Defenseless?

Image titled I want my mommy by anyjazz65

Image titled “I want my mommy” by anyjazz65

My wife Carol has an amazing affinity for animals of all kinds.  Our house is a virtual Noah’s ark of pets, including dogs, cats, birds, fish, and other assorted, furry varmints.  Each pet enjoys Carol’s special blend of care and attention.  She has a natural ability to communicate with animals in a way that leaves me awestruck.

For example, earlier this week, my son Derek and I were in the basement with the windows open when we heard a commotion in the backyard.

“What’s that noise?” Derek asked me.

“I don’t know.  It sounds like a bird fight,” I replied, vaguely aware of Carol rushing out the back screen door as I spoke.

Five minutes later, Carol called to us, “Don’t let any of the cats out.  I just caught Choco about to attack a baby bird that fell out of its nest!”

Sure enough, when I went out back, there was a baby robin clutching a branch in our little Japanese maple tree.  The loud noises earlier had been the baby’s frantic mother calling for help, and Carol had answered.  Over the course of that evening, we watched her cautiously feed her baby, and tracked his progress out of the tree and onto the top of our privacy fence.

“He’ll be fine as long as the cats and dogs don’t get him,” Carol advised me.  “Be careful when you let the dogs out in the morning.”

The next morning, I followed her instructions to the letter, and even searched our yard for our little visitor, finding no sign of him.  Carol had errands to run in town, and I headed for the computer.  But within half an hour, I heard those same, frantic bird calls from the previous day in the backyard.  Vowing not to make the same mistake twice, I hurried out into the backyard.

I circled our fence twice, finding nothing.  I was just about to give up the search when I discovered our cat with the baby robin on our back deck.  He had dragged the baby to our back door and was preparing for the kill.  The baby looked up at me and opened its beak in a silent call for help.  Tiny clumps of feathers scattered about him on the floor boards testified to the terror he had suffered in the past five minutes.

I quickly tossed the cat in the house, then turned back to tend to the wounded bird.  My first thought was to move him back to the relative safety of the fence again, but as I started to reach down to pick him up, a quieter voice that sounded a lot like Carol’s spoke in my mind: If you touch him, his mother will stop taking care of him.

I knew that voice was right.  So, reluctantly, I went back in the house.

He looked so defenseless sitting there by himself, but each time we went out to check on him, we would find his mother hard at work bringing him food to eat.  It wasn’t long before he was moving around the deck thanks to her efforts.  We helped her by letting our dogs out the basement door and blocking the stairs to the deck to protect the baby.

Slowly it dawned on me that baby robin wasn’t defenseless at all.  His Defender had a plan for him all along, and we were all playing our parts in it.

Late that afternoon, Carol called to me, “I haven’t seen the momma bird lately.  Do you see the baby anywhere?”  A thorough search of the back yard confirmed he had gained enough strength to leave.

Good luck to you, little guy.  May all the others you encounter along your path heed the Voice that brings healing and peace to this world.

Stories From Unemployment 3

This post is dedicated to my friend David.  I hope you realize how many friends you have in your “network.”

In Praise of Networking

Exactly one month to the day now since I was laid-off.  I had my first phone interview last week regarding a great local job with a Fortune 500 company.  The position looks like it would be a natural career progression for me.  I’ve been very careful not to let myself get my hopes up, but I can’t help being honest here:

I would love this job, I would rock in that position, and it would exceed all my job search goals: a growing company in emerging technology with better pay and benefits, and they’re located a mile closer to my house.

If I do end up getting this job, it will be because of networking.  I have to admit, I’ve never been comfortable with the term “networking” before.  I always viewed it in negative terms; I thought of it as pushing myself on others to get what I wanted, like a sleazy used car salesman.  I don’t know anyone important and I’m not good at networking anyway, I thought.

But the experiences of the past month have shown me just how wrong I’ve been concerning networking.  It’s not using others to get what you want, it’s really a two-way street.  Neighbors helping neighbors.  Friends indeed helping each other out.

The phone-interview job is a good case in point.  I wouldn’t have even considered applying for it, having been disappointed by the same company on three different occasions in the past four years.  But two friends separately encouraged me to check out the company’s job board, and this position had been posted just two days prior to my search.

