It was 84 years ago today – August 24, 1934. The first civilian prisoners arrived at the federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz was acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 22, 1933, and the island became a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison in August of 1934. Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons. At 9:40 am on August 11, 1934, the first batch of 137 prisoners arrived by railroad from the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Most were notorious bank robbers and murderers.

During the 29 years the prison was in use, the jail had some of the most notorious criminals in American history, such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, and Alvin
“Creepy” Karpis (who served longer than any other Alcatraz inmate). It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prisons staff and their families.

I can’t imagine living a life behind bars. Yet, millions of people do just that – not behind the bars of a federal prison, but the bars of their own making. Fortunately, we don’t have to live in the prison of our guilt or sin. We have been paroled. Jesus says, “Go and sin no more.”

Too Much Caffeine

If you get a tax refund of $2,000, you can do one of two things with that money. First, you can use it to make a good down payment on a new car. Or you can do what millions do every day, and buy one cup of coffee at Starbucks.

If you have $10,000, you can get five cups. But take it easy on the caffeine. I’m not a coffee drinker but I can recognize one anywhere. They are the ones bouncing off the walls. The other day, I saw a man who was so high on caffeine that he was duck hunting with a rake. Too much caffeine.

You know you’ve had too much coffee when you find yourself answering the door before the doorbell rings or you have converted your car’s radiator to brew a pot on the way to work.

You’ve had too much coffee if Juan Valdez names his donkey after you, or you can play ping-pong without a partner. Your coffee filters are monogrammed. You chew on other people’s fingernails. Your eyes stay open when you sneeze.

And you know you’ve had too much coffee when you can jump start your car without cables or you can photograph yourself ten feet away without a timer. Or maybe you ski uphill.

Perhaps it’s time to lay off the coffee and just start your day the way Jesus did.

“While it was early in the morning, Jesus went into a mountain by himself, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).

The Tongue

On a windswept hill in an English country churchyard stands a drab, gray slate tombstone. Bleak and unpretentious, it leans slightly to one side, beaten slick and thin by the blast of time. The quaint stone bears an epitaph not easily seen unless you stoop over and look closely.

The faint etchings read: “Beneath this stone, a lump of clay, lies Arabella Young, who, on the 24th of May, began to hold her tongue.”

The tongue. What a study in contrasts! To the physician it’s merely a complex array of muscles and nerves that enable our bodies to chew, taste, and swallow. How helpful! Equally significant, it is the major organ of communication that enables us to articulate sounds so we can understand each other. How essential!

The tongue is as volatile as it is vital.

Washington Irving said, “A sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener with use.”

And James said, “The tongue is a fire, a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”

I have had to apologize for my words many times. But I have never had to apologize for my silence.

Wise Solomon said, “The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives” (Proverbs 18:7).

Dream House

The song I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a standard around the holidays. The song was written by James Kimball “Kim” Gannon, who was an American songwriter. The famous singer, Bing Crosby, recorded the song in 1943, and it became a huge hit. The song is still popular today.

What many people do not know is that the song is about a soldier in World War II, hoping to come home so that he can be with his family at Christmas. Knowing this, the haunting lyrics become more poignant.

Christmas Eve will find me where the love light beams. I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.

Home is like a magnet, always drawing us back. Matthew Henry wrote, “If therefore our houses be houses of the Lord, we shall for that reason love home, reckoning our daily devotion the sweetest of our daily delights; and our family worship the most valuable of our family comforts. A church in the house will be a good legacy, nay, it will be a good inheritance, to be left to your children after you.”

I’m planning ahead. This year, I’ll be home for Christmas – if only in my dreams.

The Rushmore Report – Surprising New Poll Just Out on the Midterm Election

We’ve been hearing it for months. This November, we will witness the biggest “blue wave” ever, as Democrats obliterate Republican control of both houses of Congress. Both the House and Senate will surely fall into Democrats’ hands, right? Some are predicting a pick-up of five Senate seats and as many as 60 seats in the House for the Democratic Party. But is this just wishful thinking on the part of Democrats and their accomplices in the media? A new CBS poll is just out, and its finding are surprising.

In short, the head pollster for CBS News, Anthony Salvanto, doesn’t think we will see a blue wave this November. His team is polling 5,700 voters in the 50-60 Congressional districts most in play. And so far, he doesn’t see a whole lot of flipping of seats from one party to the other.

The New York Post reports, “Salvanto’s polling currently indicates that few House seats will change hands in November – and that the GOP could very well hold its majority in the House.”

Salvanto told the Post, “Right now I think this election looks like a toss-up. We see a Democratic pick-up in the House of Representatives in the 20-odd seat range, but Republicans could certainly hold on to the House.”

Republicans currently hold a 43-seat majority.

Salvanto said he doesn’t “see a large number of Republicans saying they will flip and vote for a Democrat,” despite several op-eds from “conservatives” telling the Right to switch parties.

