Leaders and Ambition…


I read yesterday where someone wrote that we are penalizing Hillary Clinton for being ambitious. The writer says a person must have ambition to even want to run for President. Up until now, the author argues, that has been a positive trait.

I would agree, to a certain extent. We do want our Presidents to be ambitious: ambitious enough to lead well, to faithfully execute their office, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, to make the tough decisions on our behalf, and to represent our nation to the best of their ability. After all, that’s what they swear to do when they assume the office. We want them to live up to their word.

But we also expect our leaders to temper their ambition with humility. We give them a lot of leeway to do the job we elected them to do. We give them the benefit of the doubt most of the time, because we presume that they know things we don’t know, that they are privy to information we don’t have, and that they really do have the best interests of the nation at heart.

We want our leaders to be servant leaders. Until recently, we never elected Presidents to rule over us. We elected them to serve us. We want them to be shining, noble examples of all that is good and right. All the while, we know they are flawed, imperfect humans. We want them to remember that, and act accordingly.

We want them to have bold ideas, dream big dreams, and do big things. But when they fail – as they all do – we want them to acknowledge it and take responsibility for it. We don’t want them to blame their predecessors or external factors. We don’t want them to cover up their flaws and foibles with misdirection or outright lies.

We want them to be ambitious, sure. But we expect their ambition to be directed toward the greater good, not their personal agendas or power or gain. We want them to recognize and navigate the tension between personal preference and public responsibility. We trust them to keep our national ideals and preserve the things we cherish, not to sacrifice them on the altar of momentary political expediency.

We want our leaders to value the great privilege we entrust to them. And we want them to live in the awareness of the awesome responsibility that comes with such privilege.

We want them to lift us up, not beat us down. We want them to bring us together around noble purposes, not tear us apart into selfish factions. We want them to put the nation’s good ahead of their own.

We don’t want them to blame us when their ideas fail. We want them to be people of their word. We want them to demonstrate honesty, integrity, and character. We don’t want them to have one face in public and another in private. Although we don’t really know them, we want to perceive them as familiar faces, intimate friends, and effective leaders who bring out the best our nation has to offer.

When they fall, or when they fail, we give them a great deal of grace. We offer our forgiveness. When they are threatened, we want to unite behind them. When they speak, we hope they speak for us. We hope they don’t apologize for the things that make our nation our nation. When they die, we mourn as one people.

All we ask in return is that they do the best they can, so help them God, to faithfully lead.

And so, back to the premise of yesterday’s article.

Let’s be brutally honest here: these two major candidates for the highest office in the land are perhaps the least popular ever to be nominated for the Presidency. Much of that they have brought upon themselves, and much has been foisted upon them by media and our own sense of expectation. A disinterested observer might note that these people are driven by ambition. That same observer might also discern theirs is a personal ambition: for power, for fame, for notoriety. And that observer might conclude that ambition is not the kind that best suits the leaders we want for the present and future of our Republic.

I refuse to concede the original writer’s premise. It’s not Mrs. Clinton’s ambition we fear. It’s that her ambition seems to be wholly aimed at her personal power and the advancement of her personal agenda. And some think that ambition comes at great cost to our identity as a nation.

From this observer’s vantage point, no one is penalizing Mrs. Clinton for her ambition. Rather, it appears her ambition is the only factor that matters to a less-than-skeptical press. We want better from those who presume to lead us. We’d rather she – or anyone whose ambition is to lead this great nation – put our interests first. We’d rather be confident that they are shooting straight with us, and that when they speak, we can trust what they say.

It’s not her ambition we don’t like. It’s that it’s her ambition above anything else.

And that deserves to be scrutinized and eliminated. It would be better if she realized it and fixed it before it gets the best of her and those she intends to serve.

October Blur…

Blurry Beijing: Lots of LoadCreative Commons License Alexander Mueller via Compfight

October has been a blur so far. I need to land a moment, to step away from the rush, to breathe, to touch base with reality, so I don’t lose touch. The best way I know to do that is to dump what’s in my mind. Here goes…

  • This is the week I’ve dreaded, ever since taking on one, two, three side gigs. This is the week that all the gigs seem to collide. I don’t know about you, dear readers (all two of you), but I must have skipped class the day they taught How To Be In More Than One Place At One Time. Because I need to do that, and I’m discovering again that I can’t manage to do that.
  • This song made it into the predawn jaunt playlist this morning. Who knows, indeed.
  • Oh, and in case you missed the lyrics
  • Speaking of the power of music, this story about Helen Keller “listening” to the great Beethoven Ninth Symphony grabbed my heart today.
  • I’m preaching about leaving a lasting legacy during our worship times this month. This week, we’ll talking about being a person of hope, and I sure hope I get something out of it. One of my Facebook memories from a couple of years ago reminded me I’m sure glad there’s a future and a hope, because the present is killing me.
  • I hate to be such a Debbie Downer, but the truth is, reality is just so real some times. Just putting it out there.

Back to the blur. I’ll see you when I can step out again. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Peace.



