Moments that Touched me in 2011

Love the sentiment expressed in this image. Reminds me that life is marked by the moments that touch us deeply. Thought I might share a few of my moments, both deep and not, from the past year - a few of them I share with many of you.
  1. That moment in July that the tube came out and my wife Ann came off the ventilator. I will always remember the feeling of inexpressible joy when she first breathed on her own.
  2. That moment when my son graduated from MidAmerica Nazarene University. Feelings of pride rose in my heart knowing how long and hard he worked to make this happen after he left the Army.
  3. There seemed to be a closure for many of us in the moment that we heard of Osama bin Laden's death. Reminded me of the moment my warrior son came home from Iraq for the last time.
  4. Shared a few beautiful moments over a meal with blogging friends in Chicago. It was sweet to meet Keith and Therese in person after years of virtual friendship.
  5. The moment that I visited my friend John for the last time before he passed away haunts me. Seeing him in such pain was hard on my heart.
  6. Coming home after a long and difficult summer in Chicago was one of the more blissful moments of my year. Was blessed to find my cabinets stocked by our church.
  7. I remember that gut-wrenching moment in October when I heard that my beautiful niece Lynn had lost her three year battle with cancer and of how I cried with my brother and sister on the phone.
  8. Love the many moments that I spent with Ann enjoying a simple meal and sharing our hearts in conversation. Reminds me that life is all about the simple things.
  9. Remember the moments when Mary Jo, Todd, Jim and Kathy touched my heart by just being there in Chicago with me when I was afraid and hurting the most.
  10. I seem to be able to remember the moments that I heard of the death of friends and public figures. There is something that touches us when a fellow traveler dies.
What are the moments in 2011 that you will remember most? Please share at least one.


I Am Number Four | ★★★★★★★


You might enjoy this movie if you have a penchant for science fiction, fantasy and super heroes. It is about a Superboy type of figure who is fourth among ten aliens who were brought to earth to protect it from the Mogodarins, another alien race. Oddly enough the teen, named John (played by Alex Pettyfer), is next in line to be eliminated because his attackers kill them in numerical order. Fortunately for John he has help from his protector and a beautiful surprise character that emerges late in the movie.

The movie is filled with suspense, romance and geeky gadgetry - and it has a pretty good story line that even my wife, a non-geek, enjoyed. I do think that the movie's target audience is teens but I would probably catch a sequel if there is one. On a scale of ten I give Four ★★★★★★★.


Access my movie reviews webpage by clicking on "Movie Reviews" above.

Beautiful People do not Just Happen




The sentiment in this quote is so beautiful that I just had to share it.
I think that the challenge inherent in trials and troubles is to allow them to change us and make us beautiful, instead of bitter, people.

Last week I shared with about 40 people about my struggles this summer watching my wife fight for her life in Chicago. Watching her contend with breathing tubes, ventilators, physical therapy, and overcoming all sorts of obstacles, convinces me even more that beautiful people do not just happen but are born on the ash heaps of such difficulties. My Ann is a testimony of God's grace in her life and the things that are possible when a person works hard and does not give up. Such people inspire me to persevere when things get hard.

The Public Face of Atheism

Christopher Hitchens was born in the same year that I was. He lost his long battle with cancer and died a few weeks ago. I mourn his passing. Many have written much about him but I thought that Preston Gillham's comments about Hitchens on his blog were very thought provoking. Here is a clip from it ...

He gambled to the end that he was right about there being no God. Now he knows for sure, something he asserted vehemently that was not knowable in this life.

Joel Siegel of ABC News writes of Hitchens:

“Hitchens became the public face of atheism. Critics assumed his cancer diagnosis, in 2010, would lead Hitchens to relent and embrace God. But he remained a proud non-believer to the very end, as he made clear in an early October 2011 speech at the annual Atheist Alliance of America convention in Houston, as he accepted the Freethinker of the Year Award. His body gaunt from the ravages of cancer, Hitchens said, ‘We have the same job we always had: to say that there are no final solutions; there is no absolute truth; there is no supreme leader; there is no totalitarian solution that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would simply abandon your critical faculties, the world of idiotic bliss can be yours.’”
Lots of humanity in that quote, huh? Lots of misconceptions about what becoming a Believer means. Lots of hostility. Lots of strong words—too strong.

Strong words can belie doubt. Not always, of course. But I’m just saying: the superlatives in Hitchens’ acceptance speech caught my attention.

Lots of Christianity’s brightest minds debated Hitchens, ostensibly believing that by intellectual argument they could convince heartfelt assent. Apologetics are for Believers. Unbelief isn’t about belief at all. Unbelief is a conflict of wills—the divine in tension with the human.

Life and death are a wager. Pascal said in essence, if I believe in God, and govern my life according to that belief, only to die and discover I was mistaken—i.e., there is no God—then what have I lost? On the other hand, if I live a life of unbelief, and die to discover I was wrong, then I have lost all eternity.



The Paris of the MidWest

Loved the buzzworthy list presented in the image above. If you looked a few blocks past the tallest building in the picture you would find our loft in the River Market area of downtown KC. Recently I heard Guy Fieri, of Food Channel "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" fame, call Kansas City the "Paris of the MidWest". Reminded me of how great it is to live in this small city - or is that big town? Here are a few things about our fair city that you might not know:
  • With over 200 fountains, the city claims to have the second most in the world, just behind Rome.
  • Has more boulevards than any city in the world except Paris
  • The U.S. Government is the largest employer in the Kansas City metro area, with more than 146 federal agencies.
  • Has more barbecue restaurants per capita than any other city in the nation.
  • Is the 29th largest metropolitan area in the USA - 2 million people spread over 4,777 square miles.
  • Ignored Prohibition during the 1920s, leading to an abundance of jazz clubs, brothels and gambling halls.
  • Home to the world’s largest greeting-cards maker, Hallmark Cards and to Sprint telecom.
  • Walt Disney opened Laugh-O-Gram Studios, his first animation studio, in Kansas City.
  • Is ethnically diverse with a population of about 60% caucasian, 30% African American and 10% Hispanic.
  • Since 1857, the City Market has been one of the largest public farmers' markets in the midwest.
  • Municipal Auditorium has hosted more NCAA Final Four Championships than any other venue in the country.
  • Home to the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, the Lyric Opera, the Nelson-Atkins Museum, the Kansas City Symphony, the Kauffman Center and many other venues for the Arts.
  • The scoreboard at Arrowhead Stadium (home of the KC Chiefs) was the first to transmit instant replay.
  • Swope Park is one of the nation's largest city parks and is more than twice as big as New York's Central Park.
  • Referred to colloquially as the Heart of America as it is near both the population center of the United States and the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states.
If you are ever in KC I would consider it an honor to show you around a bit - including some great KC BBQ joints!


