27 February 2009

400? Really?

With my blogging slowing to a trickle it's a wonder at all that I could have actually reached the 400 mark for posting. I began this crazy site back in July of 2007, based on the idea I thought it would be therapeutic. Well, it has. It has also gotten me into trouble now and then too.

So after 400 mindless, pointless, navel-gazing dribbles later....I looked back in the archive and selected my top, favorite 12 posts. Why 12? Well, if you take 400 divide it by my age, add my social security number and then divide again by the year I was born, it comes up to 12. Just kidding....I was shooting for 10 and just couldn't whittle it down any further.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. A discussion among our founding fathers about the future

4. Breaking free from my job! Geez, call me Nostradomus

6. The David Tree....that sparked a huge change in my thinking

8. Not for the faint at heart-an unhappy deer story

11. a revelation during my spiritual retreat

12. My experience with a carny at a small town fair

My next post.....when I get to it......will be about finally being responsive to something I felt God put on my heart over a year ago regarding river city. Have an awesome weekend!

26 February 2009

Intelligent Design Debate

Over the last three Sundays my 20x class at church watched the movie "Expelled" with Ben Stein acting as the sort of narrator/interviewer of scientists on both sides of the evolution vs. intelligent design theory to the origin of life. In the midst of those three Sundays PBS ran a documentary entitle "Intelligent Design (ID) on Trial".....a court case against the Dover School Board by the ACLU over the introduction of religion into the classroom by the school board who purchased ID material to be taught.

In the movie Ben Stein paints a pretty clear picture that the scientists who believe in the intelligent design theory of the origin of man/life are being blacklisted from the academic world at large because of their pursuit, or even the introduction, of the idea that it is possible a higher, more intelligent being, designed the construct of life as we know it.

The PBS special presented a court case that argued intelligent design was merely "Creationism" repackaged to introduce religion into the classroom.

Stein proposed that blocking the pursuit of the intelligent design theory is counter-scientific since the pursuit of science is the trying and proving of theories. He also compared this block of ideas to the destruction of certain art, literature and execution of scientists during fascist regimes. Even more disturbing was the parallels of comments from pro-evolutionist theorists that describes man as evolving to the best of our own species and the practices of Hitler euthanizing a race to achieve what he felt was the superior race.

The court case was able to prove that a movement during the 1980's to promote Creationism, a world created by God, was revamped to remove the religious connotation of God from creation, merely referring to Him now as an "Intelligent Designer". The way they proved it was because in a substantial paper defining ID, Creationism was literally typed-over and therefor was written as "cintelligent designm"....no kidding, they actually found this!

But as crazy as that sounds, even more crazy was the comment by one of the leading evolutionists who, when pressed for an answer on how exactly life began, stammered out this answer........"possibly by some other more advanced, intelligent life form placing it here on Earth". What? Did you catch that? Stein sure did......he asked "God?" And the scientist said no, certainly not God and laughed.

So. It was disturbing to hear how much pleasure pro-evolutionary theorists and atheists derived from the court case being won in their favor. You know that feeling you get in a horror film when someone is about to get it? But it was also a little disturbing to me to hear how subversive we think we need to be as Christians to get creation taught in schools. Both are legitimate theories (scientifically speaking) and it seems that even the theory of evolution can be traced to intelligent design........of course for them, it would be anybody BUT God. Given that, I don't see what it hurts to teach both in our schools as theories.

I, myself, don't believe in the purist form of evolution. I don't deny my belief that God created life as indicated in Genesis, and don't need to call it ID to make it acceptable either. Some species may have evolved within limits, but I don't believe I came from an ape, although sometimes I wonder. What do you think, allow ID to be taught as a theory in school?

21 February 2009

Unfinished Work

This is going to be one of my more serious posts, which seems to reflect the mood I have been in lately. I have this buddy of mine that I've mentioned indirectly on this blog for just over a year. We became tight under the strangest circumstances and it became pretty clear God had designed our friendship from the beginning.

He believed in God but had a hard time reconciling himself to to Him. In large part this was because of his past; and I'll be honest, I'm no prude, but his life was like nothing I had ever been acquainted with before. He was someone interested enough in God to ask questions and willing to allow me to pray with him.....in fact, he was anxious to go with me to search out what God wanted in my life on my "Spiritual Retreat" a year ago to maybe glean something from me.

He and I began to work together professionally as I helped him sort out things in his business. He's a proud, self-made man whose goal was to have enough cash to own a home (none of his family had ever owned their homes, in fact spent some time in homeless shelters) and help his family back in central Indiana. About mid-May he seemed to disappear, but after awhile I made contact to find out that he was at about the lowest point in his life.

