Archive for June, 2010

Hotel Do Over

June 30, 2010

Several years ago, my wife and two of our children came along with me on a business trip to Anaheim.

The hotel we stayed at is the same hotel my wife and I are staying in right now.

Unfortunately, on our first trip to this hotel, the air conditioning in the hallways was broken and could not be repaired. 

We also experienced some type of strange tiny insects in our room that they could not figure out how to exterminate.

When I invited my wife to return to Anaheim, she agreed, provided we did not stay in the same dreadful hotel. 

Since the reservations for this conference were exclusive to this hotel, I never said anything to her, just hoping she would not remember.

Miracles do happen; she did not remember and our stay, at what she thinks is a different hotel, could not have been more pleasant.

What really happened is new management.  It trumped her bad memories.  Also a total renovation of the rooms.

When the Lord comes into our lives, we too are under new management.  Our attitudes get a total makeover and we are often unrecognizable to people who know us.

In spite of our past, it is the new creation and reborn Spirit in us that we must release to others around us who need Christ; otherwise we are wasting God’s investment in our rebuilt lives.

Lord, thank you for the new management at this hotel.

And also thank you that pleading the fifth amendment is not a sin.

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The Littlest Heartbreaker

June 29, 2010

Lindsay and the BearCat

As part of my job I get to attend trade shows for the Law Enforcement Community.

I am recently attending the National Sheriff’s Conference in California.

This conference moves around from State to State each year.

Because of the “coolness factor” of the products I sell, it’s very common for kids to want to jump up on the vehicles while the parents snap photos.

Today, a  cute young lady (a future heartbreaker)  who just turned ten last week, was one of those kids.

Except this girl stood out.

On her shirt she had a giant button with a picture of her daddy.

This young lady, let’s call her Lindsay, was only 7 months old, when her daddy, let’s call him Danny, a Deputy Sheriff from Florida, was killed in the line of duty.

Lindsay does more than just wear that button.

She volunteers to meet the kids of other fallen officers and deputies in and around her State, to help them get through their grief.

For children, they don’t need a lot of words to communicate.

They prefer actions.

Lindsay is one those unsung action heroes doing what she can to help others like her get on with their lives.

Her mom sent me the photo.

She also mentioned that she visited a grieved family this week, where there was an 8 month old, just like she was nine years ago.

Thank you Lord for brave police officers and deputies, who risk so very much.

Never let us forget their kids; especially the heartbreakers.

Uncle Adib and Dad’s Excellent Adventure

June 28, 2010

Whenever I’m in Anaheim on business I can’t help but think of the first time I traveled here; 1966.

The family came to California for a visit in January.  My dad’s parents, my grandparents, moved to San Diego years earlier for health reasons.  My dad’s four sisters also lived there with their husbands and children.

As a treat, the folks decided to take the little ones to Disney Land.  My Uncle Adib was the driver, (dad’s brother-in-law) and he owned a big station wagon that he used to transport his own three kids.

Both my dad and uncle Adib were businessmen.   They were well dressed and looked the part.  They were respected and always seemed to be the ones who had all the answers whenever something went wrong.

Something did go wrong on our trip to Anaheim;

“Bang!”

…a blowout on the rear tire.

I remember Uncle Adib pulling way off the highway onto a dirt breakdown lane; so that the families would be safe.  All of us kids jumped out the rear window, and in spite of this flat tire putting serious doubts on the success of the trip to Disney Land, we kids treated it like an adventure.

The look on the men’s faces was about the same.  Stern, matter of fact and basically saying; “yep, it’s flat all right, now what do we do?” 

They probably could’ve figured it out on their own, but I’m not sure either one wanted to be the first to try.

All of a sudden, like Zorro swinging in on a chandelier, a psychedelic looking van, with a real long-haired hippy in bell bottoms and tie-died shirt pulled up behind us in the breakdown area. 

Dad and Uncle Adib looked more than a bit concerned. 

The man came bounding right up to the dads and said–“hey man, you want help?”