While Democratic hate for President Trump is fueling their push in November, Republicans typically vote in higher volume in mid-term elections than do their foes. And just being against something – or someone, in the case of President Trump – is rarely enough to win elections.

Salvanto added, “Voters say the Democrats need to do more than just oppose Trump. They are asking, ‘What are they standing for?'”

Experts agree that for Democrats to retake the House, they will need to be up by about five points in the latest generic ballot polling. And that is exactly where they stand just a few months before the elections.

Could there still be a blue wave in November? Yes, it’s possible. But don’t believe what you’re hearing. The recapture of either house of Congress by the Democratic Party is far from certain.

Stay tuned . . .

The Rushmore Report – NY Dem Governor Cuomo: ‘America Was Never that Great’

The governor of the most taxed state in America just dropped a bombshell in a moment of honesty. In a public speech, Andrew Cuomo, a strong 2020 presidential candidate, mocked President Trump’s desire to “make America great again.” His astonishing perspective is that “America was never that great.” Even his liberal audience was awestruck by such an anti-America statement.

A few days later – for purely political purposes – Cuomo walked back his statements a bit. He called his comments “inartful.” Note, he didn’t say he didn’t mean what he said; he just regretted that what he said was so accurately understood.

Will this cost him among his political base? Probably not. Consider this – according to a recent poll, Democrats view socialism more positively than capitalism. So for an audience that is so incredibly liberal, Cuomo’s comments are not out of bounds.

But can you imagine Democrats of past generations saying “America was never great?” Can you imagine Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, or Bill Clinton saying that? Of course not. Why not? Because a) they didn’t believe it, and b) to say that would be political suicide. But in today’s Democratic Party, saying America was never great has become frighteningly mainstream.

Of course, Gov. Cuomo will not have to answer for his un-American sentiments, because he will only agree to interviews with members of the press who agree with him on everything he is going to say. But if – and I know this is a longshot – Cuomo did take honest questions, I suggest the following to any press members who are so fortunate as to interview the governor. Ask him . . .

“Was America not great when she abolished slavery?”

“Was America not great when she won two world wars?”

“Was America not great when she went to the moon?”

“Was America not great when she won the Cold War?”

“Was America not great when she received more refugees than any other country in the last century?”

“Was America not great when she passed historic civil rights legislation?”

“Was America not great when she did more to feed the world’s hungry than any other country on earth?”

As expected, President Trump blasted Cuomo for his statement. He is begging the governor to run against him for president in 2020. Is it possible that the Democratic Party would nominate a man who thinks so little of our country – to represent our country on the world stage? Unfortunately, yes, it is possible. A party that is more in line with socialism (see Argentina) than capitalism (see America) just might embrace the governor whose state takes back more money from her citizens (state taxes) than any other state. But will America ever elect a man who believes America is neither great nor ever has been?

Surely not.

The Rushmore Report – Mariah Carey Speaks on the Faith of Aretha Franklin

Iconic soul singer Aretha Franklin died Thursday and as tributes flooded social media, one of her mentees, Mariah Carey, revealed that the pastor’s daughter never left the church despite her successful mainstream career. “Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul. The Icon. The ultimate singer’s singer. The greatest singer and musician of my lifetime,” Carey wrote on Instagram Thursday.

“The power of your voice in music and in civil rights blew open the door for me and so many others. You were my inspiration, my mentor and my friend. You showed me I could sing the songs I wanted to sing and bring God with me. You’ve inspired millions everywhere yet never left home, never left church,” the pop star continued.

Carey went on to say that she will forever cherish the moments she spent with Franklin.

“I say a BIG prayer for you. You will forever have all our RESPECT,” Carey concluded.

Franklin was surrounded by family and friends before she died Thursday morning. The legendary singer died from an advanced form of pancreatic cancer which was confirmed by her oncologist.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942, Franklin’s family moved to Detroit when she was five years old. Her mother, Barbara, was also a singer, but she died when Franklin was nine years of age. Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C.L.” Franklin, was a popular preacher at Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church. Her famous dad was often visited by people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who Franklin accredited as her mentor.

Franklin began her singing career at church and released her first gospel album by the time she was 14 years old. At 18, however, she shifted to secular music and the rest is history.

Franklin is known for her hits such as “RESPECT,” “Natural Woman,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “Chain of Fools.”

Franklin spoke about her singing abilities being a gift from God, and told Yahoo News, “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that. My faith always has been and always will be important to me.”

Throughout her career that spanned seven decades, Franklin paved the way as one of the most successful female artists in music history. With 18 Grammy Awards under her belt, and 75 million records sold worldwide, she was the first female to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone name her “the greatest singer of all time” in 2012, and she was also inducted into The Gospel Music Hall of Fame along with fellow music legend Elvis Presley (who also died on August 16, 41 years ago).

