Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Reds Room.

This evening, I had the pleasure of showing my Reds room off to another set of new friends from South Carolina.

Yes, my Reds room. As in, The Cincinnati Reds. Not my "Red" room, which is a particular prop room from a recent string of fairly successful books and films that served an entirely different purpose than does my "Reds" room, but I digress.

Many who have seen it call it a man cave, and I suppose it fits the criteria as such, but that's not really what I consider it to be, given that I do not retire to the room for the purposes of getting away from the women in my life, and that my wife often spends time in the room with me.

Aside from housing my musical instruments, featuring a full 6-piece drum kit, guitars, two amps, a banjo, and a mini keyboard, it is what you might expect it to be: a room filled with Cincinnati Reds memorabilia, dedicated to my love of all things Reds. It features the obligatory big screen television, with a Playstation 4, a vintage Atari game console (with its own dedicated vintage TV), a pool table, compliments of my son and his college buddies, a mini fridge cooling bottled water and glass-bottled (yes, glass) Coke products, a Keurig coffee maker and a microwave. Oh yeah, and there is a vintage (looking) gum ball machine filled with red M&M's. And yes, you have to put a coin in to get them to dispense.

Outside of the other various pieces of furniture in the room for lounging purposes, there's nary another item in the room that is not either branded with the Reds, or bears some other connection to the team.

If you've seen it, you are already aware of the extensive collection I have. So I'll just speak to those who have not seen it yet: I can assure you -- not because I'm boasting, but because of the reaction of those who have seen the Room for the first time -- that whatever image you have conjured in your head right now doesn't begin to touch the reality.

I try to warn people, I really do. I tell them that I am a fan on a really scary level, and that my collection is extensive beyond their imagination, but when the actually see it, the reactions usually involve some sort of curse word, a cry out to the Lord, "I had no idea!" stunned silence, or some combination of all of those. The terms "Awesome" and "Incredible" and "Unbelievable" are frequently uttered as well, but I don't wanna sound as though I'm bragging.

When we lived in Indiana, my sons and I convinced my wife to let us turn our living room into our Reds room, to which she ultimately agreed after much prodding and pleading for several years. Though smaller than my collection now, it was still an extensive display in a much smaller room. But having grown up and lived in Indiana my whole life, all my friends knowing me most of their lives, the reaction to first seeing the Room was far less dramatic than it is here in SC. Most people would walk into our Living Room, take a look around, and say something like, "Yeah, this is pretty much what we expected from you."

But down here, it's a much bigger deal. I'll grant that its a bigger room, and because of such, we've added quite a bit to the collection since moving here. But in my little neck of the woods here in SC, there doesn't appear to be the fandom for pro teams around here to the level of mine with the Reds.

A few reasons: One, we're not that close to too many pro teams. Atlanta is the closest baseball team, four hours away, and Jacksonville is the closest football team. But, let's be honest, there just aren't that many Jaguars fans, especially for a team that doesn't have a rich, decades-long history.

Two, everybody who lives here is from somewhere else. So you find pockets of fans of teams from all over the country, of all different sports, but not giant throngs of such. The place I go to watch NFL games each Sunday (because the Colts aren't on local TV) is actually the official NFL viewing bar in this area for the Buffalo Bills. I didn't even know bars could be official NFL team viewing bars. The place is packed every Sunday with Bills fans, but I suspect they encompass every Bills fan in the area.

Three, in the absence of pro teams nearby, there are HUGE college allegiances here. Clemson, South Carolina, and Georgia college sports is a big deal around here. Being from Indiana, I thought IU-Purdue was a big rivalry. But that doesn't hold a candle to the Clemson-USC-Georgia rivalry down here. It's on a whole other level. But I find, overall, even big college fans don't tend to have large memorabilia collections. At the least the ones I've encountered don't. (There is a restaurant out on Hilton Head Island that is dedicated primarily to Ohio State that boasts a pretty impressive collection and decor.)

So it's appearing that my Reds Room seems to be some sort of anomaly in this area, and the people who've had the pleasure to visit and see it have, judging by their reactions, been duly impressed -- or shocked -- or both.

There are different types of collectors out there. Those who seek lots of autographed and signed items, those who go after lots of authentic and game-used items, knick-knack collectors, or those who focus on certain things like photos, or glass, or bobbleheads, or posters, etc. Of course, there are combinations and collections that contain lots of different items.

I'm a knick-knack guy, I think. I've never been a big autograph hound, and the signatures I do get, I like to get in person, so I have very little interest in buying signed items. (Plus, signed items are significantly more pricey than unsigned items.) I'm not a big game-used fan either, even though there are some pieces I wouldn't mind having. And make no mistake, I have game-used items, and some autographs and signed items in my collection. But really, how many Pete Rose autographs do I need?

So I tend to focus on branded items. Old and new. I like glass-ware, and baseballs, and figurines. Truth is, I'm not a giant bobblehead fan, but since that seams to be about the only promo items the team issues anymore, I have quite a few. Even then, I don't go after every single Joey Votto bobblehead out there. Otherwise, I'd have 20 or so Votto bobbles alone, and I just don't need that many.

I have a lot of photos, and cups and cans and mugs and glasses. Cereal boxes, RC Cans, beverage bottles, and just a wide variety of other items. Items I've had since I was a young boy, and items I bought just last week. If it has a Reds logo on it, I'm interested in it. (I've considered starting a video blog to highlight and discuss some of my more favorite pieces. I might.)

So why do I do it? I mean, why so extensively? I've often wondered that myself. And the best answer I can come up with is... memories. For me, the Reds are all about memories. Memories of my childhood, of growing up, of playing baseball myself, with my brother and my friends. Memories with my wife, and then my kids. I have loads of memories that revolve around the Cincinnati Reds. I could literally spend days telling you stories about my life that either directly involve the Reds or a Reds game, or in some other fashion have the Reds, or even just Cincinnati, as a backdrop to the story.

It started as a young boy. When I first started watching and becoming aware of baseball, it was the mid 1970's. And if you watched baseball at that time, especially in the midwest where I grew up, you were watching the Big Red Machine, and usually, they were pounding on somebody. Roundly considered to be one of the greatest teams of all time, it was almost impossible to not be a fan of that team. To this day, when people find I'm a Reds fan, no matter what team they are a fan of now, that person will tell me, "Oh yeah, I used to love the Big Red Machine. Bench and Morgan and Rose... loved those guys." I've met countless Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, or Red Sox fans who have told me that Johnny Bench or Pete Rose was their favorite player when they were growing up. Almost everyone loved, or at least respected, the Reds of the 70's.

I started, as most young boys do: by collecting baseball cards, specifically the Reds. My Dad, who was a truck driver, after being gone for days at a time, would bring home cards to me and my brother and we'd open the packs searching for the Reds players as if we were sifting for gold. Packs of baseball cards cost .25 each at that time, so as I grew up, every time I saved up a dollar somehow, I'd go buy four packs of baseball cards. A few years later, the cost rose to .30 per pack, so then the goal became to save up $3 so I could go buy 10 packs of cards! It was literally all I cared about spending my money on.

Memories.

