Singing on Sacramento & Co.

This morning, a group of us from Celebrate America sang on ABC 10’s morning show, Sacramento & Co. We had a lot of fun, but as you’ll see in the video below, you have to take your preparation seriously…especially when singing in the morning.

We’re having a lot of fun, but we have one more night of rehearsal tonight. It’s a big night because all the kinks have to be worked out tonight! Showtime is only about 27 hours away from the time I write this, so this is it!

Here’s a little behind the scenes flavor from this morning’s activities.

Celebrate America

This week, I will be serving as a contributer to the blog on our Celebrate America website. I’d like to invite you to check it out, not only for my contributions, but to see the progress of the production as we ready ourselves for this huge undertaking. You can also follow my updates on Twitter, as well as my YouTube page.

The story of how this all came about, and how a year’s worth of work and preparation had to be crammed into just a few short months, is simply miraculous. We are excited and humbled at this tremendous opportunity we have to present this wonderful celebration to our community.

If you’re in the Sacramento area this Saturday, I hope you’ll consider joining us at Twin Oaks Park in Rocklin. The gates open at 3 PM, the show starts at 7:30, followed by a spectacular aerial fireworks show.

We are blessed to live in a country for which so many have laid down their lives. There are people who have lost their lives on this very day in Iran who yearn for what we take for granted. While I thank God we don’t face this kind of terror, I wonder if life is just too simple for us to appreciate the liberty we enjoy without thinking.

This is the time to stop and recognize those who have sacrificed. This isn’t about politics and whether you’re conservative or liberal. We are all Americans. And in one voice, we Celebrate America.

Production Week

Well, this is production week. Actually, things started to ramp up a little on Saturday as we sang inside the Galleria mall in Roseville. This week is going to be crazy and fun. Maybe even crazy fun? Today and tonight is something of an off day, but Tuesday through Friday nights are rehearsals out at Twin Oaks Park in Rocklin. Friday morning, I’ll be singing on at least two morning TV shows promoting the event for Saturday.

I took some behind-the-scenes video from Saturday, and I’ll do the same throughout the week. You can check them out on my YouTube page. Feel free to stop by and check it out throughout the week. The video below is from just before we went on to sing our first set on Saturday. This elderly gentleman is proudly wearing a hat identifying himself as a pilot in World War II. Over 1,000 WWII veterans die every day, and it was an honor to meet and speak to this man.

We’re very excited to be presenting Celebrate America to the community. We love our country. This isn’t about political ideology or anything. It’s not to promote an agenda. It’s literally to celebrate this great country and those who have sacrificed to defend her. It’s going to be a great day and evening, and will be a great time for the entire family. For more information, check out the Celebrate America website.

The Arrogance of Anger

I think it’s safe to say that perhaps the bible verse that is most undisputable is Romans 3:23. None of us can argue the statement that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. With that in mind, I am of the mindset that it takes a special kind of arrogance for any of us to be angry with and hold a grudge against another person.

As I say that, I’m sure there are those who would read this thinking that their anger against someone else is somehow more justifiable than the rest of us. Again, I believe that is arrogance.

Who am I to be angry at someone for something they did to me? Who am I to hold a grudge? Should my anger cause or motivate me to harm them back? Do I have that right? Am I that much better than them that I can sentence them to some punishment because I believe they have sinned against me? Just what will satisfy my anger? Am I sitting on some kind of self-made throne before which they should bow in reverence and ask my forgiveness before I’ll give it? What if, even if I think they wronged me, maybe I did or said something I shouldn’t have? What if I simply misunderstood what was said or done and was too quick to judge?

The fact that we even draw breath on this day is a testimony to God’s untiring and unrelenting love and forgiveness for us. I have given Him every reason to be angry with me, and even to punish me. I grew up in a Catholic family who loved to say things like, “God’s going to punish you for that.” While they may or may not have been kidding, I literally grew up thinking God was some kind of deified hall monitor waiting to nail me for every little infraction I made.

In fact, while God can’t be fooled and is aware of all my deeds, good and bad, He is neither impressed by the good, or angry at the bad. My personality isn’t perfect, and there are times that my instinctive thoughts and behaviors are not perfect. But He is very aware that while I don’t always do things right, I am committed to being known as a man after God’s own heart.

