The Presidential Debate Model Has Run Its Course

Presidential Debate???

Last night I sorta watched (some of) this long, long line of people from the Republican party wanting to be president, try to put one another down – and get people to believe their agenda. It reminded me of the old argument amongst kids: “My dad can beat up your dad!”

I am not sure there is a need for thing named a debate anymore, certainly not with 11 people? What does it accomplish? Do we really learn about the candidate and what they really believe about the issues of the day and what it would take to become a good president? But I am a different sort of duck. I don’t like to hear or see arguments where candidates try to get one up over one another. When the so-called news programs get candidates to argue among one another, talk over one another, put one another down, and force on the people their talking points… when that stuff comes on I TURN THE CHANNEL.

I have always enjoyed the Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil PBS News Hour approach of news broadcasting – along with today’s Charlie Rose. They sit down with a person (candidate) and ask tough, thoughtful, meaningful, pertinent questions and allow – actually allow the person to answer unfettered by another candidate jumping up and down. I have always preferred the interview style of finding out about the candidate rather than the talk you down style (in which no one learns anything).

The CNN Morning shows were talking about who got in the best zingers – so it wasn’t about anything that matters to voters. They also brought in a so-called body language expert to strategize on what they thought the way a persons hands held the podium really meant… reported who has more Twitter followers this morning… and the control of Carly Fiorina of her face… are you kidding me???? CNN has chosen to predict this debate as Carly night – really!!! Didn’t see it. I will look to Charlie Rose for an unbiased approach to the news – which I believe is what a reporter should do. The questions this morning on the “News” programs (talking head shows) is who won the debate, who gain points, who looked better? Shouldn’t the question really be about the issues America is facing and how these people seek to meet the challenges????

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to listen to the plans a person has as they run for president kinda like the old FDR Fireside Chats or listen as a candidate answers tough questions without the threat of someone jumping down their throat. Now to be sure, there would be tough questions and accountability for answers given and records made… but all done with respect. This way we really find out more about the person and their plans to lead the country. The debate showed Carly Fiorinia as mean spirited as much as Donald Trump is out of control. The real losers last night were the American people. Other than Dr. Carson, the people of America were short-changed by a really badly performed “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

I hope we all will look past the “debate” to try to find out who these people really are and what they really believe… unless you want to elect someone on soundbites and gotcha moments.

New Books

A Few Things on My Mind

A few things on my mind I wanted to share with you today. This morning in church we learned that Becca, our pastor’s daughter, will be leaving tomorrow for a four month study in England. Wow, what a big step for her and a worry-filled time for any parent. I can’t imagine my child being that far away and I can’t get to them right away. This is one of those do you really trust God moments. Please remember them in your prayers.

The second is another prayer request: Dana was a little 8 year old girl diagnosed with cancer back when I was their pastor many years ago. She has fought this battle against cancer all the way through grade, high school and college. Now she is 27 and on the 15 of September will be heading for Boston for some new treatment. She has been at Duke working with their best people and now she goes to be with the best of Boston. Let’s all pray that this will be the wining plays for the battle against this cancer. Hang tough, Dana, we are all with you.

There are many others on our prayer list and on the prayer list of all churches who need us to be there with our thoughts, prayers and presence. Don’t forget them. Walk with them and hold them close. They need us and we need to participate in their journey. We are family and we all walk together.

Speaking of being family, I continue to hear of church families that are going through blow-ups, splits and just downright fighting. It really hurts my heart to know this goes on. When I was in ministry  gave the church I served everything I had to help the people know that there is only one side in the church, and that is God’s side. We pastors have to remind ourselves that we need to be on God’s side – not God on our side.


I found this sign on Facebook the other day and realized how much it applies to all of us, especially the church when we are going through difficult times. Have you ever thought about it this way?



T – Is it TRUE?

H – Is it HELPFUL?



K – Is it KIND?

I saw this and realized that I’ve needed this advice on occasion. There have been times when I just needed to keep my mouth closed and my thoughts to myself… I wasn’t helping anyone – not even the church.

If your church is going through some difficulty how about writing down this THINK poster and seek to practice it in every circumstances. I will be willing to bet that your church and your own life will begin to heal and come alive again.

New Books

Happy Birthdays To Me

Steve at Franklin ParsonageThat’s right, today is my birthday. In chronological years I will be 68… born two months premature at good ole’ Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville, NC. Something didn’t go right with the birth… and I had to be rushed to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem to survive. Here is the part that is so amazing: My mother was sick during her pregnancy and was told by the doctors that if she didn’t have an abortion she would be sick the rest of her life. My mother, being the good ole’ Quaker she was, said, “No Way”! I was born with complications and she was indeed sick the rest of her life. I owe my life to her loving spirit.

There have been many life-changing events in my life which I refer to as “birth” days.

Steve and Shirleys weddingMy next “birth” day was surviving two car wrecks: one when I was 15 and the other around 17. The first was as my brother and I were delivering the morning newspapers in Mayodan and Madison. We came around this gravel curve, lost traction and hit this big old tree head on. I was knocked out… kinda in and out in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, and for a few days afterward. Not long after that the high school summer football practices began. I didn’t realize that I was still brain frazzled and got knocked out during practice. That was it for me. No more football. I am amazed that I had the good sense to say that was enough… but it probably kept me from having some permanent brain damage. The second wreck produced no other damage than a torn up monster of a cadillac which jumped a ditch and awarded me a ticket for an unsafe move.

