31 August 2007

dare to desire, hope & live

I recently finished a book by John Eldridge entitled "Dare to Desire". It was good, as I have heard many of his books are. But it struck a chord with me.

We are born with passions and over time substitute them with other things because what we may be passionate about doesn't fit into the world we've made for ourselves. And it may be that through society and maybe even the church, we lock ourselves into a Christianity that is more about not doing than embracing life. I think we need to accept that our heart's desire was given to us by God; we need to determine how it is expressed. But don't be fooled by "impostors" as Eldridge would call things that are really false desires.

Eldridge refers to the stewards whose master gave them x number of talents. Remember the one who took his and hid it? He was afraid his master would be upset with him if he lost it. So, God, our master, has given us talents and passions that we continue to subdue-maybe to "fit in". I'd be afraid of what God would think of that!

As I continue to "unpack" things from a pretty eventful year, I can't help but look to next year as a huge blank canvas and in anticipation wonder what God has for me. Maybe it's a long rest-that would be fine. But I can't help but think something awaits.........something that will speak to those passions and hopes I had even as a kid.

Eldridge says "we need to be serious about our happiness" and "enter into the adventure God has for us". Too often we would rather dwell in past blessings or maybe a current, bad situation as the hand that was dealt us.

I think the key to full filling your passions and desires is to give your life away-into one life at a time. And laugh.............a lot.

Unofficial Close of Summer

Well, this weekend represents the unofficial close of summer. I'm not always quick to give up those hot, hazy summer days here in the cornbelt, but I think I'm ready this year. This summer saw an interesting mix of terribly hot and dry days parching the soul to the recent flood waters, purging our roof. The family started the summer with a memorable trip to Disney World. The most rewarding part of the trip, apart from seeing the kids glow, was my run-in with an old friend...........the General Lee.

We hiked through the hills in Brown County and feasted on ice cream nearly every night in Nashville. We skipped rocks and hunted for "river glass" along Sugar Creek. Took in the county fair and a 4th of July parade. Visited the farmer's market on Saturdays and took in a few sunsets. Traipsed around through dad's fields and roasted marshmallows next to the tent we set up in our backyard. My son started t-ball, which I became a base coach by default, and both our kids turned another year older. I managed to steal away to Lake Superior's shore and managed to catch up with a number of old friends. We took in a few weddings and cookouts. And my dad gave us a scare with some extended hospital r&r.

This is typical Indiana summer kind of stuff. I didn't mention breathing in the corn once it's tasseled, running in the backyard in bare feet or sitting next to my beautiful wife on the back porch with the subtle breeze blowing in, drinking lemonade. Ah, summer.

29 August 2007


You may have noticed several of my entries take shots at Wal-Mart. As much as possible I stay away from the bouncing yellow ball.......I find myself in the aisles maybe once a year. And that is truly painful. And now they have on-the-spot medical attention.......or Wal-Doc, as I like to call it. What won't they sell next? How about Wal-Grave? Always low prices on cemetery plots, always. I can see vast expanses of cemeteries created below asphalt parking lots in front of Wal-marts with those concrete parking curbs turned headstones for Aunt Beth. Maybe with a yellow smiley face. "Here Lies Aunt Beth $19.15 - $20.07. Save on Purina today!"
But what untold.......and told.........destructive force it is having on our downtowns across Indiana and the rest of the country. This is the price of capitalism. And I don't believe we've seen the worst of it-you think dangerous toys from China is bad, wait until Wal-Docs take over.

In just about every case I've seen a Wal-Mart open in a small city-the downtown is sure to suffer. Mom & pop just can't compete in terms of prices and the endless aisles of stuff of every color, shape and size. And of course, the American manufacturer can't compete in terms of wages, with China. And we're consuming huge chunks of farmland we need for ethanol (facetious) for the big box complexes that often bring restaurants and everything else-that used to be downtown. Wake up America, you're killing yourself.

Instead, we find it almost romantic......this idea of Wal-Mart. The big box has found its way into at least three country songs. Some lament the dying of downtown, innocence and all that is good about the mom and pops. And dare I say this, but, we country music lovers are probably the most seduced by Wal-Mart! All part of the joy in being a Hoosier.

