Happy Birthday today to my hero! My dad!

Dad and Mom in Krakow
[photo above: Mom & Dad in Krakow Poland]

Happy Birthday today to my hero! My dad! Daniel Arthur Kolke, Sr. is 85 years young today. I took this first picture of my parents in Krakow Poland on a family trip to trace our roots. My dad was born in southern Poland 85 years ago today. When he was a boy his family lost everything in the invasion of Poland at the start of WWII. They were relocated to Germany as part of an “ethnic German relocation” (picture attached).  

[Photo of Ethnic German Relocation]

He spent the war working on a farm in central Poland until a soldier knocked on the door and told them to grab their weapons and defend their town from the advancing Russian troops. While my grandfather said okay, he shut the door and instead had everyone grab what they could and they fled west in horse drawn wagons. The picture of the church attached the Nazi’s had converted into one of their community centers, so my dad had never seen this building as “a church” when he was there as a boy. It was so amazing to see it restored.

[Church in Biala Poland]

[Church courtyard in Biala Poland]

And you know what? And believe it or not, this is not the most horrible thing my dad has been through. As an immigrant working in a lumber camp, someone accidentally pushed dad, while he was holding a lamp.  Dad fell, with the lamp on two cans of kerosene.  Dad bursted into a “living torch.”  All dad remembers was throwing himself on a bed, while covering his eyes with his hands and screaming, “Ich bin verloren” (I am lost).  This was December 20, 1951.  

[My dad when he left Germany after WWII]

He spent more than eighteen months at Toronto General hospital with burns covering most of his body.  His hands and face is all reconstructed.  Dad had 20 surgeries by Dr. Farmer (top burned specialist).  Severely debilitated, he struggled with survival and whether or not life as worth living. He was visited by local German speaking church youth group. Desmond Eagle was one of these young adults, an immigrant himself. Des and my dad became best friends for decades. My dad became a Christian and devoted his life to God.

Dad went back to school and finished not only his high school but went on to study at several universities including Princeton. Eventually earning several degrees, my dad was knighted Sir Reverend Doctor Daniel Arthur Kolke. How is that for a title? He is a real live theologian and a knight. Awesome! He also knows Greek, Hebrew, some Russian, of course German, some Polish… Oh yeah, English. But he struggles with pig latin.

My dad spent his career as a Baptist minister helping hundreds of people, even thousands. I remember the many nights he spent at hospitals and community events giving all he had. My dad is truly amazing. I am so proud to be his son. And so amazed by the life he has lived. He is a real survivor. A real encourager. A real lover of people. And the type of person that I believe God wants us to be.

I love you dad! Happy birthday… 

[My dad at Boxley’s. Helping us remodel… sort of. ]


This is what it’s all about…

Some people just don’t get why it’s a big deal…

On the eve of the fourth annual Jazz Walk I am reflecting on two conversations that I just had with two patrons of Boxleys while at Pioneer Coffee – the local morning hang.

Within 5 minutes, 2 people came up to me.

The first person had some suggestions to help us compete with the Bar & Grill down the street.  His suggestion was about expanding the bar area – more space away from the music so it can be in the background, “…but people can talk.”  Obviously they want Boxleys to be successful.  They were focusing on the ambiance.

Hmmm.  This is not the first time that this idea has come up, and it’s not that I haven’t thought it myself.  How do we “compete” with other places?  “How do we make everyone happy?”

As I sat in my chair thinking about these suggestions, the the next person came up to me and said, “…thank you so much for last night. We loved watching those students perform.  Watching them point at eachother for solo’s, learning how to lead the band.  Developing their confidence…”  they continued, “… I think I would rather see that than the professionals.”

That’s it. Right there.  That’s the magic of Boxleys.

It’s about the music people.  It’s about the students. It’s about the community.

Not that we don’t want people to have a place to talk. But is that what we want to “compete for?”  I think we want to focus on the music. Focus on the students.  Keep lifting them up.  Keep encouraging them.

Everybody is different.  But what makes Boxleys different and most special is not the food.  It’s the music.  It’s making it accessible for young students to play. And also be mentored and encouraged by musicians with decades more experience.  

You can get better food.  You can get better service.  You can’t get Boxleys anywhere else.

Middle School student Jason Berquist playing with Legends Ray Price and Michael Barnett

What declaration shall you make?

Just think that 233 years ago; the continental congress was in the final hours of deliberating what to do. They decided to risk everything so we could have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They stood up to the oppression of a King’s rule across the ocean, under penalty of certain death so that one day our citizens would have the right to call 911 over missing McNuggets and French Fries. How pathetic have we become? Suck it up Americans and do something great once more.

Liberty came at a heavy price; don’t squander the investment by trading liberty for entitlements. Be something exceptional. Uplift each other. Support one another. Not out of governmental quotas but out of brotherly love. Do the right thing, not out of regulation but integrity of character.

Clean up your messes, care for the sick, help the poor by teaching them how to fish and how to farm. Build industry, don’t tear it down. Clean up your streets. Capture those that would commit crimes. Rise above and stand up for liberty for others.

Take care of your resources. Use them don’t hoard them. Do what you must do. Be entrepreneurs and alchemists alike. Take the land you have and make it produce. Take the community you live in and serve it with a product or service. Do the best thing you can do to help and eliminate your need for dependence. Celebrate independence by becoming independent.

