My Father, my Friend

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My dad, Robert Hallquist. This picture, taken in the early 60's was taken at his workplace, Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, Baltimore, MD when I was just a kid. He turned in his shipyard duds for a pastor's suit and has been in the ministry for nearly 60 years. Good move.

Today is Father’s Day, the day we think about and honor our fathers. I think about my father often, not requiring any holiday to remind me of what he means to me.  And, he means a great deal. Although I enjoy my relationship with him, our journey hasn’t always been the smoothest. We’ve had a few bumps. I think most people could say the same. Nevertheless, I rather think about the joys we’ve had on our journey together. The ruts, bumps, and detours in the road have merely made us stronger.

As a young boy growing up in Glen Burnie, Maryland, a town just south of Baltimore, I knew my father as a hard-working and passionate man. I also feared him. With that, he presented for me the first recognizable paradox in my life. How could I, on the one hand feel free and comfortable with him, while on the other hand, feel the great sense of fear toward him? Like most children, they would want to feel completely safe and care-free with their parents at all times. I didn’t have that. It wasn’t that my dad was abusive; he just didn’t spare the rod as much as I wish he had. I thought he was too tough on me.

My first recollection of my father’s vocation was that he was a steelworker. I was kind of proud of that and in awe of what he did and where he worked. He was employed by Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point in Baltimore. At the time, Bethlehem Steel was the largest producer of steel in the world. (see http://wapedia.mobi/en/Sparrows_Point_Shipyard) I remember that he took me to the plant one time (maybe more) and I was in awe of its size and extent. It seemed that somehow, my father’s stature was linked in some measure to the size of the place he worked, and it was huge.

One of the benefits of living near Baltimore was that my dad would take me to see the Baltimore Orioles play at Memorial Stadium. What a thrill. All my heroes were there. Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jerry Adair, Stu Miller and a host of others. There was, and is nothing better than going to a big league ballgame with your dad. I was very fortunate to be with him on such occasions and still relish those experiences to this day. But baseball games were not the only things I got to do with my dad. We went fishing, visited museums, went on cool vacations, and a host of other things that made my childhood blessed. My father did a lot for us beyond providing a roof and all the essentials.

Like a lot of boys, I thought my old man was pretty smart. He seemed to be able to give an answer for everything and I didn’t think there was anything that was beyond his knowledge. He also seemed to be up on what was going on in the world and I was always under the impression back then that he was some kind of financial wizard. He would, from time to time, mention how some stock price was doing on the New York Stock Exchange. But he really confused me with all that finance talk, especially when he would mention the price of certain shares. I was only confused because I thought he was saying, “chairs”. You can imagine the confusion. I couldn’t understand how millions of chairs were being traded someplace in New York almost every day of the week. Why would people be trading chairs? Fortunately, that issue cleared up before I asked anyone how this could be.

Other than working at the steel plant, my dad had started a church in Glen Burnie and it became a large part of our lives.Church is still a critical link in our relationship. It is something I cherish deeply. As you can imagine, having a father who is a minister is a unique situation. I was keenly aware that my behavior was to be held at a higher standard than most of my friends and other kids. I’m not so sure I did so well. God is my judge.

As the years went by and I began to hold to and voice my opinions about the world I was living in. It was apparent that my dad and I were not so much in agreement about a lot of things. Nothing exemplified this difference more than the Vietnam War, politics, and the 60’s and 70’s culture. We definitely had a generation gap between us. It was during that time that our differences became more distinct and what we had in common was under pressure. My dad was beginning to appear more adversarial (as I was) and in my view, hypocritical. He was a minster of the Gospel, but I felt he had become a minister to others and left me out. Why wouldn’t he give me the same respect he would give to a total stranger? It was during my high school days that I just wanted to get out and prove him wrong. I could do better.