Local politics & puppeteers

I may have been naive to much of the way the political world works. I once assumed if you had the credentials, the general public support, the vision and the integrity needed to serve in a public capacity, then, of course, you would have a shot in an election. I didn't factor into this the insatiable desire by political bosses to maintain so much control that they would actually, possibly, give up a win, just so they are certain they have a puppet in office. I think this is most evident in local municipal and county elections. At least it is here in my corner of the world.

Puppets are generally ignorant of the fact that they have strings attached; well, in all fairness, their heads are blocks of wood. What is so unfortunate, not for the puppet, but for the public, is that the political bosses don't care about the general well-being of the public. I'm not so sure they even care about planks in political party platforms.......it's more about whether or not their man has ideas-because if he has his own ideas, he won't be listening to them. Not good for them, because they want to have their influence (but without ever putting their name on the ballot).

So locally, when the public is voting for Joe Blow, they may very well be voting not for Joe, but for Tom, Dick and Harry. Tom, Dick and Harry have just their own interests at stake (they probably have cash, so protecting their cash is more important than anything else). This is the one pitfall of a democracy and our two party system. It is never the brightest and best or most qualified that rise to the top, but those who have no brains. Like the strawman.

Indiana isn't exempt from this kind of unfortunate elected representation. It is terribly prevalent in our city and county and most often rears its ugly head in primary elections where party bosses exercise the most control over their willingly ignorant party constituents. How do you wrestle control away from party bosses? Expose them for what they are? Form a third party? What would a third party in Indiana be called? the Hoosier party? the Wabashers? the party for advancing the cause of the average guy? And yes, I have a bit of an ax to grind.

27 August 2007

down an old dirt road

This buddy of mine, who fancied himself a race car driver, would instruct me on how to drive my dad's pick-up truck home from school each day. We often found ourselves on old dirt roads out in the county, some with right-angle curves. This is where I learned the art of "hole-shotting"; not sure where the name comes from, but basically you come to a complete stop then put the pedal to the metal while turning through the curve. The goal is to send the gravel flying-and to a lesser degree, keep the vehicle on the road.
I love dirt roads. By their nature, you have to go slow. You have to take in the scenery.....and if you don't have AC, slow to keep dust from coming in the windows. Some of the best dirt roads are narrow one-laners, that tend to wind with the geography. I love that you can hear the gravel crunching under tire, and occasionally the "ping" of a rock hitting the wheel-well. They remind me of those "hole-shotting" days, the gravel road leading to fish pond I went to with gramps, the one by my great aunt's house where we went mushrooming.

The next time you're speeding along the highway and see off in the distance a trail of dust from an old pick-up..........think about pulling off and going for a drive, one that will heighten your senses.

the Big Oak

As a kid, I amassed legions of tiny plastic soldiers and army tanks. I built sophisticated foxholes and encampments for my warring miniatures and stock-piled ammunition in forms of bombs and "mega-bombs". I had the beaches of Normandy, right there, below the great spreading branches of the Big Oak tree in the back of my parents woods. This tree is massive and has great mounding roots stretching from its trunk outward-great for battling upon. Its a red oak-so the giant acorns were my mega-bombs and there was a nearby pin oak, for my every day bombs. Sometimes the squirrels would send their scouting parties in at night and haul away my bombs.

On a recent trip to my folks I passed by the Big Oak, as we call it, and noticed that near the base, a few feet up the trunk, the bark appeared to have some dry rot coming through. The old tree has weathered a lot of storms, including a tornado in 1993, which damaged several large limbs in the crown. It is massive.........12 feet around the trunk, and based on growth rings I have seen on other similar trees, I would estimate it to be well over 200 years old. I'm hoping its around for another 100 years, but not so sure now. There are two pin oaks nearby that are about 10' around too.

I've often wondered why this and the handful of other dinosaurs were allowed to grow in this little patch of woods. There are few locations in Indiana where virgin timber still stands-of course, this is only a pocket, but an impressive one. Most was cut down to clear for planting or to provide wood for building. I checked some old maps, only to find the road in front of my parents house didn't exist until the 1920's. It appears that much of the area was under water. Maybe the trees were spared because they were just too hard to get to. Any thoughts?

This old friend has spawned a lot of offspring, so I guess it will live on. Shame though, to know something that was around before Indiana was even a territory, and before we became a country, who looked down on the Native Americans (I've found a few arrowheads nearby) may be seeing its last days. Leaving lots of good memories.