We got together and that first Friday of June he came to faith in Christ. And remarkable as it sounds, a supernatural component was clearly at work as a long, overcast and rainy day opened up enough to shine directly into the cab of his truck after he prayed. Things started to turn around for him quickly after that and we continued to work together and took a brief retreat kayaking on Sugar Creek in September.

He started to fade out of the picture again in November and based on what I'm hearing, he's near bottom again. So, I'm left wondering.......what's the point, God? I don't question the sincerity of his decision back in June, nor of God's work in all of it. I sure don't want him to have to hit rock bottom for him to change things around, but I often hear people say maybe that's what is needed.

I know that God has had to get my attention a few times with a 2 x 4. It isn't pleasant. It is easy to walk back into a less than spiritual lifestyle when it is the only thing we've ever known, usually it is with the "help" of others. Still, there is a bit of guilt I'm dealing with now because it seems the point person for a new life may have failed him.

There's a bit of unfinished work at our house this old friend began. It is a source of frustration for both my wife and me. But I was struck Thursday morning around 6:00 am as I stood looking at it that all of the prayer that went into the friendship a year ago became the seed to a transformed life. And then I remembered something from college days....the unfinished work by Michelangelo "the dying slave" which some speculate would have rivaled his David.

We are all unfinished pieces of work that God continues to mold, some of us from clay-others, stone. So, I'm using this bit of "unfinished work" in our kitchen as inspiration to pray for my buddy's God sparked "unfinished work". Which means I'll be praying for him a few dozen times a day, and would ask all of you to do so too.

I have two upcoming posts planned that you won't want to miss.....but they're going to take some time to get together....and time is something of a short commodity for me right now.

20 February 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count 09

A somewhat lackluster weekend was host to the Great Backyard Bird Count this year. While we hung out at the house most of the weekend, we did journey to my folks to round out our list.

Snow Depth: Less than 2 in (5.1 cm)

Habitat(s): deciduous woods agricultural urban

Number of Species: 21

Checklist: Canada Goose - 13 Red-tailed Hawk - 3 Mourning Dove - 1 Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1 Downy Woodpecker - 4 Hairy Woodpecker - 2 Northern Flicker - 1 Blue Jay - 1 American Crow - 2 Black-capped Chickadee - 1 Tufted Titmouse - 3 White-breasted Nuthatch - 2 Eastern Bluebird - 3 European Starling - 1 American Tree Sparrow - 1 White-crowned Sparrow - 1 Snow Bunting - 2 Northern Cardinal - 3 House Finch - 6 American Goldfinch - 2 House Sparrow - 4

As I'm typing I'm listening to yet another snow storm warning for this weekend. I think I'm done with winter....and that's huge news coming from a guy who normally is the last one holding out for a snow storm into March. Was it the winter, or is it my age?

Maybe it was the 68 degree temps last Tuesday.

14 February 2009

Valentine: Saint of the Iron Gym

When it dawned on me that I had posted a political rant on Valentine's Day rather than something mushy gushy....I figured I might very well be in trouble with my love. To be honest, it dawned on me only after my love mentioned it.

Well, being the romantic that I am, I already had picked up a basket of South Bend Chocolates, a seductive card......and even took care of getting the kids something. And my love and I had a special lunch together Thursday...since I would be gone Friday and she gone part of Saturday. So, the fact that we had Valentine's Dinner with the kids really wasn't that bad, was it?

BUT let me tell you about my Valentines gift. THE IRON GYM! Possibly the best Valentines gift I've ever received. I have to send in for the arm straps though. My workouts over the last two years involved my fingers gripping over the molding on a door frame in our dining room for pull-ups and left lifts. One of our 20x guys brought over his iron gym and at that point I was spoiled after the first pull-up. My fingers didn't cramp and turn red and I had padded bars to grip. I could do 16 in a row the old way, I'll be able to do the 300 challenge of 24 with this!

And this goes a long way to help with New Years Resolution #5, killer abs. Which, thanks to the advice from 20x guy, are cutting in awesomely!

Thank you love of my life for introducing me to Valentine, Saint of the Iron Gym!

Burning of Democracy

With all of the Republican rhetoric over the slide into socialism Obama and his enablers on Capitol Hill hath wrought, I want to encourage fellow Hoosiers they need to look no further than our own boundaries to see an erosion of our beloved Democracy.

I've been hot over several items in the Daniels/Republican agenda in the State of Indiana over the last four years and extremely critical of this governor for his outright lies during the last campaign; but with all seriousness, the latest undoing of government by republican legislators is downright criminal.

