Monday, January 1, 2018

What a year...

The year 2017 is now over, and 2018 is underway. To get a grip on the new year, I think it's important to look back as see what happened last year and see if there is anything I can learn from it.

Clemson wins is ALL!

The Clemson Tigers are the National Champions! It took 35 years since we could say that and it took 35 points to knock off Alabama. That was a sweet victory. As a long time Tiger (since 1979) it was beautiful to see. I hoped we'd be there again but never thought it would be the very next year! We're back at it and once again facing Alabama. As of this post, the game is tonight - win or lose - I'll always be #allin.

Lessons learned...
As Nick Saban as learned, never doubt Dabo.  Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney has built a fantastic program built on integrity and solid fundamentals.

Also, I place WAY too much emphasis on football. That has to change.

25 Years in the making.

My wife and I celebrated our 25th Anniversary. Still can't believe that she chose me.

Lessons learned...
Ain't true love grand!

I really love being on stage.

Seize The Laughter with 'Stella' in January.
The Sanders Family in June.
Me & Dan in a stage selfie during 'Lend Me A Tenor' in July.

Lessons learned...

I am at my best when faced with a challenge.

Also, friendship means EVERYTHING. During a performance of Smoke on the Mountain, Kay Williams, a friend I had not seen in almost 30 years, drove from Memphis (along with her husband) to catch a show. I was and still am blown away. Thank you Kaybo.

My wife will take on most any challenge.

The year she has run her first half marathon and gone caving... both things she said she'd didn't want to do, but when Nikki was presented the challenge, she accepted the crushed it! 

Lessons learned... 
Don't tell my wife she can't do anything. Love you, babe.

All good things must end.

I got the news that it was coming to an end on October 13, 2017 - yes a Friday - and I knew when I heard of the decision that it was the right one. The last edition of CCM Sunday was on October 29, 2017, on Sunny 92.3. After 24 years, it was gone. CCM Sunday was more than just a show on the radio. It was a huge part of my life.  
Lessons learned...
The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:10, 'Whatever the activity in which you engage, do it with all your ability, because there is no work, no planning, no learning, and no wisdom in the next world where you're going..' What that verse says to me is that whatever you do in this life, make it count. Do it with everything you have in you and make a difference!

The 333 Challenge

In January I quietly accepted this challenge to reduce my clothing wardrobe down to 33 items for 3 months - not counting underwear, socks and specific clothes for running. This meant going through my closet, dresser, and drawers and packing up anything that was over the count of 33. Now, after doing this for a year, I won't go back.  I have made adjustments for the seasons, but I haven't missed anything, and when these clothes wear out I have a supply of 'new' clothes waiting for me in the attic. 

Lessons learned...
I can live much less than I thought. We all could.

So there you have it, my 2017 and all the lessons learned. Life is a journey, and it's best enjoyed when you live it rather than just survive it. God bless and Happy 2018!

Monday, November 6, 2017

There goes a part of my life...

Well, there they are. The last four hours on Sunday, October 29, 2017, of CCM Sunday on Sunny 92.3. It was more than just a show on the radio. It was a huge part of my life for a little over twenty-four years. And now it's gone. Forever. Wow.

I got the news that it was coming to an end on October 13, 2017 - yes a Friday - and I knew when I heard of the decision that it was the right one.

I along with Alan Knowles, started CCM Sunday on June 20th, 1993, as the radio arm of DMI Concerts. When we started, CCM Sunday was all day, every Sunday on what was then Magic 102.7. When Magic 102.7 changed formats, we soon changed right along with them and helped in the early days of J103. In April of 1998, CCM Sunday moved to Sunday mornings on Sunny 92.3. I remained the host and quickly became part of the Sunny 92.3 family. I’ve worked with and for that family ever since.

From the very beginning, CCM Sunday had a very simple mission: to create an on-air home for Contemporary Christian Music in the Chattanooga area and to build His kingdom in the process. 
Did we accomplish our mission? Yes. Today, there are six places to hear His music on the radio dial: WMBW - that is home to former CCM Sunday talent Jason McKay, Family Life Radio, AirOne, WayFM, K-Love and of course J103.

Did we build His kingdom? Yes, we did and I am proud of the work the Lord allowed me to be a part of.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:10, 'Whatever the activity in which you engage, do it with all your ability, because there is no work, no planning, no learning, and no wisdom in the next world where you're going..' What that verse says to me is that whatever you do in this life, make it count. Do it with everything you have in you and make a difference! It has been my goal the last 24 years to do just that. I hope I have done just that. Thank you and goodbye.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

I remember Yogi

It was a two years ago today that we learned of the passing of one of the all time greats, Yogi Berra. He played ball in a time where the sport WAS the national pastime and the baseball world revolved around the Yankees. Yogi was 90 year old. The Yankees legend and Hall of Famer may be better known for the way he creatively butchered the English language, with what became known as Yogi-isms. Here are some of my favorites....