“Yes!” they both exclaimed. 

Within minutes the hairy man most conservatives of that time thought was the symbol of all that was wrong with America, was rescuing all that was wrong with our day. 

I’m not sure how much they paid him, but I remember seeing at least one $20.  Big money at that time.  Maybe the fastest buck he made in a while; unless of course he was the real Shaggy from Scooby Doo collecting royalties.

Jesus was the unconventional hero too.  He didn’t look the part, but He delivered like no one else could. 

He was sensitive to the blessings promised to us by God the Father, and made the ultimate sacrifice of an atoning death on the cross, to be sure we could reach our promised destination.

Lord, help us to stay open-minded to your messages.

They may be wearing the wrong clothes.

New Mr. & Mrs.

June 26, 2010

Today was a long day.

Our refrigerator broke down this morning and the new one that we had ordered wasn’t scheduled to be delivered for another two weeks.

I made the mistake of eating “soupy” ice-cream last night and it knocked me for a loop.

My wife and I are going away for a few days beginning at 5:30 am tomorrow and, although we trust our grown children, we did not trust them with this refrigerator replacement endeavor.

Thankfully my brother-in-law and nephew donated their skill and pickup truck respectively.

Since I am getting the evil eye from my Mrs. for working on this reflection, I must be brief today.

When my son and new daughter-in-law came into the house after a long drive from out-of-state, it was the highlight of the day.

Lord, thank you for new couples who bring hope to our lives and future, and who may also not mind accepting used refrigerators as gifts; I hate throwing them away.

Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

June 26, 2010

While stuck in the airport this week at Dulles for a mere  five hours, I met a young mom who was spending the night in the terminal with her eleven month old daughter. 

Her husband was an American soldier in Afghanistan and since her re-booked flight was at 8 am and her canceled flight wasn’t finalized until after 1 am, the airline would not provide her with a hotel room.  They just told her to wait.

The little baby, who was wide awake, and still on European time, thought it was morning, not the middle of the night.  Our little entourage could not do much to help her.  Thankfully by now she is safe at home with her in-laws in Rochester.

Way back in 1967, our family, minus dad and one older brother, who was a freshman in College, decided to take a train to Florida for a family wedding.  The February trip started out with flurries in Pittsfield as we boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Penn Central Station in New York.

By the time we were an hour into the ride there was a full-blown blizzard.  As we arrived late to Penn Central it was no reason for alarm because the Line we were booked onto was running late.  In fact, by the time we got on board, it was 24 hours late.  

The train station provided very few amenities, and there was no other place to sleep but on top of the luggage. 

I thought it was cool.

One of the most vivid memories I have, (I was only seven years old) was my older brother taking me to the restroom.  

“Hey” I said, “I need a dime to get into this stall.” 

In his best Wally Cleaver impersonation, my fifteen year old brother said back to me; “I’m not giving you a dime Dopey, crawl under the door.”

The doors of the stall were very long, to keep adult size people out without paying their fee.  But I was small enough to take advantage of the design flaw and save ten cents. 

So much has changed, yet so much remains the same. 

Ten cents back then had value. 

The war our soldiers are fighting now is one against terror, not any specific country, yet it is still a war with family hardships to endure and freedom to preserve.

Lord thank you that you toughen us for the more difficult challenges in life.

Even sleeping in public places can be an adventure, especially for kids.

Toy Story Tea(r) Party

June 25, 2010

There is something about raising children and watching them go off to college that every parent can relate to.

My wife and I have had to do it three times now. 

I remember the first time, when we dropped off our oldest son Luke in Rochester, NY.  

His two siblings, along with Natalie and I, driving back to Massachusetts, didn’t stop crying until we were almost in Utica. 

It really was like attending a wake.  A part of our family dynamic was changing and there was no way to stop it.

My youngest son, who is home from his freshman year at college, went to see the new Toy Story movie with me last night.

Since the film is brand new and many may want to see it, I will not give much away, other than to say, it has a conservative theme, with an emphasis on loyalty, sacrifice and liberty.

