30 October 2007

oh boy! Halloween!

Well, I have to admit.....this was always my favorite time of year in highschool. We'd have great, blow-out parties that usually ended with a trip to a haunted house or cemetery. This is what country kids do, deprived of big city fun. Two such parties stand out in my mind.

One year some friends and I constructed an elaborate haunted "village" and woods on my grandpa's farm for a party. My parents were out of town, so our house was used as the warming center. I had created some pretty nasty red goop for application to faces from which skin was to be deteriorating and falling off. A few of the guys stayed over that night and we started throwing it at each other and it landed on my parents new blue carpet. Did I mention it was red? I cleaned it as best I could, but then got the bright idea to add blue food coloring to override the red food coloring in the goo. This, of course, did not work and was pretty obvious to my folks upon their return. Add this to the broken lamp and scratches on the truck and I believe I got 4 weeks for this episode.

A few years later, another big party led about 20 of us to an isolated, abandoned cemetery in the country several miles away from home. The cemetery had one massive tree in it and sloped uphill pretty dramatically toward the rear of the cemetery. There was a single lane that you could drive on around the perimeter of the burial ground, leading from the road. Of course, I made up a fantastic tale of a mysterious fire in the church on the property that claimed the lives of parishioners, buried, right here.........below your FEET! As I was going into further detail of the poor Methodists ghosts who wander the cemetery, we heard a loud clank and a friend said..."that farmer's got a gun!"

We all scattered, hiding behind tombstones. Then we saw his headlights go on and we started running to the back of the cemetery. We came in four cars-only one car was parked in the back; it was an old clunker we called "Daisy". Everyone piled in and on the car.......it could not move. I think I lost my brother that night, if I recall correctly. And there was no gun-someone made that up too.

Life is short, get out and be a kid again tomorrow. Happy Halloween!

at its height!

23 October 2007

an old tradition now gaining ground

The farmer's market. My generation, and my parent's generation sure didn't grow up with this. But a resurgence in this wonderful community activity is being seen across the Hoosier state. And now my kids can appreciate the return of the market in their generation.

Our community's farmer's market just finished its second year. When it started, and I was privileged to be part of the steering committee, we wanted to achieve two things primarily. 1-to get healthy and nutritious food into our community and 2-to create an opportunity for "community" to happen. Both these goals have been realized, even beyond our expectations. People want a place to go and interact with their neighbors and friends. And people want fresh food. What a remarkable concept; seems like our grandparents knew what they were doing. We attended the last market of the season last Saturday and were entertained with square dancing, but did not participate. Our kids sorted through their piggy banks for quarters to buy their honey sticks.

Until next year.

a Dark Delay?

You guys know I'm no fan of Daylight Savings Time........and to add insult to injury, the feds pushed our return to normalcy back a week. My little 5 yr old girl asked this morning, after realizing it was still really dark when her big brother would be walking to the bus stop, if it was possible the school would issue a "Dark Delay".
You know, kinda like fog and snow can be dangerous. Out of the mouths of babes. Wish our elected officials had been that smart. Oh, that's right, they're golfers and can get an extra 9 in.

22 October 2007

humbling reminder

This past week brought a humbling reminder that we Hoosiers still live in Tornado Alley. The little town of Nappanee bore the brunt of a string of storms that brought destruction to this part of the state. Despite the incredible damage, 250 structures damaged with over a 100 totally destroyed, only 5 minor injuries were reported. A miracle.

With the Evansville tornado that claimed several lives just a few years ago, and now this, we have to remember our state lies in the path of the potential for amazing destruction. Those with memories of the Palm Sunday tornadoes of 1965 probably don't need the reminder-but my generation does. Brought up with tornado drills in our old elementary school....seems like something has shifted from the spring-type tornado awareness of our past. Tornadoes seem to be popping up in the fall now. Maybe we should switch the severe weather preparedness week from the spring to the fall.

I remember one storm in 1993, straight line winds or tornado-we are unsure, that dropped a dozen trees around my parents home and one tree each on grampa's house and barn. After checking on my parents who made a bee-lined for the bathtub, I checked on gramps. The tree had broken through the large picture window in the family room near where gramp's Lazy-Boy sat. Not knowing what I'd find when I went in the house-gramps was still sitting in the Lazy-Boy and said "when I got up to shut the window-whewy-that tree came right in at me!" I think he got a rush from it.

