R.I.P. Billy Graham

Yesterday we lost a humble giant in Christianity — Billy Graham, age 99.

There are just a few people through history, from the death of the last Apostle through today, who have received and expressed such a tremendous God-given gift of ministry — none for such a long period of time with personal and media access to so many people worldwide. Nobody in the entire history of Christianity as preached in person to more people. Yet through all that fame he remained profoundly humble. Millions have come to know and love Billy Graham, and millions have been led to accept Christ by his ability to make the Word clear and hopeful.

For decades Billy carried God’s message of spiritual rebirth and redemption to people all over the world through his public “crusades”, while more quietly visiting with orphanages, areas of poverty, and individuals at all strata of society in need of spiritual aid — all in a way that was personally genuine and free of financial and sexual scandals that afflicted other famous ministers. Billy opposed racial segregation, proclaiming (correctly), “There is no scriptural basis for segregation”, under the ideal that God created humans of all races and cares for all people the same. Indeed he bailed Martin Luther King out of jail on several occasions in the 1960s. Billy also founded the influential magazine Christianity Today.

Whether Billy was meeting with a world leader, his personal physician, or a little child in Africa, he reflected the love of Christ just as well. Billy truly lived the life he preached, proclaiming often: “I have one message: that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Savior, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins.”

There are a lot of great tributes flowing from fellow ministers, ordinary citizens he influenced, and several former Presidents of both parties (he was a confidant and trusted spiritual advisor to Presidents from Truman to Obama). Yet, one of the most powerful personal testimonies I’ve seen comes from a friend of mine who is Jewish by heritage, and who served as Billy’s medical doctor for a short time. He writes:

    “I had the honor to be Rev. Billy Graham’s physician for 5 months back in 2007, and a friend of his since. He and I had many intensely personal and spiritual discussions. By the time I became his physician, Bill showed intense humility and a deep desire to better know God’s will for him. Our discussions were some of the most profound I’d ever had and paved the way to my eventual acceptance of a higher power in my life, though I’m not a Christian. What struck me most about him was his presence.

    “I loved listening to some pretty intensely personal stories of his. And, he actually told President Bush that he would call him back when I was in examining him one day. That is definitely one of the watershed moments in my career, lol.

    “I miss him already, though I know he was ready for death. Thank you, Bill–for everything you and I walked through. Thanks for your humor and guidance. Godspeed…”

When I was but a little kid, and Woodall Rodgers Freeway across the north side of downtown Dallas was a swath of open land recently cleared but not yet paved, my mom took me by bus to see a Billy Graham crusade. [Klyde Warren Park occupies that spot today, above a tunneled version of the same freeway.]

Until tonight I didn’t recall the date (more below), but it was a mild and cloudy day with southerly winds, probably springtime. Return flow! A stage was set up in the clearing with the nearby downtown skyline as a backdrop, and lawn chairs and towels upon which people sat to see and hear Billy preach. To this day, I’ve had dreams of the Lord’s word being delivered from the clouds above those skyscrapers. As a bonus: music from Johnny and June Carter Cash prior to Billy’s taking the stage. It was both the first religious experience I remember and the first country-gospel concert.

We were out there a long time and I don’t remember much, except that Billy was a very passionate and persuasive speaker who inspired my mom a great deal. She spoke of that experience often in the first few years afterward, always in reverent and grateful ways. I credit his conveyance of Jesus’ message for keeping her afloat during some otherwise dark times for her mentally, physically and financially — stuff you wouldn’t wish on a worst enemy, much less one’s own mom.

Though I strayed through minefields of multiple denominations, other religions and even atheism in some of the years that followed, seeds of early spiritual influence, planted by the Billy Graham experience I barely remembered, grew into trees greening a forest of faith today. I am still grateful for what that did for my mom, then in turn and in time, me.

Billy once stated: “Someday, you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” And now he is. R.I.P. Billy Graham, after a very long and well-lived earthly life.

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The Internet is good for something. Shortly before posting, on a whim, I just searched for the first time in 15 years or more. For the first time ever, I just found the date: 17 June 1972, with a photo! The show on the future freeway slab was a daylong culmination of “the largest Christian music festival ever recorded.” My mom and I are in this picture somewhere.

