Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Reformation Day


October 31 commemorates the day Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral. The ensuing events gave rise to the Reformation and created the Church as we know it today with the three main branches of Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy and the Protestant church.

As you hand out candy to the little hooligans in your neighborhood this evening, think about one of the seminal events in the history of the Christian church that has profoundly affected Western Culture. The goals of the Reformation were admirable and appropriate. The aftermath was pretty messy. And we are still picking up the pieces today.

Ducking, Bobbing, and Weaving


It seems that Senator Clinton is not adept at articulating what she means. This article chronicles her troubles during a recent debate. I don't normally comment on presidential politics, especially this early in the process, but there was a line in the article that caught my eye.

"And when it was over, both the Barack Obama and John Edwards campaigns signaled that in the weeks ahead they intend to hammer home a simple message: Hillary Clinton does not say what she means or mean what she says."

This sounds very familiar to me. The link takes you to a post about Authentic Church where I said that if the church was like Horton the Elephant, we would all be better off. Political candidates, family members, heck, all of us would be better human beings if we meant what we said and said what we meant.

Eventually vacillating will come back to bite us. Pray for grace often, and say what you mean. But also remember to do what you say you will. It only works if both parts are present.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not that they don't have their value...



Thanks to my brother in Christ for this day-brightener.

Committee's have their place, please don't send me hate mail.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

This man is a college graduate?

Check this out. A Miami Dolphin player just learned that the people in London, ENGLAND, speak English. Imagine that.

And they say that kids don't learn anything at Football U.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Walking Wounded

I'm somewhat at a loss to verbalize this thought, so bear with me. I've been in a funk lately, as you may know. Actually its more than a funk, more of a downward spiral, but that is not the issue I want to address. What my emotional upheaval has done is dull my awareness of people around me. Not that I was particularly sensitive before, but I am even less so right now.

This weekend it sort of crashed on me when I saw the hurt on some of my fellow Christians. I could tell something was wrong, but I didn't know what it was. And I didn't want to ask. One of the things about funks for me is that I tend to withdraw. I do it for several reasons. I know I am operating mentally and emotionally at an impaired level, and it keeps me from snapping at people. It also allows me to not put myself into situations where I will be tempted or overloaded, which can lead to things being misconstrued or blown out of proportion. But this withdrawal cuts me off from others, and dulls me to what is going on in their lives even as we pass each other in sort of a strange, pained dance.

I'm getting together with someone else this week who is in a similar place. I don't have any words of wisdom to offer. I don't have a plan, a book, or much beyond myself. I have faith in a God that I know is sovereign and loves me. But I don't hear him right now. So I cling to the faith that I have and remember the times I did hear him. That is what I have to offer.

Somehow I think this is how Christian community should work. The wounded help each other carry on as they journey through life together. Pray that we do not lose the sensitivity to each other that makes this possible. I know my self-preservation makes this difficult, but I also know what I am called to do. This is my denial of the flesh, to go and soldier on with someone hurting as much or more than me. All the while clinging to the hope that the God of the Universe will reveal himself in a way that we can comprehend. I went to the mountains in Colorado this summer. This appears to be the valley on the other side. Pray for us. But also rejoice with us that we are, in our own way, living out the command to bear each other's burdens. In an odd way, that kind of excites me.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A shameful act

Rep. Pete Stark should be ashamed of himself. On the floor of the House of Representatives (video below) he made the following accusation about President Bush:

"You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

What kind of person thinks the President of the United States sends our soldiers into battle for his amusement? That is one of the most disgusting statements I have ever heard from a sitting U.S. Member of Congress. And the Speaker of the House calls the comments "inappropriate." I imagine if Rush Limbaugh or someone from the other political party uttered them that her response would be different.

