Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dear Jihadi John

Dear "Jihadi John",

Sir, this is a love letter.

We in the "West" would call this a tough love letter.  But it is born out of love.

If your name is Mohammed Emwazi, as is now widely reported, then please allow me to address you as Mohammed.  "Jihadi John" is a media-created and crass way to de-personalize whoever you are.

Sir, you must be congratulated for accomplishing some significant personal goals.  You are now extremely well known.  And sadly, you are now perhaps the "most wanted" man on earth.

Your executions and your social media prowess have you in the gun sights of almost every country with a military capability on earth. 

If attention is what you've sought, you've got it.

Here's my question for you.

To what end?  If you are dead tomorrow, so what? 

You might die at any moment from a number of assailants.  The Jordanians, the Japanese, the Brits, the Americans, the Sauds and many others would like to see you dead. You have incensed all of them.

Your fellow ISIS/ISIL/Daesh compatriots might become jealous of your fame.  Watch your back.  And your front.

You are a dead man walking.

An American military man who spent much time in your current part of the world (not your West London upbringing), said this.  "If there is a single power the West underestimates, it is the power of collected hatred."

Having been raised and living in the "West", it is difficult to understand why.  We live in freedom.  We are free to speak, live, love, worship, contribute, play and go about life as we wish.

Apparently, this lifestyle offends you.

If you will, please allow me to offer a totally new thought on how to live and think that might free you from the certain death sentence that awaits you.

You are not the first or the most prolific terrorist against the "West" that has ever lived.  Nor are any of your compatriots.  And, you never will be.

Here are just a few folks to keep in mind.

The Romans.  (That didn't end well for them.)

The Nazis.  (That didn't end well for them.)

The Soviet Union (That didn't end well for them.  And it won't end well for Putin.)

Mohammed, freedom and love are what ends well.

 I have no idea if you've ever read the Holy Bible.  But, there's a story in there you ought to know about.

Saul of Tarsus (still a thriving city in Turkey), was a devout Jew.  He thought that the Jewish tradition was the only way.  He heard of the uprising of followers of Jesus.  He decided to become the pre-emenint  enemy of the followers of Christ.  He jailed them.  He persecuted them.  He thought he was on the high road.  He was enjoying his infamy.

One day, on the road to Damascus, he met Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, in person. 

Saul was changed that day.

He went from being the enemy of freedom and love to become Paul, the pre-eminent teacher of freedom and love.

Mohammed,  you have a choice.

You can die a small time martyr.

Or, you could lead your people out of darkness.

I implore you to study the life of Paul and the teachings of Jesus.

Hate will never conquer.  Only love can conquer all. 

Mohammed, I've lost a 26 year old son due to hate.

I pray for you an opportunity to change your world.

I love you, son.  I don't know how often you've heard that. I am a father.  I am a Christian.  I hurt for you. 

I can't comprehend what lead you to this life.  But, I can promise you that you can change your current and future.  And, a better way awaits you.

I know that on your current course, destruction awaits you.  But, I also know that redemption and knowing that you are loved unconditionally is a real and present opportunity.

Please, put down your dukes.

Know that love is all around if you will accept it.

God is love.  

Alan Burks

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What a photograph can reveal

Last Monday afternoon, something evil this way came into my intestines.

I assumed it was a 24 hour virus.  

By Thursday, all my Wikipedia research indicated the rumbling down below could no longer be assumed to be the Norovirus.

Twenty years ago, I was fortunate to become the patient of a physician that I liked then and trust and respect even more after all these years.  Dr. Paul Sokal.  

Thankfully, the good doctor was in Thursday afternoon.

After a few minutes of questions and examination, Dr. Sokal determined I had a bacterial infection, i.e. food poisoning.  (I swear to never eat at a NASCAR event again.)  A few days of antibiotics, and I would be good to go.

Once the exam was over, Dr. Sokal said that he wanted to show me a photograph he had taken.

I knew that years back he had given up on golf and taken up photography.  It made going to the doctor's office fun to see his new work on the wall on each visit.  Beautiful images from exotic locations, junkyards, the Calatrava bridge. New work from a recent trip to Lake Tahoe graced this exam room.

 "I think this may be the best photograph I've shot yet.  But given the nature of the image, and how you feel today, I hesitate to show it to you.  Probably better on your next visit."