“It’s deja vu all over again.”

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

I've said everyone at one point in my life, sometimes never knowing I was quoting the great Yogi Berra.

It was only today that I realized that there are a few marketing lessons to be learned from Yogi as he quoted his way through life. Allow me to get you thinking on just a few of them....

Be an original. In this day where every business is making the same claims about the 'lowest price' or 'biggest selection' the ones that are successful have an original thought or idea and do an excellent job of stating it plainly and in a way you will remember it. Coke, for example, doesn't say we taste good (like Pepsi), instead it states that Coke is part of the sweetest moments of your life. 

Be who you are. Yogi Berra never tried to be someone he wasn't. There is a story of a teacher one time asking a young Yoggi, 'Son, do know ANYTHING?'. To which Yoggi replied, 'I've never even suspected anything!' Apple makes incredible products that all have a unique look, feel, and way they operate. Windows and Android based products sell the fact that they are fully customizable to the way you want, I like that. But Apple says, this is who WE are and if you are cool enough, sophisticated enough i.e. smart enough, use one of our products.

Finally, be alert. Yoggi said, "You can observe a lot by watching." By paying attention to other businesses in your field and marketplace you can let them do the learning for you. Not just so you don't make the same mistakes they did, but that you can do things BETTER than they did or do. Yoggi also said that, "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else", so watch an be mindful of the steps you take. Have a target, a goal, an objective to aim at daily and one for the long term as well.

Yoggi Berra, his goal has been achieved, starting catcher in heaven. Can't you just imagine the things he's saying now.

Monday, September 11, 2017

I remember...

A year ago I gave the following speech at the 9/11 Memorial Run. That was before Charlottesville, Va, before we started tearing down statues, and before the network news told us - nightly - that we don't like each other. These words mean just as much today...

Today is September 11, 2016, it was 15 years ago today and not too many minutes from now that a series of events unfolded that changed those of us who lived through it and changed the future of all those who came after it.

September 11, 2001, was a day for our generation, much like December 7, 1941, was for a generation before. On September 11, 2001, almost 3000 people died as terrorists attacked New York and Washington. There were also passengers - turned heroes that down a fourth plane in Pennsylvania.

Hero. That word somehow falls short in describing the actions of so many that day. The passengers on that plane, everyday citizens, the firefighters, port authority police, first responders, and bravest of the men and women in blue. On that day the color of our skin color didn’t matter, religion didn’t matter, backgrounds, social status didn’t matter. Politics didn’t matter. Everything that divides us now - didn’t matter then. Only humanity mattered. Together - despite our differences would we survive - or at least have a chance.

Today, as we look back and honor the sacrifices made by all and remember the heroes. I want to share a story a different kind of hero that caught my attention and touched my heart - and still does today.

He was called the Fireman’s Friar. His name was Father Mychal Judge. He was the most notable first victim of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. One month after Mychal Judge's body was pulled from the shattered lobby of 1 World Trade Center, and three weeks after his televised funeral, some of the friar's friends decided to hold a smaller memorial service - an evening of Celtic music and storytelling. Priests, nuns, lawyers, cops, firefighters, homeless people, rock-and-rollers, recovering alcoholics, local politicians, and middle-aged couples from the suburbs all streamed into the Good Shepherd Chapel on Ninth Avenue. Mychal Judge had a Clintonian talent for making people feel as though they were the only ones in the room and a bartender's gift for bringing strangers together.

Did you catch it? Those things that can divide us, did matter to Father Judge - that day or any day.

The firemen loved him. He had an encyclopedic memory for their family members' names, birthdays, and passions; he frequently gave them whimsical presents. Once, after visiting President Clinton in Washington, he handed out cocktail napkins emblazoned with the presidential seal. He'd managed to stuff dozens of them into his habit before leaving the White House.

Father Mychal Judge didn’t go without having his share of controversy surrounding his life, suffice it to say he didn’t fit the mold when it came to a shepherd of people.

He was killed on that day as tower one collapsed on him but not before connecting with and ministering to as many he could. He was reportedly last seen administering the last rights to someone on the sidewalk.

Reportedly in his pocket was a simple prayer card with these words:

Lord, take me where you want me to go.
Let me meet who you want me to meet.
Tell me what you want me to say,
And keep me out of your way.