I hardly recall it, but for the weather scene (of course), having to navigate the crowds with her to find a place to pee, fleeting mental footage of Johnny Cash onstage, and another short mental movie of Billy’s powerful oratory about Jesus…but nothing specific that he said. Yet isn’t it amazing how such a feeble and fuzzy and far-back event can exert such a strong ripple effect? God works in mysterious ways.

Norman: Keep Rejecting Storm-water Utility

In 2016, Norman voters overwhelmingly rejected a new storm-water utility. I was one. Yet mayor Lynne Miller and most of the city council either misread the results as the opposite of what they were, or just as damning, deliberately ignored them, with statements of brazen Orwellian doublespeak such as this quoted in the linked story: “…citizens have moved way far down the road in understanding the need for a stormwater (sic) utility.” Wrong! The citizens did not see a need for it, hence, the vote against it! Duh…

A year and a half passed and along came yesterday’s city council elections, wherein most candidates with a position on the matter expressly or implicitly favored such a new utility — and by extension, higher effective taxes paid by the citizenry in the form of its inevitably additional sets of fees. Credit one of those candidates, Joe Carter from Ward 2 (not my ward), for at least having the guts to solicit input, even as he seemed to favor the idea in a Facebook post. My initial response (edited lightly for grammar, usage and typos, addition for your benefit in brackets):

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    Here is the problem: that is a new bureaucracy, with its own structure and overhead, its own managerial ladder and administrative lattice, in parallel to an existing water and sewer utility, itself with an administrative ladder and lattice, under whose umbrella storm-water management can and could function with less overhead and greater efficiency.

    That, along with some ridiculous treatment of the relatively minuscule coverage of impervious surface in the rural majority of Norman’s land area (as if it were urban), caused the resounding downfall of the storm-water utility in the referendum.

    Do it better if you’re going to sell the concept, because as it stands, the majority of us aren’t buying the sales pitch.

——

Again, to his credit, he responded to my comment by asking for my ideas. Folks who know me understand well that I most certainly will offer lots of ideas unsolicited; when you solicit them…well, be careful what you ask for, lest you get it. Here’s the feedback I provided:

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    So you’ll know, for background: I’ve been living here off and on since August 1985 (with stints in Miami and Kansas City). Because I work rotating shifts, including a lot of night shifts, I’m afraid I cannot reliably serve on a citizen’s board or council (at least until retirement). So these ideas are freely provided for you and anybody else to put to use until such a time as I can put more direct effort into advocating for and executing them. I hope it’s not necessary, because it will have been done by then!

    This is long and will be delivered in two parts, because the issue is not as simple as the referendum made it seem, and needs to be attacked two ways.

    PART 1: Need for separate utility bureaucracy?

    Short answer: Not necessary. Keep it all in existing water/sewer department. Add a wastewater division.

    Long answer: It’s water. Thematically, it fits in the existing administrative and physical-overhead latticework of water/sewer. An entirely separate, parallel bureaucracy, with its own separate tree of administrative salaries and physical overhead, is overkill, and not a streamlined and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

    Instead, waste-water drainage should be, at most, a division within the water/sewer department, sharing computational resources, office equipment/supplies, top-level (highest-salary) managerial oversight, and physical office space. This is in order to run more economically and efficiently, and to promote better collaboration and cooperation through physical collocation.

    If the existing office space is insufficient to expand slightly by introducing a new division, it probably won’t handle any future growth of the water/sewer department as Norman itself grows, regardless. Therefore leasing larger space through competitive lease-bid processes would be forward-thinking and cheaper than waiting 5-10 years to do what will need to be done at some point, anyway. Think 3 or 4 chess moves ahead! As for any eventual billing to pay for waste-water improvements: itemize it within the existing water/sewer bills using the same overhead and resources.

    PART 2: Solutions for analyzing use and assessing storm-water fees

    Short answer is not possible. See long answer.

