Perfection vs Progress

“If you look for perfection, you'll never be content.” -Leo Tolstoy

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” -Donald Miller

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.” -Michael J. Fox

Lowering Medicare Eligibility to 60?

Watched This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday and heard Steven Brill (the guy who recently wrote the Time Magazine cover story titled "Why Medical Bills are Killing Us") engage in this interesting dialog with economist (and former Obama adviser) Steve Rattner:

RATTNER: But there's a fundamental point here, Stephen, I think your piece was great. And I think you're points are right, but I also don't want people to be confused. I don't believe that we can cut our way, change the pricing, do all the things you're talking about and still save Medicare. The average person who's at Medicare retirement age has paid in some like $122,000 in the system. They'll get back $387,000 back in benefits. That's three times. You're not going to reduce that $387,000 by hospital cuts and this and that. We have to still have fundamental Medicare reforms to make those numbers work.

BRILL: Well, if you put Medicare in the context of the larger health care system, and this is something that everybody at this table is going to think that I should go to a mental hospital when I get finished saying this, the government and all of us would actually save money if you lowered — I said lowered the age for Medicare. If the Medicare age were 60 instead of 65, the economy and the taxpayers would actually save money. And George, please don't look at me like that.

RATTNER: You're potentially right. And part of the argument — you're taking people out of the Medicare age to 67 is you're taking people out of the Medicare system.

BRILL: Right. And what you would be doing, is you would be putting the most efficient player, which is Medicare — Medicare spends 80 or 90 cents to process a claim and the health insurance companies spend $18 or $20 or $25 to process a claim. Health insurance companies pay two, three, four times what Medicare pays for various services. So if you lowered the age, you would put more people into the bucket of much more efficient health care.

And the worst part about it is, the reforms that we have now, with the president's plan, are actually going to raise the costs because all of the people who are 60, or 62, or 63, who can't afford the premiums that they're going to have now, are going to be subsidized by the taxpayer.

Hard to argue with the logic. Especially for folks who think that Medicare holds down the type of costs that Brill writes about in his Time article. Even so, many folks would see it as a government power grab and liken it to a single payer system. What do you think should be done to help Medicare?

I've Learned ...

I've learned that ...
  • the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person;
  • being kind is more important than being right;
  • money doesn't buy class;
  • we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for;
  • to ignore the facts does not change the facts;
  • love, not time, heals all wounds.

Angry at God?

This week I have been involved in several cyber conversations about how people often get angry at God. Over the years I have learned that being angry at God is part of the problem of pain. I can only be angry at Him if I believe that he caused or allowed bad things to happen in my life.

Even so, there does seem to be two ditches that angry people stumble into. One ditch is where we see God as the author, or at least the permitter, of our pain. Other people lean more towards the Deist ditch and do not see Him involved at all. I think life exists between the ditches.

My life got better when I saw my first wife’s death, my families' problems, my health problems and my wife’s disabling paralysis in the light of the healing presence of God. I could not find any life in the idea that God was behind my pain but found so much life when I experienced His presence in my pain.

If you are angry at God today I suggest that you examine the root of the anger. Is it because you believe that He was somehow involved and allowed bad things to happen to you or someone close to you? If so I think that you would benefit in examining that belief. Read more about that damaging theology here.

Silver Linings Playbook | ★★★★★★★★★

This wonderful and raw movie is nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Actor (Bradley Cooper), Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Supporting Actor (Robert DeNiro) and Supporting Actress (Jacki Weaver). It is the Oscar underdog and is up against these movies that I have seen: Argo, Les Misérables and Zero Dark Thirty. Of these I pick Silver Linings Playbook because of, and as evidenced by the nominations, the excellent acting and character development.

I agree with this Netflix reviewers take on the movie: Excellent film in depicting mental illnesses' effect on families and on society in general. There are many wounded characters here, but due to a emotional script and heartfelt committed performances, this film is far from depressing, but is joyful and hopeful.

I loved the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

The Blizzard of Oz!

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. -Carl Reiner

Yes, it is snowing in Kansas City. I agree with Carl Reiner. I had hoped the precipitation would wait until March but it seems that our drought plagued area is getting much needed moisture today. It has been coming down at a 2-4 inches an hour clip this morning and some are thinking we might get 20 inches of the white stuff before the it ends.

I offered a prayer this morning for those who need to be out in the weather. Please join me interceding for the safety of folks in my city and others who are traveling through.

Roadtrip Hodgepodge

The folks at This Side of the Pond have a meme called Wednesday Hodgepodge. Here is my entry for today ...