If he is not censured promptly, something has gone horribly wrong in our nation's capital.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A little fire safety info for you

When fighting a kitchen fire, make sure you have a kitchen fire extinguisher, not a water-filled one. The video below dramatizes the proper and improper ways to fight a grease fire. If the fire is contained to a skillet or pan, you can always put the lid on the pan which will deprive the fire of oxygen. I've done that before when a neighbor in college had a pork-chop flambe' going in our apartment building. I pray that it never becomes an issue for you. video

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How the Michigan Legislature and Governor worked out the budget

Click on the video link to see a behind-the-scenes look at the recent budget negotiations. I feel so honored to have them as my leaders.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What I am reading right now


I started this last week. It's a sobering but compelling read. It will leave you unsettled in the first few chapters as it goes through the scriptures dealing with the poor and disadvantaged. I encourage you to read it. I picked it up from my local library.

I'll post more on it as I move through.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Where are you?

Have you ever asked God that question? It's one that has been on my mind for a while, and I think it is part of the melancholy funk. Part of what I think weighs on me is seeing all the horrible things in our world, and sometimes I just wonder where God is. I know in my head he is there, and he is sovereign. But man, there are times I could use a "God with skin" sighting, if you know what I mean.

I do empathize with Elijah when he laid down in the desert to die. Not that I am the only righteous person left, as he mistakenly believed. But I can imagine the overwhelming frustration.

The song clip below tells my thoughts well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cutting off their nose to spite their face

You be the judge. It seems that James Dobson and his band are alarmed at their waning influence in the Republican Party and the possibility of a Rudy Guiliani candidacy. So they have figured out a way to ensure that Hillary Clinton becomes president. In their tortured way of thinking, it is better to take no loaf, in terms of Supreme Court influence, with Hillary, than the half-loaf that Guiliani offers. Despite his pro-choice stand, he has said he will appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as written.

As for social issues other than abortion, Guiliani has a sterling record on crime control, eliminating porn shops, getting hookers off the streets, and protecting kids from being propositioned in Times Square. But abortion is the Holy Grail of Evangelical Republican Politics, and Rudy doesn't measure up in their eyes.

If they back a third-party candidate, they will be doing to the Republican nominee what Ralph Nader did to Gore and Ross Perot did to Bush '41. Splitting votes and ensuring their defeat.

I'm not backing Rudy, or anyone at this point. But this just seems stupid if their goal is to do anything other than get the Republican Party's attention. If they are serious, they will do a great deal of harm to their cause with a 3rd party candidate.

To me, this sounds more like a cry for attention than anything else. Which is sad.

Congrats Comrade Gore

Former Vice President Albert Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming. Now that he is a Nobel Laureate, there is a draft Gore movement in the Democratic Party, which I find interesting. Is there that much dissatisfaction with Hillary and the rest that they want to bring back Gore?

If so, they need to rethink their poster concepts. Or at least make them less obviously Soviet in their style.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In case you aren't familiar with Richard Roberts

Rumors

One of the things that struck me in the Oral Roberts University story is the comment by a student. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Cornell Cross II, a senior from Burlington, Vt., said he is looking to transfer to another school because the scandal has "severely devalued and hurt the reputation of my degree."

"We have asked and asked and asked to see the finances of our school and what they're doing with our money, and we've been told no," said, Cross who is majoring in government. "Now we know why. As a student, I'm not going to stand for it any longer."

Rumors and gossip have been an issue since language was invented. People will spread rumors because they feel a need to make themselves look better. They will also do it to undercut an opponent and sometimes, just because there is an absence of information. If things seem amiss, and requests for information are not fulfilled, the ground is fertile for rumors, speculation, innuendo and gossip.

It seems that some have been questioning the ORU leadership about the finances of the school for some time. That, coupled with a lawsuit filed by former professors, have led to a full bloom of stories about things that are going on there.

I cannot condone rumor-mongering, but I certainly can understand how it happens. I have been an advocate for transparency for churches, non-profits and any group that handles public money. Publishing board meeting summaries, posting quarterly financial statements and having open meetings are all ways to squash rumors. Nothing kills a rumor faster than exposure to the light of truth, and unfortunately too many organizations are loath to be transparent, especially involving their finances. If you have nothing to hide, then don't be secretive. If you are secretive, then you naturally invite suspicion.

The text below was written by David Crowe, a high school junior and the son of an Asbury alumnus. It was posted in the Asbury Coffee House. He offers some good thoughts about rumors, their spread and how to spike them.