Good words from a good man to hide in our heart in preparation for the next day we’ll never forget.

May God bless us today as we remember the good father and other heroes from September 11, 2001.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Southern Pride

I don't know who this is, but what he said and how he said it resonated in me so strong that I can't help but to repeat it.

So at the risk of hearing, 'I told you so' from my Yankee family and 'how could you' from my southern family, here are some of the wisest words I have heard in a long time.

From Chris Young via Facebook on August 13, 2017...

No one would ever mistake me for anything other than Southern. My voice is thicker than morning dew on the honeysuckle. I am a grown man, and I still call my parents, "Mama" and "Daddy." I use "ain't" and "y'all" and "these'uns" without blinking an eye. And I'd rather have grits to eat more than just about anything else.

I'm as proud of my roots as I can be.

But for the life of me, I cannot understand how or why folks in the South continue to perpetuate myths of nobility around a rebellion rooted in sin. When you see folks in a bucolic, historic part of your country walking down the street in some sort of armor, a few with Confederate battle flags and even more with Nazi flags, something isn't right. Something has gone horribly wrong. People just don't arrive at such beliefs when they wake up one morning. And people just don't decide to become a domestic terrorist and plow a car into a crowd.

All I can figure is that folks in my part of the country are enablers. We continue to sustain this idea that the Civil War was somehow a dignified fight over the rights of states, a tacit nod to those who believe in racial superiority and conveniently overlook the fact that the Confederate Constitution conspicuously noted that "the right of property in... slaves shall not be thereby impaired."

Let's be clear: the war had a dignity about it, but not on the South's side: only on the side that set out to preserve the Union and ultimately fought to set other men free.

I cannot think of any side that has ever lost a war anywhere in the world, yet receives a pass to celebrate that defeat as something worthy of merit.

Hitler's Germany ravaged and raped a continent and massacred millions of innocents because their religion, race, disability, orientation, or brains marked them as subhuman or different or a threat. Germany lost. You don't see monuments in courthouse squares and parades to honor their vanquished cause.

Hirohito's Japan ruthlessly marched all over eastern Asia and the Pacific islands. They murdered hundreds of thousands and left millions more lives forever changed. Japan lost. You don't see public ceremonies to honor their glorious dead.

And on it goes, war after war, with every defeated ideology, every half-baked despot, every pretension of moral or racial supremacy, every claim that God was really on their side.

Except the South. We pull our history out of the mothballs and march it through the city streets with astounding regularity and without an ounce of compunction.

I love the South, but I am not foolish to romanticize it as utopian. Enough is enough.

The "Lost Cause" didn't come to be after Lee's surrender. The cause was lost the moment our ancestors bound, bought, and beat our brothers and sisters from another continent.

The "War of Northern Aggression" is a twisted euphemism. The South fired the first shot, both figuratively and literally. And Sherman didn't even start the fire in Atlanta. The Confederates did when they blew up the munitions factory.

At some point, we have to quit trying to pour new wine into brittle, old, decrepit wineskins. Pouring the old wine of hate and division and sanitized history into our 2017 lives does just what Jesus said in Mark: it ruins both. It ruins the lessons we can learn from real history, and it ruins the future we can share together.

To the best of my ability, I will no longer be a part of glorifying something that stands in resolute contradiction to how I should live my life as a Christian, how I should treat my brother and sister, how I should look to the future instead of the past.

And to the extent I have done anything but that, I pray for forgiveness.

If you want to celebrate the South, by all means, do so. I do every day. And I will continue to do so.

Celebrate the fact that our music is far and away better than any part of these United States, from gospel to rock to jazz to country to bluegrass to hip-hop. Celebrate the fact that our food is the envy of the rest of the country... and no, it ain't all fried, thank you. Celebrate our literary greatness, a region that can produce talents as diverse as William Faulkner and Alice Walker.

Celebrate the fact that our autumn weekends are full of religious activities, from football on Fridays and Saturdays to Sundays in the pews with our families. Celebrate our great cities and our beautiful countryside and our resilient people.

But don't celebrate something that never was in the first place and ask me to tolerate or condone it.

I am an American, and I still believe in "E Pluribus Unum."

Mr. Young, I couldn't agree more.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Lessons Learned

Chances are if you are reading this then you already know some things about me. You know that I am a Christian. You know that I am somewhat conservative. O.K, I'm a lot conservative. You can safely make assumptions about how I live my life, how I vote and where I come down on most issues of the day. So it may surprise you to know that one some of the people I call my friends are on the opposite side from me on almost every issue.

How is that possible? 