1. When were you last 'on a mountaintop'? You may answer in the literal or figurative sense.
Brings back a frightening time driving to the top of Pike's Peak in Colorado one summer. It began to snow and the road got slick as we got close to the top. The turn around was scary.
2. Do you establish and maintain a strict budget in your household? What is one piece of financial advice you would offer someone just starting out on their own?
I have always had a budget and have tried to live within my means. I was able to retire early because I planned ahead. In life I have found that we either control our money or it controls us.
3. Cherries-yay or nay? Cherry pie, cherry cola, black forest cake, or a scoop of Ben and Jerry's Cherries Garcia...pick one.
I like Cherry Pepsi but rarely drink pop anymore.
4. Should you ever discuss religion or politics with people you don't know?
Love people first and earn the privilege of discussing your faith and your political views. Before that talk about the weather.
5. When you take a road trip do you prefer to be the driver or the passenger? Where were you headed on your last road trip?
I do all of the driving in our ramp enabled bigfoot van. Last road trip was to Chicago when Ann had the stem cell transplant. Hoping to do a long road trip this Spring.
6. If we peeked inside your closet, what color would we say is most prevalent?
Blue as in blue jeans. I did recently buy a brown corduroy sports jacket.
7. Who's your favorite senior citizen and why are they special?
Ann's mom turns 97 this year. She is who I aspire to be. A godly person who has aged well. Though she has difficulty seeing, hearing and walking she stays positive and does not complain. She is an amazing woman of faith.
8. Insert your own random thought here.
My pick to win the Oscar on Sunday is the Silver Linings Playbook. Lincoln will probably beat it out though. I rarely agree with Hollywood on such things.
Let me know if you play along or how you might answer any of these.

Famous Failures

These pictured folks remind me that we should never give up. Here are a few folks that agree with me:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. -Winston Churchill

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. -Henry Ford

Failure is success if we learn from it. -Malcolm Forbes

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure. -Bill Cosby

It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. -Bill Gates

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure. -Abe Lincoln

Training for Spring

A Facebook friend posted these billboard images that appear close to Royals Stadium (aka 'The K") in Kansas City. I have not seen them yet but they reminds me that Spring is just about a month or so away. I wonder if I too should find some way to train for Spring? Maybe do some indoor water aerobics? Do you have any Winter routines that help you prepare for the days when the weather is better?

Pastoral Facial Hair

Hat Tip: Scot McKnight

Need a Penny?

This image reminds me of how much I hate pennies. This ring, and old penny loafers, may be one of the few uses for the coin. Here is what consumer advocate Clark Howard says about it:

Canada has now done away with its penny. Is now the time for us to follow suit? Pennies actually cost more than one cent to make and manufacture. Think about how easy it would be to do away with them. Let's say you go to a store and the price of something is 11 or 12 cents, it just rounds down to 10 cents. If it's 13 or 14 cents, it rounds up to 15 cents. That rounding makes us exactly even-steven over time.

I vote to get rid of the penny. How do you vote?

Happy Valentines Day

Ashes, Lent and Me

My church does offer ashes today at church. I take no issue with that. I think that the practice of receiving ashes is a helpful practice for some. Guess I am just not one of those who get a lot out of religious practices. I receive communion at church but prefer sharing it the way that Jesus did.

For years now I have done something for Lent though - last year I suspended blogging activities here. I have been wanting to do something but do not feel compelled to do anything for Lent this year. Perhaps it is just reflective of the season that I am in? Or maybe I am not supposed to participate?

How about you? Do you participate in Lenten activities?

The First Rerun Quiz

What was the first TV show to be rerun?

    1) I Love Lucy
    2) Star Trek
    3) Leave It To Beaver
    4) Family Feud

Think you know the answer? The How-to-Geek has the answer!

Unbought, Unbound, Unafraid and Unintimidated

Dr West's statement, regardless your view of him personally, makes me think about how I gravitate towards leaders who, pretty much, think like I think. The words "unbought, unbound, unafraid and unintimidated" remind me that great leaders are originals who think for themselves and often go against the flow.

The older I get, the more I realize how unusual it is to find leaders such as these. In my own life I have gone with the flow more than I have gone against it. The truth is that most of us want to be liked and sometimes resort to people-pleasing to attain that goal.

I wonder what kind of person is most reflective of the "un"? Is it the person who walks in lockstep with the theology or ideology of others? Or is it one who is secure enough to reject ideas that do not sit well with their hearts? Maybe we all need that kind of courage?

The Honda Urban SUV

According to Honda: This new concept vehicle hints at a dynamic, fuel-efficient small SUV with aspirational styling and next-generation connectivity. Its clean lines are complemented by hidden rear door handles, giving the SUV a coupe-like presence. The new concept is shorter than the CR-V, making it an ideal size for both city streets and mountain roads.

I am not sure that the world needs a new small SUV - especially one smaller than the CRV. What do you think? Would you buy one?