Tom Simpson via Compfight

This morning, I’m asking a lot of questions and not finding many answers. Questions like…

  • Am I just being lazy?
  • Am I due for a much needed break?
  • Am I avoiding responsibility?
  • Is there anything I’m missing?
  • Is there something I need to do next? Now? What is it?
  • What different things do I need to do?
  • What do I need to stop doing?
  • How can I improve my attitude?
  • Is the Cynical Old Coot the real me or is it a mask I once put on and can’t get off?
  • What if my best days are indeed behind me?
  • What do I do now?
  • How can I change my trajectory?
  • If I quit one of the side gigs, what would we do without the income?
  • Is the income from the side gigs worth the anxiety?
  • Is giving up the side gig income worth a different kind of anxiety?

Frederick Buechner says we often build castles to protect ourselves from others and the outside world. But we soon find those castles become the prisons of our own making, that hold us captive and restrict our freedom to function as we were intended and designed. He goes on to say that the simple words, “Help me” are the keys that open those gates, and release us to our better selves.

If that’s the case, then the questions may help us get to the place of asking for that help.

My Blessed Day…

Happy BollardCreative Commons License Jori Samonen via Compfight

What started out as a mundane Thursday turned out, before it was over, to be one of the best days I’ve had in a long time! Let me tell you about it…

I met a real! live! fireman! Yep, and not just any fireman. No sirree! It was Captain Tim Stowers of the Alpharetta Fire Department. He went out of his way to help me out of a sticky situation. I’m blessed Captain Stowers took the time to help.

Then I got to spend a little time with a new brother in Christ, named Joey. We had an interesting discussion about politics, salvation, the Bible, and African-American preacher heroes. I’m blessed I got to ride with Joey.

It didn’t stop there, because Joey took me to a place where I saw one of the most positive and inspiring people I know. Only this time, I saw her in a different environment than normal. She was her usual encouraging self, and I’m blessed because of her generosity.

While that might be enough to make any other day a blessed day, mine wasn’t done yet. I  met the next great veterinarian in the world. OK, not yet, but Ferdinand…I mean…DOCTOR Ferdinand is going to take Kennesaw State University by storm, and all the sick little exotic animals will one day be OK because he will be practicing his passion. Oh, and he had enough patience to act like he was listening to this old coot tell stories from his long distant past. I’m blessed because Dr. Ferdinand gave me a ride.

Ferdinand’s supervisor was a young man named Blake. Blake just got engaged to the love of his life, and he’s not planning to spend a lot of money on his wedding because he wants to take his princess on an amazing honeymoon and establish a great home for her.  I know all this because I got to share with Blake Life Axiom #3: Everybody and everything but the bride are props. I’m blessed because Blake did a great job at his job.

I met Kenny, who runs his shop like a pro.

I met a guy who was driving to take his special needs daughter (I think?) on a trip, partly for fun, but mostly for some specialized medical treatment.

And I met a guy who – according to Blake – had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and who was checking off the items on his bucket list just as fast and with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. His bucket list was starting with Chick-Fil-A nuggets and sweet tea. I’m blessed because I got to walk in these people’s lives, for a few minutes at least.

Now here’s the best part. I wouldn’t have had the blessed day I had today had everything gone smoothly as planned. See, this all started when my car – the one with 316,000+ miles on it – suddenly stopped as I was driving down the road. Just stopped. Dead. In traffic, on a busy road.

Captain Stowers was behind me. I met him when he stopped to help and we pushed my car out of the road to a wide, flat place. Traffic kept moving and there was no big scene. He tried to jump start my car, with no success. After I assured him I had someone on the way, he left. But he blessed my life today.

Joey was the tow truck driver that changed his schedule so he could give me a hand,  a ride, and a break. Joey blessed my life today.

Clara Mae runs AAMCO with her husband, Gus. I see them about three mornings a week at one of my side gigs. They are great people, they do good work, and are patient and gracious with their time and energy. Clara Mae blessed my life today. Again.

Ferdinand was the young driver who picked me up and carried me to the car rental place so I could get home. He told me about his dream of going to school as a biology major so he could become a veterinarian specializing in exotic animals. He listened to my tales of my own rental car career, which included a Sunday morning encounter with then-heavyweight champion of the world, Leon Spinks. Ferdinand blessed my life today.

Blake ran the counter at the car rental outfit. And he seemed to be really good at his job. Kenny was the manager of the place and he led his team with effectiveness and efficiency. And they blessed my life today.

The bucket list guy blessed my life because someone else told me his story. His enthusiasm and energy were contagious. And they were made more so by the “rest of his  story,” cancer and all that.

Someone – OK, a lot of someones – said that life is not what happens to us; it’s how we respond to what happens to us. For some reason, today was different because I chose to be blessed in the middle of a difficult afternoon. I hope I’ve learned my lesson. I hope the  choice to see the blessing, even in difficulty stays with me for a long time.


In simpler times, this image might have elicited a response like, “Wait…you mean there are cops in that picture? I never noticed!”

While that response might have been appropriate (or not) under normal circumstances, these times are not simple, and these circumstances are not normal.

