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Monday, March 25, 2019

Heapin’ Helpin’ of Hospitality

Last Wednesday evening, popular crooner Michael Bublé offered up another television special showcasing his talents on NBC.

My wife and I attended the recent Michael Bublé concert in Chicago at the Allstate Arena. The artist made you feel welcome; the Allstate Arena did not.

I don’t attend many concerts or sporting events anymore. The pressing of crowds and the costs involved are my main deterrents. For example, arriving at the arena, we whip out $25 for parking. Next, Rhonda wanted bottled water. Six bucks—the same as my soft drink. Then $12 for a burger and chips. We’re out $47 and the concert hasn’t started! And, yes, the tickets were pricey as well.

But my event frustration did not end there. Women were heavily shortchanged on bathrooms—much needed after the concert. And those stadium seats?? Absolutely the most uncomfortable as could be for a big guy. No room for knees. And the parking egress was miserable, too. Give me my big screen TV!

Aside from that inhospitable assortment, it was a mostly pleasurable experience. Bublé touched hands galore and interacted with the audience on a physical level more than any artist I’ve seen. He embraced his enthusiastic crowd in his words and his music. And they loved it.

There was one point where he expressed his desire to be open and transparent. It seemed like he wanted to share on a more personal level. Certain patrons started screaming “I love you, Michael” and it appeared to veer him off course. Too bad. He had the audience waiting. He was a most hospitable entertainer.

The art of hospitality is an interesting concept. Years ago, a pastor friend was describing to a group of church leaders about how it felt to visit a certain family’s home. He detailed how all the preparations to welcome you in had been carefully considered. The walkway with red ribbons and mini-lights. The fire in the fireplace, the choice of music in the background, the smell of warm cider as you entered. It all fit. And it felt good.

The word hospitality has Latin origins. Hospitalitem means "friendliness to guests.” There is an emphasis on the host in the relationship, one who obviously focuses on the well being of those welcomed in.

Corporations use the concept for their own purposes. At meetings and conventions, they will often reserve “hospitality suites”—to meet or entertain clients or potential customers. Wisely used, this environment is more relationship friendly than on the convention floor or in a sales meeting.

There is, of course, an entire “hospitality industry.” Usually this implies hotels and the like. The Glion Institute of Higher Education provides some excellent thinking on hospitality that applies not only to the hospitality industry, but to all of the marketplace. Suggested reading is their article, “Why is hospitality important in businesses?” (Link below.)

The “customer comes first” perspective should always be core to hospitality. As the article states, “a satisfied customer will tell three of their friends, while an angry one will tell 3,000.” In the age of social media, unhappy customers have a number of ways to share their disappointments.

Perhaps the most significant means of keeping tabs on hospitality is customer feedback. There are restaurant surveys and even follow up questions after doctor visits. They only pay off if someone is listening.

The Bible is a clear advocate of hospitality. From Old Testament guidelines on welcoming the stranger to New Testament meals and the intriguing idea that when welcoming unknowns into our home we could be entertaining angels! This one needs some careful thinking. (Hebrews 13:2)

Bottom line? Hospitality pays. There are dividends to reap in caring for others. The Beverly Hillbillies invited all to “have a heapin’ helpin’ of their hospitality.” I’m with them.

Y’all come back now…ya hear?

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Viper Active

It’s not uncommon to hear a reference to politicians as “snakes.” This, of course, gives snakes a bad name. Even using the term “vipers” doesn’t improve the credibility of those who abuse their governing privilege.

Along comes a new book from a former Trump White House “insider.” The author is Cliff Sims, the former White House communications aide. He graced several national headlines with the ungraceful release of Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House.

In describing his writing project to the Christian Post, Sims said, “I wanted to portray the President as he really is—a multi-dimensional person, with extraordinary gifts and major flaws, just like the rest of us.” The book title is a takeoff on the diverse political views and personalities of those who worked in the Lincoln administration. The release of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln was a best seller in 2006.

