Tuesday, September 29, 2009


It seems as if there are a number of people who wish to instill fear in our hearts and minds. Najibullah Zazi is being sent to New York to face charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction; the Associated Press reports that "School drinking water contains toxins"; President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain demanded that Iran fully disclose its nuclear ambitions; Michael C. Finton, also known as, "Talib Islam," of Decatur, Illinois, made his first court appearance Thursday on charges of attempted murder of federal employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction by plotting to bomb the federal building in Springfield, Illinois, and the two Belleville (Illinois) West High School students who attacked a third teen on a school bus recently now face felony charges under the juvenile code. Yes, fear, intimidation, and even terror appear to be the motive for many of the news stories coming out of just one day.

Adrian Monk, fictional San Francisco detective, appears to hold a "fear record," categorizing 312 fears. Among his phobias are germs, needles, milk, death, snakes, crowds, heights, mushrooms, and elevators. Perhaps some of the popularity of his character is that many people can empathize with his fears -- for we seem to live in a fear-filled society.

Much of the anger and rhetoric revolving around the current administration appears to be fear driven too. Many people are afraid of the unknown and the loss of control -- both of which come to the forefront when discussing economic bailouts, government health reform, the recession, and retirement costs. This fear has driven people to action -- some good, some not so good.

Fear can be debilitating and cause inaction. Fear can be depressing and cause inaction. Fear can be demonizing and cause inaction. It has been said that fear can be healthy. I would suggest that fear is unhealthy -- raising anxiety levels, causing inaction, and derailing people from participating in constructive civil debate.

So I have stated the obvious. So what? Perhaps it is up to us as Christian men to step forward in courage, overcome our personal fears, and speak the truth in love. Perhaps now is the time to examine issues with rationality and objectivity -- refusing to blindly adopt un-informed opinions. Now is the time to address the issues rationally and draw our own conclusions.

I will try.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Did you know September 17 was Constitution Day? This day commemorates the ratification of the United States' Constitution on September 17, 1787. It was a celebration of our rights and responsibilities as a citizen. It was also a time to reflect on how we are doing with our civilitas -- our civility -- our politeness, if you will.

So how are we doing? Is it just me or are we witnessing a decline in our civility towards one another? The news today is filled with half-truths, evasive talk, provocative comments, and the strident and often hostile responses those comments produce. Screaming, vilifying, threatening, belittling, disrespecting and so forth seems to be erupting in all areas of our lives -- sports, show biz, Congress, and even driving down the highway. Where there was once sportsmanship, respect, and politeness, now we have other adjectives to describe society.

But why now? Could it be we have placed too much emphasis on individualism to the end we have lost a connection to the greater society? Could it be we are frustrated and angry at increasing demands and restraints placed on us? Could it be we see something of value is being taken from us? Could it be we see our way of life will be unduly legislated, or that our financial security will vanish, or that our homes and families will be ripped away from us, or that our values will no longer be tolerated and respected, or that, perhaps, even our country will cease to respect our freedoms?

Is this a time to tear down or build up...a time to be silent or a time to speak?

What is a guy to do? Perhaps now is the time to step up and become a group of Christians that is a healing community, proclaiming God's far-reaching love and unconditional grace, speaking the truth, offering pardon, reconciliation, and hope to those who feel passed over, left out, and misused.

Perhaps we need to proclaim our civilitas in all we do, say, and think.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rubber Chickens

The federal government announced it's imposing a 35-percent tariff on the import of Chinese tires starting September 26. The U.S. trade representative's office has stated that four domestic tire plants closed in 2006 and 2007 and three more are closing this year. During that same period, only one new plant opened. Imports of Chinese tires more than tripled from 2004 to 2008 and China's market share in the U.S. went from 4.7 percent of tires purchased in 2004 to 16.7 percent in 2008, the office said.

It would seem logical then that the United States needs to protect its manufacturing interests by imposing a tariff, reducing the trade deficit, and protecting American workers and their jobs. However, it has been reported on local radio news programs that China will retaliate by imposing a tariff on imports from America, particularly American chickens. At first glance that may seem a harmless thing. After all, it's only chicken feed.

To the American farmer, however, this is no laughing matter. Our nation's farmers produce more food than Americans can consume, hence they depend on exports in order to make a profit. Not only do they depend on these exports to make a profit, but so do businesses connected with this enterprise, such as seed companies, tractor supply companies, car dealerships, even local flower shops-for they depend on the agricultural community putting its profits into locally owned businesses.

