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Billy Orgel’s Back! Listen on AM 640 Friday April 27

April 25, 2012

It’s show time again on Friday! Mark your calendar now to turn to AM  640 at 3:00 Friday afternoon to hear Part 2 of our interview with Billy Orgel, Chairman of the Shelby County Unified School Board.  We had a great time with Billy, who is open and straightforward.  (And a natural on the radio, though he confessed our show was his first ever radio interview. Remember us when you’re a star, Billy!)

Among other topics, we asked Billy about the qualities he wants to see in a candidate for the all-important Superintendent of (consolidated) Shelby County Schools. We also got his take on school vouchers and parental choice, and discussed some findings of the recent Yacoubian poll of suburban parents’ views on consolidation.

If you missed Part I of our interview (aired on March 23), you can listen right here:

03-23-12 Part 1 Interview with Billy Orgel

Next week we’ll post Friday’s show, and announce an exclusive Back in River City feature to get you the answers you want about schools consolidation.

We are grateful, as always, to Don Tredway of Tredway Financial Group. Don’s generous sponsorship of Friday Viewpoint with Eddie Settles makes it possible for us to bring you into conversations to make a better Memphis.

Remember to join us on Friday, and pray for Memphis.



Sidebar: Chuck Colson’s Centurions Program

April 21, 2012

Breakpoint Centurions is a program affiliated with Prison Fellowship Ministries. Chuck Colson and his Prison Fellowship team discovered through years of experience and research that criminality was not a function of poverty as was popularly portrayed, but of moral choices.  They also found that men and women who converted to Christianity while incarcerated were often unequipped to think and live like Christians on a daily basis after their release into society. Around the same time, national polls by George Barna and others revealed a serious disconnect between people who considered themselves Christians, their knowledge of Christian doctrine,  and their belief systems.

Chuck Colson created the Centurions program to address the need for Christians to understand fully the tenets of the Christian faith, to live authentically in that faith, and to bring the light of Christ into lives of darkness and despair.

More than a program, Centurions is actually a movement. The Centurions movement is influenced conceptually by the lifework of William Wilberforce, who was one of Chuck’s heroes. Wilberforce, a British politician and philanthropist, led the Parliamentary movement to abolish the slave trade in the late 1700’s. That effort took 26 years. He continued to work for the abolition of slavery, which took another 27 years. He died in 1833, just one day after learning that the bill to end slavery in the United Kingdom would be passed.

Wilberforce realized that slavery would not end until people viewed it as the vile and despicable institution it was, and worked passionately for the reformation of the manners and mores of his time.  The progress he and others made in reshaping the culture led to the more socially responsible Victorian era.

Centurions are trained to engage our postmodern culture in thoughtful and winsome conversation about the world we live in, the problems we face, and the search for solutions. The Centurions program engages 100 people each year in intense study of Christian apologetics, postmodern intellectual thought, and the philosophy of worldview. Distance-based learning is supplemented with teleconferences, online forums, and two weekend residencies in Washington, D.C. with some of the nation’s premier teachers and thought leaders in Christian worldview studies.   Graduates of the program  have launched numerous ministries and businesses in the arts, education, commerce, entertainment, public policy, and outreach to the suffering. Centurions are linked in local and regional cohorts for continued fellowship, ongoing learning, shared ministry, and mutual support.

Glen Sunshine is one of our favorite Centurions teachers.  Click here for his take on the Centurions program:


Eve and I are passionate advocates of Centurions training.  It informs our lives and directs our paths.  Applications are being accepted through May 18, 2012 for a new Centurions class beginning in June. Please contact us if you would like to know more.

Of God, Heroes, and Chuck Colson

April 21, 2012

I haven’t had many heroes.

For most of my life, however, I idealized certain individuals whom I surmised had unblemished characters and irreproachable motives. I was always shocked and dismayed when I learned – over and over – that someone I had assumed was purer than life left messy carbon footprints, just like me.