My bible is loaded with men and women who have failed. Even the heroes in God’s hall of fame all made some kind of colossal mistakes in their lives. I borrowed David’s epitaph, not because I deserve it, but because it’s simply the standard by which we all should live. I’m simply thankful that the things I do which don’t measure up don’t doom me to the fate I truly deserve.

If God, the absolute measure of perfection, can forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness, who am I to be angry at another fallible person for something they said or did which bothered me? There are some out there who seem to go out of their way to hurt us and make life miserable. I absolutely don’t understand this. Thank God that is a foreign way of thinking to my mind. But they are prisoners to their own insecurities and arrogance. The battle is not mine. It is not for me to inflict my wrath upon them. That battle is God’s.

If you’re reading this and you find yourself either on the receiving end, or on the giving side of the wrath ledger, I encourage you to forgive the other person(s). One simple answer which remedies both scenarios. You cannot control the actions and thoughts of others, but when you forgive them, you’re free from the ultimate and most damaging consequences.

Let it go, and move on. This life is too short and too precious to hold grudges and ruin or lose relationships over them.

911 and Dirty Carpet

Yesterday was an interesting day, and I’m thankful to say that’s all it was. It had the potential to be devastating, so I’ll take interesting anytime.

I got a call from an unfamiliar phone yesterday at 8:50 AM. It was my dad. Recognizing his voice, but not the number, triggered what I think is an understandable inquiry:

“where are you?”

I wasn’t even remotely prepared for his answer.

“I’m in Methodist Hospital.”

It took a couple of seconds of suspended animation for me to absorb those words into my brain. My heart intercepted the message and immediately sent a tsunami of emotions throughout the maze of muscles, bone, veins, ligaments, organs and anything else encased by my skin. Then the message finally reached my brain for processing.

About 1:30 AM Wednesday morning, he woke up with chest pains. Like a true former Marine and retired San Francisco cop, he chose to power through it for 90 minutes. It was only at 3:00 AM, when he felt his left arm growing eerily weak, and when he felt very light headed, that his will broke down and he called 911.

Within minutes, paramedics arrived at his door. They had been pulled from the scene of a fire to tend to my dad. Three medics came in to his house. Here’s my dad, 3 AM, chest pains for an hour and a half, and he has the presence of mind to notice that one of the three paramedics is tracking soot from the fire scene onto his carpet. He wasn’t rude about it. It’s his way of diminishing the severity of the moment.

Dad is the Grand Poobah of the “I Hate Attention” society. So when the ambulance pulled up to his house, with the siren blaring and lights announcing to the entire neighborhood that there’s something going down at his house…at 3 AM, he was very embarrassed.

Now back to the 8:50 AM phone call. He wasn’t calling to let me know so I could come down and visit him. He was calling because he had no other way to take care of some very important personal business.

He had an appointment for the next morning with the barber that he was going to have to cancel. He didn’t have his phone number, so I had to go to his house and get the number for him.

That’s why he called!

Anyone who doesn’t truly know my dad might be offended by that. Anyone who does know my dad is probably laughing. As I wrote about last year on his birthday, my dad is a man’s man. Independent. Tough. An emotional rock. Bullet proof. But 73 years of a clean, well-lived life can get even the very best of us. We are all having to come to terms with the absurd fact that he, in fact, is not bullet proof. Now he needs to realize that despite the loss of my mom, there is still a number of people who love him dearly and want need to know when he’s ailing. I think he understands that better today than he did yesterday.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve gotten two phone calls from him. In the first, he said it didn’t look like he was going to be released today. He sounded dejected. The second call, just 10 minutes later was after his doctor came to see him. It looks like he will be released today, after all. He was very happy about that.

One last observation before I wrap up this post for the day. I think this will give you some insight into the discipline and character of this amazing man. After he called 911 and he knew that he was going to be taken from the house and not returning to bed, with an accelerated heartbeat of over 130 beats per minute, a weakening left arm, light headedness…the man made his bed. If the Queen of England were coming to my house, I’m not sure I’d make my bed.