Say a prayer for the folks in Nappanee. My understanding is that over 5,000 volunteers came to this town on Sunday (nearly doubling the town's size) to help clean up before the police started turning people away. Good Hoosier folks. Over and over again, I heard comments that people were there to show God's love. The outpouring is even more amazing than the destruction.

19 October 2007

finding the perfect pumpkin

It's that season. Have you been to the pumpkin patch yet?
In my stellar academic and non-existent athletic career, I can claim one trophy. I received a small trophy in the third grade for a poem I wrote about a Jack-O-Lantern. I'm sure my mom kept it-somewhere. I remember one part........something about scooping its brains out and putting them in a cup. Good stuff.

My grampa grew some big pumpkins, due in large part to the horse manure additive. We kids would get to go to his truckpatch (that's a large garden in Indiana), pick out a couple pumpkins and carve them up. My folks try to carry on the tradition with our kids.....however, in the last year or two the pumpkin crop has been anything but productive so several mysterious pumpkins show up in the fields for the grandkid's fall party. No vines in sight.

Something about a good pumpkin and picking out just the right one. Makes even us 39 year olds feel like a kid again. Without the attempt to put it on my own head......won't do that again.

best of my life

I had a new experience last night, I found myself in a room with other dads.......who were younger than me...and were seeking advice. I can't be that guy; I'm not usually the oldest, unless I'm surrounded by kids. This couldn't have come at a worse time, considering I turned another year older this week.

But, at 39, I can honestly say I am in the best physical and spiritual shape of my life. I owe it to God working through a wonderful wife & kids, good friends and some folks who really don't like me. Had it not been for the trials......I wouldn't be able to make the statement that I'm at my best. I'll admit, there is a little gray....but no balding, sorry brother.

So, now in my last leg before the big 4-0, I can't wait for the year ahead. Been reading a lot of passages in Scripture about 4o's time periods that result in transformation & blessing. There is a song popular right now, a rendition of Amazing Grace, that says "my chains are gone, I've been set free". Too true for me this year and the year ahead.......waiting for my 40 time period.

A film came out earlier this year.....300......easily has become one of my all-time favorite films. I've seen it 3x to date and am thinking I'm about due again. Lot's of good analogies for life, and of course, lots of awesome fighting scenes. But there is one line that stirs the soul to action "remember, free men fought......". And they died-but what they fought for lived on in the lives of their children. What are you fighting for, Spartan?

18 October 2007

God change us..... Part IV of IV

The issues with poverty are so layered and complex we shouldn't kid ourselves in thinking any one or even multiple programs could pull folks finding themselves in poverty, out.

I believe there are five key elements that need addressed: addictive abuses (drugs, alcohol), financial management, nutrition, relationships and education. See how complex this becomes? But here is an idea not so complex:

Feed the hungry, cloth the poor, give shelter to the homeless........all found written in our guidebook for life, God's Word. Words spoken and lived out by Christ, our model. Unfortunately Christians abdicated their role to do this many years ago, and now a tyrannical attitude exists with some political activists that says the government (having taken over the responsibility from the churches) should drop it too. I doubt they, themselves, would follow Christ's model if government programs did cease.

In a local election, one candidate has on his web site "there are no free lunches"....I doubt he's really thought much about what this means. Sounds like he is repeating the party chairman's words I've heard spoken often. No free lunches......health care for those who can't afford it, housing assistance, WIC, kick those old folks out of the government subsidized apartments around town (that the chairman benefited from), because there are no free lunches.

Well, as much as it pangs me to say this.....there may be some validity in this from the government's point of view.....I guess it isn't the government (city or national) that should emulate the model of Christ. Christ didn't call governments to follow Him-He called us to do this. So it goes back to us.......feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, etc. But as Christians we have failed in this and have shown those in poverty.......we preach a good message (maybe) but we don't truly believe it.