Iowa and New Hampshire :: Not What They Used to Be!

I agree with the Christian Science Monitor's article titled "In GOP race, Iowa and New Hampshire aren't what they used to be". It reminded me that Michele Bachmann won the big-time Iowa Straw poll just a few months ago. Here are a few good clips from the article:
"When Iowa Republicans caucus on Jan. 3, chances are the voters will know more about the candidates from nationally televised debates and interviews than from personal interaction. Ditto the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10."
...
"On-the-ground retail campaigning, it just doesn't pay," says Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party. "That's a disappointing realization. The idea of Jimmy Carter building support one by one is not nearly as effective as having a good debate moment that goes viral on YouTube."
...
"The GOP’s new rule awarding delegates proportionally based on the vote, rather than winner-take-all, in most contests before April also makes the early contests less important than in the past."
Hat tip to Iowan Shane for pointing me to the article even though he vehemently disagrees with what it says.

Top Ten Viewed Posts of 2011

Blogger has an interesting feature that displays the number of page views that each blog post had. I normally do not have very high numbers and when I do I suspect the views are more about a Google image search than something that I wrote. Even so I thought it might be fun to show my most viewed posts for the year with their page view stats.
  1. You might have OCD if ... :: 1849
  2. 66 Shelby Ford Mustang GT350 found in a Shed :: 1384
  3. Toxic Side Effects :: 995
  4. Optimism in Face of Trials :: 715
  5. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk :: 604
  6. Man vs Machine :: 576
  7. Crazy Never Wins :: 539
  8. The Secret Life of Bees :: 443
  9. St Patrick's Day Clichés :: 441
  10. A Good Day to Forgive :: 427
Let me know if you remember any of these. I confess that I forgot a few. :)


Charitable Giving Habits of GOP Candidates

Recently Pastor Steven Andrew, president of USA Christian Ministries, called out Franklin Graham telling him to repent after Graham said that it is acceptable for a Christian to vote for a Mormon. Pastor Andrew also said “God cannot bless us for betraying Jesus and voting for a non-Christian.” It got me to wondering who amongst the crew acted Christian when it came to charity.

In a series of articles the Huffington Post took a close look at the charitable giving of Republican presidential candidates. How much and to whom did they give? How does their giving compare with their fellow Americans? And what impact did they ultimately have? Here are the titles and links to those articles:
Bachmann Charity Work: Christian And Controversial

Newt Gingrich's Charities Wither While His Political Organizations Thrive

Jon Huntsman 2012: Legacy Of Charity Efforts May Be Liability In GOP Presidential Race

Ron Paul's Charity: Libertarian Views Fail Reality Test

Governor Rick Perry: Big On Prayer, Not So Big On Charity

Mitt Romney Gives Millions To Charity, Most To Mormon Church
Rick Santorum is noticeably absent from their list - feel free to provide a link in the comments to an article that deals with Santorum's charitable habits. Even so, I think that you might find the reading insightful. Reminds me of how the Lord tells us that we will know his followers by their fruit.


The Longest Night

Tonight is the winter solstice (i.e the longest night). At 7pm tonight I will be briefly sharing about "My Longest Week" with a few folks at a service in Kansas City called "The Longest Night". It is a time where folks that are hurting gather together acknowledging that this is a tough time of the year for them. I will be sharing simple lessons that I learned this summer watching my wife Ann struggle for her life breathing with the help of a ventilator. As I prepared for the service I found myself thinking about this wonderful meditation (posted below), written in 2001 by Rev. Diane Hendricks. As you read it please pray for those who are hurting so much this season.


Longest Night Meditation

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Only it's not.

  • Not for everyone.
  • Not when there is an empty chair at the table.
  • Not when your body is ravaged with illness.
  • Not when the depression is too much to bear.
  • Not without her voice joining yours on the Christmas carols.
  • Not when you feel all alone even in a crowd.
  • Not when you are not sure you can even afford the rent or mortgage, let alone the presents.
  • Not when they are trying their best to the best of you.
  • Not when another Christmas party means he will come home drunk again.
It's the most wonderful time of the year?

No, it's not.

And trying to smile and say Merry Christmas is more than difficult. It's pretty near impossible.

C.S. Lewis once wrote:

"No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning..."
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Only it's not.

  • Not after he has died.
  • Not after the doctor gave you the news.
  • Not after they told you they would be downsizing.
  • Not after... you fill in the blank.
  • Not after September 11.
  • Not when there is so much violence and destruction in the world.
In truth, it has never been the most wonderful time of the year. Certainly not in the days surrounding that first Christmas so long ago. The story of the birth of Jesus is not to be told with a jolly voice and a merry ho-ho-ho.
It is the story of a teenage girl, pregnant with a child that is not her husband's.

It is the story of a child born in a dirty animal stall.
It is the story of a family of refugees who had to flee their homeland so that their child would not be killed.
It is the story of one sent into the world in peace who was condemned to death.
It is the story of a light sent to shine in the darkness, which the world snuffed out.
It is the story of God's never-ending, self-giving mercy which was rejected and condemned.
In the great work the Messiah, Handel quotes the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming that Jesus was "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." One great theologian reminds us that we cannot come to the manger without acknowledging that it lays in the shadow of the cross.