Over time, I began to get other items. Photos, or pennants, or a Reds yearbook, or a baseball. I somehow acquired a Reds seat cushion back in the early 80's, and I still have it to this day. And a 1981 yearbook that I personally had signed by several players, including my idol, Dave Concepcion. Today, it is my most prized possession. And it just grew from there.

Memories.

Over the years, as I would acquire something, either buying it myself or receiving it as a gift, I just never got rid of it. And the collection grew. As I got married, my wife, God bless her, accepted my fandom and took it on as well. Early in our marriage, before we had kids (or much money!) going to Cincy for a couple games was a relatively inexpensive couple days of vacation for us. We could check out the city and catch some games, and stay in our favorite hotel for not a lot of money. Better yet, we could visit my family who lived in Cincy, and we spent precious time with them. My wife and I spent many a day in Cincinnati, just the two of us, bonding and growing (up) together.

Memories.

When we had kids, going to Reds game became a family outing. Again, it was cheaper and easier than a Disney vacation. Often, we would wake up on a Saturday and just decide to drive over to the game. Believe it or not, it was not much more expensive than taking us all out for dinner and movie. The kids loved it, and they began to collect Reds stuff. So many hours of just bonding with my boys. Each of my boys had a Reds-themed bedroom at one time or another as they were growing up, and I displayed what items I could in my office or around the house. Eventually, after so many years, we finally just piled it all together into one place -- our living room.

Memories.

Today, my kids have left all of what was theirs with me, so the collection can stay all in one place. And now, it gets added to on a regular basis. I suspect my kids are thrilled to know they get to inherit all this someday (wink-wink!)

Memories.

But here it is... my parents divorced when I was 10 years old, and my father, who wasn't around much when they were married, was largely absent from my life for the next 10 years. My Mom was great. She had to play both roles for many years, and did the best job possible. But as anyone knows, there isn't a mother in the world who can replace the role a good father should play in the lives of their children. And I had some great men who stepped up in my life and mentored me. And especially my brother, who took me under his wings and fathered me. And played with and taught me how to play baseball. I can never thank him enough for helping shape me into the man I am today.

Please understand this... I'm not blaming my Dad for anything, nor do I hold some weird grudge. My father and I made amends a few years before his death. We loved each other dearly and I'm so thankful for the time we got to share together. But as a young boy, especially as I entered my teens, without a father in the house, I could have taken a lot of different paths in my life. A young teen has a lot of different options in front of him, and without the proper guidance, sometimes the best choices aren't always made.

For me, I was occupied with baseball, and primarily the Cincinnati Reds. How the Reds fared in each game each day mattered to me. Listening to Reds radio broadcasts, or catching the occasional game on TV not only interested me, but occupied my time that could have been spent in other ways. In the days before the internet and instant news, waking up to check the box scores in the morning paper served the same purpose.

Reds games mattered to a young boy like me, and they gave me something on which to focus my time and energy, and gave me something to which to aspire and look up. Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion was my childhood idol, and he was there, every night, in my life during every game of the summer year after year.

Memories.

The Reds mattered to me then, and they matter to me now, and the best I can tell you is that my Reds Room honors all that, and somehow represents my gratitude to them for shaping the life of a young teenager in a positive way all those years ago. Calling it a shrine might be too strong of a word, but it is most definitely a great source of comfort to me, and being in the Room floods me with memories. Of Dads, and Sons, and Wives, and Friends, and "This one belongs to the Reds!" It just makes me happy.

And I like showing it off to my friends, and I get a kick out of their reactions, and I'm happy to tell the stories that answer their questions. Perhaps you'll like it too!



Come down for a visit. We've got a guest room for you to stay, and we can catch a game together!

Monday, November 5, 2018

How Can a Christian Vote for Donald Trump?

Many have asked me over the past couple years how I can reconcile voting for Donald Trump with my faith as a Christian. To be fair, a good many of those questions have come from liberals who are not necessarily Christians themselves, but a good number of those have been from followers of Jesus, on both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

My answer to each has been simple: It is BECAUSE of my faith I voted for Donald Trump in the last election. And it is because of my faith I am going to vote Republican in the upcoming midterm elections, voting for candidates who claim (and I pray) will work together with Trump and his administration to further the agenda he has embarked upon in his first two years in office.

First, a little background. We all know Trump's history. As a playboy, as a businessman, as a billionaire, and as a celebrity. We know of his brashness, his "speak-what's-on-his-mind" style, and his unabashed and unapologetic dedication to being himself no matter what others think. And if you've done a little research, you will also know of his benevolence, his charity, his philanthropy, and his commitment to those who are loyal to him.

When he entered the presidential race in late 2015 -- something he'd toyed with doing for well over a decade -- nobody, and I mean nobody, gave him a chance to win anything. Nobody thought he'd beat the Republican heavyweights he mowed through in the primaries. And nobody thought he'd win the Presidency, especially against Hillary. She was indeed so shocked she'd lost that she could not even face the public the night of the election to concede the race.

I predicted he'd win the moment he entered the race, but I'll admit, there were other Republican candidates I liked better, and whom I felt were better qualified, in the primaries. The whole lot of them would have made a good President, but I was, and am still, particularly fond of Governor Walker from Wisconsin and Governor Perry from Texas. They had my support for as long as they were in the race, which wasn't very long. And I don't mind admitting that I voted for Ted Cruz in the Indiana primary, even though the race for the nomination was all but over by then.

But the system is what it is. We live in a particular form of government that has a particular set of rules. My favorite didn't win the nomination. And so, come November, there were two people on ballot: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And let me be clear, even though I felt some others were better qualified, and/or better people in general, I was still a fan of Trump, believing all along that his business acumen was exactly what our country needed in a President.

Now, back to my faith as a Christian. There's something very important to remember: Just because our favorite candidate doesn't win our party's nomination doesn't mean we shouldn't participate in the system. There's no call for taking our ball and going home. In fact, it could be said the very reason a man like Donald Trump won the nomination at all was because too many Christians sit it out, either whining that their guy or girl isn't winning, or worse, falsely believing that AS Christians, we're somehow supposed to rise above it and not play at all, as though we're called to some higher responsibility.

A Christian friend of mine recently told me that "Jesus exists outside of the political theatre, and He calls us to do the same." My friend couldn't be more wrong. Jesus doesn't exist outside of anything. He transcends all, according to our faith, but there isn't anything apart from which He exists, much less the very governments that oversee our everyday lives. But more on that later.

As far as the United States is concerned, statistics show that upwards of 60% of the population claim to have some sort of faith in God. The US boasts the largest Christian population in the world -- nearly 240 million people. It's no mistake. Despite what many in society, and the media talking heads like to claim, our country was indeed founded on Biblical principles, and a belief in the God of the Bible. We are a country founded on God, by people who were escaping not only political, but religious persecution from their home land. And their ancestors in our current population bear that out. If all 240 million Christians could unite and would vote, there is nothing that could stop them. The white vote, or the black vote, or the Woman vote, or the Latino vote, or the illegal vote wouldn't matter at all. God's people could control the entire government of the United States if only they wanted to. Sadly, they don't. Or, more accurately, a good deal of them don't.