People need to think when they start or progress a rumor. Think about the person it's about. Not only put yourself in there shoes but also in there position.

There have been many a rumor this year over many things involving many people, but something has come to me. Is there a true friend who would dare spread a rumor or tell something one has swore never to speak of? Why are there moments that we feel like we must talk to others about others? Does it really make us feel better?

School shootings have been a problem over the past years but there are other culprits than the ones who pulled the trigger, those who decided that they would rather risk the chance of having a fellow student be put down 6 feet under, by putting down another person.

Very few know everything about a person. It takes more than knowing them a few years to know them.

So if you hear a rumor spread about someone whether about something in their past or present don't feed the gossip. Starve it! If you don't, you might make a person relive a past they have tried to forget and move on. Don't spread the pain. Heal it, by being there for your friends and sometimes even for your enemies because I know we would all rather be put up than to be put down for good in a wooden box

David A. Crowe
Preacher's Kid
Junior, Eastern Wayne High School




Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pray that this isn't true


I'm not an Oral Roberts fan, but stuff like this gives the Church of Jesus Christ a very bad name. I pray that it isn't true. If it is, it's just another reason for the world to look at the church and say "Why bother?"

The list of allegations includes:
  • A longtime maintenance employee was fired so that an underage male friend of Mrs. Roberts could have his position.

  • Mrs. Roberts - who is a member of the board of regents and is referred to as ORU's "first lady" on the university's Web site - frequently had cell-phone bills of more than $800 per month, with hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to "underage males who had been provided phones at university expense."

  • The university jet was used to take one daughter and several friends on a senior trip to Orlando, Fla., and the Bahamas. The $29,411 trip was billed to the ministry as an "evangelistic function of the president."

  • Mrs. Roberts spent more than $39,000 at one Chico's clothing store alone in less than a year, and had other accounts in Texas and California. She also repeatedly said, "As long as I wear it once on TV, we can charge it off." The document cites inconsistencies in clothing purchases and actual usage on TV.

  • Mrs. Roberts was given a white Lexus SUV and a red Mercedes convertible by ministry donors.

  • University and ministry employees are regularly summoned to the Roberts' home to do the daughters' homework.

  • The university and ministry maintain a stable of horses for exclusive use by the Roberts' children.

  • The Roberts' home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Was the truck heading to Denver?

Detroit Free Press story. That is lot of reefer.

On a related note, Denver running back Travis Henry has failed a marijuana test for the NFL. Maybe reefer madness is why he has 9 kids with 9 different women. Or maybe he is just stupid.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Want to do a little more?

Go here and sign the petition.



Free Burma! Petition Widget


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You can also write your Members of the House of Representatives or the Senate. Contact the White House to express your concern. And pray.

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Free Burma!


In case you haven't heard, it is getting worse there. Since the protests were beaten back, the cameras have left. But the repression continues. Pray for these folks. They need divine intervention.

Thousands dead in massacre of monks

Upheaval in Burma

Evangelical Fellowship of Asia: Stop Violent Repression of Burma’s Peaceful Protestors

Photojournalist Nagai Kenji shot and killed by Burmese troops

Prayers for Peaceful Transition of Change in Myanmar

Call to Action on Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi – from actor Jim Carrey

Report: Burma Plans to Wipe Out Christianity

Burma’s Persecuted Christians Plea Case in Highest U.S. Hearings



Free Burma!

This is so petty

It seems that the Detroit Lions are concerned about protecting their brand. So, they have decided that after more than 10 years, WDFN is no longer allowed to call their after-disaster report "The Detroit Lions Post-Game Show." That is the property of the Lions flagship station. Never mind that WDFN has been doing this for years. Never mind that the Lions have basically been a big steaming pile for this entire decade. They were 24-72 going into this season. But they had to put their lawyer's foot down. The story is here. This just makes me shake my head. They should be happy people are still talking about their pitiful excuse for a team, not squishing the discussion.

You can't put lipstick on a pig. The Lions have been an awful team for some time. The fans are going to talk. They should be happy that the fans keep showing up, even if they grouse on another station. At least they still care.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Isn't this a polite way of describing incompetence?