I don't doubt for a second that some of the causes of poverty have to be dealt with by prayer-but unlike aforementioned politics and pride, Christians have to engage themselves to become the solution. Christians have to follow the words and model of Christ......right here, in this community. Which may go back to that issue of pride.

God forgive me for not helping when it was within my ability to help and give me your eyes to see people the way you do. Talk about a novel way to deal with poverty!
It's time to pray for transformation.
It's time for us, ourselves, to be transformed.

15 October 2007

God change us..... Part III of IV

I know I'll be plowing hard ground here, and due to my insight, may have a difficult time in addressing the issue of the political power struggle in a way people can understand. But here goes.

First, some background.
I had worked for about 18 months in preparing a mayoral run for our town. I worked within the GOP system as much as possible, but understood that many times I would offend the party bosses or other GOP elected officials, particularly in the county, by questioning their decisions or coming across too ethical or strong. But I was being led to believe the city party bosses still supported me. I was wrong. And found out when they tapped a member of my "team" to run for mayor and pulled the rug out from under me. It wasn't about what he could do for the city-it was about how they could control him and knew they couldn't control me. They further exerted their control in organizing my demise in the spring primary for council. And just to show how unwelcome I am in the party.....the city chair hasn't spoken to me since the primary, whereas before it was more than weekly. And wow, the hatred that was felt during the primary returns. One wife of a GOP candidate followed my wife and kids out into the foyer of the building we were in, after I lost, and glared intently at her. This woman has cancer........but it is her hatred that is killing her.

I guess this is politics, down and dirty, the nature of the game. In our community, though, it has reached epic proportions. Anonymous newsletters attacking city officials, bias seen in the media and well-timed "problems" arising at public meetings. There is a small group orchestrating this. It is a group of men who have such a hatred for "their man's" opponent that it no longer matters what is best for our community. Unfortunately our community is the last vestige, the last hold-out from their control. The county succumbed some years ago with their control of the majority of commissioners, who play as their pawns in attacking the city. The whole thing has become sick and twisted and the people of the community are suffering for it.

Being on the inside, briefly, I have witnessed the seething hatred because they cannot have influence or control. Most of these guys do not live in town, so voting is not an option. I believe it is tearing our community, even the whole county community, apart. The average person does not see this-if they did, we probably wouldn't be so daggone Republican here. By the way, it has nothing to do with GOP values.

The power grab has to stop and voting proves to be ineffective in solving this larger, behind the scenes issue. So I only know to say, when you pray, pray that the hearts of these men change or that God exposes or removes them fully from influencing the process. Their actions are causing intense strife in the community-with the media, unfortunately, being willing participants.

I pray and ask for forgiveness for my own participation in this.
It's time to pray for transformation.

they kept coming, and coming, and coming!

So, taking a tip from a reader, our family spent some quality time at the Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Refuge near Medaryville Saturday watching the sandhill cranes come in. It was truly impressive. Line after line of these giants kept descending in the fields before us. An anticipated 1,400 cranes were to congregate this weekend. My wife was skeptical, but in the end admitted it was pretty cool. And we weren't the only ones taking the noisy spectacle in. I estimated about 70 folks had also congregated on the viewing platform to watch wave after wave fly in from all directions. The most impressive thing was when a line would fly directly overhead and land a few hundred feet in front of you. The only thing I could compare it to was when I was in Custer State Park in South Dakota, where the hills were literally covered with thousands of bison.

Evidently, the cranes are here briefly, but had not stopped in the area prior to 1982 since very early in the 1900's. Maybe my reader knows the correct date. It is an amazing thing to share this planet with all God's creatures. Unfortunately in Indiana our appreciation for this is small. How do we change that?

13 October 2007

God change us.....Part II of IV

"Pride goeth before destruction......."

What an unfortunate time this week has been for our community. A young man who many respect and admire, many students consider a mentor and friend & many of us in the christian community consider a brother in Christ.....resigned as the boys basketball coach for improper use of the internet at school. Everything seemed pretty from the outside.......as most things do in our town.

