Michgian house.  God was taking us to the Left Coast, that required us to unload our house in the mitten state.

With little time and limited financial resources I interviewed a few Real Estate agents.  One of the agents came with a very impressive visual presentation.  He had a number of recently sold homes, homes that are currently on the market, and he had pictures, data, and comparisons to introduce me to the current market struggle. 

This introduction into the real estate market was a reality that was even worse than my annual medical physical exam.  There are no easy ways to see all of your financial investments from that last thirty years evaporate in less than an hour’s time.  It was all bad news.

We have all heard of sticker shock when we are in the market to buy a new automobile.  This is just the opposite of that kind of experience.  Here it is not just a matter of not being able to purchase a house.  This is a scary moment when we sell our house but have to pay extra to unload it.  There is no profit in the current depressed market.

My story is sad enough.  But, after talking to several agents the stories in just our neighborhood are even more disastrous.  Several of my neighbors had ended up in an upside down financial mode, realized that their homes were worth far less than what they owed.  For them it forced them to simply walk away from the homes of many family memories.

My wife and I have cheered each other on through this difficult challenge in our lives.  We are packing, discarding, setting aside items to give away, and piling up stuff that we can’t quite yet decide what to do.  Many are facing this difficult struggle.

The great bottom of our world housing market has fallen.  Greedy people, bad people and evil people took advantage of good people for their own selfish gain.  But, while the timing was bad, it was a decision that needed to be done.

It was a choice between sickness and death.  The only other choice instead of a short sale was foreclosure.  For us that agonizing sale was painful, but it could have been a lot worse. 

photo credit: brucefong photography

Isn’t the term “taxes” actually Greek for procrastination?  If it isn’t then maybe we can influence the Webster Dictionary to adjust its etymology of the term to match its predominant use.  “Yeah, yeah,” is my normal excuse to sitting down and getting the paper work done for this annual necessity.

This year I’m in the middle of moving.  That alone will take up a vast majority of time and energy that could be channeled to doing my taxes.  Few excuses… uh…er…reasons could be so legitimate.

It’s hard not to feel unenthused about taxes.  Generations of politicians have muddied up the waters of the national taxation plan.  No private citizen or company function in this arena of life without a great deal of chagrin. 

There are a few humans who like this time of year. Usually, they are the tax preparers with one certification or another.  But, they like numbers, details, laws, regulations and the challenge to represent their clients to the best of their ability.

My occupation doesn’t allow for a simple submission of my tax report.  On one hand, I’m self-employed.  That is both a blessing and a curse, when it comes to taxes. 

The blessing is that I am allowed to itemize my deductions and reduce my final sum of income that is subjected to Uncle Sam’s tax code.  This means that the less I make then the less can be taxed.  Ultimately, the feds recognize that to be self-employed requires a substantial amount of money to do the work that I do.

But, there is a curse too.  I have to prove each deduction with a receipt or proof of expense.  That means that I have to save all of my receipts.  No one can keep track of all those slips of paper.

After over thirty years of my kind of work, I can usually come up with 75% of the proof of expenses.  Som where along the way I lose a good number of receipts.  Usually, I lose the big receipts but somehow manage to keep all of the little ones.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am a patriot and want to do my part.  Loving the good ol’ USA flows in my veins. 

But, part of being American is individual right to pursue happiness.  What could be happier than getting as much of our taxes back for our own use?  God bless America!

photo credit: google image

Today I grabbed my chauffeur hat.  Yvonne has a tutoring job and meets up with her student at a local public library. This is an American perk for taxpayers. 

We planned our route, left on time, made our first errand stop and then returned home for a forgotten item.  My job is to drive wherever my lovely wife needs to go.  Spontaneous detours are part of the agenda.

With all of her necessary pedagogical tools packed in two large bags, we slowly made our way through the myriad of stops signs that flood our neighborhood.  If you’re ever in a hurry to get around in this neighborhood, you’re sunk. 

The treat is weaving our way through Golden Gate Park.  It’s always full of people on a beautiful mid 60’s day with mostly sunny skies.  Of course I study the faces of  the park aficionados. Most don’t look like pastor types who traditionally have Mondays off.   I wonder what they do for work?

Then, we break free of the slow going and pick up speed down Sunset Blvd.  Three lanes of 35 mph traffic and we watch the miles swiftly pass by.  Soon we turn east on Taravel and find the school where Yvonne meets her student. 

They connect and that sweet little face smiles and waves at me too.  Together the three of us walk down the street and step into a local branch of the San Francisco Public Library.  It is busy here.

