31 March 2008

Great Site

I've been made aware of a great blog site out of Georgia that is tongue in cheek funny if you've grown up in the typical church. Even if you haven't. This guy's got a great sense of humor with some powerful truths tucked inside.



Investment (in souls) 101

I was unusually squeamish in church yesterday. I blame Don Miller-author of Blue Like Jazz-along with some recent "church issues" my wife & I have been dealing with.

The sermon was essentially entitled "investing in others". Which up to a few months ago-I'da been fine with. But, I have to say since reading Blue's concept of "investing" vs. loving, that term kinda hurts my ears during service.

So, as Christians, we're supposed to "invest" in others? It is hard to argue faced with our materialistic more is better society that "investing" is a good thing......sounds like a responsible christian sort of thing to do. But are we actually called to "invest" or are we called to love? If I remember correctly it was love your neighbor, poor, etc. not determine your portfolio of investments for the kingdom..........hmmm, give me 2 shares of poor, 5 shares of neighbors and just one share of people on the street.......that one's a little risky, but could pay high dividends if I got my hands dirty.

How often do you crack open your portfolio or check your mutual funds for companies you desire to have a relationship with, that you love? Wal-Mart might be a smart investment..........but I hope you don't "love" it. Do you? Please tell me you don't. If you do you are no longer welcome at HH.

Noooooo...........we're called to love regardless of paybacks or dividends. Love is building relationships, getting dirty, carrying one another's burdens. Wal-Mart can't do that! Don't cheapen God's greatest commandment of loving your neighbor by tying it to the root of all evil! Just love-expect NOTHING in return.......I think that's more biblical than investing.

Gee, I hope my pastor doesn't read my blog.

28 March 2008

aching to get on the trail!

So, you ask, how do you spend your 10 year anniversary from the first date with your wife?

Head to Bass Pro Shop with the kids!

That's right, last night marked our 10th anniversary from our first date-6 weeks later we were engaged, 5 months after that, married. I have a job in Portage, IN that took us up that way and we decided to make an outing of it. Bass Pro Shops are cool.......and even my wife enjoyed it. The kids especially did.

But man, I could have spent hours in the backpacking & hiking gear section. It got me thinking all kinds of crazy thoughts about future backpacking trips and I've already emailed two buddies to drop the hint for next year. And it brought fond memories of the Lake Superior trip this last summer. I think I'd prefer to head somewhere warmer though.........don't those guys look cold?

And of course, we drove in SNOW AND ICE on the way home. Welcome spring.

26 March 2008

Advice from a reader

The following passage was recommended reading from one of our contributors; along with an urging to pray for our leaders, that God would change their hearts.

Romans 13 Submission to the Authorities
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

25 March 2008

Beware! Billary cometh!

The fact that Indiana's primary will actually count for something in the Democratic primary this year is pretty cool news indeed. I will, in starke contrast, go in and cast my GOP protest vote that won't count. Go Huckabee!

This good news for Democrats means visits to the Hoosier state from the candidates, including my pick for the primary-Obama, and, of course, visits from the Clinton clan. Bill couldn't have landed in any less pro-Clinton state. But, he was working his magic in South Bend, down the 31 corridor to Rochester then the scenic route to Lafayette via Logansport. I've yet to hear if there were protestors saying "Bill go home!", but I'm quite certain our conservative state was "feeling the pain". Beware, Hillary lands here on Friday.

I think I could almost buy Hillary's message..........if it just were someone else giving it. Kinda like if Howard Stearn got up and preached a good sermon one Sunday.

The Clintons enlisted their daughter Chelsea to help sway voters too.........she was at her dad's side on Monday and will be returning to Notre Dame on Wednesday to lead discussions with Rudy. Do you think the students at Notre Dame have any respect for an actor (Sean Astin) who pretends to be a student at ND? I guess at least that Rudy may make a difference in the Indiana primary, unlike Rudy G!

I spoke too soon

When I reviewed our mail after work yesterday I found two slips from the county assessor's office for our properties. "Annual trending report" is what they called it; it showed our assessments on the properties went up by nearly $10,000 combined. This upward shift, based on the governor's property tax RELIEF plan, will cause our overall taxes to go up between $135-$155 now. And this is just the first year........should we see "trending" follow the same course, do we just add $100 every year on top of what was paid the year before? Ouch!

Does that make sense? Property tax relief will end up costing more?

That's how it works with Governor Daniels. My stomach already turns at his ads and they just started yesterday.

24 March 2008

In(diana) Harmonie

One of my favorite places in Hoosierland is the tiny historic town near the southwest point of our state, on the banks of the Wabash, New Harmony.