Using the Kernan-Shepard Report as their charge, it seems the statehouse is rampant with legislators proposing consolidation or elimination of governing authorities in the name of "stream-lining" and "fiscal prudence". While these sound like noble causes, they are in fact embedded with the most criminal act against a democracy: taking away your right to vote!

This is being done on two fronts: Township government and County government.

As proposed Indiana will see the elimination of all township government, township property and jurisdictional control. Township trustees, assessors and advisory boards would be eliminated. Their duties would pass to the county executive (to be explained later). These duties would include cemetery care, poor relief, fire protection, property assessment and assistance with local business and farm tax reporting. Township property such as cemeteries, parks, community halls and firestation/equipment would all pass to the ownership of county government. County government would then be responsible for "county fire protection" and "county cemetery care" and I suppose with parks or community halls a form of county parks which for most counties in Indiana isn't even a developed concept.

Based on the pathetic, at best, abilities of county officials in Republicania County I have little hope fire protection and cemetery care will improve.....in fact, I would be very concerned with the quality of fire protection specifically. And the idea that this will somehow cost us less (a reduction in property tax) is ludicrous. Those responsibilities now burdened by meagerly paid part time township trustees and assessors must be done by a larger full-time staff at the county level.

I also believe, with the effective disappearance of townships the most controversial plank of the Kernan-Shepard Report can be enacted: the further consolidation of school corporations with less than 2,000 enrollment. Small towns be prepared to lose your schools!

Now let us look at the county government changes being proposed. Not only does it demand the elimination of several elected positions to be then filled by individuals appointed by the county executive (filled by qualified people, which sounds great until you realize that means more $$$), it also demands each county reduce its county commissioner board from 3 or 5 individuals to 1 chief elected official.....a kind of CEO of the county. This chief elected official would then be taking the place of 6 to 9 county elected officials ( i.e. your 6-9 votes have been replaced by 1) and also taking the place of 4-5 township positions.

In total, if both pieces of legislation are approved we will be reducing our current elected representation from up to 14 elected positions down to 1. Talk about a breeding ground for nepotism and corruption...we don't need anymore of that here! Do you see the erosion of your representation? the loss of your vote making a difference?

This is absolutely the greatest attack ever waged on local control, the cornerstone of our democracy, in the State of Indiana. And while we typically charge liberal Democrats with the abhorrent slide to socialism and dictatorship, it is being done by a new, narrow minded and special interest controlled GOP. The sad thing is Hoosiers are buying it hook, line and sinker.

I'm not for creating little dictators in each county. And this is exactly what will happen. And where is Mitch in all of this? Just like Nero, he is watching Rome burn with a fire he started himself.

God save our State! Revolution!

12 February 2009

Happy 200th

Abraham Lincoln is probably the most dynamic, recognizable figure from America's past and today we celebrate his 200th birthday......and since he was a Hoosier for a period of time, I thought I would commemorate the saviour of the democracy.

In fulfilling my New Year's resolutions, I have been reading book after book and have just in the last few days began an interesting perspective on Lincoln "Abraham Lincoln-A Man of Faith and Courage". I'm not far into the book, but am already impressed by how he met the sheer misery and overwhelming opposition found thrust upon his administration immediately upon taking the oath. No doubt, it was his tenacity and strength that carried the nation through its most violent and divisive struggle. And by his martyrdom became something other than just a national leader, but a legend towering over all others who came before or after.

One of my favorite quotes by Lincoln is this "If there is anything that links the human with the divine, it is the courage to stand by a principle when everybody else rejects it."

He often had the ability to speak to issues of the present by pointing to the future, creating a picture for us to understand our actions today have profound affects upon our children's tomorrows. Only if we today could understand this.

My work in Angola led me to this inscription by Lincoln on their Soldiers Memorial we all recognize from his infamous Gettysburg address:


"of the people and for the people" I believe we desperately need a new birth of freedom in this country. Thank you President Lincoln, for the courage to hold us together.....for not giving up, but giving everything that was precious to you.

11 February 2009

a saint?

You know how some dates just are always with you?

27 years ago......wow, I cannot believe it has been that long........on February 11th, my grandmother passed away at the relatively young age of 66, here at river city's old hospital. I loved all my grandparents and was fortunate to know them all...but there was something special about my dad's mom.

And everyone thought so. And it wasn't unusual to run into people, even today, who knew her from church or the truckstop and comment in almost a hushed tone, "you're grandma....she was a saint." I believe there are people who are somehow larger than life because of the lives they touch. I don't ever remember her saying a cross word to anyone. I only ever remember a smile on her face. I remember her laughter. I remember how she would sing and hum choruses from church. She was a beautiful woman with an inner beauty that immediatly drew people to her.