We humans are flawed, fallen creatures.  We make mistakes. We lie. We sin. And under duress, we are each capable of committing unspeakable acts of violence, deceit, selfishness, and betrayal.

It all started in the garden, baby. “She gave it to me to eat.” “But the serpent made me do it.”

Surveys show that only a small percentage of people believe that the biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is literally true. You know, the one about God creating a perfect world, populating it with one man and one woman who literally “had it all,” but out of his selfless love and perfect justice, gave them free will, then had to watch them louse everything up for every new being until the end of time?

Yeah, that one.

But that simple story is replete with the most profound wisdom. It captures the essence and reality of human existence as it has been through every age.   It explains why the world is broken. Why we sin.  Why we yearn with hearts unfilled for reconnection with the One who wound our need for him into our very DNA.

The story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace lays the foundation for a Christian understanding of the world, a biblical worldview.  From this beginning, the Bible takes us on a journey of understanding who we are, why things are the way they are, how we can fix the brokenness of the world and our own hearts, and how we can fill the void within us.

Growing up in a Christian home in the Bible belt, I had heard the story of Adam and Eve countless times when the greatest teacher I ever had insisted that I must believe it literally.

Whoa! Literally?  Really? After all, I was a liberal Presbyterian from Memphis, Tennessee, a graduate of Rhodes College (okay, it was Southwestern at Memphis back in my day) with an MBA and decades of life experience. Like most well educated and worldly Tennesseans, I was more than a bit skittish about flirting with extreme Christian fundamentalism like those crazy hillbilly snake handlers over in East Tennessee. Couldn’t I just accept the story conceptually? Symbolically?

No, he insisted, if you do not fully understand and embrace the quintessential importance of the Fall as an actual historical event, you will only see through the mirror darkly. It matters that it is a true story. Because understanding the Fall is the beginning of understanding life.

I was amazed, confused, discombobulated.  This man, this renowned teacher and author, was an intellectual. A learned man of great standing who, before he became a Christian, was known to be mentally tough, ruthless, and agnostic.

That teacher was Chuck Colson.  In time, I understood what he was saying, and why he said it with such passion and conviction. And courage.

Chuck Colson was my hero.

At first look, Chuck was an unlikely hero.  He was not tall and imposing, nor conventionally handsome. I suspect he was an introvert.  He was a tough ex-Marine, a disbarred attorney, an ex-con whose life and reputation imploded in the Watergate scandal. He went from being one of the most powerful men in the country (as Special Council to President Nixon) to one of the most reviled.

Slate  writer David Plotz once described Chuck Colson as “Richard Nixon’s hard man, the ‘evil genius’ of an evil administration.”  Chuck notoriously quipped that he would walk over his own grandmother to re-elect Nixon, a quote that quickly morphed into the more compelling “would run over his own grandmother to re-elect Nixon.” Not the makings of your typical hero.

When Watergate happened, I was young and disinterested in anything that wasn’t about me. When Chuck’s conversion to evangelical Christianity was reported by skeptical reporters, I was only mildly curious. His founding of and passionate involvement in Prison Fellowship Ministries was only a small blip on my radar screen.  But in 2005, when I chanced upon a copy of his autobiography Born Again, I was Mrs. Eddie Settles. Eddie was struggling to find hope in a hellacious war waged on him by the IRS. (That story – or book – is for another day.)  Suddenly, Chuck’s life story had particular meaning for me. I read Born Again. And my life was changed for evermore.

A quick synopsis:

I shared Born Again with Eddie. We both began to read Chuck’s other books and listen to his Breakpoint radio commentaries. Like Chuck, we became passionate about the study of biblical worldview. A year later, we were thrilled to be selected for the fourth class of Chuck’s Breakpoint Centurions. (See Sidebar) For the next 13 months, Eddie and I were privileged to study with and about extraordinary Christian teachers and thinkers. Three residencies in the Washington, D.C. area allowed us to hear, learn, and worship with Chuck; the Centurions faculty; Prison Fellowship staff; and our amazing fellow Centurions. We emerged from the program with renewed hearts and a personal ministry that fed our souls and our minds.