24 August 2007

The Bull Moose

Could this guy be more cool? I mean really, thumbed his nose at his own party and did what he thought was in the best interest of the country; and when the rubber met the road, formed his own party. And what a prolific writer and dramatic speaker. Bully! Just bully!
I have to admit.......Teddy Roosevelt is one of my favorite historical characters. While East Coast bred, he overcame health issues, lived tough-charged San Juan Hill-and became a political heavy in New York. The GOP didn't know what to do with him, (I can identify with that) so, to keep him quiet and not split the party-stuck him on as the VP with McKinley. As fate would have it, their boy who they'd hope would stay in the background, rose to power after McKinley's assassination. A great story.

He was an avid sportsman and understood protecting the environment was key to the long term success and health of the Union. His writings are timely even for today.

Evangelicals + Environment =

Me. Which until recently, I thought I was a rare breed. But increasingly many evangelicals are coming to grips with the idea of being "stewards of God's creation" rather than the destructive idea of a trampling kind of subduing. It is being termed "creation care".
And it has created a strange alliance-evangelicals with environmentalists. Which means for many, a crossing of party lines. This spells big trouble for high-profile, political evangelical leaders who are trying to hold together their voting block. But, it's about time we start thinking for ourselves in this.

God did put us as stewards over the earth to care for and tend it. Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis, describes pollution and environmental destruction as a "sin problem", because innately, we are all environmentalists-because we are "of God's creation". To deny it is to deny what God created us to be. I welcome the dialogue, it is long overdue. Because evangelicals tend to vote for a single party based on issues of perceived morality, they too often "give up" the ability to cast a vote for the respectful use of God's creation.

Now, I'm not a whacked out environmentalist type......I've never tied myself to a tree, yet, nor do I picket (see entry below), and to be honest, I haven't switched our light bulbs to compact fluorescents. I do recycle. And I do care about the health of the land we will pass to our children and grandchildren. Not only do large corporations need to be held responsible, but individuals also, and governments on how they allow land to be used (more on that later).

So, I ask you to very seriously consider what impact you are leaving on the environment-one created by a Holy God for our enjoyment, not our destruction. And read up on the latest on the evangelical approach to the environment. PBS may run its special on it again as well-it was painful to watch with the labels I wear.

22 August 2007

Trying to be David

We are all familiar with the valiantry of David in the Bible. Taking on Goliath and ripping apart a lion with his bare hands. But what of the David that ran from Saul and hid in the caves? What about the guy who knew he was to be king but wouldn't take on King Saul-an evil king.
I read a book some time ago called a Tale of Three Kings. It spoke to a circumstance I found myself in last fall-and spoke pretty loudly. I believe there are times when we are called to be valiant, fight the good fight so to speak. But we are always called to be humble-and David, while there was a calling on his life to be king, understood this. He hid in the caves. He did not take the spears thrown at him by Saul and return volley (he wouldn't have missed, I'm sure).

David remained in the caves, a broken man, despite what (or maybe to what) God called him to. In that, he became "a man after God's own heart". We often get ahead of God in our zeal-and demand our rights. But that is contrary to God's nature. Christ didn't do this. Being reminded of this by some good friends, I've made a decision to spend some time hanging out in caves for a while-after throwing a lot of spears. And praying that at some point I can be a guy after God's heart. That would be awesome-even better than being king.

Ode to the Sycamore

Now I'll take issue with Indiana's state tree, the Yellow-Poplar, or Tulip Tree. It's a good tree; was used heavily by the pioneers for building cabins. But it's kind of boring.
The Sycamore should be Indiana's state tree. It is picturesque. Whether standing on its own, with its great gnarled branches, or in the forest, standing out among other trees with its white bark. It has found its way into our songs ".....through the sycamores, for me" and captures the radiance of the sun in paintings of artists from the Hoosier tradition in southern Indiana.

The tree is one of the largest trees of the east. The largest ever recorded stood near the Wabash River and was 18 feet in diameter (larger than most rooms)-it was cut down by a farmer in 1897 because he was tired of curious folks trampling over his corn. The current champion is in Ohio, at over 16' in diameter. I remember from my Indiana history books an image of a pioneer traveler seeking shelter for himself and his horse in the cavity of a giant sycamore.

There's a grand sycamore just across from the Artist's Colony Inn near the old Dillinger museum in little Nashville. I love that tree. There are a row along highway 29, south of Logansport, that sprung up from a corduroy road-the old Michigan Road. My grandad and I planted one at my parents house in 1990-it's probably 60' tall today. Our family planted one in our yard in 2003; its about 15' already. Just about anywhere along Indiana's waterways, you can find these standouts; which are particularly stunning against fall foliage. The next time you're out and about our great state..........take note of these guys.

