My Chuck Colson Story

Chuck Colson passed away today at the age of 80. I am saddened by his passing but am reminded of a night in the early 80s when a few friends and I showed the Born Again flick, a movie based on Mr Colson's life, to some folks at work. Dean Jones played Chuck and Anne Francis played his wife. We had about 20 folks in that large room at work that night and we showed the movie on a company loaned us a projector (no VHS or DVD back then). Had good conversation about faith with a few coworkers that night. It was great to be able to show this kind of movie.

My other connection with Chuck is the four years that I volunteered for Prison Fellowship, the ministry to inmates that he created after he was released from prison. I will always be thankful for the perspective I got from my weekly visits with inmates during those years. It taught me a lot about life and ministry.

Please join me in praying for Chuck's family and friends.

Random Saturday Hodgepodge

Joyce asked some interesting questions this week at From this Side of the Pond. Here they are with my responses ...

  1. Spring is in the air (at least in my neck of the woods) and the birds are singing...what's your favorite bird?
  2. My favorite bird is the eagle. Reminds me of the eagle in Isaiah 40:31.
  3. Speaking of you tweet? If so tell us your screen name and we'll come flocking to your Twitter site. Even if you don't let's all pretend here that we do-in 140 characters or less, sum up your week so far.
  4. I do tweet. Click the Twitter button above to follow me and I will follow you.
  5. Its been reported recently that employers are not only viewing the facebook pages of potential hires but they're also requesting your facebook password to have a look at what you've kept from public view. What say you?
  6. Employers need to mind their own FB business and employees probably should not FB at work.
  7. It's April and you know what that means-Major League Baseball is back in action. What's your favorite baseball movie? If that's too hard, what's your favorite sports themed movie?
  8. I am a Kansas City Royals fan. My favorite baseball movie is The Natural.
  9. Something else this season brings-asparagus. Yes please or no thanks? If it's yes please what's your favorite way to have it prepared?
  10. I love asparagus drenched in olive oil and cooked on the grill.
  11. What drives you? (Don't you love how I sandwiched that one in between asparagus and jugglers???)
    These days I am driven by a passion to care for and be with my wonderful wife.
  12. April 18th is International Jugglers Day...can you juggle?
    I can juggle my budget. Does that count?
  13. Insert your own random thought here.
  14. I took a few months off and am just getting back into the flow of blogging again. If you want to be on my Blogroll (see circled B on the right) please send me an email with your info.

How would you answer Joyce's questions? Maybe you can answer a few in the comments?

The Top Five Regrets

Ever heard of the book, "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying", subtitled "A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing"? It was written by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients who were dying. She writes a popular blog called Inspiration and Chai. Here are the top five regrets listed from her blog (I suggest you read it all here) followed by my commentary on each:
  1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. | This might be one of the hardest lessons that anyone can learn in life. About ten years I started a journey of discovery that has helped me to live from my heart and be a bit more real. It has been a gut wrenching experience.
  2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard. | I suspect this is about people prioritizing their jobs over their families. Hard to argue with that but I wonder if some don't work hard because they don't like what they do?
  3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. | I have never been one to repress feelings (I am from NYC) in an unhealthy way. I do wish that some folks would repress theirs. :)
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. | I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I stayed in the New York area instead of migrating to Kansas City. Not sure that I would have been happier but life would be different.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. | Interesting choice of words. I do think that happiness sometimes takes a lot of courage.
Bronnie ends with this wise admonition about life and regrets:
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Do you resonate with Bronnie's summary, any of these regrets or my comments? Any regrets to add to the list?

Where we Greener 50 Years Ago?

Got an email this week that gave me cause to pause. Here are a few of the thoughts about how we lived 50 years ago that were included in the viral note titled "The Green Thing":
  • We returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.
  • Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books.
  • We washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes.
  • We didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.
  • We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.
  • We replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
  • People took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service
I am not really advocating a return to the 50s but it does make me wonder if we are not really our worst green enemy. Of course, as the email says, "we didn't have the green thing back then". But we did seem a bit greener.

How Christians Judge (i mean see) Each Other

This image (click to enlarge it) is so funny because of the judgmental truth we can see reflected in it.

Good reminder to believe the best about each other and not judge. Maybe not judge the presidential candidates' faith. I wonder if that last remark will get me in trouble. Surely not with my friends. :)

Signed, Bob the Gracious

PS: Kudos to Ma for commenting/ linking to this image in my last post on The Absurdity of Judgment.