Fast Forward….By 1983, I had been to college, married and had two children, had a few jobs including a pastorate of my own, and was now in the US Navy, attached to a nuclear submarine. It was during that time that my relationship with my dad was really in the pits. We could find almost anything to argue about and frequently did. People did not enjoy being around us when we were together. Now mind you, I still loved my dad, but I could barely stand to be around him. Then one day while I listened to a guy talk about bitterness, it hit me. Although I was an eternal optimist, I was becoming bitter about my dad and I felt that something had to be done about. I’ve met a bunch of bitter people in my life and they’re not fun to be with. I’d rather eat lint than to be with a bitter, cynical, and sarcastic person. They can cause a total eclipse on a sunny day. I knew one thing. I was moving in that direction and something had to be done. Now, the dilemma.   Who was going to make this thing right? Surely, my old man should apologize for all his wrongs and stupidity and then things would be better. Somehow, even though it seemed like the thing I wished would happen, I knew the odds weren’t good. But that really isn’t the point here. I needed to take some responsibility for this relationship. I needed to do something. I knew it would take a paradigm shift in my thinking to move beyond anger and bitterness. I needed to have some self-respect and do the right thing. It didn’t take long before I did something.

On a weekend just after I had been assigned to the USS Shark (SSN-591), I and my family took a trip to New Milford, CT to visit my folks for the weekend. When we got there, the folks weren’t anywhere to be found. They were out shopping. So during that time, until they arrived home, I stacked a cord of wood and cleaned up around my parent’s garage which was an ongoing project. When my folks got home, the tension began building. You could cut the tension with a knife. First my mother came into the house and like all grandmother’s quickly embraced my kids and gave me a quick kiss. Then, in what seemed an eternity, my father walked in. He looked at me, paused, and then asked, “did you stack that cord of wood?” “Yes,” I replied. The tension thickened and I noticed that everyone in the room got quiet and almost froze. Then my dad asked about the garage too. I figured that he was going to let me know that I did something wrong. Then after these questions he made a comment that I could have jumped all over in rebuke. His words, “It’s about time” where the kind of words that I could have thrown right back at him, with relish. Nevertheless, I wanted a change in our relationship and I knew that this was the moment of truth. The truth is that we are all responsible for our own actions and character. We have choices in the matter. There will always be those who point to circumstance as a reason t deflect responsibility in these situations, but I have found that  those who live under the circumstance will always be living “under” something and never finding any peace or success in life.

So, what happened ? How did I respond? Well, I did what Solomon said. Agree quickly with your adversary. I looked my dad square in the eye and said without hesitation, “You’re right!”  The silence was deafening. It seemed as if I could have read “War and Peace” in the time he took to respond. At first, I expected he would continue to provide commentary on my response, but he did something totally unexpected.  He changed the subject.  When he did respond, he asked me if I would look at some plans he had been working on (I can’t remember what they were. I was in such shock).  After that moment, things changed for my dad and me.  We started to respect each other and have become very good friends, not merely a father and son.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about my dad. He’s bared his soul and told me things I wish I had known 35 years ago. I realized that my dad, like me, has been disappointed, scared, and scarred. He’s human, not Superman. That has made him stronger and bigger in my eyes than any pretense of invincibility or bravado could ever do. The knowledge of his weakness, disappointments and fears has put him and me on the same level. I see that, like me, he’s been working out his life like we all do. As fallen humanity. That’s important for all of us to remember. We all deserve a little grace and mercy and we should try to give some, too. In fact, you’ll find that in this regard, it is better to give than receive. See: http://www.joycemeyer.org/OurMinistries/EverydayAnswers/Articles/art48.htm

Today is Father’s Day and I thank God that He’s given me the dad I’ve had. No regrets. Even the bumps in our road have taught me the value of having a good suspension system. The road doesn’t much change, but your ability to absorb the imperfections in the path helps you last longer and arrive at your destination intact. These days, when I look in the mirror every morning, I see more of my dad in me. Thank God. Being able to see him, gives me hope and a peace for the day.

Thanks Dad for everything!

Bob and NBA Trophy

Dad, holding the NBA Championship trophy won by the Boston Celtics in 2008. Taken in Martha's Vineyard.

What Makes A Dad

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it … Dad

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The Lasting Lecture of Randy Pausch

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools. Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 7:2-6 NIV

About five months ago I became familiar with Dr. Randy Pausch while searching for motivational speeches that could be part of some curriculum I was writing for kids in in-school suspension programs. I found his abbreviated speech given on the Oprah Winfrey Show to be just what I was looking for. To say the least, his speech was nothing short of dynamic, moving, and profoundly sad. Immediately, I began to circulate it among my friends and family. The response was exactly what I expected. Tremendous.