Just got a third phone call. He has been in bed for pretty much 30 hours straight with a terminal case of bed head. He wants me to bring him a hat for when he’s discharged.

Such a diva.

Reversal of Misfortune

In a stunning turn of events, it turns out that a couple of my monthly bill-payees actually owe me just a little bit. I took some time today to look into my PG&E and cable/internet/home phone services. First, I called PG&E. I have to admit, my bookkeeping skills sometimes leave much to be desired. So when I got a panic note from them saying I was behind and owed a significant amount, who was I to argue? I mean, it seemed outrageous, but I didn’t really have the evidence to support my argument.

Today I contacted them to look into things. So how’s this for a nice turn of events? It turns out they apparently made some significant errors, and with all the money I was told I had to pay right now, “or else”, they now owe me over $200. Of course, I had to pay them in 15 minutes or I’d face certain utility doom. To get the money back that they overcharged me will take “at least two billing cycles.” Oh well…keep it. One less bill for me to pay for several months.

Then it was on to the cable company. I’m seriously thinking about eliminating my home phone service and going cell phone only. In fact, I’m seriously considering switching carriers and hopping over to AT&T and getting the new iPhone. Yeah, I know…but really, it’s not all about the phone. That’s certainly a big draw, but AT&T also has a plan for $100 where you get unlimited talk minutes to any phone in America. Verizon only offers unlimited minutes to other Verizon users. So if I go for that, I don’t care if I use my cell phone exclusively. Anyway, I called the cable company to do a little hypothetical scenario generation, and it turns out that they’ve been charging me for equipment I don’t even have. I’ve been with them nearly a year, and they’ve been erroneously charging me for equipment and service I never signed up for. I haven’t changed a thing on my service since day one, yet they’ve done all kinds of weird things to my bill.

So, the nice lady on the phone waived my DVR fees for the next year and did some other little adjustments. Once again, all is right with the cable/internet world in Casa de Corey.

It makes me wonder what else may be going on with some of my bills. Maybe it’s time to just kind of go down the list and see that I’m only paying for what I’m actually provided. Or if I’m paying for more than I’m using, to make those adjustments.

And there are some of you out there, (and you know who you are), I’ve made something of a list of my bills as well as my receiveables to see where I am for the rest of the month. That is SO not me. But I guess for the first time in a while, more seems to be coming in than going out, so it wasn’t such a daunting task.

So let that be a lesson to you, those who have been taking advantage of my head-in-the-sand approach toward my bills and services. I’m comin’ after you!

Unconditional Love

As I begin writing this, I really don’t know where this is going to go. For some reason, these two words are ringing in my heart.

I have a philosophy that you can tell a lot about a person by the people who voluntarily love them. These are the people who are not bound to us by familial bounds. These are people who have no obligation to love us. They just do.

I have been blessed in my life to have the love of some amazing people I admire. People I respect tremendously. I am so humbled when I consider the fact that they pick up the phone and call, or respond to my emails and text messages. These are people who are actually fine with being identified with me.

There are times when I feel so unlovely. When I feel so unlovable. In many cases, such as this period in my life when, for the most part, the people who have been there for me can’t be there for me due to proximity or just stuff happening in their own lives. Sometimes I get to the point where I feel alone. Abandoned.

But then, even when I’m feeling at my lowest, God doesn’t fold His arms, shake His head and walk away. Instead, He picks me up and cradles me in His arms. The very hands which flung the stars into place, comfort and shelter me. The very voice which spoke the world into existence, gently and lovingly speaks my name and says He loves me.

I’m indebted to a degree I can never repay. When a friend does me a favor, I want to repay them double what they gave me. In reality, there is nothing I can do to amount to a single grain of sand in comparison to what God has done, and continues to do for me. Yet He doesn’t sit there with some ledger counting up what I have paid or what I still owe. He doesn’t evaluate me by my credit score. He does not look at me the way people do.

I’ve had difficult times. I’ve had wonderful times. Through it all, I love the Lord unconditionally. However, I don’t always act lovingly. He does. I’m humbled by His love for me.