"No, no.  Please show it to me.  I'm ok."

 So, he opened his computer, and this is the photograph.

"Alan, my dad was an Army veteran.  He is buried in Arlington National.  I'll never forget his ceremony.  The folding of the flag was an image I'll never forget.  You could have bounced quarters off the flag when the honor guard pulled it taut before they began to fold it.  

Thinking of him, I went to Dallas National to look around.  That's when I saw this image and captured it.  

And now, I wanted to ask your help.  I know you have suffered in this same way.  I'm determined to find the family of CPL Peter Courcy, but I don't have any idea where to begin.  If it I'm not asking too much, I was wondering if you could give this some thought and advise me where I might begin my search to find them."

I got goosebumps.  

"I know CPL Courcy's family.  I can put you in touch with them today.  Look, here's his mom's Facebook page.  We're friends.  She has a very similar photo on there.  What a wonderful day this is, Paul.  You didn't upset me at all.  Today is my Pete's birthday, and you just gave me a wonderful gift."

Then he got goosebumps.  

Now, I know why I got the yuk.

Now, I know more about Paul Sokal.

Now, I can see his father's ceremony.

Now, Paul Sokal knows the family of Peter Courcy.

Now, I see again the importance of the monuments we build to fallen heroes.

Now, I see more clearly the arc of miracles.  

Amazing what one photograph can reveal.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How cold is it?

I have a new job.

Director of Marketing of the Walls Brands Group now owned by Williamson-Dickie Mfg. Co.

We make insulated workwear and hunting clothing.  The stuff you wear when it's cold and you work outdoors or go hunting and fishing in the cold.

I've been to Madison, Wisconsin twice in the past month.  Once, it was -11, and on the second trip it was -22.

It hurt to breathe.

We visited stores of a customer of ours, Blain's Farm and Fleet. 

On the most recent visit, we toured several stores and noticed that ice fishing huts were seriously marked down.

Having grown up in the South, ice fishing is one of those things I've been amazed by and always wanted to try.  We're used to cane poles and mosquitoes and bream.  Drilling a hole in the ice seems so otherworldy.  And a really cold winter, I assumed, would be the pinnacle for the sport.

So I asked the store manager why the ice fishing huts were marked down.

I assumed, wrongly, that it was late in the season.

"Oh, it's been an awful ice fishing season.  It's been too cold to ice fish", was the response of the manager.

That's how cold it's been.

It's friggin cold across North America.

No snow in Atlanta or ice in Dallas can explain the cold that Wisconsin, Michigan, Canada, etc. has experienced this year.

I'm sure Al Gore and company have an explanation.  But I believe their PowerPoint is wrong.

The good folks in the Northern climes of the U.S. have experienced a record cold.  As have the folks in almost every state.

And, it's not over yet.

Indications are that winter will continue to be on us in a serious way for at least another two months.

Somethings happening here.  And, what is is, ain't exactly clear.

But it ain't global warming.

And for those of us in Southern climes, we need to learn from our Northern neighbors.  Life goes on unabated for them.  They are prepared.  The airports are open and on time.  The highways are cleared and safe.  City sidewalks are clear.

The Ice Age might well be upon us.

Buckle up.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Where is Johnny Marks when we need him?

When's the last time a good new Christmas song was written?

So far as I can tell, it was in the 1990's.


Is it our love of nostalgia?  Or lack of interest?  Or lack of talent?

I'm dumbfounded.

Starting Thanksgiving week, we all start listening to Christmas music.

And according to various charts, here are the most popular songs and when they were written:

"All I Want for Christmas is You"  1994

"Grown Up Christmas List"  1992

"The Christmas Song"  1944

"Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree"  1958

"Feliz Navidad"  1970

"A Holly Jolly Christmas"  1965

"Jingle Bell Rock"  1957

"White Christmas"  1940

"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"  1951

"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"  1949

Interestingly, most of our favorite Christmas songs were written by men who were devout Jews of European Jewish descent.  Johnny Marks, Irving Berlin, Walter Afanasieff and Mel Torme. 

Some might say they took advantage of a commercial opportunity.  I like to think that they appreciated their Christian neighbors and used their musical talents to honor a special time of year.

I, for one, hope for new Christmas classics.

The story of hope and grace is eternal.  There is enough musical talent around the world to write many more.