For most of us, we can imagine at the moment of our passing from this terrestrial plain, a hopeful moment of being surrounded by loved ones who may just hear us utter a faint parting word of love and peace. Randy Pausch had more than a moment.  After discovering in 2006 that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,  and after a year of unsuccessful treatment, given just months to live, he began to consider what he needed to relate to his children of what he learned in life.   On September 18, 2007 he gave a ‘Last Lecture’ speech, one of a series of talks in which academics were challenged to pass on a hypothetical final message, although in Randy’s case there was a good chance it would indeed be his last.

His speech, an impassioned, eloquent and often hilarious acclamation to ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’, was recorded and put onto the internet where Prof Pausch’s wise-cracks and life lessons were seen by millions of viewers.  As he put it, ” I have an engineering problem. While for the most part I’m in terrific physical shape, I have ten tumors in my liver and only a few months left to live. I am a father of three young children, and married to the woman of my dreams.”  Those were the sad facts. Nevertheless, Randy Pausch was intent on giving something of significance to his family and even to us.  He asked the simple, but difficult question, and had an answer too.

So, how to spend my very limited time? The obvious part is being with, and taking care of, my family. The less obvious part is how to teach my children what I would have taught them over the next 20 years. My desire to do that led me to give a “last lecture”.

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture”. It has become a common exercise on American college campuses. Professors are asked to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull over the same question: if we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When commenting on his condition he noted “that it is what it is, we can’t change it, and we just have to decide how we are going to respond to it.  We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be … sorry to disappoint you!”

Pausch went on to say he wasn’t going to talk about his cancer. Instead, he wanted to celebrate his life and the lessons he had learned while growing up.

Since learning about Randy Pausch’s fight with pancreatic cancer, I bought his book, “The Last Lecture” which I devoured in short order. I also began to visit his web page where he continued to give updates about his life and prognosis.  The last time I checked his page was on Wednesday, July 22, 2008.  At that time, I believed from his last entry that he was actually in some sort of recovery.  Little did I know that within a few days, everything would change.  

On July 25th, 2008, almost two years after his diagnosis, Randy Pausch passed away. His cancer had finally bested him. I didn’t find out about his passing until a few days later.  As for me, although I know he is gone, his words and wisdom however, have not passed away.  Instead, his last lecture has become a lasting one.

Randy Pausch was born on 23 October, 1960 in Baltimore, Maryland.  He studied computer science at Brown University in Rhode Island and Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. After he gained his PhD, his mother began introducing him, “This is my son-he’s a doctor but not the kind that helps people.”  Little did she know how much and how many people he would and will help.

Related Articles:

Randy Pausch – TIME

The Truth Behind Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture”

10 Questions for Randy Pausch – TIME

A Father’s Farewell -Reader’s Digest

Randy Pausch’s Personal Page

 

The Last Lecture by Dr. Randy Pausch, Sept. 18, 2007

A Tribute to Randy Pausch


You can support research into curing pancreatic cancer via the Lustgarten foundation, and/or the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) .

 

 

Are you doing the Devil’s business?

When I was in the US Navy Submarine Force it was common in our parlance to boast that, “there is only two kinds of ships… submarines and targets!” For us bubbleheads, there was and is, no arguing the point. But of course, there were always some skimmer pukes (that’s what our surface navy brethren are affectionately called) who would provided a dissenting view. I wish I was able to keep some of the pictures of the ships I saw through our periscope. They looked great in the cross hairs!

Like most observable subjects, there are more than one facet to behold and many of our cultural, scientific, political, religious, and historical expressions and artistic styles resonate with the obvious contrast between these differences. We often attempt, and some times succeed (in some non-scientific degree) to pidgeon-hole most things observed. It seems from my unscientific survey that we default to a standard that insists that there are, much like my submarine tenet, there are only two kinds of …whatever the subject des jour. I know there are many who see more than just two choices or facets to be observed and considered, but for my “theme des jour” I’m going to reiterate a little proverb I’ve been broadcasting for a number of decades now, and I always thought it worked in every condition or culture. It simply goes like this:

The work of Jesus was to be our advocate. The work of Satan is to be our accuser. Which one do you model?