One friend made some inquires and learned who the hiring manager is.  She convinced a former colleague to put in a good word for me and to give the manager my resume.  Two other friends that work for the company took my resume to the site HR group.  They even gave me advice on everything from salary ranges to places to research the job’s and company’s details.  Without their help, I never would have gotten the phone interview.

I realize now that I was too proud, and too weak, to allow others to help me.  I can do it on my own, was my unconscious motto.  I didn’t believe others would be willing to help me.  I cut myself off from experiencing true friendship.  I don’t deserve their kindness, was my underlying fear.

But as my network of friends has reached out on my behalf, something miraculous is happening: we’re all being blessed in more ways than we could have imagined.  It’s the pay-it-forward principle – you always receive more than you can give away.  They’re blessed for being a blessing.

Even me, in my current “weakened” position, am finding that I have a great deal to offer.  And as I share what I have, my optimism, my gratitude, and my faith, it’s returned to me a hundred times over.  I can’t begin to express how wonderful the lessons of this past month have been.  My real priorities have become clear.  I will never fear networking with my friends again, nor doubt how many friends we truly have in this big, wide world.

One final “networking” story:

We received an anonymous card in the mail postmarked “Zanesville, OH.”  It contained an inspirational message and $45 in cash.  It was signed, “Praying our blessing forward!  God Bless!”

Thank you my friends.  You gave me a chance to be a generous father to my children, who each had a need for part of that money.  I shared your gift with them.  It was exactly what they needed, and exactly what I needed too.

God bless you, too.

Mind Your Pace

It has now been a little over a week since the layoff.  300 people were let go over two days.  One of them was my friend Brad, who used to work in the IT Department.  The two of us immediately decided to form a support group.

I don’t know how I would have gotten through the past 9 days without Brad’s help.  It’s incredible how many things need to be done when you’re unemployed.  We’ve got each other’s back, so nothing important falls through the cracks.

Brad and I are working harder now than we have in years, we’re just not getting paid for it.  Since we were let go on Ash Wednesday, we joke about giving up being paid for our work for Lent.  Of course, all work looking for a job and no fun will make Doug and Brad crazy-psycho nuts, unsuitable for hiring.

So we agreed to go for a hike in the woods by my house this past Thursday.  We could catch up on our progress while getting some exercise and also get out from under our wives’ feet, so they could both have a break from us – a tri-fecta!

It was clear and cool as we headed up over the hill and down the trail into the Forrey Preserve.  Perfect hiking weather.  Since Brad had never hiked these woods, I led the way, choosing the trails to lead him past some of my favorite areas.

We spoke of what we had been doing the past several days, and  I told Brad how frustrated I was at the pace of my progress.  I hadn’t applied to any jobs yet.  Heck, I was just getting started updating my resume.

As we walked and talked, I discovered I needed to slow my pace a fair amount to avoid leaving Brad behind. “You’re not going to get much of a workout at this pace,” a voice nagged from the back of my mind.

So be it, I decided.  It was too nice a day and I was enjoying our time together too much to worry about whether I worked up a sweat or not.

“It sure is a nice day to be unemployed,” Brad said, as if reading my mind.  The sun shone brightly on the naked branches of the trees, their light gray tips glowing in contrast against the deep blue sky.

Brad has been a computer geek for as long as I’ve know him, but he actually went to school for anthropology, and he worked several years doing archeological field work on local Native people.  As we walked along the trails at his pace, his eyes were always scanning our surroundings.  He paused often to pick something up or to point something out, each time explaining to me what he had found.

I began to understand just how much I had missed by hurrying through the woods at my normal pace.

Brad found a “fire-cracked” stone.  He explained how the Natives didn’t have cook pots that could be heated directly on a fire.  Instead, they cooked by heating stones in the fire and then dropping them into a stew or a soup.  The thermal shock to the stone would often break it, making an edge that resembled a dull axe.

Brad found bits of stone not native to the area, carried there by others in times gone by.  He pointed out an old, shallow trench where someone had mined a small vein of coal.  He spoke of Civil War times, how Ohio had been completely strip-forested to make charcoal for the foundries in the Ohio River valley to make weapons for the Union army.  He explained how the ravines we were passing, like the rest throughout Ohio, were so much steeper than they would have been because of the ecological damage from the run-off of this deforestation.

Brad also showed me the best places to look for arrowheads when I told him I had never found one before.  “Freshly plowed fields are usually the best places to look,” he said, “but in the woods you can find them in the roots of a downed tree.”