Indiana: Crossroads of Time Zones

Dont' ask me how I got Governor Daniels to pose for the top shot, the cow was much more cooperative.

Maybe this entry is a little late........we haven't heard boo about our time zone situation since the last election, and based on the outcome of 2006, chances are the republicans are hoping that it is lost in the property tax debate.

Consider this an early reminder that we will be "falling behind" in a few months, and I'll try to remind you all when the time comes closer. To be honest here, I really don't care about the issue, more about how it came to be. Seems like if state lawmakers had heard their constituents-there wouldn't have been a change. One state rep (who lost last fall) said to me before the election that it's not an issue, and the golfers will love it. I think he should have registered more golfers.

This is what I don't like about daylight savings time. 1) its hard for parents of young children to put their kids to bed during the summer (25% of voters) and 2) it seems dangerous for kids to be waiting alongside country roads for the school bus in the dark (another 10%). 3) lots of folks are early risers and wished that the sun would be up before they start their day at work (20% more) and finally, dairy farmers hate it (I'll guess, what 1%?). That's about 56% (not scientific-but approximately the size of victory most had over their incumbents last fall).

It would be nice if Indiana were all on the same time, Central would be my preference, but if it means Eastern to be together, so be it. That's certainly not going to happen. I guess those cows are just going to have to get used to it...........maybe that's why milk prices are high.

20 August 2007

a Christian nation?

I do the "ice-breaker" in our Sunday school class-which means making announcements, try to be upbeat, make a few jokes and ask if there are any prayer requests. Yesterday an older lady visiting our church said "we need to pray for Christian leaders for our country......it's really gotten away from God".

Thinking in my head......yeah, I could preach on this subject based on my own personal experiences......I nodded and asked a friend to pray for this.

Ok-now, those of you out there who are fanatical about their faith and mix that with being an American, you may wish to stop reading here............the rest of you: Stop mixing your faith with politics! You're giving Christianity a bad name. There, I said it.

Exactly when were we a Christian nation? When we killed native Americans for their land and forced them on reservations? or was it when we enslaved Africans? or endorsed segregation? Exactly what point in our country's history are we referring to?

Have social morals declined? Absolutely. Don't blame this on the government........they are a representation of who WE are. It's time the church starts to be the church God called us to be-and model Christ. If you want to make a difference in this country.....it starts with YOU! Quit carrying protest signs and signing petitions. Trying to legislate morality doesn't change hearts.......it only makes you out to be an unloving, dictatorial sort of foe. Nothing like Christ.

I read a book recently called "Myth of a Christian Nation".......it rocked some of the foundations of my beliefs.........and that's ok. I would encourage anyone to read it who really wants to see a change in our country.......you'll realize though, that that change must start with you.

Dad's Eco-Experiment

My dad's pushing retirement-and to ease his way into that, he began a little ecological wonder on his property. After grandad passed, the farm was divided and my folks ended up with 10 acres. They put corn and soybeans in for a while, but in the last few years, let it go idle. Then dad planted about 500 trees, planted wildflowers, dug a small pond and stuck some fish in it.....goldfish. He's even part of the chestnut tree re-introduction in Indiana.

There are paths mowed through this and the woods that came with the 10 acres....my parent's house sits in one corner of this. They've stuck patches of garden here and there, put up birdhouses and placed a bench back by the little pond. Mom and dad were pretty thrilled that frogs took up residence in the pond. He let some pheasant and grouse loose too..........not a happy ending to that part of the story. And of course, deer roam in and out.

The grandkids all love it. And I do too. It's nice to get out of town and into the country-the woods is where I grew up playing as a kid. As a people, we are suffering from being out of touch with the natural world-like a deficiency syndrome; even a little pocket like this could work wonders. Unfortunately, the size of acreage is just shy of having it classified for Indiana's forestry program; but the commitment to making it available to future generations is probably more solid than many of the larger tracts that come under the term "classified". My siblings and I recognize dad's dream for the property, so I'm hopeful that the area is preserved for future generations..........because our "wild places" are growing smaller and fewer.

And maybe those pheasants will even come back.