As I watched the closing scene I could not help but think to myself, only a parent could have written that. 

It captured the spirit of the empty-nest syndrome in a way that only an empty-nest survivor could capture it.

I believe it is important for conservatives to encourage one another to support films that share our values and promote our belief in a free market. 

I wish that I had brought a note-book and pen with me, I would have tried to keep track of the number of times our cause was promoted and our enemy was ridiculed.

The funny thing is, many of the celebrity voices who played the parts of the Toys are far from conservative stalwarts. 

What is also ironic, but true, is that the facts we crusade for easily blend in with universal truth; especially when there are paychecks involved. 

Please go see the movie; I “tea(r)fully” recommend it.

Victim-ville

June 24, 2010

Many times the conferences and trade shows that I attend run for three days or more. They could be in just about any major city in the U.S.

Then, at the end of six or eight hours of demonstrating our product, standing on our feet the whole time, we painstakingly navigate our way back the airport car rental return; drag luggage onto a shuttle bus; push our way through ticketing lines; undress and then re-dress at TSA security entrances; then the day is topped off by hurriedly trying to answer emails, some containing good news, others containing news not so good; all under the drone of blaring Airport announcements.

Even logging into the Airport Wifi network is like running in place, as it wants to redirect my laptop to what seems like page after page of permission portals and terms/condition check boxes.

The hotel that I stayed in on this trip was an Embassy Suites, just two blocks from the New Orleans Convention Center and the Super Dome, where thousands of homeless people had to retreat to in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,

The human tragedy and financial hardship of the region still shows in many ways.

While my colleague and I were eating our free buffet breakfast yesterday, a hotel worker came up to our table to say thank you and to ask if our meal was all that we expected it to be.

The day before, the woman who made my omelet said she was grateful that I was there in New Orleans and insisted I let her know if there was anything I needed, to please let her know.

The workers at the check-in counter and concierge staff were just as nice.

The demeanor and grateful spirit of these humble Americans was the most touching part of my trip.

Everything we endure in life, shapes us and molds us. We are judged not by where we are in life, but how well we play the hand we are dealt.

In light of the economy and the millions of Americans out of work I am incredibly blessed to have a good boss and a good job.

The uncomfortable moments of work/travel, even the five hour delays in Dulles Airport, are obviously less fun than days on the golf course with my sons and nephews; yet they help me to appreciate my free time more than the free time itself.

The people of New Orleans, many who have lost everything, including loved ones, and have had to start all over with just the shoes on their feet and determination in their heart, are models for human fortitude and determination.

Like Jesus, who bravely responded to God’s call to fast 40 days and 40 nights, we are tempted by the Devil to complain about our circumstances and bow down at the altar of “victim-ville.”

If we resist being the victim, only then do we make it through to the other side of sorrow and impact our world in a positive way.

If we don’t resist, we miss out on opportunities to touch the hearts of our most valuable customers, i.e., society itself.

McChrystal Light

June 23, 2010

Today’s headlines and news are typical of a media that is trying to shape public opinion of the current Administration.

The controversy surrounds the fact that U.S. General McChrystal/Commanding Officer in the War, has allegedly made less than gushing comments about the Adminstration’s involvement in battling the enemy in Afghanistan. 

The magazine article has yet to be released to the public, but we are supposed to accept everything the media says about the General’s intentions and yet to be verified comments as fact.

As with anything in life, it is insulting when someone tries to tell us what to think, before we have the opportunity to decide for ourselves.

Several years ago, while visiting a friend out of State, I made a comment about talk radio personality Dr. Laura.  The comment was complimentary of the way she was handling a spoiled teenager.

This friend I was visiting blurted out, “I hate Dr. Laura!”

“Have you ever listened to her?” I said.

“No, but I hate her because  she is mean…”

When the media tries to make up our mind for us, and report their opinion before reporting the facts, they are doing the same thing as my friend.

They are blurting out their feelings based on what they are being told to think by members who control their political agenda.