UPDATE: The woman in the picture is Ieshia Evans.


1976 Was a Very Good Year…


What’s not to love about the Bicentennial Celebration of 1976?

Forty years ago, America was full of patriotism. Having discovered drum and bugle corps the year before, I remember well the trip from south Georgia to Whitewater, Wisconsin for the big drum corps show.

Several of the corps had patriotic themes that year. And the Madison Scouts, defending DCI champions, had one of the best! The corps started the season with one show, and then halfway through, they scrapped “The Theme from ‘Shaft'” and replaced it with a great rendition of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” which even included a cheesy re-enactment of the iconic Iwo Jima flag scene.

Though the Blue Devils were steamrolling their way to the first of their many titles, and there was no stopping them and their groundbreaking show, the Scouts tried hard, and ended up a close second.

Forty years later, here’s the audio of that great classic:

Leslie Brandt, Psalm 25…


jugrote via Compfight

I am reaching for You again, O God.

From the abyss of defeat,

   the suffocating shame of failure,

   I seek Your mercy and Your help.

Enable me to see something of Your will for my life,

Break through this stifling darkness

   with some direction, some meaning,

   some purpose for my existence.

You are my God; You have promised me salvation.

How long must I wait for Your response?


Random Thoughts, April 28…

DAY 21/365: Hmmmm...

David Cosand via Compfight

Sometimes I think on purpose about things, and sometimes the thoughts just find their way into my mind in random order. This has been that kind of morning so far. And since all two of you loyal and attentive readers are waiting with bated breath and hanging on my every word, let me share some of that random goodness with you.

  • I discovered the Turtle Creek Chorale a couple of Christmases ago, and their album, Psalms, is one of my favorites. It was the soundtrack for this morning’s pre-dawn jaunt, and once again, I was inspired by the powerful ancient words coupled with the harmony of organ, brass, and men’s voices.
  • The Turtle Creek treatment of the Psalms reminded me that I could enjoy that style of music as a regular diet in worship. I know it further confirms my uncool/unhip status, but that music jacks me up more than the light show/rock concert/skinny jeans/unsingable show that passes for worship in most modern churches. I have the same emotional response to this great music as some modern worshippers have to the rock-driven performances.
  • One other thing about Turtle Creek’s Psalms. Apart from the faulty theology of the third-person pronoun in the middle section, their version of Psalm 91, “In the Secret Place,” is one of the most beautiful and powerful songs I’ve heard.
  • I also thought this morning that two of the most powerful words for harmonious human relations should be “None taken.” As in, “No offense.” “None taken.” See, in this culture of easy and frequent “offenses,” it would be refreshing and well, human to understand that not everything is intended to offend. I know the Bible reminds Jesus-apprentices to not give offense. But often, there would be no offense if people weren’t always looking to be offended by things that are out of their comfort zone. The Bible also reminds us it is a good thing to overlook offenses, to give them the attention they deserve, and to expect the best out of others, even those with whom we might disagree.

The Most Creative People on the Planet…

Avec ma compagne... dans son atelier... l'amour de l'art en partage...!!!

Denis Collette via Compfight

From my morning pages today. I may have gotten into a little whimsical groove toward the end. Be gentle.

Someone once opined (sang, maybe?) that the devil has all the good music. Actually, a little web search tells me it was first suggested by the Right Reverend Rowland Hill, a Surrey pastor in 1844: “The devil should not have all the best tunes.”

When I read articles about creativity and artistic endeavor these days, it seems only Buddhists and other “nontheistic” practitioners have an exclusive path to creativity. One has to be mindful (whatever that means). One has to find his path (whatever THAT means). And so on and so on.

I think Jesus people ought to be the most creative people on the planet. (Did I say “on the planet?” I think I meant “in the world.” Buddha, you know…).

If we are created in the image of  a Creator God, if we have been redeemed for a purpose by the Maker of all things, if we are part of the Greatest Story Ever, and if we are designed as His masterpieces, then our lives and work – all our lives and work – should be testimonies of the creative spirit.

Our creative work – our art, our words, our lives – should bear witness to the Spirit of Creativity who lives in and empowers us. Rather than searching for some mystical, mythical Muse who shows up (according to Stephen King, in his boxer shorts with a bag of magical dust, every morning, as soon as the writer sits down at the keyboard), and guides our efforts, we should be living fonts of creativity. Jesus Himself said that the life He gives us will in turn spring up and overflow into the world around us. Our creative efforts should be redemptive. Our art should be in a sense, sacramental, as it should convey God’s grace and glorify Him to the ends of the earth.

We follow in a long procession of a great cloud of witnesses who have been creative people. People who have written and sung songs. People who have created art, functional and beautiful. Artisans. Craftsmen (and -women). Makers with skill and talent and most importantly, a spirit of wonder and worship, grateful that God blessed them with His gifts. Crafters of poems, tooters of horns, pluckers of strings, singers of tunes, speakers of words, tellers of tales, sew-ers of clothes, and sharers of things made, all in the gifted tradition of people created to create.