I think if she were alive today she'd have a hard time with people who professed a faith they clearly didn't put into practice because for her love was the ultimate and constant response to anyone she met, regardless of politics, color or creed.

She worked hard but never had a lot. Her parents lost their farm during the great depression, about the time she married my grandfather. She worked in the munitions warehouse at the Kingsbury Ordinance Plant. She managed to maintain a solid faith in God despite her mother being taken from her early and her brother in WWII. And she prayed and prayed and prayed for all of her children, her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and my grandfather until, after her passing, he turned to faith in God.

I have a few of her things. I have one of her Bibles with her handwriting in it, along with a small notebook laced with her commentaries on scripture from when she taught Sunday School. She has one brother still living in Hammond. A man who at one time killed someone due to drunk driving but no doubt due to her prayers became a minister of a Church of God in that city. I frequently wish that she had been alive so that my wife and kids could have known her.

And often I think of her when I consider how people will remember me.....because I know I just don't stack up, regardless of my accomplishments.

if I were President

Second graders across our county school corporations were asked "what would you do if you were President?"

My son's response:

Have less drive-thrus.
The U.S. would have 51 states by dividing Texas in half.
I'd make bigger recycling cans.
I'd make there be more NFL teams.
I'd make there be more cool places.
The school day should be shorter.
I'd make there be more orchards.
I would save all endangered living things.
I would tell others to be kind.
I would make sea horses wear mini cowboy hats.
I'd make a new invention for the snow.

Well, at least with some of these I can know with certainty he is my son.

10 February 2009

keep your hands off my shaky assets!

Elkhart, Indiana......the highest unemployment rate in the country. 15.5% unemployment. Elkhart was also the epicenter of the Barak-basage of selling the stimulus plan to America. Just hours before his address to the nation last night, President Obama was at ground zero for our economic Armageddon, Elkhart, for a town hall meeting.

I listened to his address last night and kept getting more and more bothered by what I heard. Over the last week or so we've heard how the Republicans were complaining there was too much "socialist spending" (according to Congressman Souder) and insisted on more tax credits...such as a $15k credit for anyone buying a new house. First, where was my $15k when I bought my house and 2) doesn't this just continue to prop up a housing market artificially inflated? Isn't that what helped get us into this mess?

So at $900 billion, after the GOP added to the plan, they felt it was too large. And don't get me wrong, I think Obama's plan isn't good either, nor would McCain's have been, nor was Bush's which has already seen $350 billion spent to bail out banks, just before the proverbial bottom dropped out of the economy. $350 billion in tax dollars wasted.

Here is my suggestion. Let the bottom really drop out. It will be painful and we need a safety net in place for people who will lose their jobs. But we have a problem in this country of a false economy based on greed and easy credit, we need to have a severe adjustment. We need the government to really DO NOTHING. Maybe desperately needed infrastructure projects, maybe investing in new energy technologies, and certainly having the ability to feed, clothe, house and provide medical care to those who will be the casualties until we can rebuild our economy on a firm foundation.

My favorite statement from Obama last night was this "the government shouldn't be handling shaky assets." Exactly! But that is what the bail-out is doing: propping up everybody's shaky assets. What should happen to those in a free market system? That's right, YOU DON'T MESS WITH THEM! A free market system, untampered with, will right itself and might just create an economy based on reality.

The stimulus package is not good, regardless of GOP or Dem amendments. If you've noticed, I haven't asked for a dime.......because I don't want to burden my kids with trillions.

09 February 2009

longing or miracle?

Watching the news the other night, we were surprised to learn that river city made it into news of the weird when a picture flashed in front of the screen with a make-shift shrine to the Virgin Mary.....a formation of ice alongside a broken downspout next to an old mobile home from one of our slumlord-owned mobile home parks.

The Latino owners were debating whether or not with the big thaw on the way, if they should take the formation into their ice chest. I wonder what they decided.

Now, I don't mean to poke fun.......I mean it was me that suggested the great opportunity that would be had if my occasional rash formed the image of Mary across my chest.....but, what is it about the Latino culture that they can see Mary in so many objects like windows, clouds, trees, Doritos, etc.?

Is it really a miracle? Or is it a longing for hope, for a miracle? A longing so instilled in a people that they find it because they look for it? I originally planned to do this post a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the more I thought about it......the better lesson I could draw from it.

What if each one of us sought to find the image of Jesus in the world around us? More convicting would be if we sought to find the face of Jesus simply in the people we meet-in our neighbors, friends, family.....those who are hurting......maybe even those we purposefully look away from.