This adage has its basis in three scriptural passages.

1. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for ] the sins of the whole world. (I John 1:1-2)

2. War broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought the Dragon. The Dragon and his Angels fought back, but were no match for Michael. They were cleared out of Heaven, not a sign of them left. The great Dragon—ancient Serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, the one who led the whole earth astray—thrown out, and all his Angels thrown out with him, thrown down to earth. Then I heard a strong voice out of Heaven saying, “Salvation and power are established! Kingdom of our God, authority of his Messiah! The Accuser of our brothers and sisters thrown out, who accused them day and night before God. (Rev. 12:7-12)

3. So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 7:12)

In sum these verses provide a foundation for developing a good self-image, ethics, and character. It also provides the basis for conflict resolution, reconciliation, and redemption. It’s simple. Try it out.

Related Articles:

Do you have a critical spirit?

Recognizing the Acccuser

Jesus Interceding for Transgressors – C. H. Spurgeon

Obama’s Historical Revisions

Barak Obama

One of the things I have appreciated about Barak Obama is his willingness to confront America’s enemies with hospitality. After all, Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) commanded that we should love our enemies. It appears that Obama is convinced that this is the path to take in dealing with those nations and other antagonists that present a threat to national and world security. According to the Obama campaign’s published position on diplomacy, he “is willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe. He will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that America is ready to come to the table, and that he is willing to lead. And if America is willing to come to the table, the world will be more willing to rally behind American leadership to deal with challenges like terrorism, and Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs.”

In his speech following his primary victory in North Carolina, Obama reinforced his view of proactive engagement with America’s enemies by asserting, “I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.” When I heard him say this, I was a bit conflicted. On the one hand, I do believe that the United States should continue to offer opportunities for dialogue to our enemies, keeping the lines of communication open. On the other hand, Obama’s mention of Roosevelt and Truman as examples of leaders who talked to our enemies suggested to me that Obama hasn’t learned the lessons of history very well. It is true that Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy talked with America enemies. But to suggest a logic that concludes or assumes the consequences of such dialogue to produce only positive outcomes is without merit or historical validity. Moreover, it suggests a lack a wisdom which is discovered most often from experience, a quality some suggest Obama is seriously lacking. Obama should note that history and wisdom suggests that in some cases, talking to your enemies actually results in negative consequences by giving perceived assurances which embolden our enemies to act in a hostile manner.

I do believe that Obama’s willingness to meet with America’s enemies is in the best tradition of Christian ideals of love for enemies. However, I hope Obama, if elected to the presidency, will be wise enough to see that some of America’s enemies will use his policy of openess as a means of exploitation. The American people should not be so naive to think that talking with our enemies always produces positive results.

In the following section I have sited an article by Jack Kelly in RealClearPolitics entitled, Obama Needs a History Lesson. I think it’s worth reading and thinking about. Enjoy!

In his victory speech after the North Carolina primary, Sen. Barack Obama said something that is all the more remarkable for how little it has been remarked upon.

In defending his stated intent to meet with America’s enemies without preconditions, Sen. Obama said: “I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.”

That he made this statement, and that it passed without comment by the journalists covering his speech indicates either breathtaking ignorance of history on the part of both, or deceit.