We have an incredibly attractive town. Our downtown is vibrant and beautifully restored. We have impressive parks and recreational facilities unparalleled in communities 5x our size. We have graceful streets lined with regal trees shading beautiful homes. We have economic prosperity seldom found in towns our size with McMansions built on our south hills and lakes. We have it all. And yet the core is rotten. I've made the comment often that you can put paint on a corpse, but it's still a corpse.

We believe we've got it together. Particularly with athletics and speech in our schools and with the prettiness of our city that economic fortune and intelligence has afforded. Yet, as seen this week, we have some real problems that need dealt with. Pornography is just one, albeit heavily present in our town; others are racism against Latinos, arrogance, alcohol provided by parents to their kids' friends while school leaders and those charged with enforcing our laws look the other way, lavish and wasteful use of money-I believe we probably have more Hummers per capita than any city in Indiana, adulterous affairs that have found their way into government offices, the schools and those charged with protecting us-breaking up homes. But we continue to cover all this up-and maybe it is because we ourselves know we are guilty.

The wealth and immorality is breaking down our homes as has become obvious and we need a purging.......maybe this week was the beginning. I believe it will begin in the church. Many of those guilty, and we are all guilty to some degree, profess Christ with their mouth but their heart is far from Him. The church needs to break free from our own arrogance, self-indulgent and immoral behaviour first and allow our families to heal in order to be effective tools to bring about change in others. Unfortunately, many people are rejoicing and deriving great pleasure in the demise of the young man I mentioned above.....as I know many did over my great public humiliation this year. Please pray for him and his family-everything he had hoped for in life, everything he wanted to be, came crashing down around him this week. And I can identify, at least in part, with that.

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, says the Lord, I will heal their land."

God, forgive my own pride and make me your humble servant in changing this community.
It's time to pray for transformation.

11 October 2007

God change us..... Part I of IV

There has been something stirring in my soul for several weeks now. Fact is, I'm sure it started in me last November, but the urgency and the revelation has been realized more recently due to some time in prayer and things happening in our church and community.

Our community, our little city of 10,000 or so folks, is in desperate shape and may not recover. Our problems are enormous and may ultimately lead to our ruin if things don't change. So what are the problems?

Pride, Politics and Poverty.........and everything that goes with these. We have a beautiful, prosperous community that ranks high in athletics and extra-curricular programs. At the same time we are racist, arrogant and quickly sweep issues of alcoholism, poverty and things damaging our families under the surface.....where they fester and break down our community.

And there are those with an insatiable desire to control the community, that have so positioned themselves that they can manipulate people and media to make political gain. This is creating intense strife and hatred in our community and is breaking down how we should truly function-as an extended family.......real neighbors.

In all this, people are suffering........and those who suffer most are falling victim to pride and politics. We are ignoring people who are really in need because of drugs, alcohol, finances or abusive relationships. We throw our collective nose in the air and say "there are no free lunches" which is akin to "let them eat cake"

I plan to write about the three topics I listed above individually over the next week. I write this in full transparency knowing there is blame at my feet too. I'm thinking these will likely be my most controversial entries to date. But I believe, until we address some key issues that are making our community "sick", we will never move into the kind of "neighbors" God intended for us to be. My challenge to you is to be open minded and read this in the spirit it is intended-one to foster real change, with God's help. It's time to pray for transformation.

08 October 2007

where IS fall?

I was volunteering at a work day over the weekend, doing some outside work, then came home and painted our fence. By 5:00 p.m. I was drenched in sweat and had downed several glasses of water, a coke, a glass of milk and some juice. I think I lost about half those 18 lbs. I had gained.

Man, where is fall? I heard it is supposed to be here later this week, after a stretch of three 90 degree days. I don't care if you believe in global warming or not......this ain't normal. Sunday was too hot-we pretty much just stayed inside other than playing a little bit of catch with my daughter. Still, there are a few signs of fall, and the sunrise I caught Saturday morning was awesome.

04 October 2007

Ethanol: evidently NOT the right choice


Remember when I made my first cynical comments on ethanol? I likened the ethanol craze to intoxication. Well, evidently some farmers are waking up with a hang-over this fall. Reports are indicating that corn supply has far surpassed the demand by ethanol producers. And it is hurting the farmer's bottom line. I'm ready to pull out those green signs around the county that state Ethanol: the right choice.