About the Author

Jeannie Law writes for the Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report – The Four Words JFK Spoke Seconds Before He Died

The last words John F. Kennedy said to his wife on that fateful day of November 22, 1963 were not his final words. He told Jackie she looked “smashing” in her new pink suit. But his final words were spoken from the back seat of the 1961 Lincoln Continental in which he was riding, just seconds before the shots rang out that would forever change the course of history. JFK’s last words came in answer to a question. The last four words of the 35th president were . . .

“No, you certainly can’t.”

Here’s the story. The Kennedys were seated behind Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie in the Lincoln. It was well-known that Kennedy had picked Lyndon Johnson as his running mate in order to carry Texas in the 1960 election. Without Texas, he would have lost the election, and without Johnson, he would have lost Texas. But the president was never particularly popular in the conservative Lone Star State.

And that is why he was in Dallas in the first place – to lay the groundwork for his reelection bid that was less than one year in the future. But to his great surprise, Dallas really turned out to support him as his car made its way along the parade route. By the thousands, cheering supporters demonstrated their love for the president and first lady.

Moments after their Lincoln made its final turn onto Elm Street in Dealey Plaza, Nellie Connally turned back toward Mr. Kennedy and said, “You can’t say Texas doesn’t love you!” Kennedy replied, “No, you certainly can’t.”

And then Lee Harvey Oswald changed everything by assassinating the president from his sixth floor loft in the Texas School Book Depository building.

As the Lincoln sped off toward Parkland Hospital, Jackie Kennedy cradled the president’s head in her lap, repeating these words: “Jack, Jack, can you hear me? I love you.”

Of course, the president was already gone, and would be pronounced dead after receiving the last rites at the hospital a few minutes later. And while some have tried to dramatize JFK’s final moments by alleging his final words were, “My God, I’ve been hit,” physicians agree that his wounds would have made it impossible for him to speak.

A historic presidency was ended in a few seconds by the bullets of a deranged shooter. But not until Kennedy had acknowledged the hospitality of the people of Dallas.

While a man born in another state (Louisiana) was already pulling the trigger of his 6.5 mm Carcano rifle, John Kennedy was acknowledging the love of Texas.

“You can’t say Texas doesn’t love you.”

“No, you certainly can’t.”

The Rushmore Report – Guess What Justin Bieber Was Just Seen Carrying?

Justin Bieber is one of this generation’s most iconic pop stars. The 24-year-old Canadian singer/songwriter became famous with the release of his platinum album, My World, in 2009. He has already earned 20 Teen Choice Awards and a Grammy Award. He is in the Guinness Book of World Records 14 times. Bieber is now engaged to actress Hailey Baldwin. But it is what he was seen carrying on the streets on New York last week that is making news.

Raised in Christianity by his mother, Bieber describes himself as a strong adherent to the faith. He was baptized by Pentecostal pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong Church in New York on January 9, 2014, after what he described as a “born again experience.” He has given millions of dollars to evangelize the Philippines, as well as to other Christian causes.

Last week, the star was spotted leaving Baldwin’s apartment by photographers. And he was carrying a book by Timothy Keller – The Meaning of Marriage.

Keller’s book, based on his sermons, “draws a profound portrait of marriage from the pages of Scripture that neither idealizes nor rejects the institution but points us back to the relationship between God and man. The result is a vision for marriage that is refreshingly frank and unsentimental, yet hopeful and beautiful,” according to Keller’s website.

Bieber and Baldwin both attend Hillsong. Hailey is the daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin.

It is not rare for famous couples to claim to be adherents to Christianity. What is rare is for them to mean it.

I’ll admit it. I may be the only person in America who has never heard one note or syllable of a single Justin Bieber song. But count me as one of his biggest fans.

One Man

Terry Fox was just 18 when doctors discovered bone cancer in his right leg. They amputated his leg six inches above the knee. After undergoing chemotherapy and seeing other people, particularly children, suffer with cancer, Terry decided to make a difference. Fitted with a prosthetic leg and supported at first by just a few friends and family members, this brave young man set out to run across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research.

Terry began his Marathon of Hope on April 12, 1980, in St. John’s, Newfoundland. When a recurrence of cancer ended his cross-country run at Thunder Bay, Ontario, on September 1, 1980, Terry had run 3,339 miles in 143 days, roughly the equivalent of a marathon every day. After a courageous battle with the disease he had worked so hard to defeat, he passed away in June, 1981.

This would be an amazing enough story if it had just ended there. But it doesn’t. Participants from around the world keep alive Terry’s dream of curing cancer with the Terry Fox Run held annually in 52 countries. In the years since Terry died, participants have raised more than $350 million for cancer research around the world.

Nothing is more remarkable than what one person can accomplish. Whether his or her name is George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln, or Thomas Edison – one person can do so much.

By yourself you aren’t much. But with God as your partner, you become a majority.