17 August 2007

No room for D's in this family

My Grandparents at the 1940 GOP Convention-Wilkie was, of course, a Hoosier

We were sitting around the Thanksgiving table last fall when my wife and sister-in-law announced they had voted for certain democrats in the 06 election.


I thought my dad was going to fall off his chair. You have to understand....our family comes from a long, long line of republicans. My great grandmother was the first precinct committeewoman or chair or something in our county-at least that's how the story goes. I know of a couple democrats who were in the family, but we don't talk about that. And my dad has gotten even more "right" since he started listening to Rush a few years ago. I used to listen to Rush while in college-then it kinda started getting old. He always says the same thing-and blames the other guy. I'm big enough to admit I don't have all the right answers; but that would probably hurt Rush's popularity.

I am a conservative....no doubt about it. I'm also a social conservative-which is less and less about being a republican these days. Occasionally, I even vote for democrats-I just know better than to mention this at my father's table. I believe there are a growing number of folks out there, even in Indiana, who are becoming dissolutioned with the GOP because it just doesn't seem to stand for what it used to-or maybe because those who control it are more concerned about control and less about principles. Maybe you are one of those. It may well be time for a true Republican Revolution (not like the Gingrich one in 1994) and recreate the party for the people.

Just a thought. I think Indiana would be better served.

Batman & Barbie, bad for you

Today is my daughter's birthday. My wife went to the store last night to let my son pick out a gift for his sister's birthday. While they were at the store, I received a call from the grandparents who were standing in a Target store-asking for an opinion on what to buy. They said the shelves were pretty empty.

My wife came home and said the same thing. Was it the latest toy recall? I couldn't help but notice all of the toys in our house on the recall list as I scrolled, and scrolled and scrolled down the long list of Polly's, Batmans and Barbies up for recall. Toys from China: I think we need to lay blame not on China, but on our own American creed of cheaper is best.......always low prices, always (where have I heard that?). Frankly, Wal-Mart has forced this upon us-if American companies want to compete with the Chinese in toy production, they need to do it cheaper-which means, out-sourcing to China. It's a slippery slope that leads to substandard products. As you've probably guessed already, I'm not a big fan of Wal-Mart.

I have another theory........it just may be China's way of creating an atmosphere of discontent among our children-for the capitalist, democratic way of life. Then they'll swoop in and solve our problems with their communist system. Hmmmmm.......

15 August 2007

Ode to the Great Blue Heron

I've started a quiet movement to have the Great Blue Heron replace the Cardinal for Indiana's state bird. That way we wouldn't have to share our state bird with other states. The Great Blue Heron is positively majestic and beautiful in its own right. It has an elegant and distinct pattern to its flight and is mostly a solitary bird.

The Great Blue's habitat of wetlands and streams represents what much of Indiana used to look like. I can imagine the Kankakee marsh once being full of heron rookeries with these large birds flying in and out of dead tree tops. We once had a heron rookery near our town; it was in a state protected wetlands. Our county got the idea that we should put a road through the wetlands and the state acquiesced. The rookery is gone. Sad testament to a species once found on Indiana's list of "special concern" animals and all too ironic.

I have thoughts about our state tree too, but will save it for another time. Meanwhile, check out our state's endangered species list at

Heritage of Faith

The history of religion in Indiana is pretty rich. You have the Catholics coming into the northern part of the state very early, the Brethren working their way in from the east, the Quakers coming up from the south, the Amish settling the rich farmland in the northeastern part of the state.......and even the Rappites being some of the first to settle in Indiana in New Harmony. And the many, many others I have not included.
If America is the melting pot of nations, then Indiana is the melting pot of faiths. Probably due to our location and the time at which our state was settled, the diversity of religions in Indiana is quite amazing. I am honored to be able to say that I have Quaker, Amish and Brethren roots. My Quaker ancestors spaced themselves out across the state-north to south-to help with the Underground Railroad. My Amish forefathers were a part of the first wave of their faith to come into Indiana from Ohio. And my great x4 grandfather and his two brothers were the first Brethren ministers to come to Indiana to expand that church. Many others in my ancestral line "wore the collar" and my great uncle and brother continue in that tradition today.

Now, I'm not suggesting we have moral superiority over our fellow states, but I do believe the rich heritage of faith we share in common has contributed to our Hoosier cultural norms. We are mostly hardworking, honest, helpful and humble folk with a common belief in God and a recognition that Christ is our model in following the golden rule and in loving our neighbor.

And I think that is a big reason why I love this place.