Hence, decreased profits from chickens can hurt America almost as much as increased tariffs on imported tires can help America. It seems we face an interesting dilemma today: how can we provide all the goods Americans need or want at a reasonable price? Would we be willing to buy American in order to save American jobs and businesses? Are we willing to forego buying products made outside the United States? Are we so dependent on foreign goods that we wouldn't be able to survive on American products even if we wanted to? Are we on the brink of a worldwide trade war?

It would seem this is a good time for action. Prayer is a good start, but being informed and taking a hard look at personal budgets might go a long way to helping resolve an impending crisis, too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor Day - 2009

Labor Day 2009 is now in the books. It comes as little surprise that this past Labor Day saw the American labor force in a bad spot. The U.S. Department of Labor reported the national unemployment rate for August rose to 9.7 percent from 9.4 percent in July, with Georgia experiencing a rate of 10.3 percent, Nevada at 12.5 percent, and Michigan reporting 15 percent. With 7.4 million people unemployed since December 2007, it seems we have little to celebrate this holiday. Even with $12 billion in stimulus money, there were only 500,000 to 750,000 jobs saved or created (emphasis on "jobs saved") not much when compared to 7.4 million jobs lost.

Combining increasing jobless rates, falling stock prices, and failed banks with dismal housing market sales means less money in circulation. Less money means taxes must be raised in order for states to honor their obligations. Take Illinois for instance. It now taxes candy and soda pop at up to 10.25 percent -- up from 2 percent in the past. But, candy that contains flour, such as Twizzlers® is still taxed at 2 percent -- fun in Illinois. Illinois is just one example of how every state has had issues funding projects and programs. Teachers have been laid off in every state, roads have gone un-repaired, and state governments are on the brink of collapse -- threatening shut down. Prisons will be emptied, schools will be closed and police will be laid off. This is not a good future.

The federal government is also trying to get a handle on economic woes, but dairy farmers are losing money, new energy taxes are being considered, and health care is causing a rift not seen before in America -- sometimes with an agitation that even expresses itself with violence at rallies. A projected $9 trillion debt is hard to imagine. I lose track when it gets over a $1,000.

So what can we celebrate? How about we celebrate 91 percent employment, increases in human longevity, freedoms no other country in the world has, or the fact we can speak our mind without fear of jail? How about we celebrate our freedom to travel freely and safely around this vast and beautiful country? How about celebrating even that heart disease and cancer -- the one-two punch of death for Americans -- can be prevented by a good diet, exercise, and avoiding certain behaviors like smoking?

Can we celebrate that we have the only universal educational system in the world? We will educate anyone -- no matter where they're from, even if they're not citizens. Is that not a good thing? Perhaps we can celebrate that we have the freedom to gather, worship, or stand on street corners and share a vital message? This past Labor Day I thanked God for the gifts He has given me, roasted a hot dog on the grill, and prayed for our future. It was a good celebration.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Power Of A Job Well-Done

It was one of those days: the lawn needed care, the house needed attention, and the weather was perfect for fishing or golf -- plus -- the wife would be gone all day. What's a guy to do?

I know it wouldn't have been my first choice, but I decided to tackle some chores around the house. I cut and bagged the grass, edged, trimmed the bushes, planted grass seed, and swept the sidewalks. I then noticed the weeds in the flowerbed, so I started weeding. As I pulled out the wayward grasses, I noticed a hole under the front porch. Time to go to Home Depot®!

After the cart was loaded with bricks and rocks to fill in the hole, I had time to wander the aisles to see what else I would need or couldn't live without. I soon had pieces and parts for long-neglected projects loaded into the back of the pick-up truck and was heading home.

I had just put the finishing touches on the porch repairs when the neighbor walked across the street into the yard. He looked over the lawn and the porch and remarked, "Good job. You did good."

I admit it was good to hear him say that. He's retired and spends lots of time and resources maintaining his neat yard. As a result, his standards are high. He's also vocal about sub-standard property. He is not above complaining to the subdivision authorities if someone is not keeping up their maintenance. He is also a vocal unbeliever.

When he complimented me, I had an opportunity to not only share my tips for lawn care, but had an opening to share my belief in a Creator that made everything and saw that it was "good." I shared how sin corrupts and only through Christ are we forgiven.

If I had decided differently, I might have caught some fish, maybe even sunk a couple of birdies, but spending the day doing lawn work gave me a chance to share with my neighbor. At the end of the day I was tired, sore, but thankful God had used me that day to plant more than grass seeds.

Sound familiar?