So, it is the voters fault for not letting legislators make this a career? Yeah, I'll buy that one. :( Another case of blame the victim. As you can tell, having legislators for life like Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd and John Dingell has done wonders for Washington.

The story is from the October 3, 2007 Detroit News

LANSING -- Legislative term limits are blamed by their critics as a silent culprit in the budget impasse that nearly locked down most of state government this week.

The constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992 has put inexperienced lawmakers into leadership positions, fostered distrust among officials and increased the focus on politics over policy, say former and current lawmakers, constitutional experts and seasoned capital watchers.

The governor and lawmakers eventually did forge a final accord -- four hours after a partial shutdown began -- but there was the potential for disaster.

"The term limits law was the main reason for this breakdown," said Bill Rustem, president of the nonpartisan think tank Public Sector Consultants Inc. "You're putting people with less than five years' experience in a position of negotiating a $40 billion budget. It can't work.

"Can you imagine GM and the UAW going to the bargaining table with people inexperienced at negotiating? They'd never get a deal," added Rustem, who served as a key policy aide to former Gov. William G. Milliken.

Not everyone buys that argument.

Kurt O'Keefe, a Detroit attorney who heads a group called Don't Touch Term Limits, said the budget mess in Lansing is an argument for term limits -- not against them.

"Let me get this straight: The group we have up there now is not doing the job so we should overturn a vote of the people on term limits and keep them there longer?" O'Keefe said. "We need term limits so they are removed as soon as possible and we can get somebody else in there."

The two key legislative players in the budget morass -- Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester and House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township -- each have less than nine months of experience in their top leadership roles. And both, drawing on personal experience in battle, favor easing the nation's most restrictive cap on legislative service.

As it stands, House members can serve three two-year terms; senators are permitted to serve two four-year terms.

Dillon conceded his inexperience was a factor in the budget crisis.

"Being new to government, this was very frustrating for me," he said.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm also singled out term limits as a key contributing factor in the prolonged stalemate.

"Term limits definitely created a problem with trust and with our ability to work together," she said.

Inertia, job-hopping cited

Bob LaBrant, a state constitutional law expert and vice president of the influential Michigan Chamber of Commerce, is among the harshest critics of state term limits. He's aiming for the Jan. 15 presidential primary ballot with a reform proposal to allow lawmakers to serve a total of 12 years in either the House or Senate, or a combination of service in either one.

The chamber's proposal wouldn't tinker with the limit imposed on the governor -- two four-year terms. Granholm has five years under her belt as governor and nine total years in state government.

Under its ballot proposal, the amount of time a legislator could serve in the House would dramatically increase expertise on policy issues and consensus building, LaBrant says.

"In my judgment, the mess we were dealing with here was due to the lack of leadership ladders, institutionalized inexperience and an obsession among lawmakers to look for the next office to run for," he said.

"We have lawmakers reinventing the wheel and getting on pogo sticks jumping from office to office."

Many House members restricted to six years on the job are looking at future runs for the Senate almost as soon as they arrive in Lansing, and vice versa. Critics say that job-hopping causes lawmakers to look over their shoulders at how potential rivals may be voting on issues before deciding how to vote themselves. The situation can lead to inertia and a fear of making major policy decisions.

Harry Gast, who retired from the Senate in 2002 after three decades in the Legislature and many years as the highly respected chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said it pains him to see what's happening in Lansing.

"The budget problems of today are because there are no guts in the Legislature to make hard decisions," Gast said. "Today's lawmakers, if they want to be returned to office, figure the best way is don't make waves, don't get anyone upset and duck making the tough decisions for a few years so it becomes somebody else's problem."

Co-creator defends law

Patrick Anderson, a Lansing economist, former state official and one of the architects behind the term limits law, said it's a stretch to blame the law for the crisis.

"This was a partisan deadlock over the size of government that has grown from a small problem to a bigger problem to an enormous problem over the last five years," he said. "The inability to live within a budget once it's been adopted is clearly the responsibility of the state's chief executive. There is blame to go to the Legislature as well. But it pretty much has nothing to do with term limits."