It is not the most wonderful time of the year.

Only it is! It is:

  • If we forget about the tinsel and the trees.
  • If we forget about the holly jolly tidings.
  • If we forget about the presents and the ornaments and the trappings.
And remember. Remember the story.
  • Mary was alone and afraid.
    But God was with her and exalted her among women.
  • Joseph was disgraced.
    But God revealed in Joseph's cause for disgrace God's plan to save the world.
  • The world was in darkness.
    But God sent the light of life to shine.
  • The lowly were imprisoned.
    But Jesus set them free.
  • The blind wandered aimlessly.
    But Christ gave them eyes to see.
  • The lame were rejected.
    But through the Holy One they were made to leap and dance.
  • The deaf were confined to the silence.
    But the song of life unstopped their ears.
  • The sorrowful grieved.
    But God wipes away our tears.
  • We were alone.
    But in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God is with us.
  • The people rejected God.
    But God embraces us.
  • The world crucified Christ.
    But God would not allow that to be the last word, and gave us the sure hope of the resurrection.
It is the most wonderful time of the year, not because you have to be cheery and happy and merry.

But because you don't.

You can have heavy spirits and shattered dreams. Broken hearts and deep wounds.

And still God comes to be with you.
  • To comfort you.
  • To redeem you.
  • To save you.
  • To restore you.
  • To empower you.
  • To strengthen you.
  • To grant you peace.
  • To be raised for you.
  • To hold you in the communion of saints with those whom you have loved and lost.
  • To store your tears in his bottle.
  • To offer you eternal life.
It is the most wonderful time of the year.
For Christ is born.
Love has come.
God is with us!
Thanks be to the Lord our God.



iPhone or Android? How to decide?

David Gewirtz weighed in recently in his ZDNet piece titled "How to decide: should you buy an iPhone or an Android phone?" Here are a few things one should consider when deciding between the iPhone or an Android based phone:
  • 4G/LTE: Android phones support very high speed mobile broadband. iPhones don’t.
  • Physical keyboard: A few Android phones have physical keyboards but the iPhone doesn't.
  • Voice recognition: Both Apple and Android have voice recognition.
  • Accessories: If you have adapters and accessories for a platform already, that might be the one you’ll go for.
  • Familiarity: If you’re upgrading a phone, do you want to stick with an environment you know?
  • Apps: If you made your choice based on number of apps, the score would be tied.
  • Customizability: If you want to deeply customize your phone, the choice can only be Android.
  • Camera: In test after test, the iPhone 4S bested the various cameras in Android phones.
I have heard that Apple nickel-and-dimes iPhone owners when they add apps but do not know if that is true or not. I do know that all of the Android apps that I use is free. After years of struggling with my Palm Pre (not too many apps on that phone) I really like my Android powered phone. I like the seamless interface with the Google email, calendar and contact apps - it is great having the same calendar and contacts on my laptop and my phone.

What has been your experience? In hindsight, do you wish that you bought a different phone?

Dumb Wheelchair Ramps!




This morning I spent a few minutes trying to share with a new friend what it is like living life with the limitations imposed by a wheelchair. I felt like I was not communicating what it was like very well at all. Perhaps it is something that you have to be involved with on a day to day basis to really understand. Or maybe I need to work on my story. :)

That said, I do think that this image of a wheelchair ramp dead ending into a column tells a bit of a story. You can see more dumb wheelchair ramps here.




Poobahs, Priests, Pastors and Pride

Lee Grady writes an editorial column for Charisma magazine. One such oped caught my attention a few weeks ago. It is titled "A Message to His Holy Highness the Worshipful Bishop Rev. Dr. Apostle Grand Poobah". Here are a few clips:
I am often asked if I have a title, and my answer doesn’t satisfy some people. I travel a lot, so I don’t consider myself a pastor. All kinds of labels have been pinned on me: Reverend, prophet, apostle … even bishop. Once I was introduced to a church as “Dr. Grady” and I almost crawled under my seat. I only have a college degree. There are no letters after my name. I tell people: “You can call me Lee. Or if you want to sound formal, you can say, ‘Brother Grady.’”
...
Jesus didn’t play this religious game, especially when he was around the Grand Poobahs of His day—the long-robed scribes and Pharisees. After accusing them of loving the best seats in the synagogues, He pointed out that they loved to be called “Rabbi” by men. Then He warned them: “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. … the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted”.
...
When I was in China several years ago, I met some amazing leaders who had planted thousands of congregations. They had also spent a lot of time in jail for their faith, and they’d been beaten with iron rods for preaching the gospel. They were the bravest apostles I’ve ever met. But when I asked them if they used “apostle” as a title, one guy said: “We believe in those roles in the church. But we prefer to call each other ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’”

That settled it for me. A few years later I met Iftakhar, a Pakistani apostle who has oversight of 900 churches. He also has two scars on his arm from gunshots fired by Muslim extremists who have put a price on his head. When I asked him how I should address him, he smiled and said, “Iftakhar.”

If these two giants of the faith—and true apostles—don’t require to be addressed with titles, then Your Worshipful Grand Master Rev. Dr. Bishop Jones (who claims oversight of maybe four churches) shouldn’t wear his ministry role around his neck like a tacky neon name badge.
One of my very first blog posts was one I called "On Rabbis, Monsignors & Pastors". In it, for reasons that Grady elaborated on in this editorial, I asked people to not call me Pastor Bob. As I am retired it is no longer an issue for me but I am still okay if you want to call me Kansas Bob. :)


K Street :: the Rodeo Drive of Influence Peddling

Congresswoman and presidential wannabe Michele Bachmann recently said this:
"Gingrich has built a multi-million-dollar business from his perch on K Street,
the Rodeo Drive of influence peddling in Washington, D.C.
"
Got me thinking about the great 60 Minutes episode where Jack Abramoff, a contrite former lobbyist, blasted the Lobbying Industry. Here are a few quotes from his "Capital Punishment" book complements of the Huffington Post ...
"As a lobbyist, I thought it only natural and right that my clients should reward those members who saved them such substantial sums with generous contributions," he writes. "This quid pro quo became one of hallmarks of our lobbying efforts."