At the top of the next hill we found a number of trees that had been blown over by a recent storm.  We wandered like little boys from root ball to root ball, scraping at the dirt, examining everything we unearthed with the solemn focus that only occurs in play.

We continued down the branching trails, my pace now matching his better as I listened to his stories, and that’s when I found it.  There where the trail curved to follow the edge of a ravine just a hundred yards up from the river, I stooped to pick up a bright-white stone nestled in a patch of moss in the middle of the path.

“That’s a piece of Flint Ridge flint that they made into a core,” Brad said.  “See the sharpened edges.  They would have used this to make flint tools like arrowheads.”

Score! I thought, but Brad was looking intently around us.

“I bet this used to be a Native campsite,” he said.  “It’s elevated, so it would have been dry.  The ravine makes it defensible, there’s water nearby, and you can see a long way in all directions.”

I had been past this spot a half-dozen times, but I had never noticed it, nor seen the flint core, in my haste.  I followed Brad into the heart of the ancient campsite, imitating him as he carefully searched under the fallen leaves and around the tree bases.  Before long, he found another flake of white flint.  Then he found a solid black flake.

“This one’s from West Virginia,” he said, handing it to me to examine.  He said another flake of dark gray flint was probably from the Coshocton, OH area.

Now that I knew how to look, I discovered several more flint pieces.  I pocketed my first piece and another large Flint Ridge flake to take home as trophies.  Brad was content to leave his finds where they had been dropped by their original Native owners.

It was the same forest I had hiked scores of times before, but it was a completely different experience, simply by slowing my pace.  I would have passed right by the treasures we found had it been up to me.

I realized in that moment that this was the answer to my job search worries as well.  I’ve been staying focused on the present, following the “flow” minute by minute, working on the top priority of the moment.  In the past week, communicating with my friend, and especially with my family, had been the biggest priority.  They needed to share their concerns and fears, and even their anger.  They needed me to listen to their ideas, to understand their viewpoint, and to share the strength I’ve been receiving with them.

In my heart, I have a sense of peace that I am fulfilling my role since the layoff.  Worry crept in only when I started comparing myself to others, or worse yet, to what I judged I should be doing based on past experience.  I never would have found the treasures in relationships I’ve experienced over the past week listening to that nagging voice in my head.  There wouldn’t have been time moving at his pace.

Yet the miracle this Saturday morning, just two days later, is I have those treasures and good progress on the job search.  There are two solid job applications out in two different fields with two tailored resumes, updated profiles on internet job boards, and a number of other potential leads in the hopper.

There’s still so much to do, but I’m happy to be experiencing the peace that comes from heeding the pace that comes from our higher Source.  My prayer is for you to share this same peace.  May you have faith in the pace He asks of you.

A New Beginning

Image by _gee_s photostream.  Click on the picture to see more images from him.

Image by _gee_'s photostream. Click on the picture to see more images from him.

The rumor mill was buzzing at work when I arrived there on Wednesday:  layoffs were beginning again.  Coworkers were gathered in small groups, speaking in hushed tones.  As the morning dragged on, I overheard anxious and tearful clips of conversations as people passed by in the hallway beyond my cube.  The rumors were true.

I focused on performing my normal Wednesday morning activities.  At lunch, I went to the fitness center to work out.  The effort and sweat of the work out was therapeutic.  The chattering voices in my head cleared as I focused on the physical effort of exercising.

And in that quiet place, I realized that I couldn’t have planned for what was happening at work by judging from my past experiences.  I needed to trust to the Spirit’s guidance in the moment, just as I did at the ice skating rink (click here to see that post).

“But what would I do if I got laid off?” I thought.  “That would be a huge challenge to my ability to follow the Spirit’s guidance.”

But almost as soon as I had that thought, a sense of peace came over me.  I was being answered, “Of course you able.”

When I returned to work at 1:00, my fellow cube-dweller Roy said that my manager had been looking for me.  I spotted her down the hall and walked over to her.  “Can you come with me?” she asked.

And I instantly knew: for the first time in my life, I was being laid-off.

I have always had a clear picture in my mind of how I would feel and act when I finally got the tap on my shoulder.  Let me tell you, it would not have been pretty, but that’s not what happened.  Instead, in that moment, I felt something far different:

Acceptance.