I got into radio because it was a career that chose me. I grew up in the upstate of SC in the small town of Walhalla which is near Greenville. (Since January of this year I can say we are one county over from CLEMSON - Roll Tigers!)

In high school I was in JROTC and planned to go to Clemson, enroll in ROTC there on campus, graduate, go into the military as a 'butter bar' lieutenant and make the military my career.

By 'chance' a man my family knew was also the program director at a small AM radio station in Walhalla, and after just a few moments on the air, I was hooked! Radio would be a part of the rest of my life.

I moved to Chattanooga in the summer of 1988 and had big plans. I would get my education. Get better at my craft and then move on to bigger and better markets with more exposure and better money.

While honing my craft while working at B103 in Chattanooga, I met, fell in love with and then married a girl from Ringgold, Ga. Nikki doesn't do change so when those other offers came - and they did - the choice was to leave her and go or keep her and stay here. Obviously, the better choice was made.

It was about this time I made firm my connection with God. I had to decide if this was something I paid lip service to or was it real. You see, I was saved at a young age, raised in a Christian home with two wonderful parents who taught me the art and the gift of love. Love is not accepting everything a person does but loving that person IN SPITE of it. Not long after that, I rediscovered my love for Contemporary Christian Music: Amy Grant, Leon Patillo, David Meece, Truth, Mylon Lefevre and Petra. The roots started at a young age grew much deeper.

I soon went to work a Lite Mix 105 as part of the morning show. I soon made life-long friends with Matt Stockman, Danny Howard and Patti Sanders - all key people to me in the years to come.

About a year later, I took my love for radio and my love for Contemporary Christian to a new challenge - a new station. That station, RX107. To this day, I loved what we were able to accomplish. Yes, I loved the music, but I fell in love with the mindset behind it. We called ourselves ‘Positive Hits’ instead of ‘Christian Music’ because we wanted to take away the excuses / the barriers as to why someone might not listen and therefore increase the chances of someone 'discovering' us and being exposed to truth through music.

While I was at RX107, I became friends with Alan Knowles - who I’ve called ‘boss’ ever since. Matt Stockman also joined me later as part of the staff. The same Matt Stockman who was at Lite Mix 105 and who would later be the first program director and morning show host on J103. We also welcomed a new, fresh-faced, right out of high school young man named James Howard, who today the morning host at Sunny 92.3.

Within days of RX107’s sign, off in June of 1993, Alan Knowles, Matt Stockman, James Howard and I along with a few others started CCM Sunday - which was then on Magic 102.7 - which was the same frequency as B103 and today are J103.

CCM Sunday has been on the air ever since playing the best, Contemporary Christian Music. Through the years we’ve been on three stations. Started at Magic 102.7, J103 (the first three years it was on the air) and since April of 1998, Sunny 92.3.

Sunny 92.3 used to be Easy 92 which played elevator type music and outside of Luther a non-factor when it came to Chattanooga radio. But Danny Howard, Patti Sanders, and others had taken over by then and created one the most popular stations in town to this day.

My role behind the scenes with CCM Sunday has changed over the years. In the early years, I was Mr. CCM Sunday doing sales, promotion, publicity, hosting, billing, bookkeeping, and programming. Today, I am simply the owner of the name and host of the show. Sunny 92.3 takes care of all the rest.

Sunny 92.3 has been a good home for me. I am coming up on 20 years with the station either full or part-time. I have bounced back and forth between full and part time a few times with them. I was originally hired as the afternoon drive host - replacing James Howard who joined Luther in the mornings.

Sunny 92.3 is part of a radio family along with Hits 96, Classic Country Q973-993 and Alt 93.9. As a believer and you work for and with a secular company there are all kinds of people you come in contact with - from all walks of life - very few of them are bent in my direction. From day one I refused to treat them any different than I would treat anyone else. I am as respectful and as loving as I can be - at all times - I assumed the BEST in them - even when I could not see it with my eyes.

Assuming the best is just one of the lessons I have learned over the years. Let me share with you a few others.

God always has a plan.

I can look back and see how God has worked His plan for my life. God has perfectly orchestrated and guided me to my ultimate purpose in life. From how my parents taught me to LOVE, the key people that influenced me along the way - like Luther, James, Alan, to the perfect spouse that keeps me grounded - and local. (Notice I said perfect, brownie points!)

Bloom where you are planted.

I do love Chattanooga and Lord willing will never leave. The only full-time Christian Radio experience I have had was RX107. I have plenty of chances to get back into full-time Christian radio over the years, but clearly, that was not God’s plan.

Be. Pray. Give.