Steeped in culture rich in history and art, this little town has much to offer the visitor from its historic architecture dating to its founding in 1814 to the modern designed by world renown architects. While there are amenities for the casual visitor, it is not touristy in the least. If you visit, plan to just take it easy........long walks, strolls through gardens, incredible dining.........and just time for contemplation.

A fellow named George (Father) Rapp founded the town as an experimental, spiritual communal village in 1814. Failing to isolate his followers from the outside world and finding internal struggle, he sold the town to Robert Owen from England who sought to create a Utopian society basking in art, literature, and education in 1825.

I have visited in summer and fall........I recommend visiting in the fall to more thoroughly saturate your senses. Dine at the Red Geranium or the Yellow Door Tavern. Guests at the New Harmony Inn can check out a variety of books from the complex's library housed in an old depot. Also visit the Harmonie State Park for a long hike and make your way down to the Wabash River. I also recommend spending some time in the roofless church.

My visit with a college class in 1995 was enjoyable.......I had to corral buddies who visited the local watering hole-the Sas & Pas after we snuck up to the the roof garden of the atheneum. Shortly after the Sas & Pas, we posted scouts at the doors of the Inn's indoor pool housed in its own building........I'll not mention why we posted scouts, but we felt it was necessary for us and potential swimmers alike.

Later, I took my new bride to the quaint little town and we made our own memories there.
For more information visit www.usi.edu/hnh/harmonist.asp

his lordship, the Dog

There are times when our dog kinda runs our house......even at only 15lbs. We've had him for going on 9 years and he is older than our kids, so, in many ways he has rights that supersede our other children's' (notice I said "other children's').

Prepare yourself.............our dachshund has been hunting Easter eggs since our first Easter with him 8 years ago and yesterday was no exception. We put dog treats in the plastic eggs and hide them at wiener dog level. He learned very quickly and we only had to show him one yesterday before he was in scurrying mode to find more. He cracks them open with his jaws and gets the treat inside. Our family derives great pleasure in watching this, as you can imagine.

Now-before you think we're cracked, we have friends who have the same fondness of their labradors-even inviting the brutes to sleep in bed with them. Our dog, however, takes up very little room. He is good at catching moles (his German name literally means "badger dog") and barking at strangers who walk by the house-just not at strangers who are in our house. And he puts up with a lot of crap from the kids.......and in turn we put up with a lot of crap in the lawn.

20 March 2008

the Cross

the nails, the cross, the blood.......the life.

Friends out there......reflect this Easter on the historical event that changed this world forever and continues to have the power to change the human soul. Reflect on our responsibility to change the world, not in proselytizing the masses, but in loving the hurting as Christ lived for on earth.

I'm beginning to recoil at the term "christian", not because of what it should mean, but because of the baggage the term carries today. Most christians are not Christ followers or model Him as we are called. Recently I've been reading a book called "unChristian" which tackles the perceptions non-christians have of the church.....and it is shocking. Most know enough about Christ to know that the church doesn't look anything like Jesus.

Fact of the matter is that the church today probably would have been the ones crying "crucify him!"

So, for you out there who never have understood life in Christ, through the cross, I want to apologize on behalf of the church-we have failed to be the image of God on earth. You are not alone, though, because I believe most "christians" have never experienced this life either.

A remake of an old hymn says "the wonderful cross, bids me come and die and find that I may truly live". Christian friends out there...........have we really died? Are we truly "living"?.....then tell me, what are we living for? What did Jesus live for, what did he die for?

I have found what it means to be brought to the cross and find real life, real life-changing kinda stuff........beyond kiddy conversions & confirmations. And it has been an awesome ride.

19 March 2008

credit where credit is due

All right, with all the griping I have done over the property tax hysteria that has gripped the Hoosier state, I thought I must confess my most recent calculations based on the property tax relief plan that was signed into law today.

I had been predicting that my taxes would see a net increase of around $600. Based on the caps of 1% for residential (taxes will stay the same) and 2% on rental property (taxes will decrease by $100) and a 1% increase in sales tax from 6 to 7 cents on the dollar (taxes will increase by $120); I stand to realize a net increase in taxes by about $20.

I can live with that.

Assuming next year reassessment doesn't raise my property values by 50%! Thanks for the bipartisan effort to address the tax issue in Indiana-although I would've been just as happy if they had left it alone.

18 March 2008

Into the Wild

I can think of very few movies in my lifetime that have led to great discussion about the content with friends or family with whom I watched them. Saturday night found us watching a film that still has me mulling life over in my head today.

