Category Archives: values

Dwight Howard And The Blessing of Life

The latest in our ongoing series on American Heroes and Idols

By: Michael Beckman

Cross-Posted From: Tales from a tribble

Dwight HowardAs a big Rockets basketball fan, I was very excited along with the rest of Houston fans when the Rockets signed center Dwight Howard as a free agent in July of 2013.  The Rockets had just signed the best center in the NBA to go along with another super star of the Rockets, James Harden.  This dynamic duo would surely be fun to watch, and it has been.  The Rockets are now one of the best teams in the NBA with a legitimate chance to fight for an NBA Championship.  But more than just acquiring a great basketball player, our city of Houston has been blessed to have a great man join us.

That may be surprising to some because when Dwight decided to sign with the Rockets [especially over his previous team, the Lakers] there was a lot of negative talk that came out about Dwight.  You could read comments on twitter that Dwight was a loser, he was selfish,  he would be a negative on the team, and he didn’t care enough about winning.   Those descriptions about Dwight could not be further from the truth.  None of them apply to this gentleman.  Dwight Howard is a winner, a team player and a big positive to the team, on and off the court.

There is one main reason that the last description of Dwight Howard, that he didn’t care enough about winning, came about.  That is because before the game, during the game and after the game, you will always see Dwight with a smile on his face.  Many basketball fans have taken that to mean he just doesn’t care.  If only they knew the real reason Dwight always has a smile and a positive attitude, even in defeat.  It has nothing to do with Dwight not caring about the game, as he hurts as much as anyone else on the team when they lose a game.  It has to do with life itself.

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The Amateur

TheAmateur-Cover211The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House is the title of a book by Edward Klein that was first published May 15, 2012. The Google eBook synopsis of this publication says:

“It’s amateur hour at the White House. So says New York Times bestselling author Edward Klein in his new political exposé The Amateur. Tapping into the public’s growing sentiment that President Obama is in over his head, The Amateur argues that Obama’s toxic combination of incompetence and arrogance have run our nation and his presidency off the rails. ‘Obama was both completely inexperienced and ideologically far to the left of Americans when he entered the White House,’ says Klein. ‘And he was so arrogant that he didn’t even know what he didn’t know.’… From Obama’s conceited and detached demeanor, to his detrimental reliance on Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett’s advice, to the Obama’s extravagant and out-of-touch lifestyle, The Amateur reveals a president whose blatant ignorance and incompetence is sabotaging himself, his presidency, and America.”

MY GROWING SENTIMENT

Of course, at the time of its publication, there were reviews praising it (generally, by right-leaning individuals/organizations), as well as reviews trashing it (generally, by left-leaning individuals/organizations). Since the book’s publication date was well into the primary season for the 2012 presidential election, it came at a time when I had already decided to vote for the Republican Presidential Nominee that November. So, although I don’t think my views were quite as harsh as those presented by the Google eBooks synopsis, I’d say that I had come to be in general agreement with its theme. Since then, sadly, I believe that President Obama has continued to prove that Klein’s allegations were completely accurate, if not understated. And, sadder still, affirmation of this truth seems to continue to grow and even accelerate, on a nearly daily basis.

WHAT I PRAYED FOR

Undoubtedly, those whose reviews trashed Klein’s book professed that he had only assembled his assertions to support opinions of Obama that he had held from the outset of his presidency. And, I’m just as sure that they would level the same charges at me. With that, I’d remind them of an article I wrote at the time of President Obama’s first inaugural, entitled A Prayer in Baltimore. In that piece, I said: Continue reading

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Filed under America’s founding ideals, leadership, Presidents, United States, values

Mount Rushmore Worthy

rushmore

In a recent article, entitled President Washington’s Day, I proposed changing from a Presidents Day, which celebrates all U.S. presidents past and present, to a President’s Day … President George Washington’s Day, to recognize Washington as the one who exemplifies true greatness in the office of president. Although I believe that Washington did clearly set the standard for true greatness in that office, it doesn’t mean that he is the only president deserving of being honored for true greatness. With that said, it does beg the question, how does one measure true greatness among the 44 who have held the office of U.S. President?

