By now I should be used to completely unexpected, and almost always very interesting, turns in my life.  But I can’t stop marveling at how rich life can be on God’s earth if one tries to live it to its fullest.

I am an excellent planner and I get great joy out of planning the future, sometimes in minute detail.  Given that predilection, it is ironic that most of the big events and changes in my life were neither planned nor even remotely anticipated.  To quote Woody Allen: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”.

To elaborate on this theme, I need to start this report in the middle of 2016.  As anticipated, life in Albany, NY had become too expensive for an out of work over the hill executive, and so we decided to go south.  My family made the move to Covington Georgia (35 miles southeast of Atlanta) in June of 2016, and I followed in December after I finally managed to sell our house in upstate New York.

It was with more than one tear in the eye that we said good-bye to our fairy tale home on the Hudson River:  Five acres, two ponds, a great house built by a master builder for his own family, a bald eagle nesting on the property, snapping turtles and all kinds of other wildlife was paradise for my daughter Trinity to grow up in.   But we had no choice, it was time to move on.

One of the lessons of my life is that until the very last one, every “good-bye” is followed by a “hello”.  As I shared in my essay “Georgia on my Mind”, this particular “hello” was wonderfully friendly and completely snow free, which was much appreciated.  18 months after our arrival we feel very much at home here.  Is this incredible or what? – the country boy from East Germany finally found a home in the State of Georgia, in these here United States!

2016 was also the year during which I completed my book.  In all, I wrote this book three times.  The first version was rejected by the publisher as too dry, too analytical, and too long.  Cindy Coloma to the rescue.  She taught me how to write a memoir rather than the stream-of-consciousness diary I had submitted.  And then came weeks and weeks of arguments with my editor David Lindstedt who cut a good 20% of my second version and radically rearranged the remaining 80%.  In the end, I yielded on most of our disagreements, and that turned out to be an excellent decision.  Thank God for Cindy and David!  They deserve all the credit for the readability of the book.

And then 2017 announced itself with a bang which was followed by a series of aftershocks all of which were, of course, entirely unexpected and not quite predictable.  It started with Shaun Walker from The Guardian coming for a visit in January.  The interview took a full day, and before you knew it, I had a spread in their weekend edition.  A month later, I had the interesting experience of participating as an extra on the set of “The Americans”.  This was the ultimate “art imitates life” situation.  In February and March a few media outlets, most notably the BBC London, ran a story about me, but by the time the book tour started in late March, the trickle had become a flood.

And of course, my old “colleague” Vlad Putin helped out (as he had promised way back when) with his shenanigans.  All of a sudden, I became an in demand “expert” for several cable news stations on all things Russian and Russian espionage.  Another challenge, another learning curve!  Imagine sitting in a dark room all by yourself with nothing but a camera staring at you.  Sometimes, there is a monitor, and sometimes all you have is the sound coming from your earpiece.  You sit there, patiently and rather tense, waiting for your clue from the anchor person.  Just before it is your turn, your mind goes completely blank.  And as soon as you hear a question directed at you, you have about three seconds to come up with an answer that is intelligent, reasonable, concise and enlightening.  Not an easy task, not even for seasoned professionals – downright intimidating for a “virgin”.  Trinity watched my very first live appearance.  Her verdict: “Dad, you looked creepy”.  She was right – the producers failed to tell me that it was important to keep my eyeballs still.

But I learned how to make eye contact with a camera, and as a result I have racked up 30 live TV appearances on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX.  I tried my best to infuse some common sense into the political frenzy – I doubt it made any impact.  I can share more about my insights about the “news” game if and when we meet in person.

More gratifying were the features (not all of them have aired yet) produced by the History Channel, A&E, The Travel Channel, and Japanese and French National TV.  Rounding out this exposure explosion were about two dozen radio interviews and as many press reports.  This stuff is as exhausting as it is time consuming – but ……….  it is a necessary foundation for my sixth (!) career as author and public speaker.