My wife sent me to pick up a dvd to watch this weekend since our Saturday night routine of Prairie Home Companion, then PBS has been indefinitely interrupted by our local PBS station being "down". I walked the aisles of the video store and landed on "Into the Wild"....something about it grabbed me, though I had never heard of it.

Based on a true story, this top of the class kid graduates pre-law and was accepted to Harvard, but dealing with some internal struggle chucked it all and headed out on the road. The relationships that he developed as people crossed his path were emotionally comforting and challenging to him. Finally he ended up in the Alaskan wilderness alone........but with a new found perspective on life......"happiness is only real when shared". I've really dumbed this movie down, but want to encourage you to go out and rent it. Be in the right state of mind to watch it though.

Personal application time: over the last few months my attention has been turned very directly toward the people in my life-friends, family & neighbors-and to examine my relationship with them to determine if I am truly living up to what I need to be for my kids, my wife, my friends. And not out of obligation, but out of love. It is interesting to note that I have experienced a shift away from politics, career and most recently the church-and I believe it is to fulfill what I really want most in life.........to truly make an impact in people's lives.

No doubt, this recent movie gave me more insight on how to do just that.

17 March 2008

oh Danny Boy....

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

With great wonderment, I sat at my grandparents' feet and listened to tales of their ancestors and our colorful family history that led all my branches of the family to take root here in the fertile soils of Indiana......which I understand, are much like the green green grass of their motherland, Ireland.

The Bryants (earlier O'Bryans), Baileys, Carothers, Mahurins, Careys, and many others in the family tree hail from the Emerald Island. I'm about half German and half Irish........which I guess could make for a really angry drunk. Tradition in our family is that we gather for corned beef & cabbage at my parents-and I love the stuff. I have such a great affinity for my Irish roots that I usually ignore the rest.

"Grandad," I would ask "where did your people come from"

"well, son, it has been told that my great grandad came with his many brothers from Ireland"

"really, but our name really doesn't sound Irish.....maybe, I guess"

"well, this was the story passed down to me......we're Irish and proud to be"

Well, with a little research I found that that was not the case.........it appears our surname once had a "T", which made it very German. Nonetheless, I claim the more authentic bloodlines including our Bryant ancestry. I have a picture of my great-grandad's brother who was killed in WWI and I often think of this young Irish lad who gave his life for his country when I hear the tune "oh Danny boy", written in 1913.

If there is one other country I'd like to visit, it would be that green gem on the east edge of the Atlantic............I can imagine it would be a little like going home.

13 March 2008

last snow?

I just looked at the weather forecast for next week-I think spring may be here....at least I'm praying for that. I thought I would throw one more snowy scene your way.

This round barn was once located on a farm near where I grew up. Grandad re-roofed it once. He told me that inside the barn was a giant hewn tree that was used to prop up one of the main hips in the round roof that began to sag after a tornado went through.

Unfortunately the owner tore the building down only a few years ago. I loved the barn-I could see it from my bedroom window. Oh well, can't stop progress..........well, in Indiana, it is better to say, "can't stop stupidity".

Cynical-I know........get out and enjoy the weather.

11 March 2008

I nominate Hillary

What better opportunity to show that Hillary could be ready on day one, than for New York Democrats to nominate her to fill out the current Governor's term, who was recently caught with his pants down. Something Ms. Clinton's husband knows all too well.

I'm for an Obama-McCain race. At least then I would actually feel like I had a choice. Isn't Hillary supposed to be pro-choice? C'mon Hillary, let even us wildly independent Republicans have a choice!

Hey, you Hoosier Democrats out there.........your vote might actually COUNT in this election!


We caught another glimpse of woody woodpecker while my son was at the bus stop. Is it me, or is it getting darker in the mornings now?

I've attached a picture from our first sighting of the pileated woodpecker near our home-just to make some of those birders out there jealous.

stuck in the mud

There's a saying here in river city........"if you dip your toes in the river, you'll always come back". But what happens if you put your foot down? Well, you get stuck in the mud.

Our city council had the awesome opportunity to aspire to something better and greater than we are by passing a few simple zoning regulations that many other Hoosier communities have adopted and have proven successful outcomes. But instead, the old farts on council don't get it. I think the problem is that they're stuck......mentaly.........in River City mud. They don't understand that the way we do things ISN'T the best way possible-that there is a way to be better.

And of course, reliance on our mayor's mental capacity to understand "something better" is useless. He is the blockhead puppet, remember?

Oh well, not that I expected anything different I guess. This is why I say living in Indiana builds character.