We purposefully look away from...not daring to make eye contact. But what if that was the face of God wanting to look back at you.

What if we took this passage in Matthew 28 seriously:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Are we looking for Jesus? or are we purposefully passing him by?

06 February 2009

by Your side

If you've noticed, it's been really difficult to get time to blog. It's not that I'm not inspired...every time I watch the evening news I think...wow! what a great post that would make. But, frankly, I've been too busy, with uh...work! And it just seems that when I get a break from this desktop, looking at a computer screen is the last thing I want to do.

I've been too busy. Whoa, wait a minute, what am I saying? Too busy?

God does some pretty ridiculous, outstandingly awesome things. When I left my job last summer and didn't know what I would be doing, God already knew.

When I read that book and it compared an elephant in chains to me and asked "what are the chains in your life?" And I said, my job, BUT......God was preparing me to trust Him.

As I sat on our porch swing a week after I quit my job and wrote out a business plan to bring in work that I would desperately need......I think God was laughing Himself right off the throne.

As of the first week of February, right now, I am already contracted in 2009 for well more than half of my salary from my previous job. I have rough proposals out right now, already, for the other half.

Is this not crazy? We have congregational scripture memorization and this month's verse is Jeremiah 29:11:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I predicted, right here on Hoosier Happenings, the week I made the big announcement that I would be venturing out on my own (which frankly, I was really clueless as to if that was the path I would be on) that God was probably sitting up there smiling at my enthusiasm over putting on 20+ pounds of muscle saying, "oh yeah, just watch what I'm going to do next"

I haven't had time to put that business plan into action....I have a website that isn't finished either. I'm not one for trusting much. I tend to believe enough in myself to make things happen-I'm a do'er. But this experience has really gotten my attention because it is NOTHING of my own doing.....it's been all God, by my side. And I don't hesitate a moment to give credit where credit it due. "In this economy?" people ask. Yeah, I know! What's up with that?

This blog is really about getting rambling thoughts out of my head and practice to hone my writing skills.....so I don't typically get preachy (do I?), but let me just say I don't know what may be going on in your life right now......it may be difficulties, you may be at a point where you've got nothing else to do but trust, but I would encourage you to read the verse above again, and if you claim God as your Father......believe it, really believe it. It may be time for you to step out. He is by your side too.

I'm God's poster child for Jeremiah 29:11. Funny how everything surrounding my ouster from politics and conditions at work were created by those who meant to do me harm, but oh MY GOD (used in reverence) am I so much more prosperous, happy and looking at a pretty bright future. God's out in front and as jobs keep stringing in each week, I'm learning that I'm just along for the ride. And can trust Him for bigger, crazier things now too!

02 February 2009

Superbowl or Hoosierbowl?

Did you happen to catch the subtle presence of Hoosierdom last night during the Superbowl? It's nice to know that even if the Colts are part of the main event, folks in Indiana can still be proud of our representation at the most watched sporting event.
Clueless? Two...count them, 2, connections to said sporting event. A couple of brothers from Indiana produced the coveted "best liked Superbowl ad". The "crystal ball" a.k.a. "free Doritos enabler" sent our family room into a roar when it was shotputed to the boss's marbles by a poor guy hopeful of a raise. You made us proud boys.

The other? Did you catch the new series to premier on NBC? "Parks and Recreation" is set in Pawnee, Indiana. Here's a summary of the show:

The cast of the show Parks and Recreation is comprised of Amy Poehler acting as Leslie Knope who is basically a bureaucrat positioned in the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana. She is possessed with the objective of leading to future advancements in her career as well as turn up with some improvements in her town as well. Aziz Ansari has done the role of Tom Haverford who works as a government official and opted for an alteration in his name to Aziz Abdul Al'Rahman to sound attractive in the field of politics. Rashida Jones has performed as a nurse namely Ann in Parks and Recreation who carries out her work with Leslie on a venture related to the building of a pit into a park. Aubrey Plaza happens to be the uninterested intern of Leslie whom she desires to provide inspiration. The series revolves around Leslie Knope who is positioned as the head of the Parks and Recreation department.

Based on what I've read, this will be in keeping with the feel of "the Office", but appears to be fully-loaded to make fun of small town Indiana. Yeah, that's what we need.........more reasons for the rest of the country to make fun of us. But the joke is on them, with the current state of the state.....there won't be any such thing as "parks and recreation".

The game was exciting, the new premier not withstanding. And I've already checked, there is no such place as Pawnee, Indiana. Whew.