My next “birth” day was 50 years ago… marrying my best friend Shirley Bruce. We celebrated 50 years on the 7th of August. It has been a very happy and fun-filled 50 years, and we know the next 50 will be even more so.

photoI celebrated a “birth” day on April 17, 1968 when I was barely wounded – Forrest Gump style – in Quang Tri, Vietnam, when seven rockets hit our tents around midnight. Many of our men didn’t make it that night. I was medevaced to Japan for a month and then back to Okinawa for two months, and then back to Camp Lejeune in early August 1968. I was very lucky to have made it back home alive with very little damage.

Ordination 1983

Ordination 1983

My next “birth” day celebration is when I entered the ministry back in June 1973… moving all the way to Associate to the Murphy Circuit. Those people were so gracious to accept this youngster as their trying-to-learn pastor. I thank them everyday for being so kind. I spent 40 years in the ministry and loved most of my time, learned a lot, met many saints of the church, and made many friends. Thanks to all of you for making room in your hearts for this young family.

Early in the morning on August 31, 1995 I woke up having a heart attack. Off to Randolph Hospital and then to Cone. Angioplasty that did not work, two weeks in the hospital and then by-pass surgery on September 15th, 1995. In about three days I will be 20 years old… living this new life of a heart patient. I had a stress test and an echo-cardiogram yesterday because of shortness of breath while walking a short distance. I will find out about that sometime this coming week. Due to some great nurses and doctors I have enjoyed 20 more years than I could have had they not been there and on top of their game.

Steve Shirley in the patch 2I am now starting my third year in my new life called retirement. It, perhaps, has been the most difficult of all… a lot of emotional stuff as you moved from the needed to the not needed so much anymore, from the energetic to the lethargic, from the strong to the weaker… from the sharp minded to the forgetfulness of names, dates and places. As they say: “Getting old ain’t for wimps!”

In my retirement, perhaps to remain relevant to the world in some small way, I have written three books. This has taken a lot of time, been frustrating and rewarding. I never really imagined that I would be an author… so just maybe this birthday will prove to be one of the best.

Thanks for all your birthday wishes today and for the special way you have touched our lives throughout the years. You ARE VERY SPECIAL!!!

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Loosing My Cool

DSC_0075My grandson is in the 8th grade this year. It is the second time he has gone out for a school sport where your skills determine whether you make the team or not. He made the track team last spring and gave it his best.

This year he made the soccer team. He has been playing soccer since he was four years old… back in the day when he was chasing butterflies and girls rather than paying attention to what was happening on the field. He has gotten better over the years as experience and desire help to build a better skill set.

This Summer he even played on a league in Randleman to help him with more experience.

Some kids, whose parents are loaded with money send their kids to these soccer leagues/ teams that cost 2 and 3 thousand dollars a year to play. They are taught not by the dad down the street who is giving his precious extra time to help kids have a team to play on. No, these elite kids are taught by soccer professionals – who teach them all the down and dirty about the game. These kids are aggressive, skilled at how to get the advantage (trip and push the other player) without getting caught.

Well, that was the team Noah played against tonight. And to add insult to injury, the officials seemed to call fouls on our team when the supposed offender was a yard or more away from the Academy Award winning player who fell (as if they were knocked to the ground). Noah’s team  lost 6 to 0 with broken spirits.

I really felt bad for them. But there was nothing I could do except hug Noah and let him know he played well – even if he didn’t win. I wanted to say something to the officials but that would not have been good. I wanted to say something to the lawyer looking guy (dad) from their team who sat near us in his Neiman-Marcus European fold up chair, but that would have been even worse. I know I would have lost my cool.

Life is not fair! Games are not fair! Officials don’t see it all and see it differently than we do. We have to learn to accept it for what it is and then move on. I am trying to do that now with the television screaming that stupid Tarheeeeeeeel noise in my ear. For a Duke fan that is not something I want to hear. I am waiting for SC to score over and over again. I use to tolerate that school but not now… not after the 18 years of academic cheating especially to allow failing athletes to take nonexistent courses to get A’s so they can remain eligible to play. Next spring the NCAA will strip UNC down to s school on 5 years of probation, no scholarship, on post season play, countless games and championships vacated. It will probably take them 15 years to get through this. I have no use for UNC whatsoever (but that is my prejudice. That is what I have to work on within my own heart). I have UNC grads who are my friends whom I hold in the highest respect and honor. They are people of integrity who would never be involved in cheating or support it in anyway. This scandal probable hurts them more than it bothers me. For them I am sorry.

Here is the thing: Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. Sometimes the game gets rained out. Sometimes cheaters win and honesty loses. Sometimes we jump for joy and sometimes we fall to the ground in agony. I have been in all those situations. Hopefully I have learned to be a better sportsman because of all of it… better than I have expressed in my Tarheel paragraph above.

If your grandson is on the ground in agony, hold him, love him, let him know it will get better. Let him talk… listen carefully. Lift him up right now… he needs it.

O God, I don’t always do it or see it correctly. I have a big prejudice when it comes to cheaters. Help me to be tolerant of others as you are tolerant of me. I know I have a long way to go when it comes to those involved in the Chapel Hill scandal. Forgive me and lead me in the path that promotes healing, forgiveness and restoration. Above all this stuff, help me to be a soft place for my grandchildren to land when they are hurting or in need. In and through Jesus. Amen.

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