Peace.

Liberation.

A smile spread across my face, and I couldn’t wipe off that silly grin through the entire termination process.  I even found myself comforting my manager and the HR representative as they conducted my exit meeting; they were both obviously struggling under their day’s responsibilities.  The healing offered wasn’t of me or for me, but blessed me more than words can describe.

“I don’t have to worry about this place anymore,” was the first thought that crossed my mind.  I didn’t realize until that very second just how much the worry of my old company’s economic health had been weighing on me.

I also clearly saw the opportunity that I was being given.  I couldn’t go back to my old industry – all three pottery companies where I had previously worked had closed their doors in the past few years – and the basket company I was working for is one-of-a-kind.  This chapter in my life was now coming to a complete and final close.

My future career will have to be in a different industry, perhaps a different field all together.  I have no idea what it will be, but a strong, peaceful feeling of hope filled me, assuring me it will be far better.  And I realized that I now have to be completely focused on the present, just as I was at the skating rink, in order to negotiate the countless steps necessary to find that life.  I have to rely completely on the Spirit’s guidance.

That’s the best place that I could possibly be.

A Quick Answer To A Prayer

Image titled Pacific Spirit by lawmurray

Image titled "Pacific Spirit" by lawmurray

Many of the posts to this blog have been inspired by my prayer journal, but I’ve never shared an experience directly out of its pages before now.  The following account is taken from my journal entries for Friday, February 20.

I started as I do most mornings with my prayer time at my desk before the day’s activities.  In my journal I wrote this prayer, which was inspired by the work I’m doing in A Course In Miracles:

Lord, help me to hear the Voice of God.

Yes, I know that deep in my mind I’ve resisted this request.  I want to prove I’m right; I secretly want to play the role of God.  I don’t know all the reasons I harbor this secret desire to be apart from God and His Love.  I imagine I need to acknowledge those reasons before I can hear His Voice.  Help me to see Spirit, so that I may hear.

Then I felt inspired to write:

* Forgiveness is letting go of the past, so that we may live in the present.

-> You have to believe that today can be different from yesterday.

I finished my prayer time and morning chores, and headed off to work.  This is what happened next:

I had a realization concerning my project this morning, so I went to talk with Brian Tigner (a coworker and friend).  I was feeling present, and our conversation turned to faith.

“If God would grant you one wish, what would it be?” he asked.

I’d never considered this question before.  After a few seconds consideration, I said, “To know God.”

He approved, saying, “Most people would say they’d ask for a billion dollars or to be put in charge.  You can tell a lot about the kind of person someone is by the answer they give to that question.”

And I realized in that moment that the Spirit was speaking to me through Brian, answering the question that was in the back of my mind, “Is that what I really want?”

Our conversation went on, discussing potential manufacturing layout scenarios.  He expressed concerns about the employees accepting the changes based on past experience, and I found myself explaining the need to forgive the past in order to live in the present where the Spirit can reach us.

“You have to believe that today can be different from yesterday.  If you’re always reacting to people based on the unforgiven issues of the past, you’ll misperceive the present and make the future turn out just like the past.  Forgiveness is letting go of the past so that we can live in the present.”

As I talked, I heard what I was saying and realized that it was true, and I also realized that the authority of my words was coming from a deeper Source.  The Spirit was speaking through me, connecting with both Brian and me.

By the way, Brian’s parting words to me were, “It’ll be interesting to see how things work out for you and your studies.”  Walking the walk will do far more than talking the talk.

After our conversation, I opened the Text, and the Spirit spoke strongly to me again in the next section that I read, confirming what had just happened.  (that section is titled Finding The Present and you can read it by clicking this link.)

Forgive me Spirit for my misunderstanding.  I do hear Your Voice.  You have been speaking to me, I just wasn’t paying attention.  I was focused on hearing an internal voice, like the voice in my head.  I’m sure You could do that if You so desire, but I shouldn’t try to limit You, just as You’re unwilling to limit me.  Thank You for answering me in such a strong and rapid way.

What Message Are You Sending?

Image of Barack Obamas Inauguration From The Crowd On The Mall by Johno525

Image of Barack Obama's Inauguration From The Crowd On The Mall by Johno525

Like so many others across our country and around the world, I felt compelled Tuesday to watch the historical events taking place in Washington D.C.  Even here in rural, republican-leaning, central Ohio, many of my friends and coworkers couldn’t help but watch the spectacle as it was occurring live from the nation’s capital.