I assume the Roosevelt to whom Sen. Obama referred is Franklin D. Roosevelt. Our enemies in World War II were Nazi Germany, headed by Adolf Hitler; fascist Italy, headed by Benito Mussolini, and militarist Japan, headed by Hideki Tojo. FDR talked directly with none of them before the outbreak of hostilities, and his policy once war began was unconditional surrender. FDR died before victory was achieved, and was succeeded by Harry Truman. Truman did not modify the policy of unconditional surrender. He ended that war not with negotiation, but with the atomic bomb.
Harry Truman also was president when North Korea invaded South Korea in June, 1950. President Truman’s response was not to call up North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung for a chat. It was to send troops. Perhaps Sen. Obama is thinking of the meeting FDR and Churchill had with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in Tehran in December, 1943, and the meetings Truman and Roosevelt had with Stalin at Yalta and Potsdam in February and July, 1945. But Stalin was then a U.S. ally, though one of whom we should have been more wary than FDR and Truman were. Few historians think the agreements reached at Yalta and Potsdam, which in effect consigned Eastern Europe to slavery, are diplomatic models we ought to follow. Even fewer Eastern Europeans think so. When Stalin’s designs became unmistakably clear, President Truman’s response wasn’t to seek a summit meeting. He sent military aid to Greece, ordered the Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan, and sent troops to South Korea.
Sen. Obama is on both sounder and softer ground with regard to John F. Kennedy. The new president held a summit meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev in Vienna in June, 1961. Elie Abel, who wrote a history of the Cuban missile crisis (The Missiles of October), said the crisis had its genesis in that summit. “There is reason to believe that Khrushchev took Kennedy’s measure in June 1961 and decided this was a young man who would shrink from hard decisions,” Mr. Abel wrote. “There is no evidence to support the belief that Khrushchev ever questioned America’s power. He questioned only the president’s readiness to use it. As he once told Robert Frost, he came to believe that Americans are ‘too liberal to fight.'” That view was supported by New York Times columnist James Reston, who traveled to Vienna with President Kennedy: “Khrushchev had studied the events of the Bay of Pigs,” Mr. Reston wrote. “He would have understood if Kennedy had left Castro alone or destroyed him, but when Kennedy was rash enough to strike at Cuba but not bold enough to finish the job, Khrushchev decided he was dealing with an inexperienced young leader who could be intimidated and blackmailed.”
It’s worth noting that Kennedy then was vastly more experienced than Sen. Obama is now. A combat veteran of World War II, Jack Kennedy served 14 years in Congress before becoming president. Sen. Obama has no military and little work experience, and has been in Congress for less than four years.
The closest historical analogue to Sen. Obama’s expressed desire to meet with no preconditions with anti-American dictators such as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the trip British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French premier Eduoard Daladier took to Munich in September of 1938 to negotiate “peace in our time” with Adolf Hitler. That didn’t work out so well.
History is an elective few liberals choose to take these days, noted a poster on the Web log “Hot Air.” The lack of historical knowledge among journalists is merely appalling. But in a presidential candidate it’s dangerous. As Sir Winston Churchill said: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Falling into Grace

Shame The idiom, “fall from grace” is typically used to express the idea of a loss of status, respect, or prestige for a failure of moral character. Just in the past week, we’ve borne witness to the moral failure of Eliot Spitzer, governor of New York because of his involvement with a prostitute. People have and do fail, some failures being more public and shameful than others. In recent years very public ministers, such as Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and Ted Haggard have had their sins broadcast around the globe, not only bringing shame on themselves, but shame to the Church. High-profile politicians such as Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Randy Cunningham, and Bill Clinton have had very public failures splashed over every newspaper in the land. Exposing and scrutinizing the sins of the rich, famous and powerful seems to garner as much interest as other national past-times such as baseball and American Idol. It’s a bloodsport.

This morning, Easter morning, the guest speaker at our church was John G. Rowland, former governor of the state John G. Rowland Connecticut, the state in which I live. On July 1, 2004 Rowland resigned as governor after facing charges of tax evasion, corruption, and bribery. More than likely, Rowland would have been impeached if he had chosen to fight the charges. In the end, he would spend ten months in federal prison for “honest services mail fraud” and tax fraud.

For most of those in the crowd attending the service today, they only knew John Rowland because of his history in state government and his legal troubles. For me it was personal. Seeing him at church today brought back waves of past memories relative to the eminent domain case that consumed almost seven years of my life. John Rowland was a central figure in our contention that government should not seize personal property to give to another person, institution, or business, but for strictly defined public uses such as for roads, schools, and the like. (see the tab above, “NABOTH’S VINEYARD” for information on the case)

On February 3, 1998, the day Amy and I had our offer to buy our home accepted, Governor John Rowland, George Milne of Pfizer Corporation, and City of New London officials were on-board a ferry in the Thames River announcing that Pfizer was going to build it’s Global Research facility in New London, a few blocks from our house. This was great news. New London needed an economic asset of this magnitude to jump-start the city’s sagging fortunes and move it toward a better quality of life. Amy and I were thrilled. For the next nine months the New London Development Corporation, the city’s quasi-public/private agency, began a course of informational meetings about the development of the area adjacent to the new Pfizer development. For most residents, including myself, the idea of redeveloping the Fort Trumbull peninsula was welcomed news. However, before too long, we began to detect some stories of underhanded attempts by the NLDC to get theresidents of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood to sell their homes to the NLDC. For many residents, the neighborhood had been their home for most of their lives, and many of the residents, being quite advanced in years, just didn’t want to sell. That’s when the pressure began.