Atheist 10 Commandments

Just read a post by Scot McKnight that listed Alain de Botton’s ‘list for life’. Here is the list:
  1. Resilience: Keeping going even when things are looking dark.
  2. Empathy: The capacity to connect imaginatively with the sufferings and unique experiences of another person.
  3. Patience: We should grow calmer and more forgiving by being more realistic about how things actually happen.
  4. Sacrifice: We won't ever manage to raise a family, love someone else or save the planet if we don't keep up with the art of sacrifice.
  5. Politeness: Politeness is closely linked to tolerance, -the capacity to live alongside people whom one will never agree with, but at the same time, cannot avoid.
  6. Humour: Like anger, humour springs from disappointment, but it is disappointment optimally channelled.
  7. Self-awareness: To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one's troubles and moods; to have a sense of what's going on inside oneself, and what actually belongs to the world.
  8. Forgiveness: It's recognising that living with others is not possible without excusing errors.
  9. Hope: Pessimism is not necessarily deep, nor optimism shallow.
  10. Confidence: Confidence is not arrogance - rather, it is based on a constant awareness of how short life is and how little we will ultimately lose from risking everything.
Here are a few of the more interesting responses to Scot's post ...
  • Interesting… These are great ideals. If there is no God and the world was completely cleansed of all religion, would these ideals still exist?
  • I suspect that the world would be much darker without the influence of those who have faithfully taken up their cross and followed in his steps.
  • As I understand my history none if these traits were a part of the pre Christian world, except possibly to some degree in Israel.
  • Only in the West, do atheists see these ideals a “the way things are” – because Western culture and ideals have been so deeply impacted by Jesus.
  • I don’t find them consistent with a true atheist worldview. I have often thought Nihilism is the most honest form of atheism.
  • Three principles of significant importance to me as a Christian apologist are conspicuously missing from this list: honesty, integrity, and rationality.
What responses do you have towards the list? Do you think they really represent atheistic thought or do they merely present a humanistic spin on New Testament Christian morality and behavior?

Intuition vs Logic

"The only real valuable thing is intuition." -Albert Einstein

A Facebook commenter says: "Sometimes intuition is wrong. Intuition told early man that the Sun revolved around the earth. It was logic (using factual evidence) that corrected that error. Both intuition and logic inform our thinking processes. The proper place for intuition is in situations where the evidence is not sufficient to lead us to a sound conclusion. The point re not ignoring our intuition is well taken and valid but it's important to remember that intuition is simply evidence of another sort and must reconciled with and deemed to be less reliable than factual evidence. Let's not fall into the same errors that our less enlightened ancestors did."

So what do you trust more: Intuition or Logic?

Is God a micromanager?

This funny cartoon reminds me of how many see God as a sovereign micromanager who observes and controls the actions of human beings. In response to this perception believers often give Him thanks for blessings and non-believers credit him with things that hurt people. I guess I do not see things that way.

My view is that God has a different style of management and sovereignty. When I think about the word sovereignty I see a pyramid where God has delegated sovereignty to nations, to communities, to families and finally to the individual. Both groups of peoples and people themselves exercise an incredible amount of sovereignty in the world. Small wonder, with this amount of micro level sovereignty, that the world is not worse than it is. Perhaps that speaks to the overarching (macro) level of sovereignty that God exerts as He brings beauty from ashes and works all things together for our good?

Battle of the Amendments

Have you seen this quote? I think that I copied it a while back from Facebook. Activists seem to be using it lately in the gun violence debate. Some folks on the right cite the second amendment in their fight against further regulation of guns. Some on the left want to control guns but are not too interested in controlling violent games and movies because of their advocacy for the first amendment. I think that a solution is probably somewhere in the middle.

What do you think? Can our country reach a consensus on this? Or are we doomed to gridlock and violence?

Traveling the Romans Road

I began the New Year reading and reflecting on Paul's epistle to the Romans at An Eye for Redemption
I invite you to travel along with me here.   A few excerpts from my travels ...

Despite what our heads say to us at times, God is for us.

To become like the Son of God gives meaning to my life.

Grace does what the law could not.

We want promised healings, miracles and answers to prayers.

Sometimes the promise is fulfilled in heaven.

From the very beginning of history God has always been about faith and not ethnicity.

There have been times that, in deep anguish of soul, I have prayed in unintelligible words.

We long for a time when our tears will be dried and our pain will be a thing of the past.

This passage speaks to me about how a person can be raised in a religious environment be totally lost.

It is hard to really believe that something like sacrificial or unconditional love really exists.

No one ever wants to, as Paul does in these verses, admit that evil is present in them.

I love how the apostle speaks to the issue of responding to the information that we already have.