Which leaves many who are followers of Jesus, like myself, to continue to try to do the right thing every time we step up to vote.

It's trendy in today's society to pretend we don't belong to one political party or another. For some reason, having a set of ideals on which to stand, and uniting with a tribe has become, at least in concept, very unpopular. But the reality is that we all still tend to lean one way or the other. It makes people feel good to stand in the middle and say they're able to look past the rhetoric and stay out of the political fray from the right and the left, but when they vote, they still tend to vote one way or the other, because, like it or not, they still have a set of beliefs to which they ascribe.

For Republicans and Democrats, and, more accurately, Conservatives and Liberals (the term "Progressives" is so grossly inaccurate, I refuse to use it) it's much easier. Each camp has a very defined and very precise set of ideals on which they stand. They are, for the most part, detailed quite nicely in each Party's platform.

Donald Trump, at least up until his election, did not portray the kind of lifestyle many would describe as being particularly "religious." Not to be too judgmental, but I wouldn't have called him a Christian. But he said something very important during his acceptance speech for the nomination. While acknowledging he hadn't earned evangelical support, he nevertheless thanked them for their support, and he vowed to fight to protect religious freedom at the government level, and it is a promise he has kept since he has taken office.

That election, for me, was not the "lesser of two evils" as many wanted to describe it. Donald Trump, while not the Christian pillar we would all have hoped for as followers of Jesus, nevertheless stood in opposition to what I believed (and still do) to be pure evil on the other side. Hillary Clinton is a snake of the first order, and I believe her presidency would have further spun us down a hole that had been started by Obama's 8 years of Liberal policy. Obama moved us farther away from Christian principles in this country than any other president in our history, with every policy he enacted and supported advancing an agenda that devalued our beliefs in Christ, eroded Christian liberties in our society, further broke down religious freedoms, suppressed the open support and faith in Christianity, supported radical Islamic and Muslim faiths, giving rise to unprecedented Islamic terrorism throughout the world, and praised, supported, and fathered legislation that stands in direct conflict with Christian values and beliefs. He believes he has the right to tell us how we can can and can't protect our own families. He represented a party and an ideology that believes a woman has the right to kill off her own children, and indeed even celebrates that it happens millions of times a year! Hillary, who I believe is far more despicable than Obama could ever hope to be, would have not only advanced the same agenda, but would have doubled down on it.

Donald Trump, while no saint, stood in direct opposition of all that, and still does. His recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capitol, and the movement of our US embassy to that city was not only a move that was friendly to Christians, and good for the United States, it was also a promise that has been made by several Presidents in the past and never carried out. Trump promised it during the campaign, and delivered on it almost immediately. It was the right thing to do. His commitment to nominating conservative judges who will interpret the Constitution as is to federal courts will ensure that religious liberties are protected to a much higher degree than they are now. And his choice of Mike Pence, a great man of faith, as his Vice-President was no accident. It was a deliberate attempt to make sure his administration reached out to people of faith.

His war against radical Islamic terrorism has all but shut down ISIS across the globe. And his commitment to strengthening our military has placed the United States back at the forefront of world respect as a leader and protector of less fortunate countries. The media wants us to believe we are a laughing stock all over the world as far as immigration and human rights are concerned. But if that is the case, then why are thousands of refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers flocking to our country even as we speak?

Lower taxes means more discretionary income for the average worker, which means more opportunities to give to charitable organizations that help those in need. And while I'm not sure abortion will ever be legislated away, a commitment from Trump to defund worthless organizations like Planned Parenthood will help ensure that at least taxpayer money isn't used to fund their demonic practices.

No, as a Christian, Donald Trump was not an ideal candidate. But let's not forget something: As Christians, we are supposed to forgive others just as we have been forgiven. We are supposed to seek the best in people. We are supposed to believe that God can change hearts and lives. Donald Trump is not a young man anymore. He's a man with a lot of life experience under his belt, with kids and grandkids to think about. He is not unlike all of us -- imperfect people who have made a lot of mistakes in their lifetimes and have grown from those mistakes. I can't speak to the condition of Donald Trump's soul as it relates to his relationship with God. And I believe God can save and change anyone.

Since Trump's election, (and really in the several years before that) I've seen nothing of the womanizing of which he's accused. Nothing of the bigotry or racism the media likes to shout about. He doesn't hate women, or blacks, or other minorities. He hasn't said or done a great deal of the things the media claims, and the video and audio they DO have supporting such claims all come from a much younger Trump years in the past. I'm not trying to make excuses. I'm simply telling you what I see. And what I see is a man who has not only vociferously ticked off one campaign promise after another, but a man who has been devoted to his wife and children, standing up for them as a man should do when they've been attacked. I see a man who promised to protect religious liberties and has done that very thing. I see a man who doesn't back down from a fight, even if his mouth occasionally spouts off before he thinks. I see a man who doesn't dodge the press, but instead calls them out when they are out of line, or flat out intentionally misleading, even to the point of being the target of every media attack they can throw at him. Calling out Fake News isn't a war on the media, but rather a charge for them to adhere to the truthful and ethical standards about which they squawk, but sadly to which few of them ascribe anymore.

I see a man who has put up with vile hatred and vitriol the likes of which no President has ever seen, and yet keeps plugging away every day at his job, giving his paycheck away to charity.

I see a changed man. I do. You might not. And that might be because you simply don't want to. But as for me, I choose to see the best, even if he isn't the absolute best we have to offer. (As though that person really existed.)

As a Christian, I don't get to demand who my candidate is. I can vote for the options placed before me, and hope for the best. But if the best doesn't win, it doesn't mean I should quit the system. It doesn't mean I should waste votes on candidates who have no chance to fix, change, or affect anything just so I can feel better about myself by making a stand on my beliefs. As a Christian, I should cast the most informed and impactful vote I can cast. If I sit it out, I let the other side decide our fate. Worse, if I don't like a set of candidates and choose to vote for someone who has no chance of winning, I allow others -- particularly my opposition -- cast votes that ultimately hold more importance than my own.

Regardless of his background, Donald Trump was the candidate that opposed the evil that stood before us. He has done virtually nothing in his presidency to suggest he won't continue that opposition.

As Christians, our vote in this midterm election must be for candidates who pledge to continue to work together with Trump in that opposition, and to further strengthening the values that we hold dear. The Bible doesn't call us away from the fray, but rather into it! We are to be subject to the governing authorities (Romans 13 and I Peter 2) and yet pray for them as well, with supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings! (I Timothy) If we did those things, imagine the candidates we could have!

And who knows? Maybe in the end, God can change another heart and save another soul!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Things I've Learned About Hurricanes

Things I continue to learn about hurricanes as this is now our second go 'round:

1) Someone on FB said waiting out a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle. That's pretty accurate. You feel like you can outrun it, but the danger is always there.

2) While the concept of being safe rather than sorry is wise, there's something to be said for not making rash decisions. The forecasts of these things, even just a couple days out, can change so much from day to day. Until all the models start to converge, it's wise to prepare, but unwise to panic.

