Presidential Elections Past and Present

Posted November 6, 2016 by stevenjcallis
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Dr. Steven J. Callis

            The current U.S. presidential campaigns have certainly stirred the emotions of the American people.  Accusations and scandals are in the headlines constantly.  Truth seems to be obscured, and both of the main parties have had their share of embarrassing moments.  The candidates, their staff and families, the parties, and the media all have been blamed for this nation-dividing campaign.
            However, history has recorded previous election tidbits that parallel this election season.  For example, in light of our “early voting” option, t
he US Constitution does not state when Election Day should be, so in the early 1800s, people could vote from April to December.  In 1845, Congress decided that voting day would be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
            In reference to race and gender, t
he first woman to run for US President was Victoria Woodhull in 1872, nearly 50 years before the 19th Amendment allowed women to vote in presidential elections.  Her running mate, Frederick Douglass, was the first African-American ever nominated for Vice President.

            Media has come to play a significant role in our election process.  The ultimate “whoops” moment in a US presidential election happened when the Chicago Daily Tribune headline mistakenly declared that Dewey beat Truman in 1946.

            Mudslinging is not new to politics.  During the John Quincy and Andrew Jackson election year, Jackson called John Quincy a pimp, and Quincy called Jackson’s wife a slut and his mother a prostitute.

            Congress gave Native Americans the right to vote in presidential elections in 1924; however, some states banned them from voting until the 1940s.  American women won the right to vote in 1920. In 1872, Susan B Anthony, a white social reformer and feminist activist, was arrested for attempting to vote in the presidential election.

            The United States presidential election of 1876 was held on Tuesday, November 7, 1876.  It was one of the most contentious and controversial presidential elections in American history. The results of the election remain among the most disputed ever.  In four states, each party reported that its candidate had won.  The question of who should have been awarded these 20 electoral votes is the source of the continued controversy.

            Admittedly, ours is not a perfect system.  It seems that as one glitch is resolved, we find new ways to confuse the process.  Could this be the reason for low voter turnout in presidential elections?  It is a concerning fact that, despite the billions of dollars spent on campaigns, roughly half of the American population does not care enough to vote.

            My vote seems like a small grain of sand on the coastal beaches, but it is a vote – my vote.  It matters to me who leads our nation, and the direction our country takes for the betterment of society and the world.  It matters to me that we faithfully build upon the foundation laid by our founding fathers and for which our veterans and active military fight to preserve. 

            I refuse to take this privilege and responsibility lightly.  If you have not already voted, I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to stand up for your beliefs.  May God’s hand of grace and mercy be upon this United States of America.

Trunk Treating Offers a Guarded Environment for our Kids

Posted November 3, 2016 by stevenjcallis
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Dr. Steven J. Callis

Dressing up like a football player was not only an expression of a dream, but it was a costume that was readily available.  I loved playing football as a kid, and I had all the right equipment: shoulder pads, helmet, and all.  I do remember my older brothers making a costume for me out of a pillow case when I was little, but I really liked being a football player.

                Things were different in those days.  Children went trick-or-treating with no worries.  The popcorn ball or chocolate chip cookies wrapped in cellophane from Mrs. Carney were safe to eat.  There was no danger in stepping inside Mrs. Fowler’s house for a cup of hot chocolate.  We had the freedom to walk to other neighborhoods for a chance to increase the amount of our sweet plunder.

                My best friends back then, Mike and Max, lived two neighborhoods over.  On Saturdays or summer days my mom thought nothing of me being outside all day long.  She knew I would come home if I got hungry or tired, and that not doing so meant one of the other moms fed us lunch.  My mom took her turn feeding us from time to time, as well.

                Today’s practice of “trunk ‘n treat” began, at least in part, as a safe alternative to traditional door-to-door hunting.  A host of vehicles in a church or school parking lot offers a safer environment.  And think of the time and energy the children save when they only have to walk ten feet between treaters!

                Shopping malls also offer a safe environment for this annual candyfest.  Stores gladly welcome children as a way to express appreciation for the community patronage and to provide for a safer evening of fun.