04 March 2008

it's the people I miss

We were meeting with a client who plans to build a new cafe' and as she talked about her "dream" I found myself finishing her sentences as she discussed her love for the restaurant business. Finally I said, I know, our family was in the business for 40 years.......and I miss it! The one statement she made is the one I could relate to and have relayed to others over and over again. It's the people that make it.....for us, it may have been our grill cook that worked for our family for nearly 25 years, or it could be that faithful customer, who after losing her husband, continued to come in every day for a bowl of soup.......who ultimately found her way to our family holiday dinners.

It is the people I miss the most-it is what made the service business enjoyable. I think back to several employees who worked for our family for 8, 12, 20 and 25 years! And I think about the volunteer firemen who always had breakfast at our place-and if they got a call, we'd put their food back in the warmer. Or, the guys who wouldn't wait for us to open on Saturday mornings and simply "let" themselves in, turn on the grill and get the coffee going. And I think about the farmers who would show up at 6:00 am, then at 10:00 am, then at 2:00 pm for coffee.

Our cafe' was the hub of our little farming community of 600. A lot of good times shared around a cup of coffee or bowl of soup........and some tough times too. We all long for a place "where everyone knows your name" and it just seems those places are getting harder to find.

I will admit, though, going out to lunch with a friend today, I could hardly finish my sandwich due to all the folks stopping by to chat. I guess I've got a little reminder of my past here in river city, good or bad.

03 March 2008

our own personal visit from FEMA

River City has more than lived up to its name this year. Two serious floods and persistent freeze/thaw with heavy snows and rain has got our old house a little troubled.

an all too familiar site in Indiana this year!

Over the weekend a few new concerns came over me as I found my way to the basement for some spring decoration retrieval (my wife refuses to step foot in the basement since a flying rodent was spotted there at the beginning of the first flood). On this occassion I noticed that the bottom of the plastic tote containing fake Easter basket grass was dripping with water. Then I noticed a few large piles of sand that appeared to have worked there way up through the cracks in our basement floor.

We had our own personal visist with a FEMA inspector a few weeks ago. We had some water in the basement with the flooding, but nothing was damaged outside of our sump pump having a melt down. But, I was concerned about some other cracks in the old foundation and sand seeming to seep in. Add that to the high level of moisture pushing in and I think we've got a problem. It seems as thought the ground water pressure on our basement has been too much for the 150 year old walls. Walls appear to be sagging, plaster cracking and water around the outside of the house seems to be pooling back against the exterior. This has only been in the last few months. We were going to get a dehumidifier, but saw the cost of them-wow! Then the FEMA guy said it would have been covered by them. DOH!

Oddly enough we've already been rejected by FEMA for any kind of assistance (even as damage continues to make itself visible)......and FEMA asked us to get a rejection letter from our insurance company-which we did. So, now, I'm afraid we're hanging out here with our pants down so to speak. I'm not one for handouts-but don't offer then pull your hand back! And what is it I pay insurance for anyway?

We had some friends over for supper for the first time last night. They loved our house. I kept making excuses for the walls falling down-but they said, yeah, but old homes have character. Well, I guess so, and I love our old place-but the character is really starting to wear me down!

is that a yellow rump I see?

It was a lazy weekend around the ol' homestead. With little else to do, we once again turned our attention to our feathered friends. We had a new visitor which is always nice to see. Uncertain of the species at first, finally I settled on Yellow-Rumped Warbler; which is also fun to say. Here's our log from the weekend, 19 species total:

Yellow-rumped warbler F
Hairy Woodpecker F
Downy Woodpecker MF
Red Bellied Woodpecker MF
White Breasted Nuthatch 2
Red Breasted Nuthatch
Northern Flicker
Starlings 10
Cardinal MF
Crows 4
Canada Goose 6
Pigeon 2
Mourning Dove 2
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse
House Sparrow 8
House Finch 4
Juncos 4

The whole "yellow rumped" terminology made me think of another story I'll tell on my dad. They have a lot of chipmunks at their house and as a kid-they would simply be blown away. However, now, evidently either a more compassionate or slightly less than better aim, father resorted to capturing the little critters and driving them to a state park to release them. But, the numbers never seemed to decrease. So, thinking that the chipmunks were possibly hitching a ride and coming back home, my dad used orange surveying spray paint to mark the behinds of the little guys to see if indeed they had wandered back home.

I have yet to hear if the brightly colored orange-rumped chipmunks made it home. It is very possible, though, a naturalist at Potato Creek believes he has found a new species of the rodent.