Apparently, the president was not a happy camper with Sims’ book. CBS News reported the Trump campaign filed an arbitration claim alleging the violation of a non-disclosure agreement. I guess revealing the Trump “multi-dimensions” is not fair game.

The Christian Post article (linked below) offers Sims' spiritual perspectives along with the political. For example, he says, “I also write in the book that my greatest regret from my time in the White House is that I wasn’t a better picture of my faith to the President and my colleagues.” Sims said he is “haunted” by a quote from the late Brennan Manning who said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Chris­tians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

When asked if working in the White House and living as a Christian are incompatible, Sims replied, “I don't think they are incompatible, it's just hard not to lose yourself in it all and suddenly wake up one day realizing you're finding your identity in your job, or your proximity to power, rather than in your faith.”

I would expand on that a bit. Being in positions where you have access to the most powerful or you yourself are in a power position can weaken the will. The will to what? The will to live out a life untainted by the constant opportunities to satisfy your own interests—even if others lose in the process.

Witness various aldermen in Illinois in fairly recent news headlines. On January 3rd of this year, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke was charged with attempted extortion. He was allegedly using his government job to solicit business for his private law firm. It was a “snake-like” thing to do.

An alderman from Chicago’s south side is scheduled to go on trial June 3rd in a high risk corruption case. Willie Cochran has been accused of “shaking down businessmen in exchange for his support on deals in the 20th Ward he represents.” Willie is a former Chicago police officer! More viper-like behavior.

The zoomorphism of snake-like behavior and humans originates in the Bible. It was the dreaded “serpent” (snake) who brought down the human race by trickery in the Garden of Eden. This creature was very real and very deadly—as all of mankind should have learned by now. Still today, the Evil One masquerades as an “angel of light” seeking “someone to devour.” (2 Corinthians 11:14, 1 Peter 5:8)

I cannot imagine how evil slithers its way in the halls of power. And especially the White House. Temptation must lurk around every corner.

We can be sure of this. The Evil One remains highly “viper-active.”

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Monday, March 11, 2019


For supposedly being such smart people, they sure do foolish things. I’m talking about people in academia considered by most to be the “worldly wise.” The purpose of higher education is to make you smarter—right?

Consider this. Rider University in New Jersey is the latest among several schools attempting to punish the very successful restaurant chain, Chick-fil-A. Hoping to please the student body, the school was to offer a survey on which restaurant would be the popular choice for the campus. But late last year, Rider school leadership decided to remove Chick-fil-A from consideration.

No, this was not for ill treatment of chickens. The Rider decision was based on something they considered even more sinister. It was a perspective on marriage.

It’s been well documented that the Cathy family who founded Chick-fil-A has this unwavering idea that marriage is about a husband and a wife. Yes, there always are a few of the “socially unenlightened” who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon of marriage between, well, almost anything. (I.e., the woman who wanted to marry her dog!*)

The LGBTQ+ crowd can hardly stand this supposed ignorance of the Cathy mindset. And what better way to put a stop to it than attempt to keep Chick-fil-A from having restaurants and customers. So they put pressure on where they can, hoping to change the corporate values of one of America’s most popular restaurants.

Alas. The efforts hardly stand a chance. First of all, Chick-fil-A is a privately held company. And get this: the firm has reported sales growth in every single year since its founding back in 1946!

There’s more to their story, as any customer will tell you. It isn’t just about chicken. The company has a knack for hiring the right kind of people who actually thrive on SERVICE. The employees actually seem to enjoy their work and are happy to see you and serve you!

There’s no “anti-gay”literature and treatment to be found in their corporate culture. As a corporate spokesman recently told CNN, “We have no policy of discrimination against any group, and we do not have a political or social agenda. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand.”

So where’s the discrimination? On college campuses. Several schools have nixed allowing the chicken vendors on their campus. I chuckled out loud as Rider spokeswoman Kristine Brown said on CNN the decision was "not a judgment on religious values.” Of course it is. The whole gay marriage issue is based on a rejection of teaching from the Bible.