Jesus, in Mark 8 and in other places in Scripture, wanted to know our opinion, even though he had all the facts;

 27Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 28They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

 29“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
      Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

 30Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Unlike the media, telling us what to think, Jesus wanted to hear what we think.  When Peter correctly answered, shedding light on the fact of Him being the Messiah, he asked that they keep it quiet.

The timing was not right and the light of truth needed to be covered for a few more days so that nothing could stop Jesus from winning the war on Calvary.

The General thus far, has been doing the job for the American people.

We have no interest in anything but results on the ground.

Trying to shape results at the polls are only for those trying to avoid their own pending crucifixion.

Closure Conventions

June 22, 2010

In my line of work I assist cities, counties and States in their attempt to make relatively expensive purchases of Police rescue vehicles.

The typical transaction starts off with a call from a SWAT officer, who is the end-user, to coordinate the quotation and optional equipment.

Almost every time, before the sale is completed, an administrative person, usually someone who is very close to the grant funding source, will get involved.

The business trip that I am on this week, in Louisiana, is a conference designed to educate these same administrative professional people.

The first evening I arrived my colleague and I were sitting in the conference hotel lounge having a late snack and there was a small group of about five next to us socializing and discussing where they wanted to go out to dinner.

Curiosity got the best of me and I asked them what city they were from.  “San Francisco” one woman said.  “Oh, do you know Terry Sanders?”… (not her real name),   I said.

The woman, somewhat stunned gasped, “I’m Terry Sanders!” 

Terry and I had just wrapped up a very lengthy and arduous project, not even a week earlier, and neither of us had any idea that we would be attending the same conference.

Before we were done speaking another member of her group, Gary, (not his real name) from San Jose said, “Hey Jim, remember me, Gary from San Jose; you sold us a truck four years ago.”

The sales that I make in this arena are not like sales at a donut shop over the counter.  They are sales that take several years to come to fruition.  The people with whom I interact, share the same goal; mainly because they know the armored SWAT trucks I sell have the potential to save the lives of their friends.

There is a special bond that is formed when groups of people work together to reach a difficult objective.  I could not help but get up and hug Terry and vigorously shake Gary’s hand.  We were all so pleased to finally meet one another in person, especially after engaging in dozens of phone calls and emails over the years.

In Luke 2 we read about a special first time meeting that happens to Simeon and Anna, when they first come in contact with the infant Jesus:

 25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
 29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
      you now dismiss your servant in peace.
 30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
      and for glory to your people Israel.”

 33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

 36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

No matter what line of work we are in, sales, or even the work of prophetic scribe, or prophetess, like Simeon and Anna, we all enjoy and need closure for the significant events in our lives.

Thank you Lord for your gift of Salvation through Christ, the One who brings closure to our souls.

In the Unlikely Event of a Water Landing

June 21, 2010

I travel often on  my job. 

This post is from New Orleans.

I have a soft spot in my heart for flight attendants. 

They have to travel multiple times per day and for the most part, their jobs are repetitive.

One thing they do on every flight is the pre-flight safety review. 

I remember the first time I heard about the oxygen mask that falls down from overhead, in case of a loss of cabin pressure.

Initially I didn’t understand why they instruct parents to put the mask on themselves first, before helping the kids.

Then it occurred to me, if the parents pass out, children can’t put the masks on either one. 

As long as the parent can breathe, the child has a better chance of survival.

The Bible teaches us something in Matthew 7, about how and when we should help others:

3“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

4“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?

5“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Human nature compels us to correct things around us before we see our own errors and correct ourselves.

In the case of Matthew 7 and the flight attendant’s lessons on oxygen mask etiquette, the benefits are clear.

Lord, thank You for reminding us that our faults need correcting more than our neighbor’s need pointing out.

I just wish flight attendants could be more honest.

When they say–

In the unlikely event of a water landing, grab your seat cushion.

Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say…? 

In the unlikely event of SURVIVING a water landing, grab your seat cushion–then kiss it goodbye.