Book shelves are eight feet tall and fill up the T-shaped cavernous building.  Old style architecture with decorative exposed beams hold up the roof twenty feet overhead.  Windows that pivot our from horizontal hinges remind me of the old school buildings where I studied as an elementary school kid. 

But books and architecture were not my interest.  I stepped up the information desk and asked where I could hook up to the wireless internet, ask for the password and inquired about the service fee.  To my surprise, the librarian told me with a completely stoic face that the internet was free, there was no password and the signal was wireless so that I could pick it up any where in the building.

Scanning the options, I found a huge table with personalized lighting and a power strip for my adapter.  After booting up I was into the world-wide-web.  My tax dollars were coming back to serve me!

photo credit: google image

The higher you rise in the world of leadership the deeper your life is intertwined with a remarkable organization called a “Board.”  No, this is not a slab of lumber.  It is not a product from a mill.

Some may argue that the buzz saw is common to any board.  But, that is just humor in action. . . maybe.  This kind of board is the gathering of individuals who provide the central governance of an organization.

Challenges with board productivity varies.  For some the board is the greatest expenditure of energy within an organization.  In-fighting and personal agendas consume the agenda. 

There are symptoms that emerge from troubled boards.  Trust is rare when boards suffer from internal strife.  Directors on a board don’t enjoy going to meetings and leave gatherings with regret.  But, when a board is health and functioning effectively, there is nothing greater! 

I invest a great deal of time with our Board.  In our organization the Board is composed of men who hold the office of Elder.  Each one serves for a term of three years.

In our organization these Elders are voluntary.  They do not receive any financial compensation for what they do.  Yes, they do it for free.

Each of our Elders are busy men.  They have full-time employment.  Their lives are occupied with matters that call for their attention, requires their resources and drain their energy.  Yet, out of a heart that desires to give unselfishly they agree to serve on our Board.

Together we help people who are going through difficult times in their lives.  Sometimes we follow a tag team plan to touch the lives of people who are stressed.  We represent the church when we carry out deeds of mercy and love.

But, it is not just fixing problems.  Most of the time we help Christians grow into maturity.  We listen, share, encourage and teach. 

When we build into the lives or our people, it is especially enjoyable.  We love to see the people in our church family thrilled about advancing in their faith.  Each one who moves into the different stages of life is thrilling.

I appreciate these men.  We are growing together as a team.  Our hearts are knitted together as individuals with the Lord that we serve.  Now, we are spending time together and having our hearts knitted together with each other.

We cheer each other on in our service.  There is a loyalty that is forming.  We share a remarkable commodity: trust.

photo credit: google image

Tuesday is Election Day.  Have you planned it into your schedule?  Everyone of us who is eligible to vote should do so.  A lot of blood has been spilled to give us the privilege.

No, I’m not trying to be morbid.  Rather, I am simply pointing out something that should be so obvious that it should not have to be brought up.  Like a rhetorical question that needs no answer because it is obvious, so Election Day should be just as predictable for all free Americans.

Whether it was the fight during one of the World Wars or scouragesa in Viet Nam, Korea or in the Middle East, brave men and women died so that we could live in freedom and peace.  Honor the lives of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and be an active part of this amazing country with your faithful citizenship.

In past years this kind of encouragement would have been enough.  But, as I listen to the unbelievably negative ads, I also am convinced that good citizenship needs thinkers out there.  Emotions need to held in check.  Prejudices and party loyalties cloud good judgment.

The politicians aren’t above negative attacks against their opponents.  Honestly, I don’t know if the campaigns are more dirty this time around when compared to times in the past.  However, the current election season always seems dirtier than in the past. 

When an ad is nothing but critical, judgmental, disrespectful about another human being, albeit, opposition candidate, my antennae start to tingle.  Then, when the originating candidate comes on to approve the ad I laugh.  Approving the criticism about an opponent does NOT automatically make the critic qualified for the job.

So, like so many times in the past, THINK before you vote.  Do a little research.  Then, just like bad friends corrupt good morals, pick your candidates based on the friends that they keep.  While their public general claims would appeal to all, even the slowest slug on the rain riddle ground, so the most out of touch voter can gather a sense of a candidate from the list of endorsers that every candidate must publicly post.

Choose your values.  What is important to you?  What issues mean the most to you?  Make sure that your candidate makes it clear how they will represent legislation once they are in office.  Now, that you have all that straight, go out and cast your vote.  God bless America!

photo credit: yahoo image