3) Packing up and evacuating is a big pain in the butt, especially when one considers everything one should do to try to secure one's home. After that, you have to pack, decide what important docs or possessions you might want to take, pack up all the pets and their supplies, find accommodations, adjust schedules, try to factor the financial burden, etc. And that's if you DON'T have kids. There's a lot that goes into it, and if you do all that too early and find you didn't really need to, it can be very frustrating and costly.

4) Trust the veteran locals. They've been there and done that, and I've found they've been right most often, at least in these last two storms I've been thru.

5) Hurricanes are NOT the fault of Donald Trump! Or Bill Clinton, or George Bush, or Barack Obama. Get your head out of your butt.

6) DO NOT trust all the hype and predictions on social media. Joe's Weather Page is not a reliable source. Watch the National Hurricane Center, and a good local forecast that converges well with them. Local weatherpersons tend to overdramatize the weather for ratings purposes (for us Midwesterners, watch the local news when you get an inch of snow and you'll see what I mean.) However, they don't mess around with hurricanes here, and you can't overstate the dangerous implications of taking a hit, so I find they're pretty good at trying to get it right here locally. To be fair, there are some good independent weather organizations out there, but there's a lot of whackos out there too.

7) Just because Freida posted on Facebook that she saw a National Guardsman standing at Wal-Mart, it doesn't mean the town is going under Martial Law. Knock off the nonsense, and wait for the official sources to hand out info. I don't care if Freida's husband's cousin works for the fire department. Wait for the fire department to tell you themselves. (Unless you're best friends with Freida, then you can trust her if you want -- I don't even know who Freida is!)

8) It's wise to learn about hurricanes, and how they function. No matter their strength, they all have a general mode of operandi, and while they can be very unpredictable, and their paths can be swayed by a variety of variables, they tend to function the same way. In general, it's better to be on the south end of an Atlantic hurricane than the north end. They tend to pick up moisture on the south rotation and dump the bulk of it on the north and westward rotations. The wind will be stronger on the north side, generally. When you learn these little nuances, it's helps to get a better understanding of the impact it could have on your area. It's not an exact science, but it's good info to have.

9) Don't be a hero. Be smart. If you're in the crosshairs, you should run, it's just that simple. Lives are more important than stuff. But if you're not in the crosshairs, there's no need to panic, and these storms move slowly enough for you to wait and watch before making the right decision. Of course, nobody should ridicule you if you choose to run, even early. You do what's best for you and let the rest of the bozos work it out for themselves.

10) Know your insurance! In general, homeowner's insurance works differently for named storms than it does for anything else. And there's a good chance you ain't covered to the extent you might believe you are. Talk it over with your agent. Find out what you have, what you're covered for and what you will be responsible for. And flood coverage is a SEPARATE policy, and not part of your homeowners policy. If hurricane winds blow your house down, your storm policy probably covers it. If storm surge floods your home, it won't. Only a separate flood policy covers that. Shop around. In short, if I had suffered a loss last year in Hurricane Irma, I would have been on the hook for roughly the first $14,000 out of pocket, and I didn't have flood coverage. This year, I'm on the hook for $1000, fully covered for a flood. Find out BEFORE the storm hits.

11) Living with tornado possibilities all my life as a Midwesterner, I'm still not sure which is worse. The short term stress of a possible tornado from Hell from which you cannot hide, or the prolonged stress of watching a hurricane that can wipe out everything you own, but from which you can run. They're both VERY stressful, but I will say I've been far less stressed this time around with the knowledge I have now than I was during our first go 'round last year during Irma.

12) In the end, the good far outweighs the bad here in my opinion. I realize not everyone feels this way, and that's OK. I also realize that someday, sometime, we're gonna be in the crosshairs and take the hit. It's inevitable, and the risk you take when you want to live by the ocean. But a couple weeks of hairyness a couple times a year just doesn't trump the overall spectacularness of the weather down here pretty much year round. I can do without the prolonged dreariness that sometimes plagues the midwest, and I'll sit through another couple hurricanes if I don't ever have to see another snowflake as long as I live, thank you very much.

I in no way want to minimize the serious danger of a storm like Florence. But you should know that there is something about living near the ocean, and in a place that is sunny and pretty most of the time, that is just good for the soul. And after living here in it for coming up on two years, there's little now I'd trade for it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

John McCain

First, let me just say that I have absolutely no problem with admitting that I voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. As I recall, I did not vote for him in the primary, but, living in Indiana, the primary is so late in the season that he may have been the only one on the ballot. I really do not recall. I believed he was the better of the two candidates that November, even with his Liberal leanings, and his choice as Sarah Palin was a solid conservative move to balance out the ticket.

McCain lost that election for two reasons. First, the failing economy was being placed squarely on George W. Bush's shoulders, and any Republican candidate was going to suffer at the polls as a consequence. (The same thing happened to George Sr. in the 1992 election.) Second, if I may be brutally honest, I'll say what most people in today's world won't: given the state of the Democrat party then (and now,) McCain lost that election because Barack Obama was black. Hillary was still Hillary, even back then, and the Dems recognized almost too late that she was virtually unelectable. Obama was a nobody no one had ever heard of, hopelessly ill-qualified for the position, but he was charismatic and hip -- everything Hillary wasn't -- and... he was black. The timing was right. So despite McCain's being obviously more qualified for the job, the election came down to a young, hip, black man vs. an old, crusty white guy. The young, hip, black man won.

If you check the stats, it is true that more minorities voted in 2008 than ever before, and it is also true that black voters voted almost exclusively for Obama, while traditionally they would only account for 70-80% or so of Democrat votes. But what is also true is that a significantly higher percentage of white men voted for Obama than they would have ordinarily voted for a white Democrat. And that percentage was even higher among white women. The reality is that many white people voted for Barack Obama in that election so they could prove to others they weren't racists. It made them feel good about themselves to say they voted for a black man. (Even though millions of those people would admit it openly at the time, and subsequently voted for Romney in 2012 after seeing how bad at the job Obama really was.)

That's not a racist opinion. It's the stats. The vote was clearly not based on qualifications for the job among the candidates, because Obama had done nothing at all in his minuscule political career (or his personal career, for that matter) to that point to warrant being President, and McCain was a seasoned political pro. Had the demographic stats held true from previous elections, McCain probably would have won, or at least would have lost by a much smaller margin. Had the economy been in better shape, he likely would have won regardless.

(As an aside: It's upsetting that in today's world, we cannot have a conversation about race without being labeled a racist. So while I shouldn't have to say this, I will: I would have no problem at all voting for a minority of any race, gender, or ethnicity if I believed they were qualified for the job. There are many such potential candidates I can think of today who I could support. My opposition to Obama had nothing to do with his race. It had to do with his liberalism and complete incompetence for the job.)

Nevertheless, I'm simply making a point that McCain was once serious presidential timber, and had the timing and circumstances been different, he might have stood a real chance at winning the Presidency. Alas, it was not to be.

But even then, McCain was beginning to show his liberal leanings, and as time went on, he strayed further and further into liberal ideology, all but abandoning most of his conservative views by the time his health forced him to essentially retire several months ago.