The Advent is upon us.  Let the inspiration inspire you songwriters out there to add to the best time of the year.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pete Burks Day of Service 2013

In the spring of 2012, a group of young men that were high school buds of Pete's decided to honor their friend in a way they thought he would like.

A day of service to the community.  As in, volunteering to help a neighbor in need to fix up their house, paint their gutters, repair their fence or clean up a yard that's become a bit too much for them to keep up.

Last September, this group of young men convinced the city of Richardson, Texas to assign them a number of homes that were out of code or in need of some repair.  The homeowners were usually elderly, sick, physically challenged, economically challenged or all of the above. 

So much good was done last year that Pete Burks Day of Service II was held in Richardson this past Saturday.  The mayor was there to say thanks.  City council was there.  The city manager was there.  And, about 50 volunteers were there to help neighbors in need.

The YMCA got some maintenance taken care of and some trees planted.  A park was spruced up.  Fences past their prime were removed to make room for new fences.  Houses were painted.

And, there was the jungle house. 

Take a look at this picture.  See if you can see the house.

Not to worry.  None of us who drove up could see the house, either. 

The gentleman who has lived there for 40 years has had his share of challenges.  He gave up on the yard years ago.  Like most of  his life, it was just too much for him.

Here's what it looked like three hours later.

The transformation was amazing.  The owner was thankful for the help.  The neighbors were astonished and appreciative. 

And quite often, the volunteers would be asked, "Now, who are you guys and why are you doing this?"

And so, Pete's story would be shared. 

And, the underlying reason for the day of service was made clear.

"You must love your neighbor as you love yourself."

It's all about love.  And loving someone first.   

Thanks, Footwashers.  Thanks, sponsors.  Thanks, volunteers.  Thanks, Richardson.  Thank you, Lord.

Thanks, Petey.  You continue to inspire others six years after you left us.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dear President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, 

Our Founding Fathers and hundreds of millions of taxpayers are so thankful for folks like you.  You have the good sense to know that we don't.  Have good sense, that is. (Vice President Biden, I include you with the rest of us. Because everyone knows you don't have good sense.)

Thanks so much for all your efforts to reduce salt consumption, make our soda cups smaller and improve our health care system by making everyone's costs go up.  We never would have figured any of that out.   

While you are in power and at the peak of your infinite wisdom, there are a few other topics I wish you'd address on behalf of us in the public that so need you to think for us.

1.  Shampoo:  Could you please legislate that the word "SHAMPOO" be in 72 point type in a very legible serif font on all shampoo bottles sold in the U.S., please?  I mean, who can read that itty-bitty type on those bottles especially without reading glasses and with water in their eyes!?!?  This needs your immediate attention.

2.  Golf clubs:  We have clubs made of metal that are called woods.  Or worse, metal woods.  This is nonsense and must be stopped.  And we need government intervention at once because the USGA and the PGA can't agree on whether one can putt with a long-handled putter.  And if you will check even further into this cauldron of evil, you will discover that there is no standard for a 5 iron.  Or a 1 iron, or a 2, or a 3.  Each golf manufacturer can today decide for themselves what constitutes the degree of loft of a 7 iron and this must stop.  And these hybrids!  No governance whatsoever on what their definition is.  Or whether you are to hit downwards into the ball or sweep the ball with these unregulated weapons.  The anarchy in the golf shop rivals the town square in Istanbul.  Help!

3.  Cars:  There is no standardization as to which side of the steering wheel the windshield wiper control is on.  Or how many speeds the wipers have.  And, there is no official rule as to where the button is to turn on the headlights.  This taking place in the 21st century is a sign of lack of progressive thinking.   And car keys?  Let's get serious.  There are as many different versions as there are pages in the Affordable Healthcare Act.  It's sheer madness.  You need to step in now.  Only you can make it understandable for all of us.  Maybe once you design a workable car for all of us you call it something like "The People's Car."

4.  Baseball:  The foul pole means that if a ball hits it, it's a fair ball.  That's just crazy.  Jump in here and fix this.  And speaking of lack of standardization, America's national pastime can't decide if all nine players should have to bat the way the game is supposed to be played or if a "specialist" can hit in lieu of the pitcher. Isn't this out-and-out discrimination in the workplace to imply that pitchers cannot hit?  You need to get several Federal bureaus and czars working on this. 