By the end of the year, 1998, Amy and I wrote up a petition that stated our support of the residents to stay in their homes and that the proposed development should incorporate the neighborhood. The petition was part of the administrative requirement for an environmental impact study. After a short time had passed, we began to hear more and more distressing stories of harassment and intimidation. Part of that intimidation was a threat of eminent domain. Legally, according to the Connecticut General Statutes, using the threat of eminent domain is illegal until a government plan had been certified. That wouldn’t happen until February 2000.

During 1999 we continued to hear stories of how the NLDC was strong-arming the residents in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood by employing some fairly deceitful practices. In more than one case we found where the home evaluations the NLDC was giving the residents showed a considerable drop in value. All the while, the city continued to tax them at a much higher rate. Clearly unjust weights. What was really sad was to see elderly residents being treated so poorly. They were being given low offers for their homes which carried no mortgages. These folks had worked all their lives to raise families and buy their homes, which they now owned, free and clear. Sadly, the offers they were given by NLDC wouldn’t buy a garage, much less a home. In addition most of these people were retired having small retirement pensions. They couldn’t afford or even qualify for a new mortgage that would give them the same house as they now owned. In spite of our rantings to the city, state, and NLDC about the injustice of what had been and continued to be done, it fell on deaf ears. Instead, the residents were being told they needed to sacrifice for the common good. It was ironic that Claire Guadiani, president of both the NLDC and Connecticut College was saying that the remaining residents needed to sacrifice for the common good, yet at the same time, we discovered that the original plan that had been developed included an educational campus led by Claire’s husband David Burnett, a Pfizer executive. No conflict there.

At the end of 1999, members of the Coalition to Save Fort Trumbull Neighborhood, an organization formed to save the neighborhood were fairly certain the path the state was taking in the project was one that would force the remaining residents out of Fort Trumbull. Their gentrified neighborhood just didn’t fit with the world class Pfizer development. On January 18, 2000 the New London City Council voted 6-1 to approve the municipal development plan submitted by the state, through their agent, the NLDC. In that act, the council gave its power to use eminent domain to force out unwilling residents from their homes. The plan was hatched and approved at the highest level of state government in the person of John G. Rowland.

For most of the next year my wife and I obtained thousands of pages of emails, letters, and other documents through the Freedom Of Information Act. After a while, we could have written them in our sleep. At any rate, as we continued to dig up violations of statutes and other laws, we sought legal help. We retained the service of a local attorney, (our personal attorney) Scott Sawyer. By May 2000 we formed an organization, the Fort Trumbull Conservancy in order to launch legal actions against the city, state, and NLDC. In July 2000 we filed our first lawsuit. While we proceed to fight on state-level statutory levels, we also lobbied the support of the Institute for Justice– IJ, a Washington-based public interest law firm. They took up our cause in December 2000.

For the next four plus years, we continued to fight to preserve the property rights of the residents and hope for a modification of the plan in order to get the development going in uncontested areas of the project site. The results were disheartening on all sides. Through that period we went to superior court, the state supreme court, and finally, on February 22, 2005, the case was heard in the highest court in the land, the US Supreme Court.

From early on in the struggle, Amy and I participated in weekly prayer walks in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. It was led by myself and John Endler, pastor of First Baptist Church in New London. We had asked people and churched to join us in an effort to pray for reconciliation and peace in the city. A number of people were faithful to the call for over five years running. Sadly, only two churches participated. During those days I noticed there were three kinds of prayers being offered. The first was a general prayer for the residents and the resolution of the immediate problems. The second was a prayer that was more sharp-edged, with a call for justice against those who had violated the residents in the neighborhood. The last kind of prayer was one of reconciliation to our enemies in this particular fight and one that sought truth and mercy. I was one that prayed for reconciliation. That included prayers for John Rowland, Claire Guadiani, and our city officials.

