Value Through Another's Eyes

Each day, we are faced with making decisions and choices that impact our lives and the lives of those around us. Sometimes, these choices are mundane and innocuous, but other times, they are quite challenging and can easily be destructive. Often, the poor choices we make cause us to question our value to society or our ability to be a contributor, but God's word provides us with an abundance of examples of redemption from the worst of mistakes.

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Maintain Your Lane

Have you ever had one of those weeks when you wonder what gives? Recently, I was traveling back from the Capitol after attending Gov. Kemp’s signing of a bill I wrote, and the weather was miserable. It was raining very hard, so I decided to pull into a Starbucks to offer my passengers a nice treat. Being a creature of habit, I ordered an extra hot venti caramel macchiato. Usually, I pour the coffee into my Yeti cup to keep it hot and to keep from spilling it, but it was not in my truck, so I just drank from the one that was provided.

As we traveled up the interstate, the lid came off my coffee, and the scorching liquid landed in my lap. One of my passengers pointed out that my pants were “smoking.” While I was certainly distracted, I knew it was important that I avoid an accident by maintaining my lane under these unpleasant conditions.  

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Be Strong and Courageous

Back in 2017, a dear friend of mine and I pooled our resources to attend Super Bowl LI, featuring the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. Once our early morning flight landed in Houston, we grabbed an Uber and rushed to the hotel. The day was chaotic and a little stressful, as we attempted to take in all the festivities of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Once we were in our seats, reality set in about how rare this opportunity was. Let’s be honest; seeing the Falcons in the Super Bowl is unfamiliar territory, and we were pretty sure our wives were not going to sign off on another road trip like this one, so my friend and I absorbed the moment.

As you can imagine, the first half of the game was pure enjoyment, as we watched the dirty birds move the ball down the field and score three times, ending the first two quarters up 21-3. When the third quarter began, the Falcons got another touchdown, running the score up to 28-3. The excitement that Atlanta may, at last, bring home the trophy started to set in!

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In Times Like These...

So far, this year has been a trying time for our nation. COVID-19 continues to illicit fear in many because of all the conflicting medical information. If you don’t like the opinion you just heard about whether masks help or not, just change your television to another channel for a different opinion. Can the coronavirus live two hours, two days, or two weeks on surfaces? Will there be another wave this fall, or have we been able to minimize its effects and contain it?

Also, in past months, many of us were horrified to see video of the brutal killing of two men – Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota – and wondered how this could happen in 2020. Throughout the country, we watched peaceful protests get hijacked and quickly become harmful and destructive riots, which deviated from the original cause and led to more police clashes.

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Grateful for Summer

It is hard to believe we are nearly halfway through the year, and 2020 has already been quite the year. During recent time with my family, I asked if everyone felt like things had returned to normal, and to my surprise, I quickly received a unified response that “there is nothing normal about 2020!” OK then!

I decided to do a little social experiment by asking each family member what they learned during the monthlong shelter in place back in April.

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In These Changing Times, Who Is in Control?

Many of us start our days by exercising at home or by heading off to the gym. Of course, the number of “us” is very high in early January and gradually diminishes after a few months, but the intention is still the same. People either want to get in shape or stay in shape, so they can live a healthy life.

Nearly 2 million Georgians are 55+ and approaching retirement in the next 10 years. Most of them lack confidence that Social Security will be around, so they have been self-funding retirement accounts, investing in real estate, and saving cash.

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Sharing the Road in Life

The metro Atlanta area is notorious for heavy traffic. Cherokee County added over 8,000 new residents in 2019, and that trend is not expected to end in the near future, so traffic stresses are not likely to decrease any time soon.

Although there is talk that autonomous vehicles will one day dominate the highways, providing constant speeds, maintained lanes, and strategic spacing, that day may have been delayed with the recent Tesla crashes. In the meantime, most everyone can improve upon driving etiquette as well as follow traffic laws.

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The Value of Life

Losing a close friend or loved one is one of the most painful things many of us will have to go through. Those who believe in a higher power understand that we are not the giver of life, and our part in choosing the end is also limited. But that certainly doesn’t diminish the deep sadness we feel when we lose someone very special.