14 August 2007

Endangered species: Township Trustee

Seems like the value of local, Indiana township trustees is being discussed more heavily these days. That's probably a fair discussion to have, since most folks have no idea what or who their trustee does or is. Most folks can't tell you what township they are even in.

In Indiana, the township trustee is charged with 1) administering poor relief 2) maintaining cemeteries & selling plots 3) providing for fire protection 4) completing tax assessments for personal property, business & farm equipment-unless there is a township assessor. and 5) doling out dog tags. I guess you could make a case that some of these could be consolidated. You would save the average township, I would guess, about $8-10k a year-assuming changing who does the job still has a cost associated with it. I wouldn't do the job if it paid me double what most trustees are paid.

Here's some reasons for protecting the trustee. Rather than seeing the trustee as a "level of bureaucracy" they are, in fact, few of any positions at which "the buck stops". They have to have an answer-there is no one above them-and they are right there, in your community. Bureaucracy usually happens because someone somewhere has to make the decision, but you can't communicate with them-or get to them. Here's another thought-for the most part, that trustee also knows the people of the township. They know who abuses the poor relief system and know who could use it, but are too proud to ask. And they know the farmers who need a little help filing their forms-and can provide it, because they probably have some knowledge of farming.

I'm not sure what would happen with cemetery or fire protection responsibilities-I guess someone somewhere would make those decisions. All told, I like having the piece of mind very little money buys to have someone I can look up in a phone book or see at the grocery store.

there's more than corn in Indiana, but not for long

We've all grown up with Indiana Beach's slogan "there's more than corn in Indiana"
but that may be changing due to the Ethanol craze........it may not be long before corn is all that is planted. Yeah, that's right, no more fresh mown hay sending its fragrance through the fields we used to roam or soybeans or anything else for that matter.

I applaud research and interest in alternative fuels, but I don't think folks are really thinking through the side-effects of the ethanol binge we seem to be having. Large ethanol companies are scrambling to get land rezoned and options in place across the Hoosier state......corn prices are rising and farmers are happy. We are intoxicated on ethanol. Even Senator Lugar, a man I greatly respect and admire, is talking it up with his "Fuel Freedom" ad campaign. After hearing that, I remember turning to my wife and saying I couldn't have ever imagined a Republican talking about alternative fuels.

But what about our food supply? What happens when the corn we plant goes entirely to our cars and not to livestock? and what happens when our food prices start to climb? Gas prices won't go down to off-set those increases. And what of our dependence on foreign oil-I understand that if we used ALL of our corn production for ethanol, our import of foreign oil would only drop by a few percentage points. And eventually the 50 cent per gallon subsidy on ethanol will have to drop or go away-which pushes fuel prices up. It'll be tough to wake up to that hang-over.

No, ethanol is not the answer to our dependence on foreign oil. Consumption HAS to be curbed-that is the only short to mid-range term solution. No one wants to talk about that, though, that's too difficult and may just cramp our style.

I love watching news broadcasts once fuel climbs a few cents-they always interview those folks with the big suvs or hummers:

Reporter "sir, are you going to change your driving habits?"
Hummer man "how can I? I have to drive30 miles from the suburbs into work to pay for this"

Reporter "mam, are you going to limit trips to the store" to woman outside Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart woman "I have to drive across town to get to my wal-mart to save a few cents"

Well, I guess we better just plant more corn.

10 August 2007

Sacred Ground

I grew up near a tiny little cemetery-about a dozen graves in all. It was tucked away on a small knoll, surrounded by trees, with a creek flowing in front of it. It was well hidden from the road and had a loose laid stone wall surrounding it. It was seldom visited. But something about it was sacred.

Think for a moment about those sacred places you remember. Not necessarily a cemetery or a church, but those places that have had a deep impact on your life. Maybe because of their natural beauty or because of the memories created there. I think of an old steel bridge where I could sit with the guys, drink cokes and look back to the lights at the grain elevator in our tiny little town. There are many sacred places becoming lost to the pages of time in our great state. They're worth visiting again-and sharing with your children and grandchildren, so that the stories live on.

The Great Internal Struggle-Resolving Conflict between One's Faith & Politics

I'll let you all in on a secret.......I'm involved in the political arena. And here's a bigger surprise-I'm a Republican (although some would take issue with that). Because my faith is something I don't just profess, but honestly try to live, I find there is a great internal struggle between the two worlds. Mostly because politics is void of morality. It seems right, unto itself.