But let's back up. One thing cannot be disputed: The man was a bonafide military hero, worthy of all the respect that comes with those badges of honor. At his core, he was an A-1 stud, more brave and heroic than I could ever dream to be. Regardless of one's political leanings, anyone who is willing to put their life on the line and risk the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom deserves every ounce of respect and honor I can give him. As a prisoner of war, he endured torture the likes of which I cannot fathom, and which caused him lifelong disabilities. And he did it for me and for you, because he believed it was the right thing to do. We can never thank him enough.

But as is not uncommon, it is sometimes necessary to separate the personal and business lives, as it were. While his military service certainly likely influenced his political affiliations and decisions, it is not necessary to allow that service to cloud our assessments of his political career.

It can't be argued that he had what most would consider to be a successful political career, which began in 1982 and continued until his death some 36 years later. For the first half of that career, he held mostly to his initial conservative values. But following a bitter primary battle with George W. Bush for the Presidency in 2000, he emerged from the loss bitter about the divisiveness of modern politics. And thus began a spiral toward the left for the rest of his time in Washington.

He cloaked his bitterness as an attempt to "reach across the aisle" and "get along with the other side" and other such nonsense. What it really was was a slow abandoning of his conservative viewpoints. Each time he voted against his constituency, he claimed it was in an effort to compromise, and work together with Democrats. But compromises usually benefit both sides, whereas most of McCain's votes garnered nothing to enhance conservative ideals. They were simply votes for the opposition's agenda, and that trend only grew larger as time went on.

So what of it?

Well, it's interesting when we place it under the light of the Trump administration. To this day, the left and the media are still clueless not only to how Trump won his election, but of his enduring popularity among his base. The answer to it is stunningly simple: Trump was not a career politician, and so far, he has continued to keep his campaign promises to his constituents.

Ignoring, for a moment, that McCain should have hung up his cleats years ago, as no person should be in Washington for anywhere nearly approaching 30+ years, he had been slowly disenfranchising his voting constituency for at least the last 15 years. Trump won because there is a large mass of voters out there -- myself included -- who are simply tired of voting for someone who promises to do one thing and then goes to Washington and does the opposite. I got tired of voting for politicians who promised to go and fight for conservative ideals, then simply bent over for liberal agenda once they got to office. It was maddening. Trump promised to do different. And wasn't a lifelong politician. So I was willing to give him a shot.

This is essentially what John McCain had been doing for years, and why the voters of Arizona continued to allow him to get away with it for so long is beyond my guess. But it was happening nevertheless. In some cases, it appeared his votes were little more than an outright vendetta to oppose Trump. The Junior Senator Jeff Flake is doing the same thing. It is true that Arizona as a whole has grown more liberal over the years, and so it can be supposed that both McCain and Flake recognized that and reacted accordingly. But in the end, it simply is not cool to promise your voters one thing and then deliver the opposite.

And the Arizona voters are waking up. McCain wouldn't have gotten away with it much longer. Flake knew he couldn't and has chosen to jump ship instead. But I digress.

What is disappointing, and, quite frankly, a bit nauseating, is watching the left (at least the left we see on the news everyday) now, upon McCain's death, laud him as they are, applauding his military career, and making a fuss about the flag at the White House, when they have, in fact, disparaged his military service for years. They mocked what they called his "phony heroism" in 2008, as they belittle the military in general and the flag most every chance they get. But because he opposed Donald Trump (and most of the conservative agenda) they want to pretend he's their hero. It's pretty tough to watch. (To be fair, Trump's dig at McCain's war hero status was unfair, and way off base, but at least he's been consistent in his disdain for McCain over the years.)

But it is important to note that it is possible to separate his military heroism and his political career. They don't go hand in hand. And that's the difference between the liberal and conservative reactions to John McCain as they each reflect on his life and career. Whereas conservatives have always lauded and championed his military service, they still do so, even as he essentially switched his political affiliations somewhere along the way. Liberals, on the other hand, once disparaged his military service and disdained his political beliefs. It wasn't until he starting voting on their behalf and opposed Donald Trump that they began to portray him as a hero.

John McCain was a hero. But he also turned his back on the people in Arizona who voted for him. He rightly deserves our respect for putting his life on the line for our freedom. But he also deserves the criticism he has received for promising his voters he would uphold ideals he ultimately chose to abandon. In today's society, military service and political service to your country are not the same thing, especially when you consider what each receives as compensation for said service.

John McCain was an honorable military hero. He ultimately was a relatively poor politician.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Why Kids Leave the Church

You'll have to indulge me on this one, because it's gonna sound like I'm bragging. And I promise I'm not. I might brag on my wife for a bit, and I don't apologize at all for bragging on my kid, but the reality is that I'm giving praise to the Lord for being faithful to us as a family as we were trying to be faithful to Him.

I don't mind telling you that I'm proud of my children, and the young men they've become, and I won't apologize at all that we took our children to church, taught them about Jesus, and gave them an opportunity to find where they belong in God's family.

Yesterday, my oldest son put up a post on Facebook that he has accepted a job in the worship ministry in his church. His mom and I couldn't be more proud of him, and are humbled to know that he is pursuing a career path of serving the Lord. In his post, he wrote something very interesting, and it is a concept I've been stressing for many years as it relates to young adults in the church. He wrote:

"I have been actively participating in Church services since I was 11 and have spent far more Sundays in church than not."

Notice he did not say, "I have been going to church since I was 11..." No, he said he has been "actively participating in Church services" since he was a young boy. (Not to contradict him, but he's actually been involved since he was 8. But I'm not here to nitpick!) He is a musician, and as a worship leader/participant myself at our home church, I put him up on stage as soon as his talent level allowed him to participate in the service without being a distraction. First, it was auxiliary services, like Wednesday nights, and so forth. But it didn't take us long to see he had the talent to jump into our regular Sunday morning services with the "seasoned" musicians.

From that moment on, he has spent the subsequent years of his young life as an active member of Sunday morning worship teams. He did so throughout high school, and when he left for college out of state, his first inclination at college was to not only get involved in the campus ministry group, but he sought out a church where he could play in the worship team.

Notice again I did not say, "He sought out a church home." I said he looked for, and found, a place where he could land and immediately get involved using his talent. Within just a couple months of being away at college, he was not only playing worship with the campus ministry team, but he was playing regular Sunday morning worship at a local church.

You've seen the statistics, and its an epidemic problem the church as a whole has faced for generations. Young children grow up in the church, get involved in youth group, and then when they leave for college, they leave the church. The numbers can be staggering. Depending on the poll you search, the numbers get placed anywhere from around 50% to upwards of 80%. Kids who grow up in the church, and then leave when they graduate high school. And that's the kids who grew up in the church. We're not even talking about children who never went to church to start with.

I did a Google search "Young Adults Leaving the Church." And up popped all sorts of articles trying to explain why this happens. "Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church" and "New Stats on Why Young People Leave Church." And many more like that. They all say pretty much the same thing, and they've been saying the same things for at least the last 25 years or so. And I can tell from reading those article and countless others like them over the years, mostly, they're wrong.