He also describes wooing congressional staffers -- particularly chiefs of staff -- with the lure of future employment. "After a number of meetings with them, possibly including meals or rounds of golf, I would say a few magic words: 'When you are done working for the Congressman, you should come work for me at my firm.'

"With that, assuming the staffer had any interest in leaving Capitol Hill for K Street -- and almost 90 percent of them do, I would own him and, consequently, that entire office. No rules had been broken, at least not yet. No one even knew what was happening, but suddenly, every move that staffer made, he made with his future at my firm in mind."

Abramoff points out that he was "not alone in this method" and that "it continues today, unabated by reform campaigns or public ire at the Congress."
Sadly there are few candidates running that are blasting this sort of activity. Says a lot about the systematic corruption that exists in our government. Even Bachmann is supported by and gets mega-bucks from Super PACs.

Larry Crowne | ★★★★★★★



Ann and I watched this fun romantic comedy this week and much enjoyed it. There was no spectacular message and no thrilling twists - maybe that is what I liked about it. At the heart of it was the story of two people (played nicely by Hanks and Roberts) struggling to work through problems and reinvent themselves. I think that some 50 somethings might be able to relate to them and be inspired a bit. I particularly found Larry's story engaging as we watch him (a retired Navy vet) be "downsized" from a big box store because he did not have a college degree. I thought that Larry modeled class and integrity in the way that he met his new challenges and also the way that he interacted with a hurting and wounded love interest. I recommend it to you especially if you are looking for a romantic comedy. On a scale of ten I give it ★★★★★★★.


Access my movie reviews webpage by clicking on "Movie Reviews" above.

What a difference a few days makes!

This banner was seen a few days before the Chiefs owner, Clark Hunt, and General Manager, Scott Pioli, took action and fired head coach Todd Haley. It serves as a reminder that things and people can change in a very short time. Consider these gems about the nature of change from people of note:

Change before you have to. -Jack Welch

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. -Anatole France

Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have. -Margaret Mead

Always remember that the future comes one day at a time. -Dean Acheson

Christians are supposed not merely to endure change, nor even to profit by it, but to cause it. -Harry Emerson Fosdick

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. -Leo Tolstoy

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. -Maya Angelou

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. -C. S. Lewis

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. -Reinhold Niebuhr



Is it really possible to make Congress work?

These days it seems that a new "movement" (grass roots and otherwise) pops up a few times a year. The Tea Party rose up a few years ago and have (for the most part anyways) given us the high level of congressional dysfunction we see in DC today. Other "movements" like the Coffee Party and Occupy Wall Street have arisen with more moderate and left leaning messages - if there is really a message in such "movements".

Today I once again became aware of the No Labels "movement". I like some of their ideas but am doubtful that they will go anywhere. Here are a few of them that supposedly will "Make Congress Work":
  • No Budget, No Pay
    If Congress can't make spending and budget decisions on time, they shouldn't get paid on time either.
  • Fix the Filibuster
    Require real (not virtual) filibusters, end filibusters on "Motions to Proceed" and allow more issues to be debated and voted on
  • Empower the Sensible Majority
    If a bipartisan majority wants to get something done, they shouldn't be held back by party leaders who prefer to organize Congress into warring clans.
  • Make Members Come to Work
    Most Americans put in a five-day workweek. So should Congress.
  • Bipartisan Leadership Committee
    Republican and Democratic leaders have allowed virtually every meeting to turn into a partisan pep rally.
There are twelve of these in all. I suggest that you check them out at the No Labels website.

Not sure what you think but I am appalled by the dysfunction in Congress. Thinking about how they profit from insider trading information and lobbyist money makes me ill. Looking at this list reminds me of how pitiful these slackers really are. I mean really! They need new rules to tell them to work five days? Give me a break!

I do not think that it is possible to make these fools work. The system is broken. What do you think?

Laptop Battery Quiz!


According to ZDnet which one of these top five rated laptops got the best battery performance? The times, measured by the ZDNet video playback battery drain test, were 418, 421, 425, 442 and 513 minutes. Here are the laptop names in alphabetical order. Which do you think won - a PC or a Mac?
  1. HP Pavilion dv7
  2. Lenovo ThinkPad
  3. MacBook Pro 13" model
  4. MacBook Pro 15" model
  5. Toshiba Portege R835-P70
Answer is in the comments. Extra credit if you get the one that came in second. :)

Are Evangelicals Warmongers?

I came across a post on Chuck Baldwin's blog where he asks the same question that I have proposed in the title of this post. Consider a few things that he has to say on the subject:
I do think it is more than fair to say that, historically, Christians have always attempted to be–and have always publicly taught the importance of being–peacemakers. Historically, Christians have preached–and tried to practice–love and brotherhood.
...
The vast majority of Christian believers understood the Biblical, Natural Law principle of self-defense. But believing in the right of lawful, God-ordained self-defense was never to be confused with warmongering.
...
The biggest cheerleaders for the unprovoked, unconstitutional, pre-emptive attack and invasion of Iraq were evangelical Christians. Ditto for the war in Afghanistan, the bombing of Libya, the attacks in Yemen, etc. Who is calling for the bombing of Iran? Evangelical Christians.
...
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but more Christians have been persecuted under the US-imposed regime in Iraq than were ever persecuted when Saddam Hussein was in power. Oh! And don’t forget that it was the US government that was responsible for putting Saddam Hussein in power to begin with.
...
I never thought I would hear myself say what I’m about to say, but the truth is, the term “Christian” today means anything but Christ-like. To many people today, “Christian” refers to some warmongering, mean-spirited, throw-anyone-to-the-wolves-who-crosses-them person, who then has the audacity to look down their nose in contempt against anyone who disagrees with them for even the smallest reason.
You can read Chuck's post in full here. I think that he poses some great questions for Christians to consider in it.