I am a first generation American. My parents were refugees, they were sick, they were beaten and oppressed. You liberated their countries and they sought you out to become one of you.  In 1976 my father was sworn in as an American citizen. I was just 5 years old and I remember the day. I know of Americas greatness first hand.

Today our elected officials barter with each other, trading the wealth of their constituents like poker chips in a growing pot for pet legislation and earmarks. Selling out restrictions on liberty in exchange for pork and more pork. Citizens vote for entitlements not liberty and cast off the heritage that freed the world in exchange for a caretaker.

And so it begins to end? Or perhaps not?

What will I do? I will pursue happiness.  I will pursue independence. I will never give up. I will suffer defeat and set back, but I will carry on.

And you who would do this; trade your liberty for cheeseburgers and teeth cleaning? You believe in rights of entitlements and government guarantees? You have already decided that forever you will not be free anymore. You are wards of the state. You are dependents not independents. A conflict of interest on every vote. Inseparable from the motive of your vote. You are in it for you. And you are part of the masses. You vote to punish, to take away, to levy charges and enforce punishment. You take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in exchange for what? What do you think you deserve? You do not realize that you are voting for slavemenship to the state. That you are selling your liberty and taking away others in a trade for entitlements. How is it any different? How is it right? Where is the justice in this?

It’s been said that history repeats itself. How tragic is that? That we don’t learn from the fall of other democracy and preserve our republic. That we go from protecting individual liberty to the oppression of the majority? How tragic to vote to take away from the minority? And so it is today.

Your congress has for too long acted with no more accountability to their constituents; other than bribes and earmarks. To take the money from others to give to their own. To serve as Lords over the people, taking away and giving back. How tragic. How tragic that our Lords lie to us, and we know that they do. While promising not to levy new taxes they levy new fees on industry. Who will pay these fees? The customers of utility companies, the owners of homes, the sellers of homes, the buyers of products. How is it that a fee on tea is not considered a tax? How gross is this? Where will it end? What is too much? What’s my fee? Tell me? Is there a fee I can pay to be left alone? No. There is no more liberty. I am trapped. They will come for me.

All I know to do is to work to escape the oppression of my masters. To earn and try to buy my freedom. To pay the taxes and leans against me. As they rise, pay them again. As they decide to take more, pay more.

I go to war? No. I go to business. I go out and risk it all. I fight for others, for my employees, for our shareholders. It’s what I do. I will do what I can to take the tiny bit of freedom that I still have and leverage it into something better for my family and community.

I pray that today you would consider the same. And the next time you have the chance to take a freedom away from someone else, you say no. If the Feds offer you a handout, you say no. You say NO! What’s in it for you? Nothing. Suck it up. Stand on your own and do what’s right. You are either proud of your independence or not. Choose wisely.

On this day, remember that it was others that chose to risk everything so that you may be free. They voted to cut themselves off. They voted to preserve justice. They voted against taxes. They risked it all and many of them gave it all. And what have we done with the liberty they gave? We’ve voted to gradually take it away.

No other country in all of history has done so much to ensure the liberty of so many. It’s called freedom but it was not free. It came at a tremendous price and a tremendous risk. It started as a declaration. What declaration shall you make? What now will you do?


What Makes Someone Great?

What makes someone great? What creates greatness? Do leaders ask to be great? Do they desire to be great? Or do they come from ordinary stalk and somehow make the decision that something has to be done. Do they wake up and realize that if they don’t act, things will get worse?

I venture to guess that most great leaders in history rose up out of dire circumstances. It was out of the trials and fires and ugliness of their circumstances they grew strong. They did not choose to be great, but in tough times they chose to do something great.

Granted that a case can be made for those that plot a course to be great, but it’s those that did not start out that way that we truly hold up as great. Whether by accidental invention or by incidental responses, the stories we read of great leaders are interesting to us because of what they have gone through. And yet, many of us; no most of us would not choose their path for ourselves. Who would chose economic suffering for themselves? Or disease or oppression? But here is where the furnace refines those who become great.

Look at the great depression, out of that came the greatest generation. Following worst economic times come the best economic times. Following oppression comes liberty? Why?

Greatness is in you. You have the capacity to be great. You may not know it and you may not feel it. And you probably don’t recognize it. For those that do great things, rarely do they recognize it as great. Their tasks are as minor as yours to start. Dr. King’s first speech was not the crowds on the steps in DC, and Washington didn’t start out as a General, and the list would continue on as we look upon the stories of those we now call great.

It starts with little things. And it’s these little things that compound and are refined. And not doing things is as important to greatness, by not choosing the easy path, not resting when there is work to do. There is plenty to not do from giving up to selling out.

I’m not one who can speak of greatness personally. I am just an ordinary person who has fought some challenging battles. I wonder an I think about what I do and am supposed to do. I’m probably a lot like you. And I know a lot of you who will read this are doing so when you are discouraged.

So today, remember this one thing; if you aspire to greatness or if you just aspire to be a little more – there is no difference. That is greatness. That inspiration is a gift; and you must act on it. Whether in business, in family, in love, in music, in art, in politics and in faith; do the thing and do it well. Don’t be satisfied with less than you are called to do. For some, you are called to act out in greatness; it’s your turn to do something about it. And the rest of you, stay on the couch and change the channel. Maybe it’s best if you just stay where you are at.