                How did we get here?  How did our society digress in only 50 years from unlocked doors, handshake agreements, and neighborly behavior to a fear of tainted candy, child abduction, and various forms of unprovoked meanness?  How did we breed that sense of entitlement that becomes motivation for disrespect and mistreatment of other human beings?

                Author Henry James, three-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.”  Apparently, that is something easier said than done, based on our news headlines and personal dealings with the general public.

                I still believe that the overwhelming majority of our population is represented by kind-hearted people, and acts of kindness are usually reciprocated.  Nevertheless, it is necessary today that we live our lives in precaution, not taking that kindness for granted.  More and more, it seems there are people seeking opportunity to take advantage of the kind and unguarded.

                So, I am thankful for my childhood memories of fun and almost fearless freedom to be a kid.  At the same time, I am glad to be part of a community that offers safer environments for our families on occasions such as the one that is immediately upon us.  It is encouraging to see so many people working together for the sake of our youth.  Happy treating!

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

Posted September 27, 2016 by stevenjcallis
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Dr. Steven J. Callis

Their names many not be immediately recognized, but Jeffrey Petkovich and Peter Debernardi were the first to ever survive the Horshoe Falls, going over the 176-foot-high Niagara Falls in a barrel.  They came out of the feat with only minor injuries – and an arrest!  They were fined for breaking Niagara Park laws.  Following that incident, the fine for anyone attempting this particular stunt was increased to $10,000 and confiscation of the barrel. 


I assume they were sober when they attempted this feat, and even when they thought of the idea.  On the side of their barrel were the words, “DON’T PUT YOURSELF TO THE EDGE – DRUGS WILL KILL YOU.”  So, the question in the minds of us non-risk-taking people: “Why?” 


Most of us can remember being part of a group where someone came up with a somewhat off-the-wall idea and, before we knew it, we were engaged in a risky, or dangerous, or senseless shenanigan.  Success or failure did not matter nearly so much as the fact that “we did it.”


Well, I suppose we can only speculate about this two-man barrel riding team, but one hypothesis can be based on the words of one of the team members – – DeBernardi was quoted as saying that it was a small price (injuries and fines) to pay to be immortalized in the history books. 


It worked.  Others may claim to have accomplished the same feat, but only these two can claim to have accomplished it first.  That fact of history will not change.  Of course, their names are not readily known across the world, but one minute of internet browsing can lead a person to the names of the first persons to survive Niagara Falls. 


They did it for the fame.  On the positive side, we could say that they wanted to leave a mark in this world; a legacy.  On the other hand, I am still wondering how their contribution to our world made life better for people.


C.T. Studd wrote a beautiful lyric that centered on this thought: Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. 

I am not opposed to having fun, nor do I insist that every single action we take should have serious meaning.  It is my conviction, however, that each of us should live life with purpose, and that the legacy we desire to leave with this world is one that positively and lastingly impacts the good of humankind.

When someone says of you, “Wow, that is going to leave a mark,” let it be a mark of goodness on our fellow man.

What are You Doing Next Sunday?

Posted August 24, 2016 by stevenjcallis
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by Dr. Steven J. Callis

NBC commentators have been under criticism for their frequent reference to Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps as “old.”  A couple of times they even noted that the 31 year old was struggling to get out of the pool. In response, one vocal critic said she guessed that 31 is the new 80.  That is one more reference that reminds me of how people speak of the “new normal,” noting how things have changed and are not what they used to be.

Well, it seems to me, then, that Sunday is the new Saturday.  Too often people are doing things on Sunday that could have been done on Saturday, and their delay is interfering with church and other spiritual things.  Now I don’t want to debate what is and is not proper “Sabbath behavior.”  But I know for a fact that God did not create the weekend, nor did he create the 5-day work week.  Those are man’s ideas.  God created six days for normal activity and one day for what He called ‘rest.’
What I do know is that it is designed to be different from the other 6 days, and that it is to be used for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual restoration that fits us for our labors.  We are not told in Scripture how to spend the day, but we are commanded to keep it holy.  And in the flow of the Ten Commandments, the 4th commandment about the Sabbath follows three other commands about how we are to revere and honor God and His name.  All 4 commands seem to be connected.
I encourage you to plan ahead.  Reconsider your priorities.  Take God seriously. This command must be quite important to the Lord, or else it would not have made the top 10!  We must give God His proper place in all we do.