The Absurdity of Judgement

Saw this image on Facebook the other day and laughed as I realized how we often judge each other in the most absurd and superficial ways. I laugh because I have had such judgments about people who use certain types of technological toys - even that word "toys" is a bit of a judgment. Isn't is sadly absurd how we often view each other over the strangest things like the cars we drive, the neighborhood we live in or the brand of smart phone that we use.

What absurd judgment have you made lately? Why do you think that we all do it? Are we, at a core level, that insecure? Do we need to feel good about ourselves and our belief systems at the expense of others? This sort of judgment is quite absurd yet, for the life of me, I do not know why I continue in it? What do you think? Are we really that sick? Why can't we stop?

Why do we continue to judge each other when we know at a deep level that it is wrong? What kind of sick joy does it bring us to treat each other this way?

Absurd is the word for it. And it is wrong.

A Day in the Life with an Autoimmune Disease

The story below is very similar to my wife Ann's journey with Devic's Disease. I share it with you to sensitize you to the struggles that people with autoimmune diseases deal with each and every day.

Kevin Weilacher was on vacation when he developed a rare disorder that left him temporarily paralyzed and anxiously awaiting a diagnosis. He and wife, Liz, just celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary in Niagara Falls. While traveling back to Ohio, the couple stopped to visit Weilacher's mother in Erie, Penn. He awoke at 1 a.m. on an evening in May 2008 with what he thought was a leg cramp. The pain soon spread to his lower back. Within two hours, Weilacher was paralyzed from the waist down. He spent eight days in a Pennsylvania hospital where he received his diagnosis: Transverse myelitis (TM), which is a cousin disorder to multiple sclerosis (MS). Back in Ohio, Weilacher underwent a year of physical therapy. Today, he is able to walk with a cane.

Now he's become an advocate. Weilacher worked with state officials who passed a proclamation dubbing June 6 Transverse Myelitis Awareness Day. He is now working with other states to adopt similar proclamations. So far, six other states have joined the cause to generate awareness. Here are five questions with Kevin Weilacher:

1. What's your typical day like?

It starts usually very early, most days between 3 and 4 a.m. I have trouble sleeping because of the transverse myelitis and how it affects my legs. I wake up because I develop aches and cramps in my legs during the night. My day will consist of the transverse myelitis advocacy programs that I have started. I check my Transverse Myelitis Network website that I helped start with another TM friend. ... Most recently, I've been involved in spreading awareness of the Ohio Transverse Myelitis Awareness Day, which is June 6. Other than my advocacy programs, I taught myself how to do some woodcarving, which has been a godsend for me. It helps me relieve stress and also allows me to focus my mind for a short while, on something other than the pain and discomfort that I am going through.

2. What do you find challenging?

Trying to maintain as normal of a life as possible. Obviously, the disability has changed mine and my wife's life tremendously. It's not a matter of just picking up and leaving to go somewhere, I now have to prepare to be able to go places. I also have days that I am just not able to go anywhere because my symptoms are flaring up. I still try to do some of the basic things, such as housework and dishes but I'm not able to cut the grass or any type of lifting or strenuous activity.

3. What is the best thing about your day?

There are a couple of things. One is the fact that I know I am making a difference in other people's lives, through the advocacy programs that I've started or (that I am) involved in. I get to chat with others from all over the world who also have transverse myelitis, and we are all able to support each other. The other best thing about my day is my wife, Liz. My disability has also affected her and has changed both of our lives and I just feel lucky to have her in my life. She has been amazing through this entire ordeal.

4. What's one thing people would never guess about you?

That I am having pretty intense neuralgic pain each and every day, 24/7. I try to keep a good attitude and almost always will try to have a smile on my face, regardless of how I happen to be feeling that day.

5. What would you change if given the chance?

I would change two things. One, is the fact that most people, and I was included in this prior to transverse myelitis, take things for granted. You take for granted your life, your family, your job, your health and so on, and I am here to tell you that all of it can be turned upside down in a matter of minutes. Be thankful each and every day for what you have. The other thing I would change is that all the little children who are out there that are afflicted with transverse myelitis would not have to suffer with this debilitating disorder. I hope for a cure within their lifetime.