Sure, they bring up good points that our church needs to be cognizant of, and issues the church as a whole needs to address, and many issues they would do well to fix. But on the whole, most of the reasons you'll read flat out miss the point. For the most part, God's church hasn't changed. Society has changed, but the teachings of the Bible that have been sound and true since God spoke them into existence aren't all the sudden failing in the last several decades. Society wants you to believe that is the case.

It's not.

No, young people leave the church primarily for one reason, and one reason only: Because we, as adults, never helped them find their place in the church. We never gave them a chance to actively participate in the ministry of the church as a whole.

Youth group doesn't count.

DON'T HIT THE PANIC BUTTON! And please, hear me out. I'm NOT saying youth group isn't important in the life of a young Christian. I'm NOT saying youth group doesn't play a vital role in a young person's growth in Jesus. And I'm NOT saying a vibrant, active youth group isn't vital to the growth and health of the church.

What I AM saying is that youth group alone doesn't help a young person find their place in the church as a whole. Far too often, youth group is a social club for kids. As adults, we continue to buy into the idea that kids "need a place to go," or they "need a place to be" that's safe and healthy and isolated, and yadda, yadda, yadda. So we send them to youth group.

What youth groups do well, for the most part, is teach kids about Jesus and give kids a place where they can go and open up and be real around peers without the heavy hand of their parents on top of them all the time. A place where they can go and feel comfortable.

But what far too many youth groups do is isolate kids away from the rest of their church. Sure, it gives them a place to go, but it also takes them away from what I like to call "the big boy church." We think that if the kids get together every Friday night for pizza at the youth minister's house, and if they have their own isolated Sunday school class and Sunday night church service, then they're doing great.

During the summer, we ship them off to a camp for a week, and a couple of youth conventions. They take a trip to an amusement park, and a precious few head out to a missions trip for a week or so. Maybe they get a Winter retreat over Christmas break.

Please hear this: all those things are great, and important. And they can, and often are, life-changing experiences for a young person. A good number of Christians can look back at one of those experiences or something like it and tell you that was the moment they became a Christ-follower, or made a decision to serve the Lord, or any number of other life-altering decisions. They're great. (Ask me sometime to tell you about a Petra concert I attended back in 1983!)

But they're not enough. And in many cases, REALLY miss the boat on providing opportunities for kids to find their place in the church AFTER youth group. Far too often, we plop kids down in youth group, and youth group is the only thing they ever know about the church. And other youth group kids are the only people they ever know. And when youth group is no longer an option, they don't know what to do. We kick them out into the real world after high school and they are often ill-equipped to deal with it. They no longer have a "place" in the church, and so they flounder around and often succumb to the secular world.

And it is for these same reasons that many "young adults" ministries fail to fix the problem. Because too often, their goal is simply to provide another "place" for young adults to land, maybe with a "young adults" themed class, or a "young adults" get-together or outing every now and then. And the only people they hang out with is other young adults. And they don't do any better job at getting someone plugged into the church than youth group did.

Let's jump ahead a few years. It's fairly common for many kids who left the church after high school to come straggling back in several years later. For a variety of reasons, but mostly after they've had some life experience and mature to find out there isn't much out in the real world for them either. Life experience brings maturity, and many grow to realize that being in the church of Jesus is a far better place for them than wandering around out in the secular world. Often, it is after they've started their own families, and they're now searching for a place to land their own children.

If you are a believer, think about your own walk with Christ. If you are thriving in your church family, it is probably because you've gotten involved in the ministry of the church. You're volunteering, or leading a small group, or teaching a class, or playing worship, even chaperoning youth group events, or in some other way giving your gifts and talents back to the Lord. It's likely that someone in the church helped you recognize your gifts and talents and showed you there was a place in the church to use them to help bring people to Jesus. That's exciting and energizing, and when people have ownership over what's happening in the church, they tend to become very active.

If you're floundering, and just showing up each Sunday and filling a pew, then the church isn't doing its job well enough to help you understand that you're needed just as much as everyone else.

My son learned from a very early age that he had a place in the church. And not just among his peers, but in the "big boy" church as a whole. He learned that his gifts and talents were vital and needed, and not just in the youth group. And when it was time for him to move out into the real world, he naturally set about to find that place where he could plug in. It was second nature to him. He didn't wonder if he belonged, and experiment to find his place in the world. He knew his place, and set out to find where he could be used.

We didn't do anything magical. We're not super-parents. There's no secret, or special formula. We simply recognized the gifts our kids had, and made sure they found a place to use them in the church. Truth is, if our worship minister had told me my son was "too young" to participate in worship, or any other such nonsense, I'd have probably left our church and found another home right then and there. Fortunately, our worship minister -- a wonderful, Godly man who will remain nameless here, but knows who he is -- was wise enough to see the same thing I saw, and holds the same views I hold about getting people involved. My son, and that church, was the better for having that man there.

Kids leave the church -- and so do adults -- for one primary reason: because they don't feel like they belong. They don't think they have a place. They don't feel like they have any ownership in the ministry. They don't think anyone needs whatever it is they have to offer. If we, as a church, want to fix that, then we have to be intentional about helping people plug in. Especially young people and children. We have to help kids find and identify their gifts and talents, and then help them see there's a place for them in the church as a whole. Sure, those gifts can change and evolve with age, but it doesn't mean as their leaders that we can't instill in them the concept of plugging in, and help guide them along that path to make sure they stay plugged in.

If you want young kids to stop leaving the church, you have to give them a reason to want to stay. It is natural human nature to want to belong. And they will seek to belong to wherever it is they feel accepted -- wherever they feel NEEDED. We must help them understand, at a young age, they are needed in the church. If we don't show them that outside of youth group, then they will leave when youth group is over.

It is that simple.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Children at the Border

I just get tired of people -- especially friends of mine who are usually good, smart people -- simply refusing to do their research and putting thoughts and ideas out into public that simply are not true. It's so frustrating, and really disappointing.

If you don't like Donald Trump, that's fine. Just be adult enough to admit it and stop trying to blame things on him that simply aren't his fault.

I did not like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton -- or most of their administrations. I still don't. I think they're snakes, and I think we're really just starting to see all the awful, and illegal things they did while in office. But I never tried to pin things on them they didn't deserve. I never attributed things to them they didn't create, or wasn't their fault. I don't like them, I think they were bad at their jobs.

This whole "separating the children from the parents" thing is just ridiculous. RI-DIC-U-LOUS!

First, a little research will show you that Presidents don't create or establish immigration laws. They don't establish any laws, really, but that's beside the point. Only Congress can create immigration legislation. And then that legislation gets sent to the President to sign into law. A President can propose legislation to Congress, via strong suggestions, but after that, really all a President can do is to mandate how strictly his administration enforces those laws as they exist.

Further research will show that there is no such law requiring immigrant families to be separated. It does not exist. Clinton or Obama didn't pass one, and neither did either Bush president, and Trump didn't either.

Here is a link to a good article from the National Review that explains the situation, including the Flores Consent Decree that was passed under the Clinton administration in 1997, and gives some relevant ideas on how to fix the whole problem.