    Long answer: It’s physical and logical folly to treat rural Norman the same way as urbanized Norman for the sake of storm-water drainage. Urban (and much of suburban) Norman drains off larger aggregated concrete areas per square mile, largely into storm sewers that vector water rapidly into the river with almost no time for natural settling and filtration. Rural Norman drains off far less concrete per square mile, into a mix of surrounding ground and creeks. The land uses are not the same. The collective imperviousness is not the same. The drainage is not the same. Therefore the per-square-foot storm-water assessments must not be the same. If we are to fairly pay for storm-water mitigation, it should be done on one of two bases, or a combination of both:

      * Presence or lack of storm sewers draining the plat. If storm sewers drain the property, higher cost per square ft of surface area.

      * Percentage of property covered by impermeability (instead of absolute amount). Rates are paid on a sliding scale so that (for example) a concrete-covered parking lot with only a strip of curb grass pays the highest rate, whereas a rural acreage with just a house and gravel or dirt driveway pays far lower. Obviously undeveloped land pays bottom. There’s incentive here to reduce impermeability, if that’s a goal, but it does not unfairly penalize the rural landowner. [Concept: A 2500-square-ft house surrounded by 5 acres unpaved land (with just a driveway) will offer less roof runoff to the river or lake than one on a small city lot emptying straight into storm sewers.]

    Also, for either or both solutions, grandfather in existing development at a rate substantially less than new development built after the effective date of the statute. This encourages smarter, more permeable newer development.

    Yes, this is more complicated than the original referendum and will require explaining, probably with a flow chart. But it is fairer to all and more taxpayer-friendly.

    Thank you.

——

Now these ideas are not some 137-page impact-assessment report chock full of statistics, figures and bureaucratic bingo-lingo. Yet they represent a fairer and more thoughtful way of dealing with the matter of dirty and noxious runoff than an entirely new bureaucracy that just is not necessary.

Now let’s see if Joe Carter (who won in a landslide) and others are willing to take serious note of the concerns of the “no” voters, and not ignore or whitewash them. In a municipality of over 100,000 that doesn’t install right-turn lanes on newly rebuilding major intersections, still hasn’t synchronized its traffic lights citywide, 40+ years after some other cities around the nation — and which has not installed a smart-light system to adjust traffic signals fluidly for traffic volume, trains, events, and flow patterns — I am highly skeptical of its competence of city planning in all areas.

Evil: Celebrating Death of Those with Differing Views

Several noteworthy deaths the last couple years, and the reactions of pleasure to them on Twitter in particular, have me wondering: What sort of inhumane, sociopathic ghoul must somebody be to celebrate another’s death, or to hope for it when news comes out of their illness, because they did not share the same opinion on a sociopolitical issue?

This is real, folks. Wake up to it. Yes, innocent grasshopper, people like this do exist, right here amongst us, and do think this way. Want examples? ***PROFANITY ALERT***

re: Nancy Reagan around her death:

Following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death:

And these are some of the tame ones…in my vault of screenshots, I’ve got dozens and dozens of examples, and if I wanted to spend/waste even more time, could save hundreds in any given year without much effort to find them.

In such original public posts, there’s no consideration at all for the families of these people (children, grandchildren, future kids in same family) who could see them. It’s just pure, unadulterated hate. The only reason I post them is for illustrative purposes, to prove they indeed are real, and the decision to do so was difficult and conflicted. In the end, they’re already out there, and need to be put in proper context of what they are: negative examples to be condemned and scorned, and to counter deniers of their existence.

My sentiments regarding those with death wishes also apply to anyone wishing a whole group with any given stance on issues would “just die off so the rest of us can advance,” or eagerly anticipating the passing away in bulk of human beings with whom they disagree on issues. I’ve seen this sentiment multiple times on social media and BLOGs from pro-“LGBT” and pro-abortion advocates, as well as vociferously anti-religious atheists, regarding religius conservatives. You’ll see me disagreeing with those groups steadfastly and straightforwardly on such issues — but never pining for their death or dancing on their graves. That is a sadistic and deranged mentality of extreme and irrational hate. Those who think that way exhibit the very sort of pathological heartlessness as they who threw Jews into Nazi gas chambers, or rounded up “enemies of the revolution” for Stalin’s and Mao’s purges.