Sometimes, the loss comes after a family member has struggled with an illness for a long time. Brenda K., my childhood classmate, fought cancer like a champion boxer until it knocked her down for the final time at the young age of 13.

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Life Lessons

Each Sunday afternoon, my family meets in our living room to discuss what we learned from the sermon we heard earlier in the day. One Sunday, our pastor preached on the Ten Commandments and stealing. That afternoon, my family’s discussion got quite interesting. My 14-year-old said that stealing could include working too much and not allowing enough time for the family. He went on to say that stolen objects can be replaced, but time cannot.

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Christmastime Is Magical

When I was a young boy, I could not wait for the Christmas season to arrive. Since we didn’t have much, my excitement was not based upon what gift I might receive but rather on the incredible array of lights and holiday displays. Some houses would put up a simply decorated Christmas tree while others went all out with animated outdoor lights and manger scenes. In my opinion, there can never be too many lights. The more the house looked like the Griswolds’ house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, the happier I was.When the Salvation Army representative began ringing the bell at Kmart and Christmas carols were being played on the radio, everyone’s mood seemed to improve, and complete strangers would even greet one another with “Merry Christmas.”

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Integrity — Don’t Leave Home Without It

Have you ever glanced through the newspaper, only to find your eyes fixated on a picture in front of you? Your heart sinks. You can’t believe what you see. Your friend of many years has his mugshot right there in the newspaper. Two questions storm through your mind: “What in the world? How did this happen?”This recently happened to me. A friend of nearly 15 years made a terrible decision, and now his world is crumbling.

I once read a book that had the quote, “Integrity: Don’t leave home without it!” The author revealed that if you want to make a difference in the world, the single most important trait is not intelligence, passion, or even perseverance – it’s integrity.

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Are You Ready

If your home is anything like mine, most mornings are filled with the question, “Are you ready?” to which “one more minute” can be heard in reply. If you can avoid the crossfire, the entire scene can be rather predictable but amusing. Almost like clockwork, the front door will open at 6:45am, and I will hear the garage door go up. Next, the breezeway door will open, and my wife will repeat, “Come on son. We are going to be late.” This request eventually becomes a plea just before the authoritative, “Let’s go now!” arrives. It’s hard to convince my 14-year-old that if you desire to avoid this, simply get everything in order the night before. He isn’t disorganized, but he’s definitely stuck in first gear.A few years ago, when our daughter Faith was still in high school, the same conversation could be heard, except the cause of her delay was having to navigate the jungle in her bedroom to get to the hallway that led to the door. She could organize her room every day, but a tornado seemed to hit it every night around 9:00pm, and the aftermath created chaos each morning. “Mom, have you seen my shirt? Dad, is my laptop next to yours?” That chaos would escalate into another storm of a different proportion if not kept in check. Eventually, she would make it to the car and be on her way, amazingly never arriving late to school. Sometimes, I could hear a muffled, “I can’t wait until I’m an adult and don’t have to hear ‘Are you ready?’ anymore.”

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People Watching

My grandmother used to say, you can learn a lot about a person in an hour of unaware observation. Recently, my family took a seven-day cruise with friends, and since I equate lying next to the pool in the hot sun to being a slab of bacon cooking in a hot pan, I opted to use most of my spare time people watching.On the first day, we headed to the dining hall for the dinner buffet. It was easy to be overwhelmed by all the options, but some people must have believed food rationing was about to occur. On this particular evening, I noticed many had loaded their plates as high as possible while nudging each other in line to get more. Others strategically positioned themselves at the carving/seafood stations to sample as they meandered around.

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The USDA - The People’s Department

I recently attended a meeting near the airport to learn more about all the programs that are offered through the USDA. I knew this agency dealt with livestock and agriculture, but I was amazed to discover that their annual budget exceeded $140 billion and consisted of 29 different agencies and over 100,000 employees. That is a lot of eggs and bacon! I had no idea that former Governor Sonny Perdue was at the helm of such a powerful cabinet.As I listened, I was shocked at how little I really knew about this agency. I grew up on a farm, so I knew the USDA was involved in livestock and poultry, but natural resources? It’s true; they provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues, based on public policy, the best available science, and effective land management.