We were watching the news last night when this report came across. Then they interviewed an old friend of mine.....which obviously sparked my interest. Dave decided to turn his farming operation into an entertainment venue with a corn maze and corn cannon to offset the sluggish corn demand. I feel bad for farmers, I really do, and I guess it is possible that demand may go up as more refineries come on line.......but I wouldn't put all my eggs in one basket.

Here's a thought. Since our terribly conservative state is quickly heading down the gaming/entertainment path.......maybe we should take a lesson from my old friend Dave and put a few slot machines in the corn mazes too!

03 October 2007

Indiana INDOT Irony

Evidently today is International Walk to School Day and INDOT is encouraging Hoosier children to heed the call and walk to school. The idea is to promote physical activity in our youth and decrease traffic congestion among other things.

I see two problems with this. 1) it is still dark across much of the Hoosier state when kids would be walking to school-thank you very much daylight savings time! I guess it's a good thing the day doesn't fall any later in the year. This all seems contrary to promoting physical health for our kids.

The other problem with walking to school is one created by the state too. My understanding is that school corporations are required to have a minimum number of acres when constructing a new school that essentially removes the building from walkable neighborhoods. Then school corporations, in order to maximize assistance dollars, draw bizarre district boundaries for their schools not regarding neighborhoods, but to enable them to capture a disproportionate number of low income kids to upper income kids. Seems like this only encourages more driving-therefore traffic congestion!

In a recent school building and redistricting project in our community-this very thing happened. In fact, we can physically see our old neighborhood school at the end of our street, about 7 blocks away; but our children attend a new school about 1 1/2 miles away-no way to walk to that one. It split our proud neighborhood in half.

So I'm sorry, INDOT, our kids couldn't possibly walk to school today-like a high majority of other Hoosier children. It is disingenuous to make charges like this. Don't throw traffic congestion and "Get in Shape Indiana" hogwash our way until the state starts "walking" the talk.

01 October 2007

an oldy but goody

I have two or three favorite movies of all time. Arsenic & Old Lace, Tommy Boy and recently making my list is 300. It is a tradition with me to watch Arsenic & Old Lace about this time of the year.

If you're not familiar with the Frank Capra film starring Cary Grant, you need to go out and rent it. It's about two elderly women who do mercy killings and bury their victims in their basement. Their nephew, Cary Grant, learns about it and tries to protect his aunts by committing his brother, who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt. It takes place on Halloween in Brooklyn in 1944. A great comedy.

My wife rented it and had it waiting for me Friday night. We popped popcorn, lit the candles and it was as good the 50th time I watched it as the first. Get it in black and white though, don't go for the new-fangled color rendition. It just isn't as appealing. And geesh, I hope the photo isn't copyrighted......but it's not like I'm not singing its praises! Go rent it!

our very own Nature Center

Well, we are an outdoorsy kind of family. Our kids enjoy heading to the state park nature center near our home and we have tried to create a little bit of nature around our yard-which isn't far from a small river that runs through the town. We even had a turkey in our tree once!
We keep particularly accurate tabs on the birds that come to visit the feeders. Both our kids probably are more able to identify bird species at 5 and 7 than their mom, but she's learning. We have kept records for about 3 years and it is interesting to see how some species show up for a weekend or two and then are gone until the exact time the following year. The Red-Breasted Nuthatch made an appearance this weekend, exactly a year off from last. Two Brown Creepers are regular visitors over New Years each year.

The kids like to do nature crafts too........so, a few weeks ago, while mom was out of town, the kids and I got an idea to turn our mostly unused back room into our very own Nature Center. Mom had hoped it would be her craft room. We are busy collecting books and pictures and displaying jar after jar of shells, fossils and cool rocks we've collected from our travels.

All in time for birding season to begin again. And I am taking a tip from a reader, to head to the Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Refuge to watch the cranes come back this fall. Mom sorta has a craft room......she has to work around sticks and stones and dead things.

Gafill Oil Company in Argos

My great-grandfather (above) may have started our family in the fuel business with his employment as the agent for an oil company in ...