I am not a dove or hawk in these matters. I think that sometimes a country needs to be involved in wars like the first two world wars. And sometimes wars need to be fought to gain independence or to insure the rights of the helpless. On the flip side I am very uncomfortable with the way that our country has waged the "war on terror" because of the rationalizations and faulty justifications that have been used to invade countries.

How about you? Are you uncomfortable with warmongering? I am.


Water for Elephants | ★★★★★★★★


Every once in a while a movie comes along that takes us back to a former time when American life was so different. This movie paints such a story as it takes us to a depression era circus where a young grieving man is taken in and finds purpose in the midst of chaos and dysfunction.

The tagline "Life is the most spectacular show on earth" speaks to the heart of the story line. I think that the story is revealed in these things that Jacob, the hero of the story, says.
  • I don't know if I picked that circus.
    But something told me that circus picked me.
  • You're a beautiful woman, you deserve a beautiful life. Nothing less.
  • I'm not running away, I'm coming home.
The story spoke to me about the cost of having courage of conviction and how kindness can overpower brute force. I recommend this movie to you and, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★★.

On Living Simply ...

These five simple rules are beautiful reminders that real happiness is within our grasp. For me these all are a part of what it means to walk by faith. Consider a few of my thoughts on these rules listed in the image:

  1. Hatred and ill feelings can so take hold of us when we fixate on our pain, trials and disappointments. Being free from such is but a simple prayer away.
  2. Worry and fear have held me in bondage when I allow my senses to rule me. When I trust the Lord with my heart I am set free from such captivity.
  3. I think that humility lies at the heart of living simply. My life gets so complicated when I become full of myself and walk in pride. I am really not that great.
  4. Living the life of an accountant has never produced lasting joy in my life. I have learned that generosity is so good for my soul and often the path to blessing.
  5. Uncommunicated expectations always get me in trouble. Better to always simply communicate your expectations to others. Expect nothing if you do not.
On that last point it is wise to note that there are no guarantees in life regardless of what your expectations are.
Always take the time to love. If you do not have time to love then I suspect you need to simplify your life.

Do you stop or pass by those red kettles?



Heard a great story this morning of a Salvation Army kettle donation in a Kansas City suburb. A Shawnee, Kansas collection center was surprised to find a solitary diamond had been dropped into a red kettle located at a Walmart store. The diamond was assessed by a jeweler and valued around two thousand bucks. Inspires me to make sure to stop at those red kettles and make a donation.

How about you? Do you stop or pass by those red kettles?

Buddy Roemer's Friday Tweets

Thought I might share a few of Buddy's tweets from yesterday ...

I'm learning that becoming president is not always about experience and ideas. It's about money, fame and momentum.

Washington is bought and sold like a sack of potatoes.

We are a representative democracy where gov't must be held accountable by the people. America, corp $ owns your politicians!

My biggest beef is with Super PAC's because they allow unlimited corporate campaign contributions. They should be illegal.

If corporations are people, I can't wait for the day they draft them and send them off to war instead of our young men and women.

At the center of our gov't lies a bankrupt institution: Congress. Not financially bankrupt, but politically bankrupt.

Congress spends between 30%-70% of their time raising money. They don't govern, they grovel. They don't lead, they collect.

Why is CEO of GE (a major offshorer of US jobs) top advisor to current US Jobs Bill? Any surprise that GE also top 2008 campaign donor?

Pundits Weigh in on Newt Gingrich

A few select recent quotes from conservative journalists ...

“He would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated. -David Brooks

“He is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, “Watch this!”” -Peggy Noonan

“There is almost an artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepentant role as a hired larynx for interests profiting from such government follies as ethanol and cheap mortgages.” -George Will

Are Evangelicals are Playing the Faith Card?

Has anyone seen Rick Perry's recent television advertisement where he speaks of President Obama's "war on religion". It is an interesting video where candidate Perry begins by saying "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian". Reminded me of the evangelical pastor, and Rick Perry supporter, who told the press that Mitt Romney is not a Christian because Mormonism is a cult.

Got me to thinking about the many conversations I have had about Jon Huntsman, another Mormon candidate, and how my evangelical friends avow that they could not vote for him because they believe him to be a moderate even though the evidence say that he is a conservative.

A few years ago a blogging friend told me that they could not vote for a Mormon because they believed that all Mormons are deceived. I have come to believe that this is the case for a very large percentage of Evangelical Christians who will not vote for any Mormon regardless of how qualified or conservative the candidate is. Along with Rick Perry these voters are playing the faith card but refuse to admit that they are. I wish that they would.


Mujjo Touchscreen Gloves



With the winter coming I thought that you might be interested in this Christmas gift. With these gloves you'll be able to answer a call or send a text on your iPhone, iPad or Android device without exposing your fingers to the cold.

Purchase this stocking stuffer for about $34(US) here.

Caption This One!

Coffee, Lattes and Cholesterol

Much has been made in recent years of the positive and negatives effects of drinking coffee. However there is something I did not know about coffee that is discussed in an article by Dr. Rob van Dam, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Here is a clip from it:
Coffee contains a substance called cafestol that is a potent stimulator of LDL cholesterol levels. Cafestol is found in the oily fraction of coffee, and when you brew coffee with a paper filter, the cafestol gets left behind in the filter. Other methods of coffee preparation, such as the boiled coffee common in Scandinavian countries, French press coffee, or Turkish coffee, are much higher in cafestol. So for people who have high cholesterol levels or who want to prevent having high cholesterol levels, it is better to choose paper filtered coffee or instant coffee, since they have much lower levels of cafestol than boiled or French press coffee. Espresso is somewhere in the middle; it has less cafestol than boiled or French press coffee, but more than paper filtered coffee.
Interesting how a simple paper filter makes all the difference between a drink that raises your cholesterol levels and one that does not. Makes you think about those French Press brewers (pictured) and the espresso makers used to produce lattes and cappuccinos. Something to ponder while you wait in line at your neighborhood Starbucks.