If you take all the immigration laws that DO exist, and boiled them all down in a pan, what you would have left over is this: It is against the law for immigrants to come into this country without registering at a federally mandated checkpoint to so.

End of story.

It is illegal for non-US citizens to enter the United States without either the proper documentation, or by going through a United States checkpoint. If one enters this country any other way, they are -- according to the laws of the United States already on the books -- a criminal. Our current immigration laws have been on the books primarily since at least 1987, when Ronald Reagan signed into law what was at the time the most sweeping immigrant legislation up to that point. There have been tweaks and twists added since, but the bottom line remains the same. If you try to enter the US illegally, you are a criminal, no matter your reasoning for coming here.

Now, every President since then has basically chosen how strictly to enforce those laws. Generally speaking, even though each party talks tough about immigration when they're campaigning, Republicans have enforced them more strictly, and Democrats more loosely. But all have enforced it to some degree.

Which brings us back to the children. In this country, when you are arrested for a crime, generally speaking, if you have children, those children are taken away from you and put into our foster care system until the case plays itself out. At some point, you might get your kids back, or if you turn out to be a real slimeball, you probably don't.

It happens hundreds, maybe thousands of times every day in the United States. Has for two centuries. Rapists, murderers, drug dealers, burglars, thieves, et al, if they get arrested and have kids, their kids get taken away from them.

Happens. Every. Day.

Nobody really seemed to care until our news media, in their latest attempt to smear the Trump campaign, decided to start reporting that it's now happening at our borders with illegal immigrants. Immigrants, when caught at the border, if deemed to have attempted to cross illegally, are then arrested, according to the law. If they have family, that family is separated and the children are taken into the ICE version of foster care. And the case plays out...

The media have reported this in such a fashion as to make us believe that Donald Trump, and he alone, has started the practice. But the truth is that it's been going on forever. Every President has, to some degree, been enforcing the practice, some more than others.

However, here's what's also true: Democrats need not only minority voters, but illegal immigrants, to win elections. Any election. Doesn't matter. Check the polling numbers. They cannot win elections without them. (It's why they're so against Voter ID laws.) Obama was not only the best example of this, but also embraced the concept as a part of the larger Democrat platform, and as such, virtually did everything within his power to open the borders and all but instructed his administration to cease enforcing any of the immigration laws on the books. Sure, as all candidates do, he talked tough about immigration before he was elected, but once he took office, he opened our borders to unprecedented levels.

And here's what else he did: He demonstrated that if you, as an immigrant, came to the border with a family, you were far more likely to get to cross, no questions asked. You see, for decades, the vast majority of border crossers were single males. They would cross, legally and illegally, hope to get established here in the states, and then send for their families when they could reasonably hope to get them across safely.

Because of the threat of capture and incarceration -- and the subsequent breakup of their families -- they simply did not try to bring their families across the border that often. It just wasn't safe.

But Obama changed all that. For the first few years of his administration, he prosecuted illegals -- and took the kids away from the criminals -- just as Trump is doing now. But once he adopted the policy that the more immigrants in the country, the better for Democrats, he halted the policy of breaking up the families of those who cross illegally. He simply told his border agents to stop enforcing it. And as word got out that if you brought your family to the border, you would likely be allowed to pass unchecked, then the flood gates opened.

All of the sudden, the flooding did indeed happen. By the hundreds and the thousands, illegals started showing up at the border with their wives and children, and for the past several years, have been flowing into the US and basically disappearing into the crowds.

By now, you know Donald Trump's position on immigration. He campaigned heavily on fixing immigration and stemming the flow of illegals into the country, even demanding the building of the now-infamous Wall. It's something that desperately needs to be done, of course. Everyone knows it. But most people don't have the stomach for it, and Democrats can't win elections without them. So the fight was on.

Trump, who has done little else but tick off one campaign promise after another since being elected has continued his fight to fix the problem. He cannot, however, enact any immigration legislation without Congress, and Congress, the boneheads, refuse to do it. So Trump is left with two options: Pass some Executive Orders, and enforce the laws already in place.

Initially, even Trump was reluctant to enforce the policy of breaking up families at the border, but as he realized the problem wasn't getting any better, he re-instituted the policy. He basically told his border agents to start enforcing the law. And that law requires that if you are arrested for a crime -- as some illegals are -- then you get your kids taken away.

Of course, it's happening far less than the news wants you to believe. The latest figure I saw in a New York Times article last week is that roughly 2700 kids have been separated from their families since the policy was reintroduced last year. When you contrast that with the hundreds of thousands who have attempted to cross in that time, and the fact that most families have multiple kids, the number is relatively low. It remains to be seen whether the policy will stem the overall flow.

But here's the real problem: Nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- cared until Trump's name got tied to it. Nobody cares that it happens hundreds of times everyday all over the country with law-breakers. And nobody cared that it's been happening at the border for decades. They only cared until the press told us it was all Donald Trump's fault.

I have never seen a person, let alone a President, so vilified as Donald Trump. Never has a man been so maligned for trying to serve his country. It's absolutely atrocious and sad. But beyond that, it's just wrong.

Much has been written about Trump's past indiscretions. Everybody knows about them, and nobody can change them. But this immigrant issue now is just another example of the kind of unfair political bias that has virtually wrecked our American political system.

I'm so disappointed in my friends -- people I know to usually be smart, fair, and loving people -- who have chosen -- yes, chosen -- to pile on to somebody and perpetuate lies against someone simply because they don't like a guy. It's unbelievable to me.

Who am I? Well first, I'm a father. I get it. You don't think I can imagine how tragic it must be to have your children ripped away from you? For those who witnessed me raise my boys, and watched me work with youth in my life, you think I don't have a heart and compassion for children? I'm offended at the notion. I don't like that children get ripped away from their families.

But I'm also a regular guy, who wants the laws of our country enforced. I'm not a scholar of anything. I don't have any special powers. So why is it I can do a little research on the internet and find the truth about something and you can't? It's absurd.

You don't like Donald Trump? Fine! You don't have to. Nobody is going to make you. In the end, it's only your loss if you refuse to see the things he's fixing in this country. But have the guts, and be adult enough to stand up and say so without having to make up lies about him.

If you didn't give a rip about children being separated from their families -- legally -- and you only do now because you found out it was all "Trump's doing," than you are being highly disingenuous, and you should be ashamed.

I have no problem telling you where I stand. And I'll do my best to back up my stand with facts. Sometimes I get it wrong, and I've had to eat a lot of crow over the years when I was wrong in my opinions. But at least I try. And you can rest assured I won't perpetuate -- or worse, create -- a lie about someone just because I don't like them.

What's happening at the border right now is tragic. For a whole variety of reasons. Mostly because our Congress won't act and fix the problems and give the President something he can get behind. Also because we have laws on the books -- passed by both Republicans and Democrats -- that our previous President chose to ignore, and ordered his administration to not enforce, even though he took an oath of office to defend and protect the laws and Constitution of the United States.

I don't like some of these laws. I think they should be changed. But I would rather my President see to it that the laws we do have are enforced, than to ignore them altogether. I would like to think you would want your President to do the same. It's infuriating to me that some of you don't.