The Descendants | ★★★★★★★★★★

If you ever questioned the acting chops of George Clooney you really need to see this movie. The reality that he, and his supporting cast, displays when faced with extreme tragedy is uplifting. Watching his character draw close to his children as his wife, and their mother, lies in a coma is simply and wonderfully heartwarming. There were moments in this flick that simply wowed me and left me speechless.

A friend told my wife that she found the movie to be depressing - I found it to be just the opposite. I was drawn into the story as the characters (given permission by the screen writers) displayed the realities of shock, surprise and grief. I also enjoyed the great images and scenery of Hawaii. I highly recommend this movie. As my wife said - it is one of the best movies we have seen in a long time.

On a scale of ten I give this movie ★★★★★★★★★★.

The Reagan Healthcare Mandate

Ever heard of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act? The law, often referred to as COBRA, mandated that some employees have the ability to continue health insurance coverage after leaving employment. President Reagan signed it into law in 1986. Many of us are familiar with that aspect of the legislation. The lesser know aspect of it is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.

The unfunded EMTALA mandate requires hospitals to provide care to anyone needing emergency healthcare treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. It is the reason that many conservatives (before ObamaCare) felt that everyone should be required to carry health insurance - if they did then the hospitals would have a way to be paid for the services that they provide.

I think that an argument could be made that the insurance coverage mandate included in ObamaCare is needed because of the mandate included in ReaganCare.. I mean COBRA/EMTALA. So maybe the SCOTUS justices should consider repealing the EMTALA portion of COBRA when they adjudicate ObamaCare. Seems to me that you cannot accept or reject one mandate and not the other - unless you have a political bias of course.

How I use Mutual Funds to Keep my Sanity

Ann and I both had been contributing to our company 401k plans for some time but really did not have a coherent plan to manage our retirement dollars. So we were anxious to have someone help us when I retired in 1998. Back then financial analysts seemed to come out of the woodwork. These folks tried to create an exotic mysticism around the way that a retirement portfolio should be developed and managed.

After interviewing several companies we settled on one small business, run by Christians, that was recommended by a friend. These guys came up with a plan encased in a nice binder and seemed really smart. We were gung ho on the plan until we began to scrutinize it and discovered that five annuities were buried in their recommendations. Annuities are great for the people who sell them but not so much for those who buy them.

Since that day I have been convinced that I do not need someone to manage my retirement portfolio. There is a lot of educational information out there and, if you use mutual funds in your 401k and IRA vehicles, it is possible to manage your own retirement portfolio. Here are a few general principles that I have developed over the years:
  • From the image on the right (click to make larger) you can see that there are many types of portfolios out there. To discern my target I determined the amount of risk that I was comfortable taking which equated to a moderate to conservative portfolio.
  • To keep my sanity I diversify not only across stock and bond funds but across mutual fund managers. That means that I will not entrust a lot of money to one mutual fund.
  • I use analyst recommendations when I pick a fund. I like the Morningstar ratings and tend to stay away from low rated funds.
  • I tend to favor value oriented funds over those of the growth variety. These tend to be a bit more stable over the long haul.
  • I rarely pick a fund that has an expense ratio greater than 1%. 
  • I never pick a fund that has any fees or are front loaded funds.
  • I try to stay away from being over invested in one company or industry sector. Means I check mutual funds' top holdings.
  • I like to have enough liquidity to sustain us for a few years. Advisers do not like it but it helps me sleep at night. :)
For me, the key has been to view my portfolio as an investment strategy rather than an opportunity to regularly buy and sell stocks and bonds. Consequentially I do not buy and sell very much. I tend to regularly (a few times a month) check my portfolio but actively manage it only it a few times a year. This seems to reduce my stress level a bit. :).

I'd be happy to share more. Feel free to comment below or send me an email if you have any questions.

How should Adults react to Teen Tweets?

Recently the news has run a few stories about teenagers who have gotten in trouble for things that they have posted on Twitter. Last November a local Kansas teen got sideways with the governor's staff when she posted something negative about the big guy. Governor Sam Brownback eventually apologized for the way that his staff overreacted. I thought that was a good end to the episode and a nice example of an adult way to deal with this kind of issue.

A few weeks ago a high school senior in Indiana was expelled for a tweet that contained bad language. The school said that it was done from a school computer but the teen said that he used Twitter from his home computer. Apparently the school software that tracks student tweets could have been in error. But I wonder, even if he had used a school computer, did the adults overreact in this situation? Should students be expelled when they curse on Twitter?