Once you finish up these projects in the next Congressional session, there will be more to do.  Like, how many teams have to be in something called the Big 10.  Or Big 12.  And this sexist mindset that allows Valentine's Day to continue unabated will no doubt require your intervention early next year.

In the meantime, on behalf of all of us, thanks again for doing our thinking for us.   


Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to honor this Memorial Day

 “It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living."
-Captain Augustus "Gus" McRae

Memorial Day is the American national holiday to remember the sacrifices of those who have died in all wars while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

We should all take time to think on the lives lost in all American wars, to teach the lessons of sacrifice to our children and to honor the families who shared in the sacrifice.

But, alas, we can't truly say thanks as we'd like.  Those who have sacrificed it all aren't physically here anymore.  They are at Fiddler's Green.

What we can do is take care of their battle buddies.  We can support the living who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

It is easy to forget that there are still American military men and women fighting, being wounded and dying in Afghanistan. 

It might be hard to understand, but there are folks preparing to deploy again to Afghanistan.  The war with no apparent end.  Somewhere this Memorial Day, a young soldier is preparing for war.  Perhaps for the first time.

Once those brave souls get to Afghanistan, how much attention will they receive from America for their voluntary service?  How appreciated will they feel?  How detached from civilian America will they be?

The Peter Burks Unsung Hero Fund was created to allow civilian America to show their love, support and appreciation to troops in war zones.  The organization has shipped over 11 tons of care packages to American military units in Iraq and Afghanistan since its inception in 2008.

The Peter Burks Country Store is about to redeploy with 5000 soldiers to a scary, hostile, lonely place in the world.  We are now gathering supplies to stock the store and will be shipping downrange this summer.

This Memorial Day, consider  making a donation to the fund to support the folks that wear the Cloth of the Nation.

Here is the wish list as supplied by the folks wearing the boots that will soon be on the ground:

-Beef jerky, Slim Jims, Jack Links
-Spicy, salty shelf stable snacks:  Cheetos, Doritos, pistachios, sunflower seeds, trail mix, mixed nuts
-Candy that won't melt at 110 degrees:  Hard candy, Gummi bears, chewing gum, Starburst, Redvines
-Powdered drink packets to flavor canteen water:  Gatorade, Crystal Light
-Xbox games, controllers, consoles
-CDs and DVDs of current music, movies TV shows
-White socks
-Thank you notes, especially from kids
- Shelf stable snacks (pistachios, sunflower seeds, spicy chips, chewing gum, etc.)
-Healthy snacks:  Clif Bars, Powerbars, dried fruits
-Small bottles of hand sanitizer
-Baby wipes (often as close to a shower as one might get on a given day)
-Microwavable popcorn

In the Dallas area, you can drop your donations at any of the following locations between now and June 15:

7201 Bishop Road, E-12
Plano, TX 75024
Animal Crackers
1900 Preston Road, Suite 260
Plano, TX 75093
Heart's Desire
4760 Preston Rd
Frisco, TX 75034

Support Your Troops Resale
221 W. Parker Road, Suite 560 (Next to Bavarian Grill)
Plano, TX 75023

The Guitar Sanctuary
6851 Virginia Pkwy #101  McKinney, TX 75071

First Community Bank
1755 N. Collins Blvd.  (Behind Richardson Medical Center)
Richardson, TX 75080

First Community Bank
7995 LBJ Freeway (at Coit Road, NW corner)
Dallas, TX 75231

675 Sunset Blvd.
Celina, TX 75009

If you are in Southern California, you can drop off donations at:

Manhattan Beach Middle School
 1501 N Redondo Ave 
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
If you are outside these areas, you can ship donations to:
Unsung Hero Fund
 c/o Support Your Troops Resale
221 W. Parker Road, Suite 560
Plano, TX 75023

If you want to make a cash donation, you can do it via PayPal on the website:

If you want to mail a check, you can send it to:

Peter Burks Unsung Hero Fund
Texas Star Bank
P.O. Box 1600
Celina, Texas 75009

This could be a great project for school kids.

This could be a great project for your book club.

This could be a great project for your family.

This could be a great project for your fraternity, sorority, organization, or business.

This could be a great project for you.

Thanks for reading this far.

For all that many of you have done, thank you.

For all that are serving, Godspeed and come home soon.

God Bless America.  And especially, Father, protect those who sacrifice for our freedom.