I found that the more I prayed for my “enemies”, the more I felt God releasing love for them in my heart. Even though I would still continue to confront them over what I saw a injustice, I didn’t allow myself the opportunity to hate them. I had to pray for them, I had to love them. )

In 2004, I was not at all surprised to hear about Rowland being charged with tax evasion and other charges. For me and my wife, we KNEW since 2000, it was going to happen. We knew he would be kicked out of office. (Read NABOTH’S VINEYARD. In it I said in February 2000 that John Rowland would not make it through his term as governor.) After hearing the news, my heart was heavy and I began to pray for him and his family. I felt very strongly that God had His hand on John Rowland and was doing something special in his life. That special thing was fine-tuned after Rowland was sent to federal prison for ten months. I thought of him and prayed for him often, believing that God had him right where he wanted him.

When I heard that John Rowland was released from prison and that God had indeed done something in his life, I remembered the verse of scripture my mother would always encourage me by, Romans 8:28. Ironically, it was this same verse that got John Rowland through some really rough patches while in prison. That verse says, “We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan.”

It is so wonderful to see that God has used what man would consider a nail in the coffin of a life to resurrect a new man, that like David, after he was caught in the sin with Bathsheba, was empowered to preach God’s word. (Psalm 51) Wow!

Today, I heard my enemy speaking of God’s glory and the power of Christ’s resurrection. What a joy to see him redeemed. Actually he fell into grace instead of falling from it. He may have lost status, respect, and prestige in the world’s eyes, but in God’s eyes, John Rowland has status, respect, and prestige as a child of God. Grace is unmerited favor, that which is bestowed, not earned. The Scripture says that where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. (Romans 5:20) Indeed, John Rowland has fallen into God’s grace. I know, because I’m there with him.