There is nothing I can do today to repay Him. He doesn’t require or demand that I do. I’m just going to do my very best today to love Him and to share what He’s given me to someone else who needs those same hands and that same voice to comfort and love them.

I think I can do that.

June 6, 1944

The day is simply known in the annals of history as D-Day. June 6, 1944. The day that signaled the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.

I think of the sacrifices not only of those who died fighting an evil tyrant and his minions, but also those who survived it only to live with the scars and memories which have haunted them every day since. I think of the unity of those who remained at home supporting the boys as they lived a hell we’ll never understand.

I pray that all these generations later, our country, our leaders, our citizens, would all take a moment to examine ourselves to see if we have lived up to the heroism of the “Greatest Generation”. Let us not forget the price which has been paid for our freedom. Let us not forget the price which has been paid by those who stood up to an evil empire which threatened to take over the world. Let us remember the examples of our leaders who considered it our God-ordained responsibility to defeat evil, and emulate it these 65 years later as we face a similar threat to our country and our world.

Please watch this video. You can even click the little icon to expand it to your entire computer screen. Listen to the words of the men who are telling their stories and re-living their memories of that fateful day. If you know someone who served in World War II, or any conflict before or since, go out of your way to thank them for their service.

Before you watch the video, read these words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower to the men just before they embarked on this incredible mission:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

— Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Marriage and The Single Guy

It seems that in recent weeks, I’ve really had to confront my own feelings and thoughts about blessings other people experience which I long for. As a single guy in a world of married people and families, there are many things going on around me in which I can not participate, only observe.

A few months ago, I wrote about how long it’s been since I last went to Disneyland. In my way, I was dealing with my own frustrations in a tongue-in-cheek manner. If I’m to be truly honest with myself, it was probably also a high tech mutation of the old scream-into-your-pillow therapy.

Lately, I have a friend on Facebook who I believe has started a group there about protecting marriage. It’s not a political thing, but kind of a co-ed Promise Keepers type movement. She has been very focused on getting the word out about her group and their purpose. In doing so, she has sent me a number of different invitations and Facebook doodads to promote her passion and bring awareness to her cause.

I think it’s great.

Here’s the rub, for me anyway. I’m obviously a wholehearted supporter of marriage. I am surrounded by wonderful friends who have been married anywhere between a matter of weeks, to 60+ years. The thing I’m trying to figure out in my own head is why the invitations and promotions which come to me affect me as they do. I don’t know if it’s normal, or if it’s a reflex to years and years of being single in a married world.

For years, I ran a youth basketball program in San Jose. In doing so, I was completely immersed in families. And you know what, it made my heart glad. I loved facilitating a great family environment. On any given week, you could find as many as 4 generations of family together. It was wonderful. But when the games were over at the end of the day, there were times my life felt as empty as the once bustling gymnasium. Not in a spiritual sense, but in a human sense. I didn’t despise any of the families. I just wanted one of my own.

Other times, I was scheduled to sing or do things at the church on weekends when married people and those with families were expected to be out of town. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, holiday weekends. It was simply assumed that because I wasn’t married and had no family, I was a no-brainer to schedule.

Back to Disneyland and marriage, I don’t believe there is a finite number of people who can participate in them. Therefore, when someone goes to Disneyland or gets married, (or gets married and goes to D-land on their honeymoon), I don’t feel they’re taking anything from me. I have really made it my mission to genuinely be happy for them and rejoice with them. I think I’ve actually gotten there.

I have been digging deeply into my own heart. I began to question if I was coveting. But when I considered the meaning of coveting, I felt good that it wasn’t the case. I wasn’t wanting to take away from someone what belonged to them, such as money or property. I simply want to participate in it in my own life.

Summer is upon us. It’s now June, the traditional marriage season. Families are going on their summer vacations and weekend getaways. I’m truly trying to find contentment in my own life, but I’m not getting any younger. Even if I met “her” this afternoon, she will never meet my mom. There are certain Hallmark moments I will never experience. It’s sometimes difficult to reconcile.

But today is a new day filled with blessings and challenges. God knows my heart, and I’m just trying to get His insight into what is productive and what is not.