I was drawn to the inauguration by accident.  I knew the historical significance of the day and I was eager for our new president to get to work, but I felt no need to gawk at the pomp and circumstance that always accompanies a presidential inauguration.  However, by mid-morning there was an energy in the air that was palpable.  The excitement and anticipation of so many people focused on this one, milestone event created an effect that could be felt on our factory floor.  I felt happy, peaceful, and accepted.  I found myself smiling for no apparent reason.

I wondered if others could feel the energy I was feeling.  As an experiment, I walked the aisle past our basket makers.  Each time I noticed one with their head down, intent on weaving a basket, I would focus my attention on them and smile the energy I was feeling in their direction. 

Five times out of five, each person looked up from their work, immediately caught my gaze, and returned my smile.  No matter how far away I was, no matter what direction they were facing, each time I focused that positive energy on them, within two seconds their head turned in my direction and their eyes found mine.  Absolutely amazing.

 So I watched as much of the swearing-in ceremony as my schedule would allow, I listened to President Obama’s inauguration speech over NPR, I watched much of the parade and a few of the balls on CNN.  The themes of responsibility and accountability came through in the President’s speech, but there were many other messages that were sent during the day’s events.  The diversity and acceptance of the crowd on the mall, the anticipation of change, the inclusion of so many that have been traditionally marginalized, the hope for a brighter future and a better world. 

So many positive messages combined with an overwhelming majority of happy people (in spite of security and scheduling issues in Washington) created an emotional energy that can only be described as love.  It grew and multiplied through out the day and affected us all, as my experiment showed, whether we realized it or not.  Lord, may we as a human race experience more and more days like Tuesday, January 20, 2009.

A Different Message

Wednesday morning at work gave me a completely different experience.  I opened my e-mail and received the following message:

This message contains graphics. If you do not see the graphics, click here to view.

 
For 30 years Focus on the Family has been nurturing and defending families worldwide. Visit focusonthefamily.com for articles and resources to help you and your family thrive.
  Relationships & Marriage | Parenting | Media Center | Family Store | Support Family Ministry  
     
  Key Message From the Editor of Focus on the Family Citizen® magazine.

Dear Friend,

Inauguration Day 2009 marks the beginning of a new administration under President Barack Obama and those he’s chosen to serve in it.

Regardless of who you voted for two months ago, you undoubtedly are wondering …

  • Will abortion become more deeply embedded in our nation’s legal code and more widely accepted … or not?
  • Will our military men and women be forced to live with those openly practicing homosexual lifestyles?
  • Will same-sex marriage be legalized in more and more states?
  • Will President Obama give in to pressure to choose liberal activist judges who act as legislators rather than interpreters of the law?
  • Will time-honored Judeo-Christian values be preserved or destroyed in each of our 50 states and in Washington, D.C.?

You undoubtedly are asking: What can I do to protect America’s godly heritage and secure a safe future for my children and grandchildren?

That’s why Citizen Magazine exists. Month after month, it brings concerned citizens like you the “no-spin” truth, practical suggestions and encouragement needed to influence the issues and events that are important to you and your family.

So give yourself the truth behind the news … the action tips … and the motivation you need. Subscribe to Citizen today!

Sincerely,

Tom Hess
Editor

With the stakes for our country’s direction so high, there’s no better time to request your subscription to Focus on the Family Citizen® magazine. Staying informed is crucial–Citizen is a must-read to give you the truth behind the news!

Request Citizenonline today or by calling 800-A-FAMILY (232-6459), and mention CT09AEICZA. With your subscription request, we will also send you a complimentary 7-CD set, Amazing Stories, which will inspire you to rely upon God in every circumstance.

 
     
 
Subscribe today and you'll also receive a complimentary copy of Amazing Stories, a 7-CD broadcast set Receive the complimentary 7-CD broadcast set Amazing Stories when you subscribe to Focus on the Family Citizen today!This collection of radio broadcasts includes some of the most inspirational testimonies heard on the “Focus on the Family®” broadcast. These stories will remind you that God is always there–even in the most difficult situations. To get your complimentary gift, subscribe today!
 
Visit focusonthefamily.com today!