How to Keep the Proverbial Fat lady Offstage

Posted August 4, 2016 by stevenjcallis
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by Dr. Steven J. Callis


            You have heard it, and likely have said it yourself:  it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.  The original use of the phrase has been attributed to sports journalist Ralph Carpenter in 1976, referring to a surprising comeback by the Texas Tech men’s basketball team to tie the game.  Someone said to Carpenter that it appeared the game was going to be close after all, to which he replied, “Right.  The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings.”

            The reference, of course, is to the stereotypical image of an overweight opera soprano singing the finale, and is actually traced back to a specific opera and its soprano soloist, Amalie Materna.  The colloquial phrase is not meant to offensively profile such singers, rather it has come to mean that one cannot necessarily know the outcome of a given circumstance until is actually happens.  Until that moment, there is still hope that a bad situation can turn itself around.

            My eldest brother is 68 years of age.  Over recent years he has experienced several difficult health issues, including hip replacement and neck surgery.  However, this retired psychologist and university professor is not quite ready to surrender to the physical and emotional challenges that tend to accompany aging.  Last week on a trip to Florida he completed his training and is now a certified scuba diver; not too shabby for a mid-America resident where scuba diving is not a typical sport for that geographical area.

            We are a family that likes to laugh and joke.  I told him I did not even know he could swim!  One of his sons commented that this was no mid-life moment, but an end-life moment.  My brother remarked of himself that if the saying is true that “you’re only as old as you feel,” he must have reached triple figures.

            Whether referring to age of life, the score in a game, a pending medical test result, or any other difficult place in your life, refuse to lose hope and, instead, cling to your faith.  Do not allow the proverbial fat lady to come out on stage for the finale until it really is her turn to sing; or if you prefer Yogi Berra’s similar proverb, remember that “It ain’t over till it’s over.” 

            The ability to cling to that hope, by the way, is ultimately linked to your belief system, which is the true source of your hope.  Dr. David Busic recently wrote, “Christian hope is not the power of positive thinking.  It is not based on circumstances, good or bad.  It is not new and better ideas, utopian philosophies, or reformed politics.  Christian hope is objectively focused on the person of Jesus Christ who has been revealed to us as the ‘grace of God,’ ‘the salvation of all people,’ and our ‘blessed hope.’  Hope in anything else will not give us what we are looking for…”

            Nearly two centuries ago Edward Mote put it this way: “On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”  May you find your hope to be sufficient today.

How to be in the Right Place at the Right Time

Posted July 28, 2016 by stevenjcallis
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by Dr. Steven J. Callis

A blogger recently wrote about the secret of being in the right place at the right time.  The key, he wrote, is persistence.  He declared that a relentless pursuit of one’s goals is the only way to ‘get lucky.’  He claims that winning is inevitable for those who keep doing the things that success demands.  His secret is to “keep on showing up.”  If your right time is not today, keep coming back to the same place, and your time will come.

I am not enthusiastic about placing my hope on “luck.”  Could there be another answer?  It seems to me that being in the right place at the right time will happen by making right choices.  Choosing well is the key, which includes choices to pursue and choices to retreat.

We tend to consider life-changing moments in our lives as the big events, such as choosing a college, or a career, or a spouse.  Indeed, those are crucial decisions.  How much different would life be for my brothers and me if my parents had not chosen to relocate to another state when I was in fifth grade and my oldest brother was a junior in high school?

In a sense, however, every choice is life-changing to some degree.  Small choices often lead to decisions that bear more significance.  My parents did not simply awaken one morning and decide, “Hey, let’s move back to Tennessee.”  Certainly there were other decisions and circumstances that led to this weighty transition of life.