As it turns out, the dean of the Rider College of Business Administration couldn’t take the hypocrisy and resigned. Cynthia Newman refused to abide by the talking points the school wanted employees to use in defending their position. She explained, ”I am not willing to compromise my faith and Christian values, and I will not be viewed as being in any way complicit when an affront is made to those values.”

Good for Cynthia!

As for all that academic wisdom? The Bible spells it out quite well. “This is because God considers the wisdom of this world to be foolish. It is just as the Scriptures say, ‘God catches the wise when they try to outsmart him.’" (1 Corinthians 3:19, CEV)

Watching the politically correct crowd try to force Chick-fil-A to cave under the winds of social pressure in like watching two sides play chicken. I don’t see a ruffling of Chick-fil-A feathers yet. Nor do I expect to.

As the company might say for sticking to their guns, “It’s my pleasure.”

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Monday, March 4, 2019

Unquenchable Thirst

Leadership should mean being an advocate for good moral conduct and encouraging a better life. That’s my perspective. But it may be a diminishing view these days.

Illinois’ new governor is faced with the usual problems of government. Demands for more benefits or services and limited revenues. The solution is always the same. Find new ways to suck money out of taxpayers—both from business and from individuals.

It appears that Governor J.B. Pritzker already has a plan to attempt to raise $1 billion in state revenues. Obviously he’s not planning on putting up megabucks out of his very rich pockets because it’s an ongoing $1 billion problem. So what kind of creative fundraising are we looking at?

The Chicago Tribune has given us some insight on this. Here’s their breakdown of potential revenue sources:

  • Vapers
    • An estimated $10 million could be raised if E-cigarettes get taxed at 36 percent of wholesale price.
  • Smokers
    • Illinois already has a $1.98 state tax on a pack of cigarettes. The Gov thinks that could be raised to $2.30 to generate another $55 million.
  • Shoppers
    • Several municipalities, including Chicago, already have a “bag tax.” But wait…there are bunches of people in the state not paying this tax. The recommendation is to tax the bags five cents apiece statewide. How much might that bring in? According to the Tribune, “The state tax would generate between $19 million and $23 million, the administration estimates, depending in part on whether Chicago claims an exemption.” This idea is drawing the most controversy since it would affect the bulk of Illinois voters.

As the saying goes, “But wait! There’s more!!!” Here are some proposed NEW sources of revenue for Illinois:

  • Sports wagering
    • Also known as GAMBLING, the governor’s plan would make 20 licenses available. Then bets could be placed online or in person. Licensees would cough up taxes to about 20 percent of their gross revenue. This little gem of sports wagering could possibly net between $77 million and $136 million in revenue in a single year, based on government estimates.
  • Recreational marijuana
    • Then there’s money to be made from selling weed. Or as I prefer to call it, DRUG MONEY! If our state legislature legalized smoking pot for fun, dopesters might generate another $170 million for the state in 2020. So believes our governor. 

From my perspective, four out of the five proposed revenue generators could easily be termed, “sin taxes.” Governments like those. Why? Because the “sins” are addictive! The bag money revenue is a gravy tax since EVERYBODY shops.

Historically, most people are not enthused about paying taxes. Jesus of Nazareth had a creative way of paying his “temple tax.” He told Peter to go fish. Grab the first one, and pull the coin out of its mouth. That covered the tax for both of them.

Oh…if it were only that easy for the rest of us. (You can find this story in Matthew 17:24–27)

In our nation's history, there were “revenuers”—agents of the U.S. Treasury Department whose responsibility included enforcing laws against illegal distilling or bootlegging of the demon alcohol. Today, government attempts to thrive off the demons!

I don’t think these Illinois proposed taxes are what the Founding Fathers had in mind for a morally upstanding and free society. In fact, wasn’t there a party in Boston over some tea taxes that drove the people nuts? We haven’t gone nuts yet in Illinois. We still vote these revenuers into office!

Be assured of this. Raising your taxes is a politician's unquenchable thirst. Look out.

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