Anybody really care about slower Snail Mail?

The Post Office announced yesterday that next-day mail may soon be a thing of the past. Here are a few clips from a Reuters article titled "U.S. Postal Service seeks to end next-day mail":
The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service on Monday moved forward with plans to end next-day delivery of letters, postcards and other First Class mail. In a notice filed with its regulator, it also sought approval to close more than half of its 461 processing facilities that have been critical for next-day delivery.
...
U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which does not receive any tax payer money and relies solely on the sale of postage and other products to fund its operations, sees reducing its network of post offices and processing plants as crucial as consumers increasingly pay bills online and correspond by email.

"The fact of the matter is our network is too big. We've got more capacity in our network than we can afford," David Williams, USPS vice president for network operations, told reporters on Monday.

"More importantly, we've got to set our network up so that when volume continues to drop, our network is nimble and flexible enough to respond to those volume losses."
I am glad that the USPS is making these adjustments. Delayed delivery does not concern me at all with one exception - Netflix. Once these changes are implemented I will most likely either cancel my Netflix account or try the streaming service again. Other than that I cannot even imagine how the changes will affect me. Maybe I will have to drive further the one or two times a year I visit the post office? Will the changes affect you? Do you care about the changes?


Is Newt really a Conservative?

Many Republicans are embracing Newt Gingrich as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney in this primary season. In answer to those people conservative researcher Steve Baldwin cites the following:
"Newt Gingrich is a political chameleon that has inexplicably managed to fool conservatives for 30 years. He is a globalist to the bone and supports every opportunity to erode American sovereignty and the constitution. He disguises his statist positions with an abundance of flip-flopping and pandering as needed. He has a long history of expanding the Federal Government and deficit spending. He is the very definition of an Establishment Insider."
Here are a few examples that Baldwin cites to support his position:
  • Voted for NAFTA, a blatant circumvention of Congress’ exclusive power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.
  • Supported the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • Voted for the creation of the Federal Dept. of Education in 1979 under Jimmy Carter.
  • In one year (1994-1995) Gingrich voted for nearly $45 billion in foreign aid.
  • He’s a paid lobbyist for Federal ethanol subsidies.
  • Supported spending $30B for the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that shackled gun owners with new restrictions, federalized a number of crimes, and handed the feds police powers that the Constitution reserves to the states.
  • Voted to give billions of dollars to United Nations “peacekeeping” operations.
  • He cheated on one of his wives while she was suffering from cancer, delivered divorce papers to her in the hospital.
  • He blames his infidelity to multiple wives on his passion for the country.
  • He was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac to halt Congress from bringing necessary reform.
There are many other examples cited in the post - read more here. I am obviously not a fan of Newt and think that he is no more of a conservative than Romney is. What do you think? Is Newt really a conservative?

Country Strong | ★★


Not sure how this movie got on my Netflix queue. Perhaps someone who enjoys melodramatic bad-acted movies just because a few country songs are sung got hold of my password? I sincerely wish that I had not wasted 117 minutes of my life watching the video version of it.

For starters the plot was really lame. I thought that it pandered to the people who always vote for the country artists on American Idol even when they are out-sung by others. Gwyneth Paltrow was horribly campy in the lead role and Tim McGraw was wooden at best.

If there is a redeeming value to the movie it might be the message that one should not place their career above the well being of themselves and their family. On a scale of ten I give it .


Access my movie reviews webpage by clicking on "Movie Reviews" above.

Should Tim Tebow be Silent?




I love how so many people are talking about how Tim Tebow acknowledges God on the football field. I love how his actions make some feel uncomfortable. I think that it is great how some even feel a need to mock him. It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul once wrote to the Philippians:

"But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice."

I love Tim's comments to ESPN in this news clip and I rejoice that he is bringing attention to Christ in this wonderful season of Christmas. After all, Jesus is the reason for the season. :)

What do you think about Tim's bold actions?

Should Tim Tebow keep quiet?

Why even have a password?

Following is Time Magazine's "25 Most Popular (and Worst) Passwords of 2011". Hard to believe that people even bother to enter this sort of nonsense - no offence intended. :)
  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. monkey
  7. 1234567
  8. letmein
  9. trustno1
  10. dragon
  11. baseball
  12. 111111
  13. iloveyou
  14. master
  15. sunshine
  16. ashley
  17. bailey
  18. passw0rd
  19. shadow
  20. 123123
  21. 654321
  22. superman
  23. qazwsx
  24. michael
  25. Football
If you find your password on this list I suggest that you learn how to create strong passwords or perhaps use a password manager like LastPass. You might thank me some day if you do. :)

Churchill Wit

Whenever I read the things that Winston Churchill once said I see a man of great wit. Consider the evidence ...

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."

"I'm just preparing my impromptu remarks."

"If you're going through hell, keep going."

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed."

Lady: If I were your wife, I would give you poison.
Churchill: Madam, if I were your husband, I would take it!

"We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out."

"We are all worms. But I believe that I am a glow-worm."

"I like a man who grins when he fights."

"Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room."

"I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

GB Shaw: "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one."
Churchill: "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second.... if there is one."

The Unknown Unpopular Conservative Candidate

In his latest Politico post, titled "Who is the real RINO?", Joe Scarborough poses twenty multiple choice questions where you can choose between Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman to answer the questions. His answer to the title question about who is not a RINO becomes fairly obvious as he ends with these questions.