With the book done and the marketing campaign in full swing, it was time to take a serious whack at public speaking.  The learning curve was not steep, but it was loooong.  Anybody who runs in hilly terrain, knows that a short steep hill is much easier to conquer than the never ending slowly rising uphill slope.  I am very grateful to those who took a chance and allowed me to speak when I had neither experience nor credentials as a public speaker.  Among those “pioneers” were several chapters of the Society for Information Management, the Oregon Criminal Justice Information Services organization, the Lehigh Valley Paralegal Association, and the Christian Community Church in Saint Charles IL.  When it was all done, I had completed 34 public appearances with audiences in size between 30 and 4,000 attendees.  I am now at a point where I am enjoying these gigs.  But the best part of all of it all is not the money, not the travel, and not being the center of attention – it is all the interesting people I meet along the way – people who I would have never crossed paths with had I stayed in my corporate job.

Sometimes folks ask me about lessons I take away from my life.  One of my answers is: “Just go out and do SOMETHING, you never know what might happen”.  Here is another one: “When you go somewhere, you usually have a reason to do so.  However, it happens very often that when you arrive, you find out the REAL reason why you had to be there”.  That was the case with my move to Atlanta.  The original driver for that move was purely economic.  Only after I moved, I found out that Ravi Zacharias International Ministry has its headquarters in the area.  Those of you who read the book, might remember that Dr. Zacharias had a great deal to do with my conversion to Christianity.

So, one day in December of last year, I attended a conference hosted by RZIM.  There, I met Dr. Stuart McAlister, a senior member of the RZIM team, who in his younger years was part of a team that smuggled Christian materials to the other side of the iron curtain.  I introduced myself with the following words: “We have a lot in common – we both worked undercover.  Of course, we did cross the iron curtain in different direction, but the major difference between you and me is that I had Marx and Lenin in my baggage whereas you were traveling with Jesus.”

Stuart’s look of befuddlement left his face gradually when I explained my background.  We met for lunch, and today we are good friends.  But this is only the beginning of the story.  A few weeks later, I got an eMail from RZIM – it was from Dr. Zacharias’ assistant – Ravi invited me and my wife Shawna to have lunch with him and his wife.  While we were sharing a meal with this great yet humble man, I had to remind myself that I was in the presence of somebody who had just lead a United Nations prayer breakfast the week before, who had personally met many heads of state, and who had spoken to audiences of tens of thousands.  But there was more – Ravie invited Shawna and me to attend his annual gala fund raiser.  There we testified on stage in front of 400+ attendees from 25 countries.

I do not know how close a relationship I will have with RZIM and Dr. Zacharias personally.  But what I do know is that I have found both an intellectual as well as a spiritual home in that organization.  The RZIM headquarters is the most elegant office space I have ever visited.  Its occupants are all committed to excellence, and Ravi’s senior staff members are intellectuals of the highest caliber.  Exposure to those men and women is pure delight.  In all my years I have never aspired to be the smartest person in the room – come to think of it, if you wish for that, you are not that smart, after all.

And with all of that going on, I managed to take care of two important medical necessities: a heart valve replacement and rather invasive radiation treatment for prostate cancer.  Neither of those events made a dent in my schedule – the recovery time in both cases was shorter than a week.  I am hoping that this “100,00-mile overhaul” will keep me going for many years to come.  I do have a little girl to take care of, and I also have much unfished business on this planet.  I plan to keep on going full steam until the Grand Weaver in the sky determines that it is time to say my “good-bye” for the very last time.

For now, I wish all of you a great Christmas and a wonderful 2018, and I pray that sanity will ultimately prevail in our country as well as in this dangerous place we call earth – a rather grand petition, but I allow myself to dream.

All my best!  Jack B

PS – I just wrote about me, more about me and then more about me.  Of course, my life would be worth nothing but for all the people that I have met along the way, and especially those with whom I have had or still have close relationships.  My problem in this space is that if I add my beautiful wife Shawna, my precious little Trinity, my four other children and some of my closest friends to this update, the totality of that writeup might well compete in length with my book.  So, with regrets and apologies to all those just mentioned, I will end here.  I just might write another book where all those wonderfully complex folks will take center stage.  JB


  1. Amazing journey, Jack. Keep rolling. I share your sentiment for sanity. Merry Christmas.



Comments are closed.