I have written about this before.

It comes from a set of verses in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, 'Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.'

Be. Sometimes we get so busy in the doing that we forget that God often just wants to spend time with us. So Be. But also be joyful. Be kind. Be aware of others. Be mindful. Be gracious. Be full of the spirit. Be Real. Be who you are at all times, don’t put on airs or pretend to be someone you are not. People are attracted to authenticity - warts and all. And most of all BE LOVING. Be who Christ commands us to be to our neighbors, and we will win this world to Him.

You won't win him by standing on the street corner and shouting the loudest - or boycotting Disney or another business that doesn’t do things the way we would or they should. We live in a fallen world, and too many times we miss out on interaction and a chance to draw people to you and ultimately to Christ by how we treat them - how you love them - and how you live life.

Remember the story from Oregon, Sweetcakes Bakery. They ‘took a stand’ and refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple. Many applauded - I did not. Not only would I have made the cake, but I would have made them the best cake ever. I would have given them the BEST customer service possible and when they asked- why? Or how can you treat me like this? There is my chance to tell them.

Yes, this is uncomfortable at times but so what! There is a perfect example of this in Acts 8. An angel told Philip to take off towards Gaza and along the way he gets passed by and Ethiopian Eunuch who was on his way back from Jerusalem. The spirit tells Philip to catch up with him and attempt to make a connection. Get the picture here, the chariot the eunuch is riding in is move and Philip is order to start a conversation has to run or jog along side it. That looks silly and uncomfortable doesn’t it?

I also will not use my faith as a sword - to needle and skewer people I disagree with no matter this issue. I have to be wise as to when to speak up and when not to. That also applies to what I post online and what I don't.

I use my faith as a finely honed, perfectly crafted and very patient tool.

I will demonstrate and show love for anyone God puts in my path in spite of what they do - or who they are.

The rest of that simple phrase shakes out like this:

Pray. Many will tell you of their 'time with God' every morning at four as if that's the only way to pray (and read His word). I am not one of those people. About two times a day I will read a devotion, some scripture and talk with God about what He just showed me. The rest of the day is a constant, ongoing, never ending conversation with God about everything that is happening. I pray while driving, walking to a meeting, running, eating lunch or whatever I am doing.

Give. Give of myself. My time, talent or treasure to build the kingdom. Give myself away to others because God loves them too. And also give UP control and let Him take control.

Be. Pray. Give.

Thank you, and God bless.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The god and country gospel

I have been searching for the right words to use for a long time. Thanks to an article in - of all places the Huffington Post - I got the title I was looking for, the god and country gospel.

Never heard of it? I bet you have but just didn't know it.

We've all heard about the prosperity gospel. The one that says God loves you too much for you to be anything other than healthy and wealthy and wise. It tells you things like just trust God and he will make everything o.k. for you, because he loves you and no loving God would ever let harm come to you. The key is you must 'have enough faith' in God and then God will take care of you. It's more than just off base, it's wrong. Yes, wrong. No matter who says it or in what venue.

This god and country gospel is one that worships America, it's one that worships freedom, worships “rights.” It’s a gospel based on the idea that Christians should have an easy existence. It - like the prosperity gospel - promises security through something other than Christ.

The preachers of 'this' gospel passionately shout generic references to God, call for fervent prayer and public pleas for “morality.” But their supposed top devotion is EQUAL to a devotion to the Stars and Stripes - as if the two were one in the same.

What is so dangerous about it is that it claims that God that’s in control, but in reality, it looks to those in power - government or 'man' - as the one(s) who are really in charge. Not God. Not our sovereign Lord.

The god and country gospel also says that living out and sharing your faith is dependent on having the freedom to do so. That one’s greatest source of identity and value can be found in one’s nationality. It bemoans the loss of prayer in schools, rather than the lack of prayer at home. This gospel says it’s better to silence opponents than minister to them. It asks for a pledge of obedience rather than a change of heart.

America, or at least your idea of it, has become an idol. Need proof? Look at the election cycle we just went through.

You had 'religious' leaders on both sides calling for disastrous results  if a certain candidate was elected. In other words, if someone was elected that didn't hold our values then we couldn't hold on to them ourselves.

What I believe is based in and on God's word and is not changed by who in the White House, who controls the House or Senate or if someone chooses to sit, kneel or ignore the National Anthem.

Our faith must be stronger than that and more properly rooted than that.

I do love my country, but my love for country comes AFTER my love for God and family.

I desire for a strong, faith filled, faith based America but as it turns away I am reminded of the words of Joshua, "as for me and MY house, we will serve the Lord."