  • Which candidate is the only GOP presidential contender to come out in full support of the Ryan plan?
  • Which candidate was ranked by Cato Institute in 2008 one of the most fiscally conservative governors in America?
  • Which candidate was cited by the Pew Center for running the “best-managed” state, hailed by Forbes magazine as the “most fiscally fit” and ranked first in the country for job creation?
  • Whose economic plan does The Wall Street Journal consider the most impressive and conservative of the Republican presidential field?
  • The American Conservative wrote this about which GOP candidate, “For the past two decades a ‘moderate’ Republican was one who didn’t generally side with his party on three issues: taxes, guns and abortion. [This candidate’s] record on those isn’t just to the right of the moderates. It is to the right of most conservatives”?
  • Which candidate was praised in a Club for Growth report for reforming health care with “no individual mandate, no employer mandate and no provision for a massive expansion of subsidized care unlike Obamacare or Romney’s plan”?
Perhaps Joe does not understand that it is not Forbes, the American Conservative, the Cato Institute, the Pew Center or the Wall Street Journal who defines what a conservative is and which candidates are RINOs. Everyone know that it is squawk radio hosts and cable TV celebrities that define these terms. Duh!!

Who is Buddy Roemer?


I was surprised this morning to learn that this man is running for president. It speaks to how a former governor and congressman can be excluded by the powers that be in the Republican Party. Here are a few of his quips:


"Washington works for the 1%.
DC gives tax breaks to corps that send jobs overseas;
lets top campaign contributors write policy."


"We've Become a Government of Big Checks"

"Occupy Is Fighting Against Corruption"

If you want to find more about Buddy check out his website or follow him on Twitter here. He might surprise you!

Did you know that Buddy is running for president?

Is Warehouse Shopping a Scam?




When I was younger and shopped for a family of four these kind of places seemed like a good idea. Then I started comparing them to Walmart prices and found them lacking. I checked one of them out this afternoon and my mind was not changed.. especially when the membership is over $50.

Do you warehouse shop? If so, what do you like about it?

Preventing Cyber Monday Identity Theft

Sadly this is a time of the year that identity thieves prey on folks making purchases online. So on this day called Cyber Monday I give you the following checklist with complements of the folks at ProtectMyID.com and ConsumerInfo.com:

  • Don't access secure websites, such as online banking, from shared computers or in public.
  • Use the privacy settings on social networking sites to ensure you're only sharing information with those you trust.
  • Only provide your Social Security number when necessary, such as for employment, tax forms or bank records.
  • Be careful opening files, links, emails, etc. from unknown sources or from a friend's account that may have been hacked.
  • Check the security of online stores before you purchase.
  • Shred all sensitive information before throwing in the trash
  • When sharing personal information with certain professionals, such as tax preparers or mortgage lenders, be sure to choose companies you trust.

Ann and I will probably do a bit of online shopping this season. How about you?


Does God need a Lobbyist?



Many of us in the religious sector decry the systematic abuses of lobbyists in Washington, DC. With that backdrop I read with interest a post titled Lobbying for the Faithful. Here are a few interesting bits from it:

"The number of organizations engaged in religious lobbying or religion-related advocacy in Washington, D.C., has increased roughly fivefold in the past four decades, from fewer than 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today."
...
"Efforts by religious groups to influence U.S. public policy are a multimillion-dollar endeavor, with combined annual expenditures conservatively estimated at more than $390 million."


Do you think that religious folks should be using lobbyists and spending millions of dollars trying to influence public policy. I have my doubts.

Happy Bottoms


I am always amazed by the creative and imaginative ways that people find to help folks who are struggling and in need. Consider this clip from the Happy Bottoms website:
Imagine choosing between diapers or paying your electric bill. Or putting gas in your car. Tough choice, right? Now imagine making that decision every day. Chances are you won’t face this scenario, but it’s a common one for low-income families.

We hope to alleviate situations like these by holding diaper donation drives throughout Kansas City, and we ask you to join us. Whether you’re donating or sponsoring a drive, it’s a simple, easy process that supports a basic need – and makes a big difference in children’s lives.
The need is so great because federal programs like food stamps do not help with this basic need. I plan to check Happy Bottoms out further and see how I can help. Does your town have a group that helps in this area?


Made in Dagenham | ★★★★★★★

I think that the Occupy Wall Street protests could take a cue from this 2010 flick that tells the story of a 1968 labor strike initiated by hundreds of women who rebelled against discrimination and demanded the same pay as men for their work in a Ford manufacturing plant in London. Here are a few pointers the OWS could learn from these passionate women:

1) A great cause requires a great leader. In the film the amazing Rita O'Grady (played by Sally Hawkins) rises from obscurity and defeats a gigantic auto maker. It is a great David and Goliath story.

2) You have to know what you are protesting about. Equal pay for equal work was uncommon in the 60s but these women knew they were in the right.

3) You need the support of others. At first the men were not on the women's side because the strike was negatively affecting their jobs. Things changed when the men changed. Shared sacrifice was essential to succeed.

I enjoyed the film and its message. On a scale of ten I give it ★★★★★★★.

Interesting to note that some think that women's pay may overtake men's pay by 2020. Do you think it will?


FYI: Access my new movie reviews web page by clicking on "Movie Reviews" in the navigation bar above.

Happy Thanksgiving

In honor of the day I am giving thanks for our troops and for you.

- Have a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving -

Occupy Black Friday?




Saw this image on the Occupy KC website along with a few videos of folks being trampled trying to get into stores and score deals on Black Friday (i.e. the day after Thanksgiving). Also saw a few clips on TV of folks camping out at Best Buy and Target waiting for the great deals on that day. Seems like a bit of insanity just to score a few hundred bucks off a big screen television.

Guess Black Friday has never been much of an attraction for me.

How about you? Are you planning to get to a store before the sun comes up?

Gas in KC :: Barely Below $3




Glad to see gas in our area dropping.


How much does gas cost where you live?