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Living in America

My friend made a statement from the pulpit recently that caused me to chuckle and feel a bit convicted at nearly the same time. He spoke about a family that was enduring a very difficult situation, and that no matter what the outcome, we were instructed to consider it pure joy when facing trials. He said that many of us say we have joy in our heart, but some of us forget to tell our face and our attitude. Ouch — guilty.My daughter’s friend recently returned from a mission trip that took her to remote areas in three countries over a nine-month period. She shared her personal experiences such as contracting typhoid fever, showering in public view, and sleeping with the animals in the fields. Of course, our family has participated in many mission trips over the years, but we did not truly assimilate into each country’s culture. While our sleeping arrangements were not a five-star hotel, we always had plenty to eat and never really felt threatened. Each time we returned, we resolved to remain grateful for living in this incredible country. But over time, the impact of the mission trip always seemed to wane.

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Time Will Tell

Rotary International Clubs have a Four-Way Test that we recite each week. One of the questions is, “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”That question was never more important than earlier this year when Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill (HB) 324, also known as the “Marijuana Bill.” State law allows people with 16 different specific conditions to possess cannabis oil with less than 5% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The challenge for many was a law preventing growing, buying, or selling the oil. House Bill 324 eliminated these issues and granted six growing licenses to private companies. It will also allow two universities to seek federal approval to research and produce the oil. For the numerous people cannabis oil can help, this is great news.

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Providing the Best Opportunities for All Students

Earlier this year, I was contacted by a mom from Atlanta asking me to introduce legislation that would allow her homeschooled daughter access to extracurricular programs at her local public school. I honestly did not understand the homeschool model well enough to immediately commit, but I agreed to help when I reviewed extensive research showing that this legislation exists in 35 other states. Frankly, with so many laws ensuring people have equal access, I was surprised the legislation did not already exist in Georgia.Although I originally believed it would be a relatively easy bill to enact, I quickly discovered passionate individuals both for and against this issue. Those asking for access believe that parents of homeschooled students pay property taxes and should have access to public school facilities that their tax money funds. Many of these parents are not necessarily interested in athletic opportunities, but desire to allow their children to pursue opportunities in speech, debate, music, and chorale. Lots of parents also stated that they would consider sending their children to private schools, but their financial situation prevented that option.

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Everything Onboard

I was 18 years old and headed to boot camp the first time I ever flew on an airplane. I still remember the exhilarating experience of the plane screaming down the runway and preparing for liftoff.The only other time I remember that feeling was with my best friend on the way to pick up our dates in high school. Granted, I was excited about the date, but nothing compared to riding in the ‘69 Camaro equipped with a 427 cubic-inch engine, a high-lift cam, and a blower. The compression was so high that you could hardly keep that beautiful car running until you released the clutch and increased the rpms of the engine. Soon, the roar of all eight cylinders working in harmony would take over, and we would be thrust back in our seats like a ride at Six Flags.

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Rattling Through the Quarter

The first quarter of 2019 is nearly over, and it has been one for the history books. Back in January, I watched with amusement as the world witnessed what those of us close to Trevor Lawrence already knew — that is he is something special. I don’t mean because he was the quarterback who handed Alabama its worst loss in recent history in the National Championship game, or because he was a freshman who didn’t start until game five. He’s special because he has maturity far beyond his years, and a humility that is rarely seen in today’s athletes. Whether you are a Clemson fan or not, you must agree it is refreshing to see a wholesome young man share that his faith is his motivation to be better, not fame.The stock market continues to rise and fall like a beach ball bouncing in the crowd at a baseball game during a hot summer afternoon. One day it seems to stabilize, climbing 300 points, only to suddenly drop 500 points in a matter of hours.

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The Access Program

A few years back, I had the privilege of chairing a study committee on cybersecurity. This study committee explored several aspects of cybersecurity including the readiness of our state agencies. In conclusion, our white paper recommended purchasing $100 million of cyber insurance, creating a GBI center in Augusta, and several other action items. The entire process made it abundantly clear how well positioned our state was in becoming the cyber hub for the U.S.Over the next year, technical colleges and universities began adding curricula to prepare students for the incredible opportunities that lie ahead for those who study cybersecurity. In 2018, experts reported that 300,000 jobs in that sector were unfilled.

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