It struck me that, to answer this question, a good place to start might be to take a look at the criteria used to select the presidents whose statues appear on Mount Rushmore. In doing that, you find that Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who conceived the idea of the Mount Rushmore Memorial, defined his concept by saying:

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”

These four criteria … founding, expansion, preservation and unification … aren’t necessarily the best and only way to gauge true greatness among those who had served as U.S. President up to the time of the Mount Rushmore Memorial’s dedication in 1936. However, it would be most difficult to argue with the choices that Borglum made – i.e. Washington for founding, Jefferson for expansion, Theodore Roosevelt for preservation and Lincoln for unification. Of course, both expansion and unification are criteria that could come into play again. But, preservation is the one that seems to have the most ongoing significance. Since I see preservation as being at the heart of Here I Raise My Ebenezer’s aim to serve as a platform for presenting views that support America’s founding ideals, that is the basis I’ll use here, in considering which presidents, who have served since 1936, have shown true greatness that would merit their being added to the Mount Rushmore Memorial.

As I also noted in the article entitled President Washington’s Day, there are two presidents who have served since 1936  who have so dishonored the office that I would object to their being honored in this way. These are Nixon and Clinton. Likewise, I see it as inappropriate to include those who may have been great at getting elected but who were inferior leaders. My list here includes: Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter and Obama. That leaves Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.

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For me, the clear and obvious choice is President Ronald Reagan. Preservation and restoration of America’s founding ideals were hallmarks of his administration. He took on the leadership of an America that had been diminished by that waste of a war in Vietnam, the shame of Watergate and the socioeconomic malaise that ensued. And, without pointing the finger of blame at any predecessor, he inspired our return to socioeconomic wellbeing by leading us towards an America that he always described as “a shining city on a hill.”

rushmore with reaganOf course, I understand that not everyone will agree with my assessment here. If you, at least, agree that, in honoring those who have served as U.S. President, it’s important for us to only recognize those who exemplify true greatness, whether or not you agree with my criteria for selection or the list of those I’d exclude from consideration or my list of those I’d include for consideration or my ultimate selection of President Reagan, I’d like to hear from you. Likewise, if you are in agreement with my process and my conclusion, I’d welcome hearing your added thoughts on the topic.

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Play Mean but Play Clean

dick-butkus-coverWhat comes to mind for you when you hear the name Dick Butkus? Immediately, I think along the lines of the caption on this Sports Illustrated cover … “Dick Butkus of the Bears – The most feared man in the game (NFL Football)”. No doubt, many others (especially those of my generation) share that same first thought. And, there’s ample justification for that line of thinking. The 6 ft 3 in, 245 lb Butkus, was known as one of the most feared and intimidating linebackers during his nine years as a player for the Chicago Bears.

Next, you may think of Dick Butkus as a celebrity endorser and actor. That’s my next thought too. And, here too, there’s plenty of good reason for thinking that way. The “most feared man in the game” persona of this Pro Football Hall of Fame member has been very effective in promoting brand names, from his Miller Lite commercials with Bubba Smith  to his “I’m sorry, Dick Butkus” spots for FedEx. And, Butkus has had numerous roles on TV and in the movies. He was even the namesake for Rocky’s English Mastiff, in both the Rocky and Rocky II movies.