Crony Capitalism: Socialism for Tycoons

Many of my libertarian and conservative friends often regale the virtues of capitalism and free markets. Some of them however understand that much of what our system looks like these days is an example Crony Capitalism. Here is how Wikipedia defines it:
Crony capitalism is a term describing a capitalist economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, and so forth.
Nicholas D. Kristof shares this about it in his New York Times opinion piece titled "Crony Capitalism Comes Home".
Here are a few of his thoughts:
I’m as passionate a believer in capitalism as anyone. My Krzysztofowicz cousins (who didn’t shorten the family name) lived in Poland, and their experience with Communism taught me that the way to raise living standards is capitalism. But, in recent years, some financiers have chosen to live in a government-backed featherbed. Their platform seems to be socialism for tycoons and capitalism for the rest of us.
...
Capitalism is so successful an economic system partly because of an internal discipline that allows for loss and even bankruptcy. It’s the possibility of failure that creates the opportunity for triumph. Yet many of America’s major banks are too big to fail, so they can privatize profits while socializing risk.

The upshot is that financial institutions boost leverage in search of supersize profits and bonuses. Banks pretend that risk is eliminated because it’s securitized. Rating agencies accept money to issue an imprimatur that turns out to be meaningless. The system teeters, and then the taxpayer rushes in to bail bankers out. Where’s the accountability?
The lack of accountability in Crony Capitalism is troubling. The lawmakers in DC do not seem to have it. The executives in Corporate America do not want it. And the rest of us seem powerless. Small wonder that some feel a need to protest.

On Education and Learning ...

In light of this interesting chart I thought that I might share a few thoughts from educated folks on the topic ...
"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." -Albert Einstein

"Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching." -Oscar Wilde

"No man ever prayed heartily without learning something." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We do not learn; and what we call learning is only a process of recollection." -Plato

"The only things worth learning are the things you learn after you know it all." -Harry S. Truman
I tend to agree with Einstein's sentiment about education and learning. What do you think?

America is 83% Religious




To listen to many folks these days one might think that there is an onslaught invasion by a massive anti-God army in America taking place. This USA Today Faith Topography seems to indicate otherwise. I guess many atheists are outspoken causing them to seem to be large in number while many religious people exercise a faith that is a bit quieter.

Feel free to check out the faith topography of your state here.

Stress Test | Not the Treadmill Type

Yes, I have had several treadmill stress tests that have evidenced a healthy heart. I take them because my cholesterol levels run a bit high. But that is not what this post is about. It is about the other kind of stress - sometimes I forget that stress is something that I can do something about. Consider this excerpt from Kim Allen's post Storm Warning ...

When did we forget that stress is the body's way of warning us something is out of kilter? Take this short 'stress test' if you're still not sure it's time to stop all the talking and do something about it. 


Low stress levels
  • I feel well
  • I am able to relax
  • Physical recreation brings me pleasure
  • Increasing pressure enhances my performance
  • My thinking is clear and I learn easily
  • I am able to say "No"
  • Others see me as adaptable & approachable
  • Others see me as energized and successful
Moderate stress levels
  • I feel driven, hyperactive, and restless
  • I tend to make snap decisions but with errors
  • I feel over-burdened but can still say "No"
  • I often feel tired but am taking steps to recover
  • I often try to squeeze a few extra drops out of my performance
  • Discipline, fitness, social pressure & stimulants play a greater role in my ability to perform
  • My sleep is just about adequate
  • Others see me as tired yet successful
High stress levels
  • I often loose perspective
  • I feel irritable & on edge
  • I complain and grumble regularly
  • I work longer hours but get less done
  • My home/work balance is suffering
  • I have repeated minor ailments, aches and pains
  • I don't think as clearly as I used to
  • I have sleep problems
  • I feel like I'm operating in survival mode
Now don't get stressed out about stress! Events and situations (the traffic, the deadlines, the bills, etc.), don't cause the damage; our negative reaction to these events –how we feel –do. And how we react is something we can change.

The Values Debate

Richard Cizik was the vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals from 1998 to 2008. He left that group and started the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. He understands the political issues relevant to evangelical voters at a very detailed level. So I was interested in his Washington Post editorial titled "The values debate we’re not having". Here are a few clips from it:
As an evangelical Christian who believes the Republican Party does not have a monopoly on moral values, I believe this discussion is long overdue. The “compassionate conservatism” espoused by President George W. Bush and many prominent evangelical leaders has been supplanted by a Tea Party ideology that bears more resemblance to the anti-Christian philosophy of Ayn Rand than it does to the Gospel.

Whether the Christian duty to love our neighbors is compatible with a political movement that embraces radical individualism and rejects the ethic of collective responsibility is a central question as the GOP attempts to cement the Tea Party and the religious right into a cohesive base. Tea Party activists and Republican leaders have consistently targeted for cutbacks vital government programs that protect the poor, the elderly, children and other vulnerable Americans. Yet calls for shared sacrifice and proposals to modestly raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans in order to fund investments and protections that promote the common good are derided as “class warfare.” This is what passes for family values?
...
At a time when our nation is plagued by the worst poverty rates in decades, religious leaders are not buying this narrow ideological agenda. In fact, evangelicals, Catholic bishops and Protestant leaders are leading a “Circle of Protection” campaign to defend government programs that provide a basic measure of dignity and security to those struggling to make ends meet. We are also urging a balanced approach to deficit reduction that doesn’t put the greatest burden on those hit hardest by the economic crisis.
I suggest you read the rest of the article here. And if you are one who says that the government should not be involved in the welfare of the poorest I suggest that you point me to religious institutions (i.e. churches, mosques and synagogues) that spend more money on the poor than they do on brick, mortar and salaries. They may be out there but most of these institutions look more like fraternal organizations than advocates for the poorest amongst us.

Ancient Sounds

Well maybe not really ancient but these sounds from the folks at Mental Floss bring back a lot memories.
Here is the list in short of "11 Sounds That Your Kids Have Probably Never Heard":

  1. Rotary Dial Phone
  2. Manual Typewriter
  3. Coffee Percolator
  4. Flash Cube
  5. TV Channel Selector
  6. Record Changer
  7. Gas Station Driveway Bell
  8. TV Station Sign-Off
  9. Cash Register
  10. Film Projector
  11. Broken Record

Any of those bring back memories? I suggest that you check out the entire post, replete with videos, here.