Today, 80-year old Cbuck Colson met Jesus. Several weeks ago, he fell ill while speaking to an annual gathering of Centurions in Washington.  He had emergency neurosurgery to remove a pooling of blood on his brain. Though the first signs looked positive, earlier this week his family was called to his side to say goodbye.

For over thirty years, Chuck had spent every Easter preaching in prisons.  This was the first year he missed. His worldwide ministry transformed the lives of millions of people, from convicted murderers to CEO’s to single moms. His life was a testimony to God’s grace, and proof of God’s unconditional love for us, his flawed and fallen children.


For all of the things Chuck Colson taught me, for showing me how a life of courage and purpose and selflessness looks, for showing the world how God’s grace can defeat disgrace, I thank God for Chuck Colson.

Eternal peace be with you, Chuck, thou good and faithful servant.

I’ve Got the Music in Me

April 12, 2012

Today I watched a heartrending video on You Tube of an elderly man whose life energy was regenerated with an iPod and the music of his youth (hat tip to Tony Settles).  Watch it here:

We all have a soundtrack of our lives. I strongly suspect that Adult Son Nelson, when he is not in Magister, Distinguished Teacher of Latin mode, still punctuates his days with snippets of songs from Queen to Bach and back again.

But when it comes to life soundtracks, there is nothing better than being a Memphis Boomer. We didn’t have deejays, my dear, we had the real thing:  Memphis music!  Thanks to the  high school Greek system in place in the 1960’s, we had glorious opportunities to listen and dance to Stax and soul legends like Sam and Dave, Rufus Thomas, Booker T and the MG’s, the Bar-kays, and let us never forget, the scandalous Doug Clark and his (unprintable band name). This is what less-seasoned generations now refer to as “Old School.”  Sheesh!

So my lifetrack has horns.  Lots of horns. Memphis horns!  And to my dying day, I will  never cease to thrill to Otis Redding’s world tour recording in France of “Try a Little Tenderness.”

We know instinctively that there is something non-Darwinian and transcendent about music. We aren’t really surprised when researchers document its compelling effects on our minds and bodies. And souls.

Because it’s soul music, part of the DNA of Memphis.  And the music lives on in River City. Yeah, baby!

What is your favorite Memphis music memory?

Memphis Springs to Life

April 8, 2012

It’s springtime  in Memphis, a natural wonder  I haven’t experienced in many years. How can you not love this city when it’s bedecked  in an Impressionistic palette of dappled pink and white and so many shades of green only God could name them all?

If you live amidst the suburban sprawl,  drive into town (forget your carbon footprint for now, this is an eco-honoring assignment) and experience the distinctly southern charm of a Memphis spring. It’s a  genteel orderliness of artfully shaped azaleas on the Parkways. It’s an undespairing profusion of potted blooms on  weathered porches in peeling neighborhoods. It’s a heady odor of honeysuckle and grass that assaults your senses and says, This is my own, my native land.

(Okay, that last part was way too corny for you sophisticates out there, but cut me some slack, it’s my first spring back in Memphis. Snark away if you must.)

Next weekend (April 13-15) there are plant sales at the Dixon (wildflowers), Memphis Botanical Garden, Lichterman Nature Center, and Idlewild Presbyterian Church (edible plants and veggies). Go to grow your garden and nourish your soul.

Spring is renewal. Relentless hope.  Abundant beauty.

Pray for Memphis, and live into the promise of her spring.

March 23 Interview with Billy Orgel

March 27, 2012

Great interview with Billy Orgel! Listen now to Part 1. Part 2 will air on Bott Radio Network AM 640 at 3:00 p.m., April 27.

03-23-12 Friday Viewpoint with Eddie Settles

March 23 Interview with Billy Orgel

March 27, 2012

Great interview with Billy Orgel! Listen now to Part 1. Part 2 will air on Bott Radio Network AM 640 at 3:00 p.m., April 27.

03-23-12 Friday Viewpoint with Eddie Settles

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