Bubba Watson's Dad Moment

Moving. Touching. Speaks to me of a Son's love for his Dad.

Twelve Flicks | Twelve One-Line Reviews

  Just a few lines (in random order) to help you catch up on my movie watching. :)
  • The Ides of March | Disappointing fictionalized depiction of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential run. | ★★★★
  • Hugo | Wonderful and magical story of a young boy grieving the loss of his dad. |  ★★★★★★★★
  • Hanna | Edgy spy flick involving a teenage girl coming to terms with her dark history. |  ★★★★★
  • One Day | Improbable but fairly enjoyable Ann Hathaway romantic comedy. |  ★★★★★★
  • Midnight in Paris | Great and whimsical Woody Allen flick that might get you dreaming a bit |  ★★★★★★★★
  • Win Win | Surprising and endearing story of a lost boy and the family who rescued him. |  ★★★★★★★★
  • In Time | Good SciFi story about a world where  the currency is your remaining minutes and hours. | ★★★★★★
  • Contagion | Wasn't sure I would like it but I did enjoy the suspense and intrigue that unfolded. | ★★★★★
  • Cowboys and Aliens | Indiana Jones, James Bond and the Old West fight aliens. Marvelous! | ★★★★★★
  • Real Steel | Pleasantly surprised. Reminded me of Rocky a bit. Not that good but pretty enjoyable. | ★★★★★★★
  • My Week with Marilyn | Looked forward to this one but felt that it fell short of expectations. | ★★★★★★★
  • Drive | Strange and intense Ryan Gosling vehicle. The word that best describes it is "weird". | ★★★
  As you can see, my movie watching these past few months is a bit of a mixed bag. No really great flicks in the mix.

Are the New Entrepreneurs all about our Geeky and Cheap Stuff?

Do you think it strange that this list of great entrepreneurs focuses mainly on folks who provide services that many of us use? For sure there is Apple who does make computerish hardware - albeit they manufacture it overseas. Yet the predominant entrepreneurial genre is providing planes to fly on, web services to thrill us, coffee to energize us and companies (physical and virtual) to sell us (and deliver to our homes) the cheap stuff we crave so much.

Years ago our American culture took a swing toward consumerism and the folks who capitalized on it have seemed to have had a good measure of success. Of course these giants of entrepreneurship have built their successes on the backs of those who make computers (i.e. Michael Dell), plant coffee beans, make airplanes and work on assembly lines in China. Perhaps the lack of engineering students in college is a symptom of this kind of focus? What do you think?

Not much new with me ...

I started blogging at Kansas Bob in 2005 and, after writing 2,820 posts here, I decided to take a break for Lent. Not sure why I did it but I do remember feeling the need to disrupt my life a bit. Easter was yesterday so I thought that I might report back. Here are a few things I did during Lent:

  • Ash Wednesday came and I found myself in the emergency room of a local hospital. About 8am I experienced eye problems and I thought that I was having a stroke. Thankfully my neighbor, and friend from church, Kelly was able to take me to the ER. In the end I did not have a stroke but experienced an ocular migraine.
  • A friend asked me to redesign Ann Kiemel's blog. I was happy to spend some time helping this great Christian author. I suggest that you add her blog to your reader.
  • I gave up red meat during this time. A few weeks ago I gave blood and learned that my cholesterol had been significantly reduced. So I will probably continue this abstinence until my annual physical in May.
  • An Eye for Redemption, my devotional blog, continued to be a life a giving experience for me as I journaled my way through the gospel of Luke. After publishing almost 900 posts there, half being my commentary on the words of Christ, I look forward to seeing where God leads me in there as I finish up the Red Letters of Jesus. Any suggestions for me?
  • I did manage to make a few tweaks to Kansas Bob while I was gone. Blogger added new gadgets and I incorporated a few of them on my sidebar, Check them out and send me an email if you would like to be included in my new blogroll.
In hindsight I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed in Lent. Not sure why but I remember thinking that life might look a bit different when I finished. In reality not much changed. Guess I might still have a bit of that angst I had back in February. I look forward to catching up with my blogging friends. Please let me know if you are still reading here.

Back from the Dead

The thought of the empty tomb encourages me every day.

It reminds me of what the apostle wrote so many years ago ...

"O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?"

Death and the grave could not hold Jesus Christ. He rose that first Easter morning and lives to this very day. Happy Easter!