I do my best to grow in my Christian faith each day.  Does the fact that I hadn’t “undoubtedly wondered” about any of the issues raised in this e-mail advertisement make me a “bad” Christian?  What about the next questions that crossed my mind: it was right to legislate the civil rights laws that made yesterday’s inauguration possible because that was an issue of justice, but is it right to legislate laws that address moral issues?  Didn’t we try that during prohibition?

This is a message of fear, plain and simple.  This advertisement is judgemental and discriminatory.  The good intentions of well-meaning people have been turned to other purposes by this message.

My question to Focus on the Family is this: if we could interview Jesus Christ today, which message would He be more likely to associate with, President Obama’s inauguration Tuesday or the advertisement above? 

What message are you sending?

Prayers For Our Eagle Scout

Eagle picture courtesy eaglescoutuse.com

Eagle picture courtesy eaglescoutuse.com

Our son Brett just received his Eagle rank from the Boy Scouts in a very nice ceremony held this past Saturday.  For his Eagle project, he organized the writing and printing of a trail guide for the Flint Ridge State Memorial, documenting the history and significance of the site to the Native Americans and the early pioneers.  It was only natural that he wanted to hold his ceremony in the shelter house at there Flint Ridge.  The families of Troop 2, as well as friends and family members from four different states, all came together for a wonderful recognition ceremony.

The Master of Ceremonies for the event was my father, who had been my Scoutmaster, and who helped me to earn my Eagle rank back in 1979.  I’ve served as my boys’ scout leader for the past ten years; it’s my way of paying back my father by paying it forward to my sons and their friends. 

Only two out of every 100 boys who join Scouting will ever achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.  Brett was reminded, as was I in my time, that the Eagle trail never ends.  Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.  Others throughout your life will expect you to exemplify all the highest ideals of the Scouting program.  It’s inspiring to see your son step up to take on the challenge of living a worthy life.

Still, I was also reminded of our human nature during the weekend as well.  Carol and I grounded Brett a week ago and took away his video games because of his poor attitude at home.  There’s also no need for me to pretend that I always uphold the Scout Oath and Law every minute of my life.  We’re all human, and we all stumble and fall, Eagle Scouts included.  It has taken me a long time to realize we don’t need to be perfect, that it’s more important to simply keep trying – those 98% of boys who didn’t achieve their Eagle rank still benefited from their efforts in the program.

Gary Watson delivered the invocation and benediction to Brett’s Eagle ceremony this past weekend.  His words were powerful and touched me.  I’m ending this post by sharing them with you:

 Invocation

Most gracious heavenly Father, we come to you this day thanking you for your abundant blessings.  Lord we ask you to join us in this celebration of Brett attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.  Use this ceremony Lord to inspire vision and to encourage his troop to follow in the Eagle path.  Help us give well deserved praise and honor, and to also realize that becoming an Eagle Scout is not so much a destination, but a way of life.  We acknowledge your guidance in helping both boys and adults to work together to build leadership and appreciation of the outdoors, even when we were unaware of Your presence.  Lord, You forged the hills and mountains these young men have hiked and climbed.  Your hands formed the lakes and oceans we swam.  You know each animal and plant we have watched with wonder and awe.  You protected us from the elements, provided the food to cook and eat, and empowered the fires that warmed us.  You are the one who sharpens our minds every day to learn skills and facts, knots and first aid, how to lead and how to follow.  Lord, continue to watch over Brett as he grows into a young man and give the adults the patience and wisdom to guide Brett, as well as the other Eagles-to-be.  In your precious Son’s name we pray.  Amen.

Benediction

We thank you, God, for the opportunity to come together as family, friends, leaders and fellow scouts on this significant day in Brett’s life.  We thank you God for your support of everyone who has helped guide Brett on his Eagle Trail.  We are grateful for the scouting experiences and opportunities that have led to this day.  Help Brett to live up to the honor, responsibility, and expectations that this Eagle award represents.  Help him wear this title with pride and distinction, as an example to others.  Help him Lord to fly in your presence with the wings of an eagle.  Brett, may you soar.  May God’s breath fill your wings and carry you to your destiny.  May you continue to grow in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man.  May you keep yourself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.  May you lead by influence and not by title alone.  May you lead with that delicate mix of humility, strength, example, and force.  May you build into the lives of other young men – future Eagles – for all of your days.  And…may the great Scoutmaster of all Scouts be with us until we meet again.