Eight years ago I made the choice to say ‘yes,’ and became the new pastor at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville, Georgia.  This decision was precipitated by earlier choices that eventually led to our relocation.  With a daughter entering high school, my wife and I prayerfully accepted the call, and our first Sunday was August 3, 2008.  This week we celebrate 8 years with our loving church family.

I am also blessed to pastor a church that, this week, celebrates 40 years of ministry in Douglasville.  On July 25, 1976, a choice was prayerfully made by the Georgia District Church of the Nazarene to plant a new church in Douglasville.  It is an honor to welcome friends and leaders from our past, to remember and honor the significant developments of the church over these four decades.

The church is in a ‘good place,’ and I am blessed to shepherd these gracious people.  I am in what I believe to be the right place at this right time because of prayerful choices I have made in the past which led me here and continue to keep me here; because of decisions this church and others have made, and thus it seems to be a God-ordained day in my life and in the life of the church.

Some of the choices have seemed small and insignificant; others were obviously crucial.  Yet all of the choices worked together bringing us to this hour in our existence.  There are yet more options to be considered, more decisions to be made, and more choices to be declared.  They all will work together to lead us on the road ahead as we serve the Lord Jesus in this community.

On behalf of this church, we offer thanks to God and our gratitude to you for the privilege to be part of your community.  We have awesome business neighbors who have become our friends, and we have made many friends across the area.  So, feel free to celebrate with us right now and voice a hip-hip-hooray or a “praise the Lord” as we celebrate God’s hand of blessing.

The ‘Rest’ of the Story

Posted June 29, 2016 by stevenjcallis
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By Dr. Steven J. Callis 

            It is mesmerizing, melodic in a way; almost hypnotic.  Continuously repetitious, invoking all five senses of the body, the ocean beach is a great way to relax.  If it has been a while since you were there, you may need to have your memory refreshed.

            The sight of the blue water capping to white as it rushes toward the shore partners with the crashing sound of the waves, one after another.  The feel of the ocean breeze is just enough to cool the body while the sun bears down on the sand, the sea, and the sun-screen-lathered beachcombers.  The subtle aroma of the salty air freshens the nasal passages and slightly informs the taste buds. 

            Being embraced by such an experience while lying on the sand, shaded beneath a large umbrella – well, no one is a match for the “sandman!”  Even the occasional flybys advertising Eagles Beach Store, and the faint screams of children running in and out of the ocean waves do not disturb the “music” of the beach.

            It is interesting to watch the various ways people choose to enjoy the beach.  For many of them, this is their one big week of the year away from time pressures and responsibilities back home.  Some are content to simply lie around and soak up the sun, while others romp and run and walk and play as though they are energized by that drumming pink bunny.

            Obvious beyond all of that is family.  The place we call “our” beach tends to attract families with young children, and often the grandparents are included in the fun.  To me, a real vacation is somewhat like a Sabbath.  It is not intended to be the norm of life, excessively taking us away from our commitments and responsibilities.   However, it is a prized opportunity that allows the body and mind to refresh, to rekindle, and then to re-enter life back home with a renewed sense of passion and purpose.

            It lifts my spirit to see families enjoying their time together, getting along and making the most of their week.  It seems that every year there is at least one large group of related families who have coordinated their schedules to be together.  Their planning and hard work to make it happen is well worth it as they enjoy their beach reunion.

            So here I am, back in the saddle, as some might say it.  Nothing has changed.  It is the same office, with the same schedule, the same challenges, and the same responsibilities.  Yet, there is a slight bounce in my step.  It felt good to get away, and it feels good to be home.  For you see, we are created with purpose; we are caretakers of our world and its inhabitants.  Our Sabbath rest serves to restore our being in order that we might effectively and efficiently serve our purpose.

            Whether we are talking about a one day rest to begin the week or a one week rest sometime in the year, our mind and body need that break.  When King Solomon declared that there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven, he understood that there is a time to rest, and a time to work.  The better we understand and embrace each, the greater will be our contentment as we fulfill our purpose.