Beyond the more major and polarizing issues involving faith & politics is the single, overwhelming and most difficult issue of personal integrity of those who would seek political office. I would guess that most Christians who initially seek office believe in their hearts that they will not compromise principles and will do what in their hearts they believe is the right thing.

Then they are elected, and due to enormous pressure placed on them, they buckle and begin to think self-preservation is more important than voting for what may be the right thing. Because, they think, what good can I do if I'm not around? Enter the art of compromise. Politics is a game of compromise, faith is not.

Within three months of being in a small town, elected office, a vote trade was presented to me by a fellow Republican. If I backed off of one issue, then I would get support for another. One issue was a loosely moral issue-at least I considered it such. The other issue wasn't so much moral-but clearly needed to be determined on what was right (little r) for the community. I stayed the course on both issues and they both worked out appropriately. That was the last time a vote trade was presented to me.

If you demand from yourself what you believe is God's call on your life, to live by His Word and to model Christ, you will find yourself in conflict with the political process. I have no doubt. One quickly finds themselves drawn into a method of deals & denials in order to further their cause. It is justified because that's the way politics work. Believe me, there is no requirement to act politically-maybe if fewer did so, the needs of the public would be met.

The truth of the matter is that to be wholly committed to living out Christ, one cannot fully accept the precepts of either political party. While it would SEEM that Republicans may have the upper hand on certain social, moral issues such as abortion & gay rights; it is difficult to find a sympathetic ear in the party for social justice issues facing the poor or for the appropriate God-appointed stewardship of His creation. These latter issues find a home in the Democratic camp.

Part of my difficulty is having to call myself a Republican knowing who else does. I believe that God, through His Word, calls us to protect and assist the poor. I believe we are also called to be stewards of our environment, which may run contrary to broadly accepted economic development ideas. Most Republicans (especially in Indiana, unfortunately) would refute, ignore or find a convenient way to dismiss these God issued decrees. And should you, as an elected official, act out of the conviction of your heart on these two issues specifically, be prepared to be side-lined and denounced as not a good Republican, whatever that is.

And then, of course, there is the pressure to look the other way when it is your own party breaking the rules, because of course, everyone does. And further, to assume that all of one party is moral, therefore a safe vote to cast, is entirely wrong. I know of more moral indiscretions within the "right" party locally than the left.

I know this very well may have upset some of you, but here's my charge: know who you are voting for, as much as possible. You will be surprised.

08 August 2007

Historic Indiana: going, going, gone

As I've traveled the state, and other states, I've noticed that Indiana seems to lag behind our neighbors in preserving our historic architecture. Don't get me wrong, we have some great stuff and there are folks doing tremendous work in preservation (Cook family in southern Indiana-kudos! & Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana). But, by and large, as a people, we seem to be too quick to tear down.

I know I'm an idealist, but even most realists can come to the conclusion that we should save our architectural heritage if at all possible. It's good for tourism, economic development.......and just good for our culture. I mean, really, if the old stuff goes-how are we going to know what Wal-Mart we've walked out of-we could be in South Bend or Evansville.

There is something inherently good about preserving the buildings our ancestors constructed. It is our connection to the past-one forged from the wilderness with dreams mixed with sweat. Preservation honors those who came before us, grounds us to our communities and protects the future for our children. Join the movement.......preserve, protect. Become an "urban pioneer" reclaiming our old neighborhoods from deterioration and crime. With our 150+ year old home, we choose to lead by example in this cause-and it doesn't come without a price. But can we afford not to?

Taxes-I'd rather they be unfair

Maybe you've missed it.......but Indiana seems to be knee deep in property tax muck.

I remember the good ol' days, before the court said our system was illegal, how things being "unfair" just seemed to be fair. I guess one can get used to things being unfair-Hoosiers are kinda like that, aren't we? Then someone upsets the balance by saying we can do better.

And better is.............300% increases in property taxes. Yeah, I like the old, unfair system. Although, truth be told, our increase was pretty minimal compared to our neighbors. I'm hoping that goes unnoticed. That doesn't seem fair, does it? I have to believe this was a self-full filling prophecy for those who initially cried foul, maybe subversively hoping that property taxes would be done away with (g'hmm..big business, who already got the inventory tax removed). I think State Rep. Jackie Wo(lorski) is someones pawn in this battle, even though I happen to like her personally.