Peace,

Steve

The Ministry of Physical Therapy

Since last March, I’ve been employed by DISH Network as a technician, training developer, and now the OJT (on-the-job) trainer for new technicians. I do this four days a week. Among other vocations, electronics has been a huge part of my life. Anyway, back on September 29, 2007, I injured my right leg, tearing my calf muscle and the tendon where it attaches. It’s been pretty painful, but it’s on the mend. A couple of weeks ago, the orthopedist referred me to a physical therapy provider and I began a course of therapy. I’ve been fortunate in that my therapist is one of the sports trainers for the Connecticut Sun, a WNBA team located at Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino.Today while I was laying on a training table as my therapist massaged my leg, I asked him if there was a specific process for physical therapy. There had to be, I thought. Surely, it seemed that there was some kind of underlying logic to the way they were treating me. And whatever it was, it seemed to be working.He replied that there was a procedure they followed for every patient. Of course, every patient has different needs and conditions, but the process for wellness was the same.As I laid there I began to question whether I could analyze and figure out what that process was. Now mind you, I love to figure out processes. It’s fun and rewarding. So here’s what I discovered.Anyone who has visited (that’s an appropriate word) medical professional has probably spent at least ten or more minutes filling out all kinds of paperwork that lets the staff know some pretty important stuff. Name, address, phone number, social… Then there’s medical history. When you get to be my age, with my health, it’s the size of a good novel. Anyway, they need to know who they have in front of them. That’s where it all begins. Knowing who you are. Of course depending on what kind of visit your having will determine “how well” they’ll get to know you. Latex gloves scare me!So that’s the first step. Finding out who you are. The next step is actually part of the first and contains two related subcategories. We call this part of the process the “assessment” step. Assessment includes two parts. First there is an examination of the patient to determine the actual or potential impairments, functional limitations, disabilities, or other conditions of health there are. This is done by screening through the use of tests and measurements. Then from that there is an evaluation made from the results of the examination through analysis and synthesis within a process of clinical thinking. After the assessment is made then there is a diagnosis.Diagnosis results from the examination and evaluation and expresses the outcome of the process of clinical reasoning. This may be expressed in terms of movement dysfunction or may encompass categories of impairments, functional limitations, abilities/disabilities or syndromes. Once the diagnosis is made then a plan of treatment is devised.Planning begins with determination of the need for intervention and normally leads to the development of a plan of intervention, including measurable outcome goals agreed to by the patient/client, family or care giver. It may be that this leads to a referral to another agency.Intervention is where you actually do something. It is where the plan is implemented and modified to reach agreed upon goals and may include many different kinds of physical handling, movement enhancements, massages, and all the other stuff that is implemented during the course of a therapy session. In addition to all the physical manipulations, it is also necessary to encourage the patient on any progress made. Intervention may also be aimed at prevention of impairments, functional limitations, disability and injuries including the promotion and maintenance of health, quality of life, and physical fitness. After the intervention is implemented it is time to assess how we are doing. This is called evaluation.Evaluation requires a re-examination of our condition for the purpose of evaluating outcomes. This is where we determine our progress and make adjustments to our program of intervention, if necessary. If everything goes right, you’ll back to “normal.”There it is: Assessment, Diagnosis, Planning, Intervention, and Evaluation. As I thought about these steps toward wellness, I saw clearly how they could be applied physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even, financially.When I was growing up, we used to sing a song in church a lot that prayerfully asked, “Search me, oh God, and know my heart, I pray.” Well actually, God already knows our heart, and if anything, we need to know our heart too. That’s assessment. Unfortunately, I often see people skipping this part. They kinda want to get in tune with themselves, or as we did in the 60’s and 70’s, find ourselves, but I’ve often seen this approach as a means to protect oneself from bad feelings and to find some means of escape. The difference with real assessment is you lay it all on the table. You’re all in with nothing to hide. It’s a scary place for sure, but you’ll discover that you can’t hide from yourself and it’s best to really stop trying to hide.When you get to the part where you have seen who you are and understand what you need and fear, then you can now begin to see what motivates your conscious and subconscious thoughts and their corresponding actions. This is the diagnosis part. It’s the effect of the cause (which is who you are). It’s the visible part. It’s the doing part and the part where we can ask ourselves a simple question. “Why did I do what I did when I did it?” Fairly simple, right? Here’s where we can continue a course of honesty and confession which is the real beginning of healing. A complete diagnosis of symptoms is invaluable. I know for a fact that my doctors can probably better prescribe treatment when they actually have some measurable symptom to assess. It would be crazy for you to go to a doctor and say to him/her, “I’m not going to tell you what hurts, feels bad, or if I am sick. You figure it out.” (Of course, if I had Dr. Gregory House as my doctor, he could diagnose me while playing his air guitar in hisliving room. Unfortunately, I can’t afford him, so I guess I’ll just keep on toughing it out while being poked and prodded like a voodoo doll). Whoops, I digress. At any rate, looking at our behavior, the expression of who we are on the inside, reveals a lot. It’s that point of revelation where you can choose to change the direction of your life. To truly change your life, you have to change your thinking. Mind renewal.They say in AA there’s only one thing you ‘ve got to change in your life. Everything! What’s great about the Word of God is that it gives you a way to change your whole way of thinking, and hence, your life and future. In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul wrote that we need to renew our minds. By renewing your mind, you lay hold to new attitudes, goals, ideals, opinions, desires, and ideas. So how do you do it? Renew your mind, that is. Well, you make a new mind the way you made the old one. This comes when you put new thoughts/words into your noggin and reject thoughts that are not consistent with God’s thoughts and His ways. Sounds tough doesn’t it? It could be. It’s like learning a new language.Think about the power of words. You can’t put them in a jar or basket or any container. Sure, you can write them down, but until they resonate in your mind and are stored there, and have meaning, they don’t really have much effect. As you begin to learn a new language you learn individual words, then phrases, then sentences, and so on. It’s a step-by-step process. Like physical therapy, it’s a program that takes time and discipline. This is the intervention phase of recovery. It takes working the plan. Consistency and discipline is what gets you to your goal. If you need help, and you will, get with someone in the Body of Christ that will mentor or disciple you. They will help train you. No one is going to force you to go to therapy and no one will force you to change. But when you submit to the working the plan, you get results.The last step is evaluation and this is very important. If we don’t periodically check ourselves out, there’s a pretty good chance we could be doing the wrong thing and run into further trouble. It’s easy to fall into bad habits or routines that are not productive. There needs to be periodic change. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. Life isn’t on autopilot. It’s up to you to steer your boat and ask God to navigate through the waters of life. He will not let you wreck yourself on the shoals if you let him direct you.Muscle Man