And even more infuriating that the only reason you don't is because his name is Trump.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Honoring Heroes at the Indianapolis 500!

Every year for the past 30+ years, I have been attending the Indianapolis 500 with my wife's family. It is a family tradition for them, and I have been swept up in it since we started dating back in 1987. We go every year, and I absolutely love it.

If you've never attended the 500 race, you should. There simply is nothing more exciting and exhilarating in all of sports than the green flag start of that race! Especially if you sit in Turn 1. Until you see it for yourself, you will never truly understand how 33 cars, traveling at the speed of some jets in flight, can fit into a corner that is really no bigger than one side of 278 in Bluffton or I-465 on the south side of Indy. You could fight the crowds to get there, watch the green flag start, and then leave, and it would still have been worth the price you paid for the ticket. It's that exciting. (And the green-flag restarts the rest of the race -- especially those near the end -- can but just as exciting as well.)

But I'm not writing this to tell you about the race. I'm writing this to tell you about what happens before the race.

There's something else the folks at the Indy 500 do well, too. And that's honoring the men and women of our armed forces, especially those who have given their lives on behalf of our country. As you know, the Indy 500 is held Memorial Day weekend every year. Has been forever, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it's entire staff, goes out of its way to honor our military heroes.

It's not cheesy. It's not patronizing. And it's not over-the-top. They do it very well, and they do it right. A top-brass military official typically kicks off the festivities, saying a few words on behalf of our armed forces, and then introducing the parade of military personnel, representing all branches of the military, who hop aboard official Indy 500 track trucks and make a parade lap around the Speedway. I don't know how many there are for sure, but there's several dozen, maybe close to 100, who circle the track to the standing ovation of the fans.

That's followed by the invocation, which is followed by a moment of silence, which is in turn followed by a 21-gun solute from military personnel, capped off by an always-moving rendition of "Taps" by a lone military bugler. It's stirring, and played before 300-400 thousand silent patrons.

More festivities follow, which includes a performance of "God Bless America," traditionally sung by the late Florence Henderson, but in the past few years by an Indy-local musical artist.

All of that is then followed by the National Anthem, performed this year by Kelly Clarkson, which culminates with a military flyover, which was done this year by a lone stealth bomber, but has, in the past, featured in various years a squadron of fighter jets, a Harrier Jump Jet, a B-12 Bomber, and a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters.

There's various other nods to the military during other pre-race festivities as well, and it's all very moving. The only thing left after it all is to sing "Back Home Again in Indiana," start the engines, and watch the most exciting moment in all of sports.

I tell you all that to say this: They do it right because it's the right thing to do.

In light of recent events in the news, I made sure this year to look around during most of the festivities. I watched to see who was paying reverence to the ceremonies, and who wasn't. Without fail -- and with the exception of some who clearly had imbibed a bit too much to that point in the day -- everyone was standing and showing their respect. Everyone was honoring those who deserved that respect.

In the effort of full disclosure, I will freely admit that the Indianapolis 500 does not -- at least to the extent that I could see -- attract a large faction of minority fans. There simply is not, at least where we were sitting, a significant number of racial minorities in attendance. Some, but not a lot. Certainly any minorities were in the minority, if you catch my drift. It is a mostly Caucasian crowd. I have no control over that, and I really don't know why. It simply seems that watching cars turn left for three hours at 230 MPH seems to appeal more to white people than to other races. Make of that what you will.

But when it came time to honor the military, they all stood, they all removed their hats, and they showed respect where it was due.

All of them.

Why? Does every white person who attends the Indy 500 have a perfect life? Have none of them had a rough go of it in life? Have none of them been beaten down, unfairly treated, faced discrimination in some form or another, or otherwise been given the short end of the stick?

Did none of them have nothing to protest?

By now you've most likely heard of the NFL's new policy requiring their players to stand and show respect during the playing of the National Anthem before games, all in response to the ongoing saga surrounding Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the Anthem and now no longer has a job. Several NFL players followed suit. The players' reasoning for doing so, they claim, is to shed light on injustices they perceive other minorities face in our country on a daily basis.

Here's the problem: There is a right time and a wrong time to protest. Just because we have the right to protest doesn't mean the timing is always right. And often, the protest can be held in such a way as to ultimately be counterproductive to the cause.

Each year, on the way into the Speedway, there is always someone from a local Indy church standing on one of the corners near the track screaming into a little sound system about how everyone entering the track is going to Hell unless they turn their lives over to God. It's a fire and brimstone message that cannot be missed if you're walking by. It happens every year. It's almost become tradition.

He's right, of course. We are going to Hell if we don't turn our lives over to God. And he has every right to stand out there and scream his message. But the delivery of the message is more annoying than it is encouraging. Screaming at a bunch of people who intend to get drunk is not an effective way to tell them about Jesus. So the message gets lost in the delivery. If he runs more people off than he saves, what's the point? (The Bible is very clear, by the way, on the perils of causing others to turn away from God.)

No right thinking American believes Colin Kaepernick, or any other person or NFL player, doesn't have a right to protest. Whether we agree with the reason behind the protest or not is irrelevant. I wouldn't want my right to protest taken away, and I don't want anybody else's right removed either. Despite what the media wants you to believe, we, as Conservatives don't want the right to protest silenced, and we don't think Kaepernick's right should be either.

What we think is simple: The place and timing of his protest is all wrong. The message is getting lost in the delivery because it's aimed at the wrong target. If you believe minorities are getting the shaft in this country, you might be right, but it certainly isn't the fault of the brave men and women who fight every day, and who have given their lives so the rest of us can live freely every day and play a game or watch a race. The National Anthem isn't solely about celebrating America. It was specifically penned, and tied to the significance of a waving flag, because of a brave fight our military was waging. The National Anthem isn't just a song. It is specifically performed to remind us of those who fought for our rights to do whatever it is we might be doing at the moment.

It is not a time to protest. It is a time to celebrate our right to protest, and all the other rights we have as free Americans, given to us by those who paid the price of their lives to attain those rights.

The NFL, as a private organization, is well within their authority to create this rule. I've had many debates with many liberal friends who like to remind me that our "rights" don't always translate to private businesses and organizations. This is no different. The NFL pays its players to do a job, and they have every right to require certain things of their employees, as does any other business. Requiring employees to honor something that gives them the very right to become millionaires by playing a game seems like a reasonable request. This is not discrimination, nor is it a violation of anyone's rights.

Regardless, it is impossible to watch what happens during pre-race ceremonies at the Indianapolis 500, and pay attention to what it means and what it stands for, and not support the NFL's policy. If you cannot see that demanding people to stand and give respect where it is absolutely due is not a violation of rights, but simply the good and right thing to do, then you are very likely a part of the problem.

If Colin Kaepernick, or anyone else, can't honor the very men and women who gave their lives so they can have the types of jobs they have and live the kind of lives they live, then they simply do not deserve the job. Period.

And if you want to see the proper way to honor those brave men and women, get your tickets to next year's Indy 500. But hurry... they can sell out fast.

And get your seats in Turn 1 if you can. You don't want to miss the green flag drop!