No matter how much I disagree with you on an issue, or how awful I see your ideals to be, I am mature enough to see that attacking the idea is not the same as attacking the person, that condemning behavior is not the same as condemning you the person. Regardless of anything you’ve said or done or anything I say or do about it, you still are a loved and valued human being in the eyes of God, and I am commanded to acknowledge and understand that. I will not wish for your death; indeed I am far more likely to pray for your redemption and eternal life. If you consider that a “high horse” — your problem. The solution is simple: get out of the gutter, repent, seek forgiveness, and climb up onto this horse. I’ll offer a helping hand into the saddle.

Here’s another example of a death celebration, this one from a scientist, no less…directed at recently deceased TV meteorologist John Coleman.

Regardless what anybody thinks of Coleman’s position on climate (and mine doesn’t line up with his in most respects), this is despicable and diabolical thinking. Quoting from Max Planck doesn’t dignify it either; that it just shows what a thoughtless asshole that Max Planck could be (as well as anyone who relays such sentiment). Just because the guy was a great pioneer in physics doesn’t mean he was a demigod, and immune from criticism for his personal failings.

As a multiply formally published scientist, I find that attitude to have no place in science! Science is supposed to advance on its own merits, not by default through fulfilled death wishes. Any scientist who thinks the way to advance science is “one funeral at a time” needs to take a leave of absence and seek anger-management and/or anti-sociopathic therapy. And yes, I’d say the same thing straight to Max Planck’s face, while gazing directly into his eyes, if I could travel in a time machine and speak German.

To some extent the hate has been there all along. It goes with the human story, human nature — left, right, or apolitical — intrinsically and unavoidably, back to Cain and Abel, or to whatever other anecdotes you may find of death-wish-level acrimony in past times.

The difference today is that never before has the platform existed to display it in such raw, uninhibited, instantaneous ways, with worldwide distribution, as via social media. Don’t get me wrong here; social media isn’t all bad. As with any tool, the evil lies not in the tool itself (be it hammer, pencil, money, gun, car, or keyboard)—but in how it is used, and for what purpose.

It sucks to see the tool used for the above purposes, as a statement on reality, as a revelation of how some people think in their basal and primal state. To be sure, the tool can be and is used for great good as well—say, to marshal private aid more rapidly than ever to those befallen by disaster at scales ranging from personal to national.

Nevertheless, much as we wish to, we must not stick our heads in the sand and willfully make ourselves unaware of the level of pathological venom that fosters death wishes based on mere sociopolitical opinion. When attaining power, history has shown us what happens to those not favored, by those who would wish death on others whose ideals differ. They act upon that desire because they have attained the power to do so in some way. Consider Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Idi Amin, Al Queda, ISIS…and countless thousands of lesser-publicized or smaller-number examples, right down to that lunatic who shot up a black church in South Carolina, or the killers of Coptic Christians in Egypt this very decade.

Whether overt (brutally honest) or passive-aggressive in nature (and above, I have offered examples of both), the death-wish mentality is the same. In many ways the overt haters do us a service and make our vigilance easy by leaving no doubt. It’s the passive-aggressive subterfuge (often advertising itself falsely as a good, or even as love) for which you really need to be vigilant, for at the point of removal of inhibition does the “passive” fall away and it become aggressive—by that point, quite often explosively or violently so.

It does not pleasure me to reveal these aspects. Yet as someone who (having spent two decades in the inner city) has seen both the most beautiful and ugly sides humanity has to offer, I see it as a necessary service, lest we be ignorant of what lurks out there, and of what it can become. This is provided on a “need to know” basis, as in: you need to know!

We cannot appreciate the good to its fullest unless we have stared into the eyes of the evil.

If we get to a secret-police or eugenic state here—and given the capabilities of the deep state and AI, melded with the increasing God-lessness of society as a whole, it’s not as far-fetched a possibility as you may think—the death celebrators of today would become the agents of death of tomorrow. Know about them. Watch them—and watch your own back.

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