So, if you met him today, wouldn’t you expect to meet a somewhat older version of the Dick Butkus you’ve come to know about over the years? That is, an imposing figure who still lives in his hometown, Chicago, whose time is mostly spent enjoying the leisure activities of retirement, along with some dabbling in the worlds of sports and entertainment. That’s what I thought when my Wife, Ruth and I had the pleasure of meeting him recently at a MarriageTeam Tailgate Party & Auction. I will say that the qualities I expected to find in his makeup all seemed to be present and undiminished. However, I also got to start becoming acquainted with some dimensions of the man that were a pleasant surprise. One of these is a campaign he started, called Play Clean™. It’s a program that encourages teens to “train hard, eat well, and play with attitude”, instead of resorting to illegal steroids. His willingness to take this stand against steroids caused USA Today to comment that Butkus may have a greater impact on the game in his 60s (now 70s) than he did playing in his 20s. Continue reading

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Filed under character, commitment, community, Culture, entertainment, faith, Family, ideals, Love, Making a Difference, Marriage, society, Sports, Substance Abuse, values

American Heroes and Idols

AROD

The kickoff of the NFL’s 2013 Regular Season was this past Thursday, September 5th. So, the enthusiasm of NFL fanatics for their idols is in full ramp-up mode. That fervor will reach a crescendo with Super Bowl XLVIII. Although I’m an MLB fan and not an NFL fan, there’s a part of me that has looked forward to this, to help take the spotlight off of the disgusting circumstances surrounding the MLB’s highest-paid player, Alex Rodriguez.

There’s no denying that Rodriguez is greatly gifted with baseball talent, talent that makes him more than qualified to be a sports hero. And, having sports heroes can be a good thing. My baseball hero, growing up, was Mickey Mantle. Of course, when I criticize Rodriquez as compared to Mantle, as a sports hero, others consistently bring up Mantle’s alcoholism. However, that was not commonly known during the Mick’s playing days and it had nothing to do with his reputation as a sports hero. He was looked to, as a role model, for the way he played the game on the field and nothing else. On the other hand, AROD’s off-the-field misbehavior is well-known. Sort of belying the present uproar, his use of steroids has been common knowledge for sometime. And then there’s his infidelity, leading to divorce, followed by serial womanizing. To me, it’s disturbing enough that, with these things out in the open, he has continued to be looked upon as a sports hero. What I find more disturbing is that he has been idolized for these very behaviors.

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Purple Mountain Travesty

Often, Baby Boomers, like me, are heard lamenting about things that aren’t “like they were when we were growing up.” These complaints can come off as one wishing to relive their childhood. In some instances, that, in fact, may be the case. In this instance, my grief is over losing a foundational quality to the greatness of American culture, a quality that drew our predecessors to this land in the first place. The following brief piece, presented by Bret Baier and Peter Boyer, of Fox News, is a good way to set the stage for what I want to address in this article:

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Because I Love My Homosexual Friends

From: Michele Phoenix

duct-tape-mouth

I’ve been encouraged NOT to publish this article.  “You’re going to get slammed,” a friend warned, knowing well that this topic can turn pacifists into thugs.  But I have to speak up.  I have friends, former students and relatives who are homosexual.  Each one of them is beautiful, valuable and honorable.  I love them.  I want them to know that I do—in all my magnificent cluelessness!  I don’t ever want them to think that their sexual identity and choices make them somehow less worthy of my loyalty than my heterosexual friends. So…thanks for the words of warning, but I need to voice these thoughts.  And if my inbox fills with hate mail again (it has before—it hurts when it does), I’ll deal with it.

Three preemptive explanations for the sake of clarity:

  • When referencing The Church, I am referring to “traditional” evangelical churches, particularly those that have expressed hatred toward the homosexual community.  I know there are exceptions.
  • This article is written from the perspective of this Jesus-follower.  I mention “sin” in the context of the Christian faith, as a conservative interpretation of the Bible defines it.  If you do not believe in the Bible’s authority, I understand that “sin” will sound offensive to you.  That is not my intention.  I am a sinner.  I live in (and can thrive in spite of) that reality.
  • I acknowledge that there are multiple theological stances regarding homosexuality and faith.  This is not a personal manifesto on the topic.  It is an essay about our failure to love.

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