Term limits was a political idea that swept the nation in the early 1990s. It was spawned in large measure by anger at the Congress for its check-writing scandals and seniority system that elevated members based solely on longevity without regard to competence. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states lack the power to limit congressional terms, but restrictions on state elective offices remained in force.

Today, 15 states have term limits. Since Michigan voters adopted the limits 15 years ago by a 3-2 margin, three states have passed similar laws. And term-limit laws in six states were repealed through court or legislative action. Michigan, California and Arkansas have the most restrictive measures in the nation, limiting House members to six years.

Next year, term limits will take out 44 members of the 110-member House. In 2010, the law will force 30 of the 38 senators to bow out.

A Detroit News/WXYZ-TV poll in mid-June found voters were having second thoughts about term limits. An even 50 percent favored a proposal to scrap the law, compared to 43 percent who wanted to keep the restrictions at three two-year terms for House members and two four-year terms for state senators, the governor and lieutenant governor, the secretary of state and attorney general.

Jennie Bowser, an analyst with the National Council of State Legislatures, said the wind has gone out of the term limits movement.

"The promise sounded great: 'Let's throw out the bums and get in fresh blood and get a more representative body,' " she said. "Much of that promise never came to pass and many have decided that term limits wasn't the great idea it was thought to be."

You can reach Mark Hornbeck at (313) 222-2470 or mhornbeck@detnews.com.

Is this for real?

Is the federal government finally taking border security seriously? We are waging war in multiple countries to stop terrorists who only have to run across the sieve that is the Mexican border. Let's hope that someone in Washington is taking this seriously and has heard the will of the people. This is at least a start. I feel for the immigrants, who want a better life. But there are legal ways to do this. They may be flawed, but they still need to be obeyed.

Welcome to a Third-World state

The Wall Street Journal said it pretty well. We are on our way to taxing our way to prosperity.

Hail to the Taxers
October 2, 2007

Actor Jeff Daniels makes a cool pitchman in those national TV spots inviting business to Michigan, but soon he may have to start pitching *inside* the state. At about 2 a.m. Monday, a handful of Republicans in the Legislature broke days of gridlock and handed Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm the $1.48 billion tax increase she has been demanding.

The state's personal income tax will rise to 4.35% from 3.9%, and the rest of the revenue grab will come from a new 6% sales tax on business services. Already 14th in tax burden among the 50 states, according to the Tax Foundation, Michigan is now headed up in the rankings. Congratulations.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce estimates that two-thirds of the $750 million in new sales tax revenue will apply to business transactions that are tax exempt in most states to avoid a compounding effect that raises costs to final consumers. The tax is especially unfair to small employers that contract out for activities, such as office services, that large businesses provide in-house with no sales tax applied. By the way, last year Michigan introduced a new 4.95% business income tax, which will be applied on top of the sales tax.

Last year, amid the national expansion, Michigan was the only state outside the Gulf Coast to lose jobs and see a decline in economic output. Comerica Bank recently moved its headquarters to Texas, in part because of Michigan's hostile business climate. Michigan's 7.4% jobless rate is the highest of all states and far above the 4.6% national rate.

The state is suffering from the decline of Detroit's car makers, but that's all the more reason to promote policies that attract new businesses -- or at least don't drive current employers to Florida. Ms. Granholm argues that the combination of new taxes to balance the budget, and to finance such new public "investment" as job retraining and education, will reinvigorate Michigan.

She should check her history books. In the past 25 years, the only period when Michigan's growth has exceeded that of the national economy was in the mid-1990s after then-Governor John Engler's tax cutting and welfare reform. For a time, Michigan became the unlikely national leader in job creation. Now the total tax burden is returning to where it was before the Engler years.

Michigan last went on a taxing binge in 1983, and voters were outraged enough to mount a successful recall campaign against two state Senate ringleaders. This time, two of three Michigan voters have told pollsters they want budget cuts, not new taxes. It may be that the only way to get jobs back into Michigan is to make sure the taxing politicians in Lansing lose theirs.