Well, while I'm on my tax rant, I'm going to take issue with the idea of doing away with sales tax on gasoline. Now, this is pretty dumb if you ask me. All these out-of-state'ers have to pay this tax, subsidizing us Hoosiers. C'mon Indiana democrats........let someone else pay our bills.

Rockwell Moment

Everyone loves a parade. I do, the kids do..........who doesn't? For some thirty-odd years now, I've been attending a parade in a small town near where I grew up. Of course, when we had kids-they had to go too. And we sit in the same place our family has always sat, near the old family church........as the family grows, the space is getting limited!

Small town parades: firetrucks, candy, waving at cousin Earl who happens to be driving a 1938 Moline tractor..........for the twentieth consecutive year. Why do we go? It's a great way to celebrate who we are as a community of people. Let's be honest-the stuff isn't Macey's T-day material........you'd be disappointed if you thought giant inflatable characters or floats covered in roses were heading toward you next after cousin Earl.

It's just a chance for us common folk to "parade" and wave to our neighbors, friends and family who happen to be stars that day. Hometown stars. Of which there are many....and rightly so.

07 August 2007

Our Old Lodges

Trail at Turkey Run - one of those awe-inspiring places.

Our family often spends our vacations at one of Indiana's state parks. This year it was Brown County and Turkey Run. It seems our ancestors who worked the Indiana WPA projects of the 1930's demonstrated tremendous skill and took great pride in the work they completed. Indiana's historic lodges are a prime example of this. Turkey Run, Spring Mill and the lodge at Pokagon are some of the best.

Regardless of your thoughts on FDR's "get America back to work" plan......it has left us with a tremendous built heritage not only within our state parks, but our local parks, towns and cities. Carved stone in the southern part of the state or stacked fieldstone in the northern part, often show the work of not mere masons, but artisans.

We owe a great debt to those who came before us and thoughtfully preserved large tracts of land, some with unusual natural features. And to those who took great care and pride in the work they performed.
Now, what are WE doing for future generations?

06 August 2007

With pack on back, left standing in Awe

Recently I went backpacking with a couple of buddies to the Lake Superior shore of the upper peninsula. After the 5 or so mile hike in to the back country campsite, we worked our way down to the shore. Now, I have to brag here, the last time I went backpacking was 10 years ago, just out of college-on the Appalachian Trail; this time was so much easier.

So the three of us are checking out the scenery, which only got better on our hike the next day. There were several times it was almost too much to take in-sensory overload. The water was crystal clear, sky-blue......incredible contrasts with the white caps crashing into the rugged cliffs. And we caught the sunset one night-amazing. I took Sunday morning as my opportunity to head down alone to the lake shore early. Perfect. It was God's creation-untouched by the hand of man-as He created it to be..........perfect.

And then it hit me......we are created in God's image........we are His creation. He made us perfect, despite infirmities, shortcomings, and sometimes our lack of faith. If only we could go "untouched by the hand of man" how much more freeing our spirits would be. If we would ignore those annoying voices who say "can't, won't, not you........" and instead just do it. And love life.

Get away and get in touch with what God created, both out there & "in here". And yes, even Indiana offers some great awe-inspiring places.

01 August 2007

ah, the County Fair

Nothing says more about being a Hoosier than a trip to the ol' county fair. For us, that means something very rural...........very agricultural. Something great.

As a kid my gramps enlisted me in 4-H.........one of a long line of family members taking horses, chickens and rabbits to the fair. Always a great time-especially hanging out in the horse barn. This year we took in a portion of the horse shows......walked around all the goat, sheep, pig, chicken, rabbit. sheep and turkey cages. (I wouldn't want my kids to grow up not knowing what these are-that would be embarrassing). And, of course, it meant checking out the 4-H projects........photography, leaf collecting, produce, etc. and getting cotton candy for the kids and milkshakes from the dairy booth for mom and dad.

But the best part about the county fair has to be the people. I enjoy running into those I know and talking to good, salt of the earth kinda folks. They make up the majority population of the fair-goers......outside of a lost politician here and there. I am disappointed we missed the antique tractor parade this year though.........which really is nothing more than a bunch of old farmers driving down the narrow walkways between the tents-but always all smiles.

It's a lot like being a kid again, remembering gramps, and having a kinship to those who have a knowledge of the good earth-and often a lot of faith to hang onto to the family farm.

Forgive me for waxing nostalgic.